Woosamonsa historic house gutted by fire

Photo courtesy of Pennington Fire Company’s Facebook page.

The Walker house, an historic structure on Woosamonsa Road in Hopewell Township, burned to the ground early this morning. The structure was unoccupied as the property was recently purchased by Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space as part of its network of trails through the Valley.

According to a statement supplied by the Hopewell Township Police Department, “Officer Michael Crincoli was traveling on Bear Tavern Road when he observed a large cloud of smoke billowing in the distance on Woosamonsa Road. At the same time, a resident from Pennington Harbourton Road called 911 to report the same observations. Officer Crincoli arrived on Woosamonsa Road and found the unoccupied residence fully involved with fire.”

Fire personnel, under the command of Chief James DeForte of the Pennington Fire Department arrived on location and extinguished the fire. The Pennington Fire Company’s Facebook states: “Upon arrival incoming mutual aid units were canceled as there were no exposure issues and operations were held to the exterior as the building had been free burning for quite some time. Crews stretched multiple lines to extinguish the fire, while Pennington and Hopewell tankers were utilized for water supply. No injuries reported.”

Lisa Wolff, Executive Director of FoHVOS said she was in shock at the site of the building of which there is nothing left but a chimney. “We were in the process of trying to have the house moved and restored. It is a sad and devastating loss that another important piece of Hopewell Valley history has been lost,” she said.

Responding agencies assisting the Pennington Fire Department were Hopewell Valley Emergency Services, the Hopewell Fire Department, Union Fire Company, West Trenton Fire Department, and the West Amwell Township Fire Department.  

 The source of the fire is under investigation by Officer Michael Crincoli and Detective Michael Makwinski of the Hopewell Township Police Department along with the Mercer County Prosecutors Office and Hopewell Valley Emergency Services. 

This is the latest in a series of fires at empty structures this year according to local architect Max Hayden, Chair of the Hopewell Township Historic Preservation Commission. Union Fire Company’s Facebook noted their response to a fire at an abandoned building on Lawrenceville Road on September 16. Mid-Jersey News reported a fire at an abandoned building in Robbinsville in April. An historic house in Hopewell Township on Washington Crossing- Pennington Road that was used for commercial purposes and was for sale burned in the early morning hours of July 25. Hayden said he is concerned about other local unoccupied buildings in the Valley and hopes municipal leadership will take steps to secure them.

Updated press release from Hopewell Township 9/29 at 3:42pm:

A devastating fire occurred in the early hours this morning, which burned the historic Walker House on Woosamonsa Rd, to the ground. It is a great loss to the community to lose such an important structure. It is fortunate that the building was unoccupied at the time, and there were no injuries.

All fires in the Township are investigated as suspicious in nature until proven otherwise. This fire is no exception and is undergoing a criminal investigation, which includes sifting through the debris. Hopewell Township Police are working closely with the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and Hopewell Valley Emergency Services to determine the source and cause of the fire. Due to the total loss of the home, the investigation may take some time.

At this time, evidence suggests that this is an isolated incident. A news report out earlier today suggested that this fire was arson, and was in some way linked to the fire on Washington Crossing Pennington Rd. in July. However, due to the area of origin of that fire, it was determined to be non-suspicious, and presently there is no evidence of a link to the Walker House fire.

Anyone with additional information, please contact Detective Michael Makwinski at 609-737-3100 or mmakwinski@hopewelltwp.org.

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