Drumthwacket Timeline


William Penn (1644-1718) purchases a large tract of land including Princeton and its surrounds and encourages a number of Quaker families to undertake its settlement.


William Olden purchases 330 acres from his brother-in-law Benjamin Clarke, a yeoman (farmer.) The Oldens were one of six Quaker families including the Stocktons, Worths and Clarkes who establish a community along Stony Brook near King’s Highway (route 206.)


Image: View of New York from New Jersey, John Henry Hill, (1839-1922), oil on canvas.
Long term loan Princeton University Art Museum; Gift of Frank Jewett Mather, Jr. 


The name Princeton appears and becomes common about 10 years later.


Image: Fireplace mantle, detail. Music Room. 


Richard Stockton (1730-1781) builds Morven on land granted to his grandfather by William Penn. Richard is a graduate of the first class of The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) which moves from Newark to Princeton in 1756. He is one of five New Jersey delegates appointed to the Continental congress where he signs the Declaration of Independence. Morven serves as the first New Jersey Governor’s residence from 1945-1981.


Morven, present day. Photo Credit: Richard Speedy.


In 1719, William Olden bequeaths the 330 acre property to his eldest son John who in turn divides the land among his sons James, Benjamin and Thomas. Thomas sells his portion to John Hill who begins construction in 1759 of a small farmhouse on the property.


Photograph of the Thomas Olden House, c. late 19th century.


Thomas Olden purchases back the Olden farmstead and surrounding property.


The Thomas Olden House, Present day. Photo Credit: Virginia Hall.


General George Washington’s revolutionary forces defeat British forces near Princeton.  Coming at the end of “The Ten Crucial Days” which witnesses the well known crossing of the Delaware, the Battle of Princeton is recognized as a turning point in the Revolutionary War and occurs near present day Drumthwacket.


Image: Portrait of George Washington, circa 1795 after Charles Wilson Peale (1741-1827). Oil on canvas. Collection of Princeton University Art Museum.  The painting is on loan to Drumthwacket.


Matthew Egerton Jr. (d. 1837) joins his father Matthew Egerton’s (1739-1802) furniture shop on Burnet Street in New Brunswick and establishes it as a leading maker of cabinet and clocks in colonial America.  The Foundation’s collection includes seven Egerton works.


Image: Matthew Egerton Tallcase Clock, detail. c. 1797, New Brunswick, NJ. Gift of Betty Wold Johnson & Douglas F. Bushnell. The original label inside the waist door, reads, “Made and Sold by Matthew Egerton, Junior, Joiner and Cabinetmaker, New Brunswick, New Jersey.”


Thomas Olden’s grandson Charles Smith Olden is born on the Olden farmstead.


Portrait of Charles Smith Olden, n.d.
Collection of the Historical Society of Princeton.


With savings and a bequest from Charles Smith of New Brunswick, for whom he was named, Charles Smith Olden purchases his grandfather’s property and begins construction of Drumthwacket. The original structure consists of the center hall with two rooms on each side in addition to the large portico with detailed Ionic columns. For its name, Governor Olden gives his home the Scots-Gaelic name Drumthwacket which translates to ‘wooded hill’


Photograph of Drumthwacket, C. 1870.


Charles Smith Olden serves as the 19th Governor of New Jersey from 1860-1863. When the Civil War begins, he keeps New Jersey on the Union side and updates the military organization and equipment of the New Jersey troops. He reorganizes the state’s finances and sustains the treasury with his private fortune.


Image: American Classical Flame Mahogany Secretary Bookcase. Probably New York, c. 1830-1850.
Owned by Governor Olden, the desk displays a handwritten letter, dated June 12, 1862, from Governor Olden to Charles Hewitt, Esq. advising of the whereabouts of a soldier, as per a request from the soldier’s mother.


Charles Smith Olden dies and is buried at the Stony Brook Meeting House and Cemetery. In his will of 1873, Governor Olden leaves his lands that included 48.20 acres valued at $167,000.00 along with the small white house known today as the Thomas Olden House and Drumthwacket to his wife Phebe Ann Smith (d. 1892)


Image: Linen Sampler, dated 1821. Young girls would practice their alphabet, numbers, and/or scriptures by embroidering them on fabric. These works, called samplers, were hung on walls or made into pillows. This sampler which is in the Foundation’s collection and dated 1821, is by Phebe Ann Smith who marries her second cousin Charles Smith Olden in 1832


Moses Taylor Pyne (1855-1921) purchases Drumthwacket for the sum of $15,024 and with his wife Margaretta Stockton begins the process of transforming Drumthwacket into a 183 acre estate. He engages Raleigh C. Gildersleeve to design the alternations and additions to the residence which include east and west wings.


Photograph of the Drumthwacket Library, c. 1905. A carved Caen stone fireplace dominates the oak library. Inset above the mantle is the Pyne family crest with Latin inscription, “In the storm I flourish”. Inscription above the fireplace reads: “Mortality lives in books, Immortality lives in the soul”. Moses Taylor Pyne’s partner desk shown in the photograph is gifted to the Foundation in 2005 by the Estate of Lawrence M. Davis who marries Moses Taylor Pynes’ only grandchild Agnes


Moses Taylor Pyne celebrates tenure as a Trustee of Princeton University, a position which he holds for 37 years. He is instrumental in bringing Woodrow Wilson to Princeton as president, and after a disagreement, having him removed.


Image: Portrait of Moses Taylor Pyne. William Sartain (1843-1924). oil on canvas. Collection of Princeton University Art Museum. Moses Taylor Pyne in academic gown with a view of Princeton University’s Pyne library in the background.  The portrait is on view at Drumthwacket.


The Thomas Olden House is converted into an aviary for exotic birds and houses monkeys when Henry Egglesfield, butler to Mr. Pyne, his wife and 11 children outgrow the small farmstead. Mr. Egglesfield serves as Moses Taylor Pyne’s English butler for forty-eight years.


Photograph of Henry Egglesfield, His wife Fanny and 10 of their eleven children, N.d. Standing 1eft to right: Daughter Fanny, Tom (d. 1906), Mary. Seated left to right: Henry, Sara, Fanny (holding Ethel), Henry (holding Grace), Laura, Edythe. Kneeling in front: Alice


Moses Taylor Pyne retains Daniel Webster Langton, one of the eleven founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects, to design Drumthwacket’s entire property including woods, ponds, lawns, paths, bowling green, lawn tennis court, and the formal Italianate gardens directly behind the residence.


Drumthwacket’s Italianate garden, C.1905. Note the topiary lawn chairs


Moses Taylor Pyne dies and bequeaths Drumthwacket to his only grandchild Agnes. Princeton University suspends classes for the day and bells toll throughout Princeton in memorium.


Photograph of Moses Taylor Pyne and his granddaughter Agnes, N.d.


Abram Nathanial Spanel (1901 – 1985) purchases Drumthwacket and twelve surrounding acres from Moses Taylor Pyne’s grandchild, Agnes. A Russian immigrant, Spanel is an ingenious inventor and scientist who founded in 1932 the International Latex Corporation which becomes known as the International Playtex Corporation. Spanel’s company supports American efforts in World War II with latex products such as attack boats, life rafts and canteens.


Portrait of Abram Spanel, N.d.

Mid 1940's

Spanel’s engineering staff lives at Drumthwacket and many of his patented inventions are conceived in what is today the Music Room. When Spanel dies, he holds more than 2,000 patents including a pneumatic stretcher designed to carry wounded military personnel in the water to a home hair-cutting device.


Music room.  Photo Credit: Andrew Wilkinson.


Hungarian-born physicist Leo Szilard (1898 – 1964) lives at Drumthwacket for over a year by invitation of Abram Spanel and his wife Margaret. A close friend and colleague of Princeton resident Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Szilard urges Einstein to sign the historic 1939 letter to President Franklin Roosevelt warning about German nuclear weapons research.


Image: Portrait of Albert Einstein. Samuel Johnson Woolf (1880-1948). Oil on canvas. Gift of Bernard and Bebe Perliss.
The portrait is featured on the April 4, 1938 cover of Time magazine. Einstein graces the cover of Time magazine on six separate occasions including the December 31, 1999 issue in which he is named the “Man of the Century.”


Abram Spanel’s company wins a competition sponsored by NASA to develop the Apollo spacesuit. In an address to ILC employees, Abram Spanel remarks, “it is the greatest privilege of my life to present to you the role that your company played in that colossal of all human achievements in placing two American astronauts on the surface of the moon for the glory of civilization and humanity”.


Custom-made by ILC employees as a training suit for Astronaut Paul Weitz who flew aboard the Skylab II mission in 1973.
The suit is identical to all of the suits that were used on the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 lunar missions.
Collection of ILC Industries, Dover, Delaware.


The State of New Jersey purchases Drumthwacket with the intent that it be used as the governor’s residence although it is not officially recognized as such until 1981.


Sterling Silver Punch Bowl. Tiffany & Co. Collection of United States Navy.
The punch bowl is part of a sterling silver service set made by Tiffany & Co. for the commissioning of the battleship USS New Jersey in 1906 for use in the wardroom. A state customarily presented silver to the battleship named in its honor.   A portion of the service is on loan to Drumthwacket.


The Drumthwacket Foundation is founded accepting the responsibility of restoring, curating and preserving the residence and property which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Image: Hand painted wall panel, detail. In 1982, The Foundation commissioned 29 separate hand-painted wall panels for the residence’s dining room. The design consists of plum blossoms, peonies, butterflies, bees and birds. In the Chinese tradition, plum blossoms represent strength and braveness while peonies are representative of high office, prosperity and wealth.


First Lady Lucinda Florio and the Drumthwacket Foundation raise funds to rehabilitate and restore the Italianate gardens.


Drumthwacket’s Italianate garden, Present day. Photo Credit: Virginia Hall.


First Lady Mary Pat Christie and the Drumthwacket Foundation launch a comprehensive four year facilities plan to restore the exterior of the residence and Thomas Olden House, re-grade walk surfaces for wheelchair accessibility, install energy efficient path lighting, add new landscaping, exterior signage and update the public restrooms.

Residence exterior, detail. Photo Credit: Virginia Hall.


The Foundation expands the Discover Drumthwacket field trip program to include the Thomas Olden House, hands-on exhibits about colonial kitchens, their furnishings and gardens.


Thomas Olden House Interior. Photo credit Virginia Hall.


Image: Under the Baobab Tree by Early Bradley Lewis (b. 1956), watercolor.


The exhibit, “Eureka! Invention & Innovation in New Jersey” is on view in the residence from September 17 to November 19, 2014. The show highlights inventions such as the flexible flyer sled, the electric guitar and the hole punch invented in New Jersey.


Bubble Wrap Prototype Machine. Collection of Sealed Air Corporation, Saddle Brook, NJ. Bubble wrap was invented by two engineers Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes in Hawthorne, NJ.


For the exhibit, “Inspire: Everyday People Changing New Jersey”, the Foundation commissions 9 New Jersey fine art photographers to take the photographs of 18 individuals recognized by the non-profit organization New Jersey Heroes. The black and white photographs are on view in the residence from September 2015 to July 2016.


Image: Michael Ricci, Founder, Operation Beachhead. Photographer: Klaus Schnitzer


The Foundation in partnership with New Jersey teachers develops the S.T.E.M. aligned module “Eureka! Invention and Innovation in New Jersey” and offers it at no cost to educators and students state-wide to encourage connections, enhance learning and foster curiosity about New Jersey inventors and inventions. The module is inspired by Abram Spanel, the last private owner of Drumthwacket and prolific inventor.


Image: Often called “The Father of the Modern Submarine,” New Jersey inventor John Philip Holland successfully launched his Holland Boat No. 1 into the Passaic River at Paterson on May 22, 1878.


The Foundation presents “Lincoln & Olden: The President and the Governor”. The exhibit brings to life through original historic letters, photographs and memorabilia, two distinguished leaders, Governor Charles Olden, who builds Drumthwacket in 1835, and President Abraham Lincoln.


Drumthwacket welcomes Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy. Celebrated interior designer and native New Jerseyan Anthony Baratta is hired by Mrs. Murphy and the Drumthwacket Foundation to beautifully reappoint the public rooms. Photo Credit: Andrew Wilkinson.


The first floor kitchen is refurbished making it more functional for an Executive Residence. Photo Credit: Andrew Wilkinson.


The Drumthwacket Foundation continues to serve its mission to preserve historic Drumthwacket, one of the most fabled and elegant of America’s executive residences.


Image: Drumthwacket, Present day.
Photo Credit: Virginia Hall.