Remembering the Charlotte Rachel Wilson Apartments
decades, the Seminary provided housing for married students and
families in the Charlotte Rachel Wilson (CRW) apartments, formerly known
as the Princeton Windsor Apartments (PW). Today, those buildings are
being replaced with new apartments for family housing that will open
next fall. We asked readers: How did living in PW/CRW contribute to your
experience at Princeton Seminary? We received many answers, but could
not include them all, either because of space or because memories were
about living in other places. All responses are in inSpire online.
While living at 103 Farber Road from 1981 to 1983 and at 109 Farber Road from 1984 to 1985, I appreciated having normal, non-church, non-seminary neighbors in addition to sharing the building with classmates. Each building had eight apartments. When my wife and I lived at 103, PTS students and their families lived in five of the apartments. Commercial tenants, some with young children, lived in the other three. While living at CRW left me somewhat isolated from the campus life of most single students, I felt like I lived in more of a real-world environment. Some non-PTS tenants and their children became good friends. We had a large, open field across the street from the apartments. Residents used it to play with their children and dogs, throw Frisbees, practice chip shots, and play touch football. We also planted small gardens and buried dead pets along the tree line. I often walked to campus in the morning. I crossed the Raritan Canal, made my way through a wooded path, and meandered across an expansive open space at the Institute for Advanced Study. As I walked through the institute’s often-dew-drenched or frost-covered lawn, I found inspiration in thinking that Albert Einstein once walked the same grounds. The journey was a great way to enjoy fresh air, get the blood pumping, and prepare for a day of classes.
John Edward Harris (M.Div., 1985)
Ridgewood, New York
Our three children, who ranged from newborn to age eight during our time at CRW, grew up believing there should always be a playground and friends you can get to without having to cross any streets.
Barb Hedges-Goettl (non-graduating M.Div. candidate); Len Hedges-Goettl (M.Div., 1989)
I will never forget that hot August day in 1994, arriving at the Charlotte Rachel Wilson Apartments—310 Emmons Drive #5b. The rental truck was full and we were tired. As we began moving furniture in, a neighbor, Colin Winchester, came down and asked if we needed some help. Skeptical, I said we did have a lot of stuff and it was just us. “Let me call some people,” he said. Thirty minutes later, there were dozens of people moving our things into our new home and welcoming us into the community. Spouses brought over food and seminarians shared insight into classes and professors. My son John would be born in 1996, during the worst winter in decades, while we lived in our tiny, one bedroom apartment adjacent to the golf course. It was a magical time in an amazing community of idealists and faithful families.
Philip D. King (M.Div., 1997)
Oak Harbor, Washington
I had two notable experiences at Princeton Windsor during my senior year of 1974–1975. Carole and I had just completed a swim in the PW pool when a kind gentleman approached us and gave us a freshly caught blue fish of about two feet long. It was the whole fish, and Carole made some fine meals with it. The other occasion is when flowers were delivered to my front door for the funeral of Don Van Dyke. I was never so glad for a mistaken identity. Carole and I had a great year at PW.
Don Van Dyke (M.Div., 1975)
Lake City, Michigan
We were residents of the Princeton Windsor Apartments shortly after they were first acquired by PTS. When we first lived there, I was the Seminary’s assistant dean of field education and a graduate student. Later, after I became director of admissions, we continued living in the apartments. The Seminary’s president and dean both invited us to move into these “new” apartments specifically so there would be a staff presence. I reflect on this past history because I think that mix of students, staff, and a smattering of faculty was important to the personal and social dynamic of the apartments. It allowed students to interact with faculty/staff “up close and personal.” And, it allowed those same staff/faculty members to know a broad group of students, and their families, on an informal, personal basis. I hope in the restructuring of these apartments such a balance of occupancy can be resumed (or continued).
David Tomlinson (M.Div., 1965; Th.M., 1967)
In our very first moment of seminary life, we were invited to a beer and barbeque party with our CRW neighbors. From the moment our neighbors helped us unload the U-Haul before classes began, to the moment they helped load the U-Haul after graduation, our years living with dear friends and classmates at CRW were about compassion, support, and love. In an institution that can occasionally get its feet stuck in the swamp of theory, CRW life was the faith lived out: neighbor loving neighbor, sharing food, drink, and life with dear friends and new acquaintances alike.
Matthew Schultz (M.Div./M.A., 2005)
Princeton, New Jersey
We lived at CRW from 1965 to 1969. We had moved from Rhode Island with two small children, and I was changing careers from being a social worker, while my wife was a psychiatric nurse. The apartment let us be part of a faith community. I remember our next-door neighbor, David Tomlinson, who was the director of admissions, asking me to join him in ministry at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Trenton, which we eventually closed. What a way to start a career as a minister. I also worked on campus as the assistant to the assistant to the president, arranging for the annual career conferences. We finally graduated in 1969 with a third child who had just been born. Living there was a highlight of our time at Princeton.
Bob Butziger (M.Div., 1969)
Los Gatos, California
PTS became home for me within a short time. The deep Christian fellowship, friendship, and love that characterize this community are contagious and indelible. I thoroughly enjoyed our Christian fellowship during Becky Montgomery’s birthday party, our Hebrew study group with Sarah Watermulder, and our football games every Wednesday in the open spaces. We experienced the universal church in miniature: people from various races, tongues, and nations. I greatly appreciate your insight and professionalism in the aesthetic design of the CRW buildings and environment—serene and secure, thus, conducive for study and human development.
Ngwana Aboseh (Th.M., 2008)
I distinctly remember my wife yelling from the bathroom, “There are at least five shades of pink in this bathroom” (tiles, sink, tub, toilet, and countertop). Then there were the metal kitchen cupboards, cleverly disguised with wood grain contact paper. But hey, it was cheap, and within a few short weeks we felt as though we were long-time CRW residents. I think, because all of us were in the same boat, we found instant friends in the previous-year residents who welcomed us with a meal, helped move furniture, and empathized with our realization of the “modern” amenities of CRW. I remember looking down on the parking lot delightfully observing the sights and sounds of eight to ten children playing harmoniously on bikes and scooters and jumping ropes. Then I prayed, “Oh God, help them. They’re all doomed to become PKs.”
Keith C. Kerber (M.Div., 1996)
After a six-day marathon from Los Angeles, my wife and I parked our old Toyota station wagon on Wheeler Way and were promptly greeted by another Californian before we started unloading. That evening, the deacons for our two adjoining buildings had a barbeque on the lawn. Three years later, after many group Bible studies, parties, trips to New York, and swapping mold stories, Jean and I were treated to a farewell party where we auctioned off all our used furniture for pennies. The auction included our infamous “Picasso couch,” a ten-foot monstrosity rumored to be inspired by the intriguing artist. We are still in touch with seven families from those glorious years.
Doug Kelly (M.Div., 1986)
CRW was the cornerstone of our Seminary experience. Rather, I should say the people who formed our community of friends and colleagues were the foundation of our growth and learning. Krista, my wife, and I absorbed wisdom and life experience from conversations around the communal grills, picnic tables, and food. My education would have been profoundly impoverished without the support, reflection, and challenge of those friendships. The location, layout, and even the limitations of CRW contributed to this robust sense of belonging. I still often take the time to praise God that we lived so closely with so many thoughtful Christian families. CRW was far from perfect, but the relationships that it fostered enriched my seminary career as much as any other single aspect of my three years at PTS.
Dan Carter (M.Div., 2008)
Our arrival to CRW came at a time of great transition for my family. We were home from the U.S. Army and had been overseas. Along came summer Greek and immersion into seminary life. Two things, which we have heard no longer exist, served as great supporters of our transition. First, we spent a great deal of time at the pool and tennis courts. Playing with upper class seminarians while studying Greek provided many bonds, as well as tips on succeeding in our upcoming adventure. Second, underneath the mall that stands there now was our garden. The rules declared you could have as big a garden as you could maintain. We joined our fellow gardeners in growing, eating, and freezing for later use, food from a huge garden with high chicken wire fences for fear of the local animals. These two experiences gave Linda and me an easier transition.
Tom Malek-Jones (M.Div., 1983)
Upper Montclair, New Jersey
My wife and I heard about the Seminary’s purchase of the apartment complex shortly before our arrival on campus, late in the summer of 1966. When I enrolled as a transferring middler, we lived on the second floor of a building on what was then Ninianne Boulevard. There, we brought home our first born in 1967. Neighbors on the street were classmates Bob and Nancy McGruther and Don and Linda Mairs, who also produced children while there. A vivid image is of Dr. Geddes Hanson, then a robust junior faculty member and neighbor, walking his dainty Siamese cat on a leash. For us family men with children, the apartments were a blessed alternative to Hodge Hall, which had been the Seminary’s only alternative for married housing.
John Muntz (M.Div., 1968)
CRW was central to my experience at Princeton Seminary. Just a few months after arriving from Ireland in the fall of 2000, I met my future wife, Hannah, while she was visiting from Canada. Two years later, we married and made CRW our first home together. We now live in Scotland with our four-year-old son Rowan, but we have many fond memories of our time at CRW.
Glenn Chestnutt (M.Div., 2003; Th.M., 2004)
Where else could one find Bart Ehrman sitting by the pool reading Greek? Or my neighbor, Gary, who spoke conversational by night and taught Hebrew by day? The bus ride from CRW to the main campus always took “Academia Avenue”—with seats filled with people weighed down not only with theological ponderings, but books! Some of the many blessings of CRW included the study center, the fellowship of families, and the joy of my second child entering the world in Trenton and having a fellow CRW resident, Cindy, as one of the delivery nurses. It was temporary living with permanent memories.
Ed Brandt (M.Div., 1985)
My family and I lived at CRW from fall 1988 until spring 1992. Two sons came with us to Princeton during my work in the Old Testament Ph.D. program and my youngest was born there. The children loved the playground, the pool, and the close proximity to other children. My wife and I made friends with other parents/students. The closeness made it possible for me to easily visit colleagues to work on assignments and projects. Friendships began and were deepened there. We were part of a weekly prayer and support group, and a monthly potluck fellowship. I can only wish that the new buildings and grounds foster the kind of fellowship and mutual support that we experienced.
Douglas B. Miller (Ph.D., 1996)
“So this is where you live,” said the mother of the girl selling cookies. She pointed at the Russian Blue cat that made our apartment home after what must have been a debauched and vagabond life. When we returned after Christmas in 1983, “Tom” was waiting at our door with a look that asked, “Where have you been?” We assumed he was confused, given the uniformity of apartments, but the hour was late and the night frigid; he was hungry, and we were a soft touch. All we could offer was rancid baloney and a towel on the floor, but this was enough, it seemed, for him to adopt us permanently. We surmised our friend was led to us after repenting and beseeching the Lord for a more settled life in the complex. Providence smiled on “Thomas Sweet,” whose former identity we learned when someone scolded him: “Sooty, you’re a bad cat!”
Keith Cogburn (M.Div., 1987)
My days at Princeton Windsor were delightful, and bring back many great memories. The apartments were clean, comfortable, and economical. My wife and our children loved living there, and were extremely happy to move into the brand new apartment after living in very cramped quarters elsewhere. During the summer months when I finished working on my dissertation at the library, I would meet my wife and children at the pool. There, I would often eat a picnic lunch, play with my son and daughter, and often play tennis.
Robert H. Stein (Ph.D., 1968)
Lino Lakes, Minnesota
While I was an M.Div. student from 1991 to 1993, PTS provided a beautiful CRW apartment for my son and me. I was a single parent raising my nine-year-old son Michael. The joy of acceptance at the Seminary was juxtaposed with facing the unknown—of traveling to a place where I had not lived before and yet was ready to embrace. I did not have to worry about a place to live as I journeyed from Texas to New Jersey. Balancing the challenges of raising a child and attending the Seminary were met with the peace of having a strong foundation, both theologically and personally. The CRW home was our family’s center for worshipping, studying, and entertaining friends.
Deirdre D. McClain (non-graduating M.Div. candidate, 1993)
The Association of Black Seminarians (ABS) was a wonderful cultural and academic support system while studying theology at PTS from 1975 to 1978. Through ABS-invited guest speakers, black students acquired knowledge in liberation and black theology. ABS coordinated a Christmas event and spring picnic, which included the children, black faculty and their spouses, and ABS members. Princeton Windsor provided married students with a spacious family environment just a few miles from the campus. The ABS married students living at PW were faced with a dilemma. We needed to coordinate our Saturday family responsibilities for childcare and household errands while still remaining in the PW area. We also wanted to continue the theological discourse from classroom lectures, small group practicums, fieldwork, and internships. Our dilemma was resolved by deciding to gather monthly for breakfast and theological discussions at a PW apartment. Our three-hour breakfast fellowships rotated among the homes of five ABS families and continued from November through May from 1975 until 1978. The ABS breakfast fellowship provided our families with a memorable, nurturing community while living at PW.
Florence Ridley (M.Div., 1978)
Somerset, New Jersey
It was 1970 through 1973: the Tewells, Dennises, Debenports, Hansons, Mulders, Spencers, Grubels, and my family were living within shouting and dog-walking distance of one another across the courtyard at 308–310 Emmons Drive. It was instant community. Blair Monie, our resident lifeguard, regularly collected our daughter Larra, who believed she could breathe under water, from sitting on the bottom of the pool. Larra’s fourth and fifth birthday parties were ones none of us will ever forget (she was the only child present). That courtyard, pool, tennis courts, and the interactions there, formed the basis of the phrase “lifelong friendships” in the Seminary’s mission statement. The housing was wonderful. One of my mentors, Dr. Jack Meister, used to ruminate: “The students at Princeton Windsor are living in better housing than they will experience in their first or second manse.” Time and too many three-year-resident families coming and going have taken their toll on the buildings. But the friendships remain. May the new housing complex bring the same blessings!
Fred R. Anderson (M.Div., 1973; D.Min., 1981)
New York, New York
I have four memories of the apartments. First, looking out from our balcony in the spring to see our four-year-old daughter well up in the branches in one of the trees between the buildings. Second, our first kim-chee (hot “canned” cabbage), after my wife made friends with a Korean couple in the next building. Third, meeting the couple next door. He was a graduate of Williams College and gave me a view of East Coast living since I grew up in California and worked in the Midwest. Fourth, the tight budget. A congregation helped us find some beds and chairs, but we never did get a table and chairs for the dining nook. We ate most meals on the floor (with two small children); one night was a total loss when I stood up too quickly, hit my head on the hanging lamp, and shattered its bulb.
Rich Carter (non-graduating M.Div. candidate, 1979)
St. Paul, Minnesota
We lived in the building near the community center, by the wooded canal area. Memories include hearing herds of deer running through the woods. We lived directly underneath the complex manager and his wife. Their weekend parties, with music and dancing reverberating through the wooden parquet floors, made it hard to sleep in preparation for a long drive to a church near the Jersey shore for field education. It was hard to complain to the head honcho! There were great neighbors and friends. Next door was Jim, a librarian who was a college roommate of the famed Mr. Rogers. Trying to study in the apartment while caring for a toddler daughter forces you to become very creative, which included cooperative arrangements with fellow student parents.
Ronald G. Sherck (M.Div., 1986)
Union City, Indiana
To newlyweds who had just moved from the West Coast, CRW (which was filled with newlyweds like ourselves, including three couples with our exact anniversary) provided a community of support that was essential to our new life together in a new place. Among our happiest memories are the daily volleyball games on summer evenings. Never formally planned, the spontaneous games brought together the range of people living at CRW—younger and older, from every stage of every degree program, and, despite disproportionate representation of those of us from California, included people from around the U.S., and beyond. While I’ve lost track of many who played, others remain among my closest friends nearly twenty years later.
Jim Bennett (M.Div., 1993)
San Jose, California