Remembering the Charlotte Rachel Wilson Apartments
For 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.
In the spring of my senior year, a couple of wives got together after a tea they attended on the main campus. They had heard about faculty/student potlucks in the old days and decided they wanted to renew this tradition. We husbands cheered them on, thinking they would start by inviting one of the teaching assistants or junior members of the faculty. Needless to say, we were surprised to learn they had extended an invitation to Dr. and Mrs. Bruce Metzger! We were doubly horrified to learn that they actually asked the Metzgers to BRING A DISH! To our amazement, the couple accepted. On the Saturday night in question, the Metzgers appeared at the door with a wonderful salad. They sat around the living room eating dinner on their laps, and not once did Dr. Metzger speak of the New Testament or theology. Instead, the conversation centered around our families and dreams of future ministry. What gracious guests.
William R. Ripley (M.Div., 1984)
I lived in CRW from 1994 until 1997, while completing my M.Div. I arrived at PTS as a single mother with a five-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter in tow. CRW and the community it provided were instrumental in my decision to attend PTS. The sense of community at CRW was crucial when I had to attend 8:00 a.m. classes in my first year, because the school bus didn’t come for my children until 8:30 a.m. Thanks to friendly neighbors, there was a place to drop my kids off early. Also, the presence of other Seminary families meant I had eager babysitters in the teenagers who lived in CRW. And my daughter found a ready market for her first sole proprietorship, as she teamed up with another CRW child to start a pet-sitting service through which both girls made some pretty good spending money.
Denise Yarbrough (M.Div., 1997; D.Min., 2006)
Rochester, New York
Nancy and I and our three very young children loved our CRW apartment, especially for its community of like-minded and similarly occupied people. Nancy greatly appreciated a women’s weekday Bible study, complete with free babysitters (the women themselves) and entertainment (the children, of course). But not everything was perfect. Once, our radiator sprung a massive leak and poured like a waterfall into the apartment below. Another time, as Nancy and the children were entering the apartment, our one-year-old accidentally pushed the door locked before Nancy got in. She had to go downstairs and outside, climb up the brick work and over the second-floor porch railing to enter through the unlocked (thankfully!) sliding glass door.
Mike Gorman (M.Div., 1982; Ph.D., 1989)
I lived in the apartments for about six months while we searched for a permanent place to live near Princeton, where I served on the Seminary’s development staff. Because we had moved from a large manse in Philadelphia, things were a little cramped; our one-year-old son shared the second bedroom with the freezer, and we didn’t have to get out of bed to open the chest of drawers. But we were grateful for the experience of getting to know the married students and their families and to learn something of their lives and concerns as they navigated through Seminary life.
Jim Lacy (M.Div., 1971)
There is a lovely anecdote about the Seminary’s purchase of CRW. I heard the story many years after the fact, so I can’t guarantee its veracity. The apartments were a garden concept project built by a developer who also owned a liquor store. When the concept failed to attract enough tenants, the developer sold the apartments at an auction. Seminary President James McCord was the highest bidder. The developer was nervous that folks at the Seminary would frown on the purchase given his connection to the liquor industry. When he expressed his concern, the story goes, McCord told him, “I won’t tell where I got them, if you don’t tell how much your business picks up once my students move in.”
Fred Garry (M.Div., 1993; Th.M., 1994)
Watertown, New York
I’m sure my neighbors at CRW would not speak as highly of me as I would of them. My wife and I lived at CRW just one year; I had been a single student in the dorms on the main campus during my first two years of seminary. Before that, I lived for four years in a college dorm, widely known on that campus as one of the fraternity “animal house” dorms. We were good at being loud. We kept late hours; sleeping and studying there were close to impossible until about the third and fourth watches of the night. Now, replant me in the family community of CRW, where there were children and people with real jobs. I had to re-learn how to be a good neighbor. That sleep pattern was hard to break and I wouldn’t think anything of starting loud projects late at night. My wife and I bought furniture from The Salvation Army, and I worked on refinishing it on my CRW balcony. Our grace-filled neighbors gently put up with me and only occasionally reminded me of the different hours that children kept. During that year, I learned how to be a better neighbor in a community that was much different from the one I had previously called home.
Byron Brought (M.Div., 1995)
During my first week of classes at PTS, my son Tim was born. It was through him that I made new friends at CRW. Our neighbors in the apartment building (101 Farber) were helpful and understanding. Those neighbors included some folks in their eighties and nineties who were not students, but who had been living there for years, as well as a professor and several young couples. These amazing people welcomed Tim, and eventually his sister Laurel, to the neighborhood by including them in playground activities, pool parties, picnics, and just friendly, relaxed visits. My children have always been blessed by the wide variety of people in the church who have taken an interest in their lives, and it all began at CRW with great friends of all ages and backgrounds. Thanks to Bob the inventor, Sharon the librarian, Robert the brother, Clarice the professor, Ben the friend, and all the rest.
David Noble (M.Div., 1988)
New York, New York
My wife and I lived there for only a bit more than a year. We made some good friends and still have some of them with us. We shared study information, mutual concerns, and celebrations. From time to time, we would seek out a special person for support or encouragement. It was a wonderful, communal experience to be so available to one another. We shared cookouts in the small backyard. We were “parent pro-temp” to one child or another. I remember how some husband would set a good example for the rest of us by going down to start the car and warm it up for his wife before she drove off to work to help put her husband through school. As for marriage arrangements, our one-room apartment is where we ate, slept, studied, and engaged in whatever intimacy such a tiny place would permit. Each object had to serve two or three purposes for it to earn the right to remain with us. Husbands learned how to prepare dinner, shut-up and listen, fight more fairly, etc. I would do it all over again. We adopted our first “child” there, a tiny daschund, who helped us until a human child came along.
James Black (Th.M., 1964)
One of the best things about doing my doctorate at PTS was living in CRW, despite the fact that the apartment was decorated in seven shades of pink. One of the best things was having a pool where my kids could play while I studied on the grass. CRW provided a healthy lifestyle for me. In addition to regular swimming, I could ride my bike to campus, weather permitting. My wife and I used to walk to the mall, but that may not have been so healthy since the trip almost always ended in ice cream. I loved sitting on the balcony while reading for my comprehensive exams, and it was always so nice to see my wife walking down the sidewalk. It was good being with other Seminary families, too, especially for baby showers and birthdays. Sometimes living in a close-knit community can be a challenge, though. Once I gave a female student a ride home because it was raining. At least five people in the complex let my wife know about it before she could walk from the parking lot to the front door.
Craig Atwood (Ph.D., 1995)
We saw the demolition of the apartments on the web site and almost cried. We had some wonderful times at PW. It was a close-knit community of married students who watched out for each other, played games, and had Bible study and prayer groups. We partied on every conceivable feast day, watched each others’ children, and sometimes even ventured to the Seminary for a class. Our son was born my senior year and his first home was on Emmons Drive. On any given sunny day, a whole gaggle of us would be strolling around the complex with our babies. We are still good friends with a number of students who lived at PW, including Rick and Julie Campbell and Doug and Sheri Halverson. One memory concerns a neighbor who was not a student. The neighbor had a German shepherd and lived on the second floor above the Campbells. The owner was gone for several days and left the dog unattended, but with the door to the balcony open. I was visiting Rick and we heard the dog barking above us. After a few minutes, we saw the dog leap off the second floor balcony. The dog landed on the front lawn, got up, did his “business,” and then ran away. One year, Tim Stevens and I decided we were going to brew our own beer. We did everything right, bottled our brew, and stored it in the basement. Several weeks later one of the maintenance people came knocking on our door, wanting to know if I knew anything about the “mess” in the basement. I went down to discover that virtually all our bottles of home brew had exploded. CRW was a wonderful community of people who loved and respected each other. We have never lived in such a community again, and I suppose that is why tears came to our eyes when we saw the demolition. You can tear down the buildings but you can never erase the wonderful memories.
Jack Norrie (M.Div., 1979)
The appliances in CRW were old. The ovens would try to blow up when you had to light them with a match. When they finally replaced ours, we asked, after they had wrestled the new oven up the stairs, how they would get the old one down. “Just throw it off the balcony,” they said. And they did! Our neighbors below thought a bomb had exploded on the front lawn.
Bruce Kochsmeier (M.Div., 1985)
Carson City, Nevada
My wife and I lived at CRW twice, once when I was a student, and again when Lisa enrolled. We were without children both times, but really enjoyed interacting with the children of our neighbors. When we lived on Loetscher Place, we referred to the toy-littered yard between the two facing buildings as “the playpen.” The location was great for walking. My wife worked at the Barnes & Noble (taking full advantage of the employee discount). I wouldn’t have made it through seminary if not for the running/walking trail on the canal to burn off stress. One drawback—both times—was sharing a single washer and dryer with seven families, four of which had kids! CRW will always hold a special place for us as our first home. We spent five of our first seven years of marriage there, and remain grateful to PTS for making that possible.
Ryan Kraus (M.Div., 1998); Lisa Kraus (M.Div., 2002)
My most distinctive memory is of my neighbor’s beloved dog, Hamlet. He greeted me when I first moved in, and then always kept us up-to-date on the goings on. In fact, there’s a poem dedicated to Hamlet of Emmons Drive at: http://project1.caryacademy.org/echoes/03-04/billy_collins/samplepoemscollins.htm. He always made a joyful noise before God.
Catherine Evans Knott (M.Div., 2005)
Oban, Argyll, Scotland
I moved into CRW with three boys—high school, middle school, and upper elementary school ages—1,200 miles away from Miami, Florida, the only home they had ever known. They were older than many children in the apartments, and completely without reference points on how to navigate such a strange environment, where everything is unfamiliar: architecture, climate, school, friends, home. CRW’s lobby bulletin boards, just inside the glass doors, became the chosen portal for our middle son to break into the social scene. Ever the entrepreneur, he put up flyers advertizing his services as a babysitter, complete with Red Cross certification. He soon had more customers than he could take.
Beth Goss (M.Div., 2000)