Roseberry-Gess House

The brothers Roseberry came to America from England, settling in Phillipsburg around 1750. John Roseberry gained stature when he married the daughter of William Phillips, for whom the town was named. In 1787, Roseberry added to his considerable holdings with the acquisition of a stately home, which had been confiscated from John Tabor Kempe, a Loyalist who left town during the American Revolution. Built in the English style labeled by architects as “Georgian”, the well-planned house displayed the gracious and symmetric proportions that evolved from the classic traditions of Greece and Rome. Constructed with rough-cut quarry stone between 1765 and 1783, the house employed a five-bay, two-story plan that became representative of an emerging prosperity in the Colonies. An attached one-and-a-half story kitchen was added in 1815. Enhancing the home’s luster, its interior walls were garnished with decorative paintings.

The Roseberry Estate marked on the 1878 Beers Atlas.

Much later it its life, the home came into the possession of Walter Gess and his family, who, although they made modifications for more modern living, managed to preserve many of the original features of the house. In the early 1970s, the Phillipsburg School District, which had purchased the property as part of the site for a new middle school, proposed the building’s demolition. But citizens who realized the home’s prominent place in their town’s history banded together as the Phillipsburg Area Historical Society (PAHS) and successfully campaigned for the building’s rescue, having it placed on both the National and State Historic Registers. However, persistent vandalism and general municipal apathy delayed much-needed repairs for decades.

Yet, perseverance eventually led to preservation, and today the oldest building in town may be among its most appealing. With renewed interest and help from the community, and with grants county, state and national sources, PAHS has facilitated major restorations to the exterior of the house, along with the complete interior reconstruction of the adjoining kitchen. The Society is now focused on projects to install heating for the planned use of the bank cellar and first floor, restoration of the first floor as well as ADA compliant bathroom and building access.

Phillipsburg Area Historical Society, 908/391-5945

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • Wild Ridge Plants
  • Native wildflowers, trees, and shrubs grown using all natural methods in an organic potting mix. All plants are local provenance, seed-grown at our family farm. Mail order and web-based retail. Pick up by appointment only. Botany and restoration services.

    , Pohatcong, 908/319-7230

  • Antler Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Located on 120 acres of preserved farm in Warren County, the rehabilitation center provides treatment to orphaned, sick or injured wildlife including fawns, raccoon, skunks, opossums, squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks and other small mammals. The state-licensed sanctuary is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, supported entirely by volunteers and public donations.

    52 County Road 661, Frelinghuysen 07860, 973/980-8531

  • Gallery 23
  • A cooperative gallery featuring fine art, paintings, photography, pottery, stained glass, jewelry, fiber art, wood turned bowls, quilting, painted tiles, dioramas, and more by 35 talented local artists. Gifts and note cards for every occasion. Hours: Monday - Saturday, 10am-5pm; Closed Sundays.

    23 Main Street, Blairstown 07825, 908/362-6865

  • Jersey Ridge Soaring
  • Take a breathtaking ride with a FAA certified pilot above the Kittatinny Mountains and Delaware Water Gap in our single passenger glider, or take someone else along in our two-passenger glider. Glider rides, glider instruction, gift certificates.

    Blairstown Airport, 36 Lambert Rd., Blairstown 07825, 908/362-1239

  • Well-Sweep Herb Farm
  • Formal Elizabethan herb garden, medicinal garden, herb plants, flowering perennials, dried flowers, gift shop.

    205 Mt. Bethel Rd, Port Murray 07865, 908/852-5390

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This story was first published: Summer, 2021