Though his time there was brief, the historic importance of William Franklin's association with the House had
always inspired dreams of preservation, beginning in 1914 with the "Franklin Palace Association," though it never
moved beyond a loosely organized group. During the Great Depression, among the federal Works Progress
Administration (WPA) projects to employ people was a massive effort to photograph and make plans of all the
historic structures throughout the United States. Called the
Heritage Documentation Project, it produced a
valuable record deposited at the
Library of Congress. In the 1950s, the Perth Amboy Lions Club proposed a plan
to obtain state and federal aid towards turning what had become a rundown boarding house into a museum and
community center. The Middlesex County Historic Sites Committee recommended restoration in 1955. Such good
intentions, however, were slow to materialize into action.
LEFT: HABS photograph of the drawing room fire
place in the 1930s. RIGHT: The drawing room is used
today for various public and private events.
During the 1960s, heritage activists worked to
educate the community about this historic gem in their
community. In 1961, Dr. William Cole of New
Brunswick, Chairman of the Historic Sites Committee,
placed a plan to turn the Westminster into a museum
before the County Planning Board. But associated
funding was not forthcoming. In 1966, the Proprietary
House Association (initially named the Westminster
Historical Society) was formed as a non-profit
corporation dedicated to preserving and restoring the
only remaining official royal governor’s mansion still
standing in the original 13 colonies. Research
undertaken by the Association was crucial in proving
the historical and architectural significance of
Proprietary House, and convincing the State of New
Jersey to purchase the property under the
Department of Environmental Protection’s Green
Acres Program in 1967. Soon after, in 1970 and 1971,
Proprietary House achieved listings in the State and
National Registers of Historic Places.
In 1974, the NJ Department of Environmental
Protection leased Proprietary House to the
Association.  Inspired by the enthusiasm and
dedication of early volunteers like Elizabeth
Frelinghuysen, Albert W. Seaman, and Dorothy V.
and Gwendolyn M. Compton, sizable donations
began to come in. With the nation’s 1976
Bicentennial as an impetus, Association volunteers
began to reverse decades of neglect and
deterioration at Proprietary House by first cleaning
out years of accumulated debris. Then the removal
of interior partitions that were added during the
rooming house days revealed the original
dimensions of the historic mansion’s many great
rooms.  Though restoration had only just begun,
on June 19, 1976, the Association opened
Proprietary House for its first public viewing with a
bicentennial re-enactment of Governor William
Franklin’s arrest by Patriot forces
Restoration progressed but was slow during the 1970s and early 1980s, and the pace of the immense structure’s
decay threatened its survival.  In 1985, the Restoration Partnership of Boston proposed a public/private
partnership plan under which the Partnership leased the building and 3.5 acres of surrounding land. At its cost,
the Partnership restored and renovated the building’s exterior and the interior of the 1809 wing and upper floors of
the main house as offices. Income from office rentals went toward repayment of the Partnership’s costs until 1999
when its lease was terminated.  Since 1999, office rental income has partially offset the State of New Jersey’s
expenditures for Proprietary House.
This fireplace in the breakfast room was walled over until it
was rediscovered during restoration.
The ground and first floors of the original mansion are leased by the State of New Jersey to the Association,
which is charged with raising funds for programs, interpretation and restoration.  Since the 1970s, countless
volunteer hours and the financial support of history-loving donors have enabled the on-going restoration of
Proprietary House and its museum.  Much work remains to be done, as we continue to explore the full history
of Proprietary House -- from Franklin’s time to the present -- and tell the myriad stories of this amazing building’
s many incarnations over the past 250 years!