The Bosenbury House
In 1850, Eli Bosenbury, a 28 year-old carpenter from Delaware Township in Hunterdon County, paid $350 to William and Margaret Bonnell, who were then the owners of the Bonnell Tavern on an adjacent plot of land, for one acre of property on the old New Jersey Turnpike in what was then Bethlehem Township. Eli was married four years earlier to Rachel Ann Bonnell, daughter of Abraham and Lydia Bonnell, whose exact relationship to William and Margaret is unknown. The house appears to have been completed by the 1860 census, which shows Eli, then listed as builder, and Rachel Ann living with two carpenters and a domestic in Union Township, which had been created from the southern part of Bethlehem Township in 1853. The value of his real estate was listed then as $4000.
The style of the house that Bosenbury built is Italianate, and with a great deal of detail. It has a two-and-a-half story, three-bay main block, with one-bay projections to the west and to the east, and a shallow hipped roof with wide extended eaves. Corner pilasters support the attic-story frieze which encircles the entire house and is punctuated with eave brackets, rectangular eyebrow windows covered with ornate metal grilles, eave brackets, and a spoke-filled circular window at the front center. There are two semi-octagonal bay windows on the first floor, one facing the front on the west-side projection and one facing east on the east-side projection, both with a heavy, projecting flat cornice and panelwork below. A hipped-roof porch runs the width of the main block of the house, with four groupings of paired, chamfered columns on squat square pedestals with recessed square panels, urn-shaped balusters and a center pediment, echoing the small centered gable at the main roofline and the pediment over the second-story, center-bay window. A secondary entrance in a one-story lateral addition to the west has its own porch with the same column and pedestal detailing, but no balustrade, and an arched-top transom window with a heavy lintel and keystone over the door.
In 1859, James Mulligan hired Bosenbury to build the two-family house at the limestone quarry near the mill. Bosenbury was paid $1.25 per day steadily through May and June, and then again in September. The house was built so that Mulligan could offer rental housing to his hired hands, an dremained in similar use for the next two generations, hosuing many families who labored at the quarry. The house still stands on the Clinton Historical Museum site.
Over the next ten years, Bosenbury gained in influence in the community; in 1864 he became engaged as a wholesale dealer in lumber, and, when Clinton was incorporated in 1865, he became one of the first six town council members, along with his next-door neighbor to the east, John A. Young. He went on to serve as the mayor of Clinton in 1873 and 1874, then was elected to the State Senate in 1879, where he served until 1882. He died in 1886; his wife Rachel Ann continued to live in the house until her death in 1888. The house and the one-acre of property were subsequently sold by Bosenbury's executors in 1889 for $4620.
Today, the building's facade is fundamentally unchanged from its appearance in early streetscape photos from the late-1890s. These photos were used in promotional material for Clinton after it was rebuilt from a fire in 1891 that destroyed the downtown commercial area. Noticeable differences include: the loss of a balustrade with urn finials and a tall chimney over the one-story addition on the west side, and removal of a monument-like roof elaboration on the front gable, both done at an unknown time after 1910; and the removal of decorative detail over the round central window, addition of vinyl siding over all of the clapboard, and the addition of ornate eave brackets on all sides of the house, all done during a 1970s renovation. The property itself was subdivided into two half-acre lots around the turn of the century, and a bungalow-style house was built on the western portion of the property.
The interior of the house appears to have much of its original floor plan, although there is little documented evidence to confirm what changes have been made. The main floor consists of an entrance hall, a front and back parlor, a dining room, a kitchen and a small office with its own entrance. The kitchen appears to be a later addition, as it is built over a crawlspace rather than a full cellar like the rest of the house and it has a narrow doorway connecting it to the dining room; the kitchen is visible, however, in early 20th century photos. There is narrow-board white-oak flooring throughout the main floor, probably added post-WWII; wide plank flooring underneath is visible at the top of the stairs leading to the cellar. The main floor retains what appear to be original decorative floor, door and window moulding, in the entry hall and parlors; the front parlor also maintains its plaster ceiling moulding. Three main-floor slate fireplace mantles with arched recesses, two of which are closed with a simple painted-wood cover, are intact. The entry hall contains the staircase to the second floor with a mahogany balustrade and a newel post with a turned nob and facetted shaft, common in the 1850s into the 1870s, as well as a large stained-glass window. The primary change to the main-floor plan, with the exception of the kitchen addition, appears to be the closure of the through-hall from the entry to the back parlor.
The second floor has evidence of more extensive changes. There is currently a large main bedroom and bathroom in the front of the house, over the front parlor and entry, then a series of rooms that run back from a main hallway that traverses the width of the house. Currently there are three rooms back from the hall, however there is plain evidence of walls being moved and windows covered over, making the original arrangement of the rooms uncertain. In addition, there is a small room at the back of the house, over the kitchen and accessible by a narrow back staircase, that was added after the original building, as evidenced by the profile of a window under the plaster in the wall that adjoins the rest of the house. The Bosenbury's were childless; the 1860 and 1870 censuses show that they had carpenters and a domestic living with them; the front bedroom was therefore most likely theirs as it is larger and has more ornate mouldings, and the series of more simple rooms at the back given over to their workers.
Since the Bosenbury's deaths, the house has had 12 owners, which have been, in general, kind to the property. It is now part of the Clinton Historic District, which was listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places on 3 March 1995, and on the National Register of Historic Places on 28 September 1995.