- Associated Press - Saturday, October 17, 2015

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - More than a decade ago, Rutgers University officials paid $1.2 million for an 18th century mansion on a bluff overlooking Johnson Park in Piscataway.

The plan was to restore the grand fixer-upper back to its Colonial Era glory and turn it into a showplace house for the Rutgers president. But the university’s budget problems put the project on hold and the 275-year-old house remained boarded up and largely forgotten, NJ.com reported (https://bit.ly/1RMQ3Qa).

Earlier this week, the Rutgers Board of Governors decided it was time to give up on the property. The board voted unanimously to put the dilapidated house up for sale.

“The property is surplus and should be disposed of at its fair market value,” according to the resolution approved by the board.

Antonio Calcado, Rutgers vice president of university facilities and capital planning, said the mansion does not fit in with the state university’s new master plan for its buildings and property.



The university will have the house and grounds assessed to determine a sale price, then start looking for a buyer, Calcado said.

The value of the wooded property is unclear. Zillow, the real estate website, estimates it is worth about $560,500. But university officials have said the sprawling property, located on the busy corner of Hoes Lane West and River Road near Rutgers’ Busch campus, could be a valuable investment.

The three-story white house was built on a hilltop near the Raritan River in the 1740s, more than 20 years before Rutgers was founded. It is located on an 8.7-acre lot at 857 Hoes Lane West.

The house was purchased by Bernard Miller, a local doctor, in 1954. His widow put it up for sale after his death and Rutgers purchased it for $1,225,000 in 2003.

At the time, Rutgers officials were excited about the “Miller House.”

When campus officials first looked at the house in 2002, the university was searching for a new president to replace outgoing Rutgers President Francis Lawrence.

Rutgers board members said the university’s new president should have a new house, where he could live with his family, host campus events and entertain donors.

“This is also a public space. It’s not just a place for a president to live,” David Harris, then a member of the Rutgers board, said in 2002.

The plan was to spend $10.9 million renovating the “Miller House” for the new president while turning the old presidential house, located a few blocks away at 1245 River Road, into a visitors center.

However, Rutgers’ budget problems put the renovations on hold. Instead, the university spent more than $600,000 fixing up the old presidential residence, a sprawling brick house built in 1928 and once owned by an heir to the founder of Johnson & Johnson.

In 2003, the incoming president, Richard McCormick, moved into the River Road presidential house with his wife and children despite concerns about the noise from the construction of the Route 18 extension across the lawn.

The university eventually spent another $90,000 renovating the old presidential house again before President Robert Barchi, the current Rutgers president, moved in with his wife in 2012.

Meanwhile, the “Miller House” down the street fell into serious disrepair. The property is surrounded by a chain link fence, but has been the victim of vandals over the years, Rutgers officials said.

The windows and doors are boarded up and the front steps are rotting. Overgrown shrubs and trees obscure the view of the front porch from River Road.

The property also includes a garage with an attached porch, which is also dilapidated.

The Rutgers board authorized the university’s administration to do what it takes to unload the property. Campus officials can make a deal to sell the house and “sign any and all other instruments, documents, and certificates as is necessary to sell the property,” according to the resolution approved Wednesday.

It is unclear how long it might take to sell the property. Former Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano had his nearby house on Logan Lane on the market for more than 2 ½ years before it sold for $1.35 million last year.

___

Information from: NJ.com, https://www.nj.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide