Board Approves Expansion of Johnson & Johnson Riverview Guest House

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—In the city's northwestern corner, by the Delaware and Raritan Canal, there is a hidden and very private treasure, owned by New Brunswick's own Fortune 500 company, Johnson & Johnson.

It is called the Riverview Guest House, not to be confused with the Henry Guest House, which is next to New Brunswick's library in the Fourth Ward.

This house will be soon be sprouting a one-story boardroom, after  proposal which was unanimously approved by the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment on December 21.

The corporate giant was represented by James Clarkin, Esq., of the Piscataway-based Clarkin & Vignuolo firm.

What Johnson and Johnson wants to do is simple: build a one-story addition to the rear of existing Guesthouse. Because the house's facade is of white-painted brick, the addition will also have a whitewashed brick facade.

In order to satisfy legal requirements, courtyard and current driveway brick wall will be modified and a new stoop and ramp will be put in for compliance with ADA/ NJ barrier-free entrance regulations.

The addition will be of the sort of wood-frame construction common in New Jersey houses, but it will be clad in brick and situated on a concrete slab infused with a radiant heating system.

A fan will also blow heated and air conditioned air through the addition. One side of the addition's roof will have a steeper slope than the other, with the steeper (and much more visible) slope armored in metal, complete with Victorian ornamental crest and snow guards.

The shallower slope, which is less visible, will have the sort of cladding common to hidden roofs on flat-topped commercial buildings: synthetic rubber, of a type known as an "EPDM membrane".

The Riverview Guest House has an elegant appearance, and deliberately so. It has a core building and a wing on the left side, and its assessed value is $218,300. 

The core building is a "colonial", with whitewashed brick facades and resembling an antebellum Southern mansion. Front entrance, which faces the canal and river, is through a portico, with two-story columns reminiscent of government buildings.

Entrance leads into central "main hall", which has doorways leading to a sitting room (on right front of building), a small guest toilet room just behind the sitting room, a great room (combination living/dining room) on left side of building, and a conference room in the right rear. Main hall has staircase in it and leads to small rear vestibule. 

Staircase from main hall leads to upper hall, around which is arrayed four guest bedrooms, two of which have their own bathrooms.  Only the right front bedroom has a full bath; the left rear bedroom has a toilet, and there is a third toilet between the two left-side bedrooms.

A sitting room occupies the front central part of the house, in between the two front guest bedrooms. This sitting room has its own porch.

On the left rear corner of the core building, there is an enormous left wing. Upon entering it from the dining room, one walks first into a pantry and then into a kitchen, with its own island.

A door off the kitchen leads to a second dining room,  and, if you go further down the hall, you can make a right into the central hallway of a two-bedroom mini-apartment, with its own full bath and living room. Completing this left wing's main floor is a staircase (to unclear destination) and a maintenance closet. 

That little apartment is the caretaker's quarters.

The backyard serves as the courtyard; it has a fountain inside a pond, stone-paved walkways, sakura (cherry blossom) trees, and a brick wall surrounding it for privacy reasons.

In order to do the dirty work, the construction folks will remove the walkways and take down the brick wall; the wall will be put back up when the construction work is done.

The small vestibule in the rear will be demolished, to be replaced by a new rear hall, which is perpendicular to the main hall. Across the rear hall from the core building will be a large "board room."

The hallway's entrance on the right side of the house will lead to an accessible parking space. A parking lot already exists on the left side of the house.

The board room's walls will enhance acoustical privacy, so that eavesdroppers won't be able to hear the board's discussions. The addition will have a whitewashed brick facade, matching the rest of the house, and a quasi-Victorian appearance, enhanced by the decorative cornice on its rooftop. 

The house apparently is used for VIPs negotiating with Johnson & Johnson, judging from the site plans and from the fact that the company owns the building. The 7.6 acres it sits on is worth $739,100, making for a total assessed value of $957,400.

The company, which is the city's largest single taxpayer, paid $53,844.18 in taxes on that property last year, according to the NJ Division of Taxation.

That figure is likely similar to what was paid in 2014, when Johnson and Johnson made more than $74 million in revenues.

Johnson and Johnson also owns the vacant lot next to the property, 3 Landing Lane, which effectively makes it part of the Riverview Guest House's grounds. The two lots were once under different owners: Riverview's grounds were owned by one T. de Rusey in 1876, while 3 Landing Lane, which then had a hay press, was owned by A. Conover.

In earlier years, the properties were home to John Pittinger's and Miles Smith's mills, which had several neighbors.  Riverview is on the New Brunswick side of Raritan Landings, while the historic Low House is on the Piscataway side.

Riverview was already in existence in 1940, and may well date back to the 19th or early 20th century, although sources with respect to its antiquity were not immediately available.