LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

See second letter to the editor below this one.

Proprietary House Source: citydata.com

Proprietary House
Source: citydata.com

Facts on the 

Proprietary House

I am again addressing issues regarding the Proprietary House. I need to first say the regardless of any of these issues the Proprietary House is an important historical building, it is a 250 year old piece of America history. It is an asset to Perth Amboy which needs to be protected and promoted. The most troubling thing about this historic location is the total disregard with which the New Jersey Department of Forest and Parks treats the building. It is in a serious state of structural disrepair and it is not even listed as a historic site on the Forest and Parks web site.

A quick history of the House so that you can understand the debate at hand. On March 21, 1761, the Board of the East Jersey Proprietors voted to construct a fine house so as to have the Royal Governor live there. The East Jersey Proprietors were a group of wealthy land owners who lived in and around Perth Amboy.  Construction was started in 1762 and was completed in 1764.

William Franklin was appointed the Royal Governor of New Jersey in August of 1762 and arrived in Perth Amboy in February of 1763 to be sworn in. He made note of the House and then left for Bordentown where he was to live for the next eleven years.

It appears that Franklin took care in making this decision to live in Burlington; in “William Franklin” by Sheila Skemp, it states that he decided not to live in the Proprietary House because it was owned by the Proprietors not the Assembly. Franklin in fact asked the Assembly to buy the house and they refused. In 1774 with the political situation changing in the State he decided to take the Proprietors up on their offer and moved to Perth Amboy. Franklin lived in Perth Amboy from October 1774 till June 1776 when he was arrested. During this time he paid a rent of 60 pounds a year to the Proprietors.

In the 1780’s a serious fire destroyed the House. In 1784 a friend wrote to Franklin then in England that his house was a ruin.  When the Proprietors placed ads for the sale of the property it was described as a waste land, the former site of the Proprietary House. The Proprietors sold the remains of the House to John Rattoon, mayor of Perth Amboy and British spy. Mr. Ratoon was also a member of the Proprietors and needed to purchase the House through the use of a straw man. Clearly he was a man ahead of his times.

So to summarize, a private group built a fine home in Perth Amboy and asked the Royal Governor to live there, he declined and lived in Burlington until the political situation caused him to feel the need to move to the capital. He paid rent while he lived there; people lived in the fine home before him and after him. This does not sound like an Official Governor’s Mansion to me.

The restoration of the building was started by Mr. Rattoon when he bought the ruins of the original building, but the building was rebuilt by Richard Woodhull who bought the building in 1808 and turned it into one of the finest Hotels in the country, The Brighton. This is the building you see today with the additional floor and wing added to the building. The ground and first floors along with the ballroom are the only interior areas that remain in the same configuration as they were in the early 1800’s. The rest of the building was changed into commercial space in the 1980’s.

That is a very short history of the Proprietary House. But is it the Official Residence of the Royal Governor of New Jersey? Only in the sense that he lived there for a period of time. This was a private home which Franklin paid rent to live in. The House was not built by the Assembly and only became the property of the state in the 1970’s. It was occupied by people before Franklin and after Franklin. This was the last place the Royal Governor lived, but as Ms. Nanton discounted other homes of Royal Governors from consideration, because they were mere rentals the same standard needs to be applied here. As for the three other locations in the country which state that they are remaining official Residences of Royal Colonial Governors they all state on their web sites that there are four remaining mansions. Only the Proprietary House Association recently lays claim to being the only remaining mansion. But a publication called the Structural Report produced by the Proprietary House Association in 1995 in its introduction states that the Proprietary House is one of possibly two remaining mansions. So people with a long association with the House recognized that it was not alone as a remaining Royal Governor’s mansion.

As I stated at the beginning of this piece this is not to say that this is not an important piece of history which should be visited, preserved and promoted. But it should be promoted for what it is.

Dave Szilagyi

No Mercy in Killing

Some people want an “Aid in Dying” bill to allow killing “seriously ill” people. Why is there a need for this today? Murder has always been punished in all societies. Suicide used to be a crime punished by the confiscation of the property of a suicide.

Didn’t the phrase “mercy killing” originate in Nazi Germany? Does killing ever show mercy? Are there Nazi-style doctors who want to kill people? Who will select the patients? What government agency will monitor these actions? What insurance plan will cover the costs? Is “old age” an incurable terminal illness?

This proposal avoids the question of proper medical care, and the research and prevention of diseases. If patients with polio had been killed we would never have learned of the names of Salk and Sabin.

Will this proposal lower property taxes, replenish the Transportation Trust Fund, or bring more democracy (like Initiative & Referendum) to New Jersey?

Ronald A. Sobieraj

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Perth Amboy Calendar

MON. Jan 22
• City Council, Caucus,
4:30 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

WED. Jan 24
• City Council, Regular,
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

THURS. Jan 25
• Historic Preservation Commission
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

MON. Jan 29
• Special Public Meeting, RE: Discussion of Rezoning Ordinance
6 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

 

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South Amboy Calendar

WED. Jan. 31
• City Council, Regular,
7 p.m.
City Hall, N. Broadway

WED. Feb. 7
• City Council, Business,
6 p.m.
City Hall, N. Broadway

Stay informed! Attend public meetings. All are welcome!