Mrs. Zilph Palmer bequeathed Palmer House to the University in 1968. She was the widow of Edgar Palmer ’03, the alumnus who gave Palmer Stadium and Palmer Square to Princeton.
Charles Steadman, a local architect who built many well-known houses in the community, built the house circa 1823–24.
The original owner was Commodore Robert Stockton (1795-1866), grandson of the signer of The Declaration of Independence. He married Maria Potter of Charleston, South Carolina and they received the house as a wedding present from her father, John.
When Robert moved across the street into "Morven," the old Stockton homestead, he sold Palmer House to his brother-in-law, James Potter. (Later he built "Lowrie House" down Stockton Street for one of his children while his older brother-in-law, Thomas Potter, built "Prospect House" on the south side of the campus – both designed by John Nottman of Philadelphia.
Subsequently, the Potter family sold the house to the Garretts of Baltimore. Robert Garrett ’97 was a Trustee of the University with a particular interest in its grounds and buildings. He was Princeton’s first Olympian, having won a gold medal his junior year when the Olympic Games were revived in Athens. His name is also honored in the Library, which houses his collection of Near Eastern manuscripts, and in the Great North Window of the Chapel. In 1923, he sold the house to Edgar Palmer.
Little of the façade has been changed since then but, of course, there have been changes inside. For example, the Palmers made a big Drawing Room by combining two rooms.
Much of the furniture in the house is from the University’s collection. Mrs. Palmer’s heirs left a few items namely in the dining and front bedrooms. Others came from old houses on the campus and from the Princeton Inn. Some were bequeathed to the University in former years and some, like the 18-century grandfather clock in the Parlor foyer, were given recently be Edward O’Neill ’31 of Pittsburgh.
Time Line of Ownership
Built by Charles Steadman for Robert Field Stockton and Harriet Marie Potter of Charleston, South Carolina.
Death of Richard Stockton, Jr. (The Duke). Father of Robert Field Stockton who then inherited "Morven"
Robert F. Stockton sold the house to his brother-in-law, James Potter.
The Andersons (Leroy Hammond ’61) purchased the house from the Potters. The Andersons had no children of their own. The 3 Garrett boys lived with them while in college. The address of the house at that time was 3 Stockton Street.
Robert Garrett, on behalf of his brother, John W., purchased the home. The Garrett families used it as a Princeton residence while the boys were in college.
John W. Garrett sold the house to Edgar Palmer.
On the death of Mrs. Edgar Palmer, the house was bequeathed to the University.
Palmer House was opened as a guesthouse for the University.
The "new" Palmer House re-opens after an extensive upgrade and renovation.