Princeton and owners of Gulick House settle lawsuit over failure to restore historic home

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The Municipality of Princeton and the owner of the historic Greenland-Brinson-Gulick home have reached a settlement agreement for a municipal lawsuit filed against the owner for failure to repair the 339-year-old home.

The settlement agreement — reached earlier this month between the city and owner Benjamin Gulick and his wife, Jeanette Gulick — was approved by the Princeton Council at its Aug. 8 meeting.

At the center of the dispute is the house at 1082 Princeton-Kingston Road, near the corner of River Road. The house is historically significant as it was built by Henry Greenland in 1693. The oldest part of the house is hidden by a Victorian-era bay window in the central part of the house.

The house, which has been extended several times, was acquired by Major John Gulick in 1797 and remained in the Gulick family for 225 years. Gulick fought in the American Revolutionary War and the Whiskey Rebellion. He is buried in the nearby Kingston Presbyterian Church cemetery.

Benjamin Gulick and his wife, Jeanette Gulick, who are the current owners of the home, have agreed to sell 28 acres of the 40-acre Gulick Farm property to the former Princeton Township for $2.7 million for of park and preservation in 2002.

The deal between Princeton and the couple called for $600,000 to be set aside in a restoration account to pay for the restoration and/or preservation of the home and outbuildings. The outbuildings included a barn, shed and smoking room.

Gulick has been appointed Account Manager and Construction Manager/Supervisor. It was due to complete the restoration within 24 months of the issuance of the first building permit and complete work on the outbuildings 18 months later.

Fast forward 20 years, there have been no repairs made to the house or outbuildings. There is peeling paint on the house and the decorative trim above the front door is missing. Scaffolding has been in place for many years in front of one wing of the house.

After repeated calls for Gulick to spend the money, Princeton sued him in October 2021 to force him to make the repairs. Over the past 20 years, he had reduced the restoration account’s $600,000 to around $130,000. He used the money for other purposes, such as paying property taxes, according to the lawsuit.

Gulick and the city later reached a mediated settlement agreement earlier this year. The settlement agreement requires the restoration project to be completed within one year, although the deadline can be extended if necessary.

The settlement agreement calls for Gulick to sell a building plot, which was created in 2002, to generate money to replenish the restoration account. The building land must be offered for sale at a minimum price of $450,000.

The money from the sale of the building land will be deposited into the account, less $10,000 for Gulick’s use and after paying capital gains tax. If the sale of the lot does not generate enough money to replenish the account up to $600,000, then he will be responsible for making up the shortfall, according to the agreement.

To ensure there is enough money to complete the restoration project, the agreement calls for Gulick to give Princeton the deed to transfer ownership of the house and land to the city. The deed of ownership will be held by the municipality, pending the restoration of the house.

If Gulick cannot fund the entire restoration project and complete it within a year, Princeton will register the deed and take possession of the property. The city will sell the Gulick property, subtract the cost of sale and capital gains tax, and retain enough cash to complete the restoration project. If there is any money left, it will be given to Gulick, according to the agreement.

The assessed value of the historic Gulick home and the two-acre lot it sits on is $703,000. An additional 9.6-acre lot forming part of the property is assessed at $6,500 under farmland assessment statute, according to the Princeton Tax Assessor’s Office.

The assessed value and the market value of a property are not always the same, officials said. The market value, or sale value, may be higher than the taxable value.

Under the settlement agreement, Gulick will resign as account manager. Princeton will appoint an account manager, who will have access to the restoration account to pay for work on the house and outbuildings.

Gulick will remain the construction supervisor, but he will work with a second construction supervisor appointed by Princeton. The city-appointed construction supervisor will have final decision-making authority over all construction and restoration matters on the Gulick property, according to the agreement.

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