Photo Essay: The Jedediah Higgins House – A story of love, loss, and recovery. cc-by lemasney


Photo Essay: The Jedediah Higgins House

A story of love, loss, and recovery.

cc-by lemasney (John LeMasney via lemasney.com)
Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Exterior glory color, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Exterior glory color, cc-by lemasney

An invitation to explore a historically significant house built in the early 1700s.

I recently had an opportunity to capture the beautiful light, materials, and soul of the Jedediah Higgins House, a Franklin Township Historical Preserved Site on Route 27 in Kingston, NJ, though many consider it extended Princeton. I knew of the house as the home of Onesen (Onesen for All) and many elements of their effects on the house (renovations, upgrades, spa, rooms) are clear in this collection of images. The next mission of this home will be one of helping people to recover from substance abuse, and in light of that, I tried to capture what someone living through that ordeal might meet and gain peace from.

It should be noted that the images are available for viewing at full size by clicking on any of them, at which point you can navigate through them by clicking to the right or left.

Also, it bears repeating that theses images are licensed under a creative-commons attribution (cc-by) license. This means essentially, you can use the photos as you wish, for any purpose, even commercial, as long as you cite me in credits for the photo work as cc-by lemasney.

In preparing for this essay, I did some research on the history of the house and Jedediah himself.

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Exterior, East facade, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Exterior, East facade, cc-by lemasney

The house was built between 1702 and 1714. Some suggest 1709-10, others 1714.

“The house was built somewhere around 1714, most likely funded by the construction of another important structure in South Brunswick and Franklin, the Rockingham house.”

Onesen’s renovation took three years to complete, preserved the history and beauty of the house, and included spa and other relaxation-service amenities. The site was part of a 1,000 acre purchase between 1705 and 1709, on the west side of the Assunpink trail from the Lenape for a sow and 8 piglets. The Lenape had recently developed a love for the taste of pork. It stretches from Raymond Road in South Brunswick to what is now route 518, and included Rockingham, Washington’s headquarters. The family burial ground is across the street and

“Jedediah and his wife Hanna are buried along with other family members. The stones have fallen and only two stand tall now, most are now unreadable or broken. Jedediah died in 1772 at 82 years of age and his wife Hanna died in 1779 at 79 years of age.”

Sources: The History of Kingston’s Higgins House | South Brunswick, NJ Patch, http://goo.gl/0MaiQg , History of the Village of Kingston, http://goo.gl/IgLW6l ,Franklin Township Historic Preservation Advisory Commission Minutes of the Regular Monthly Meeting January 9, 2013 http://franklintwpnj.org/home/showdocument?id=3066

Exterior Structures

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Exterior decorative support, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Exterior decorative support, cc-by lemasney

As I first walked around the house, I noticed its relationship with nature. The contrast of the red against the sky, the hard protrusions that jutted into the clouds, and strong angular lines everywhere. It argues with the space around itself, justifying itself, and pleading for understanding. This was my first feeling:

The house is loving and tragic and desperate to stand, to be understood and heard, hopefully forever.

The explosions of bright green leaf-branches from nearby trees and bamboo are polar color-wheel opposites with the growling, deep red.

The exterior of the house is imposing, solemn, and sobering. The structures seem colonial, but the fanciful touches, such as the supporting decor and pillars are clearly additional. The first thing that I noted was that it did not seem like there was a perfectly straight line in the structure anywhere. Not that the walls are way off, but they are not perfect, nor should they be. The square has flaws as you do. The walls are uneven, as we are. It is imperfect, and it matches and reflects our imperfections. The other thing that becomes quickly clear is the reflection of the natural surroundings and the structure itself. Aside from necessary additions, such as exit signs or ingress/egress considerations, the layout and charm of the original structure are present. The deep red shingles of the exterior shout love and passion and care. The white details and trim whisper solidity, calm, and experience. The stone, wood, and metal all sing a harmony about what lies inside.

The Buddha and the Lotus

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Interior, Buddha and lotus wall piece, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Interior, Buddha and lotus wall piece, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Interior, Buddha and lotus wall piece, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Interior, Buddha and lotus wall piece, cc-by lemasney

Given the mindfulness, massage, and spa nature of the previous occupants (though I did not feel as though they had left, as their impact was clear and longstanding) it makes sense that some installations might remain from that time. Two of these stand out for me: The Buddha in the foyer, and the lotus metal wall relief in a meditation room. The Buddha is essentially a bust, about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide, and has light and water features I thought were better left unused. The Buddha here is kind, understanding, and guiding, and will hopefully continue to serve those in need. The lotus is stark, linear, graphic, and cut. The methods used to produce it, probably a CNC or patient metal worker, seemed to fit with the rough-hewn beams and structural juts.

Gates and Barriers

Jedediah Higgins House, Barriers, bamboo gate, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Barriers, bamboo gate, cc-by lemasney

Another thing I came away with was that I often ended up in places where the question being posed was:

“You are here, and there is where you want to be. Now, how do you get there?”

The places in which this question came up were at pathways, doors, windows, and gates. It seemed that they permeated the entire structure, always asking that same question. You will see the same idea in different ways in the essay sections below on stairs and bamboo.

I feel as though the inhabitants of the space, if suffering through change of body, mind, or need, will be constantly reminded of what is at stake. The house says:

“You are in this place. This place that you can see through the barrier is what you can have. Simply remove the barrier, and it is yours. Use whatever creative means necessary to do so.”

These barrier elements throughout the house feel like a reminder of the journey that is possible to undergo here.

Bamboo and Trees

Jedediah Higgins house, Kingston, NJ, Bamboo, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins house, Kingston, NJ, Bamboo, cc-by lemasney

The bamboo grove is an amazingly rich experience. The leaves envelope you, hold you. You can see the sun through the canopy, but it is cool, dark, and soothing. The bamboo is probably also a development from the Onesen renovations. It is gloriously wild, present, and bright.

Jedediah Higgins house, Kingston, NJ, Trees, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins house, Kingston, NJ, Trees, cc-by lemasney

The trees surrounding the house are immense, imposing; their shadows obviously long-time caretakers of the space. As you look up at the house, you can barely help yourself from looking through the glorious outstretched canopy far above. Throughout the property, many other smaller trees exist, including small junipers crying out for bonsai work.

The Courtyard

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Featured details, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Featured details, cc-by lemasney

Onesen definitely had an impact on the structure of the close exterior grounds. An outdoor spa, bamboo grove, and other structures make up the courtyard. The result is stunning, and while also peaceful and calming, a wildly different mood from the interior.

Interior Structure, Light, and Rooms

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Interior, Natural light, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Interior, Natural light, cc-by lemasney

The inside of the house is cavernous and labyrinthine. For someone who is searching themselves, the space provides a physical maze to match that internal experience. Each turn of the corner leads to a surprise in light or wood or stone. One thing that especially caught my eye was the reflection of sunlight combined with the casting of sunlight. The two lights illuminate differently and emote separately. If we are lucky, we see ourselves in these reflections.

Lights

The light in the house is vibrant, reassuring, and emotion-laden. Whether the somber wall light installation with low illumination, or the bright sunlight washing the floor at 4 pm, the light is a force in the space.

Rooms

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Interior, Rooms, details, construction, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Interior, Rooms, details, construction, cc-by lemasney

The rooms are large, beautifully structured, and solemn. They would be inviting to a mind that was working through chaos and upset. The rooms speak of secrets and darkness and seem to hold a deeply human pain. Being in the space reminds you of your insignificance, as if you were standing underneath the night sky.

Each room invites you:

“Come. Sit. Meditate. Understand. Know.”

Fabric wall covering, rough textures, and hand hewn beams

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Interior, Rooms, fabric wall covering, beams, details, construction, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Interior, Rooms, fabric wall covering, beams, details, construction, cc-by lemasney

There are a few rooms upstairs that have fabric resembling loose-leaf paper covering the walls. The texture and application are amazing, and I look forward to researching the technique. I tried to capture the simultaneous invitation to touch and the repulsion of the texture. You consistently find rough-hewn wood as structure peeking out of the plaster, and you are sure the most powerful pain from splinters awaits you. The bricks throughout the space ask you to be careful and avoid scrapes. These are a little reminder from the room:

You want to touch me, but you should not. I am for seeing and recognizing, but not partaking in. Stay steady, move slowly, and keep to yourself.

A powerful message for someone looking for peace in themselves, and not peace from external objects.

Stairs

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Interior, Stairs, Banisters, Floors, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Interior, Stairs, Banisters, Floors, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Interior, Stairs, Banisters, Floors, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Kingston, NJ, Interior, Stairs, Banisters, Floors, cc-by lemasney

I was astounded by the symbology and soaring nature of the stairs in the space. The struggle and climb leading to uncertainty. Is this even the way I want to go? What will I get at the top or bottom of the stairs? There are hints of great revelations at the clearings, but a winding and steep path before we get there. The barriers we saw earlier are also present here, in the deepest centers of the house, connecting floors, and asking for effort in order for someone to get where they want or need to go.

Favorite Highlights and Details

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Finally, I want to leave you with what I think are twenty iconic images that represent my feelings about the space. Dark, peaceful, spellbinding, rich, loving, imposing, zen.

This house cares for you in and of itself. It loves you unconditionally, even when you do not love yourself. It embraces you and holds you against your protests until you stop sobbing.

My name is John LeMasney. I want to thank the owners of the Higgins house for the opportunity to shoot. In the event that you know of a space that you love and would like to see explored in this way, please contact me at lemasney@gmail.com or 609 553 9498. Or, feel free to use the contact form below!

LeMasney Consulting – Let’s do something great together.

This content is published under the Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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