Restoration of Jay’s Historic Indoor Court Underway

DSC 0285The Jay Heritage Center, known for its efforts to preserve the 23-acre estate and childhood home of one of our nation’s founders, added another notch to its preservation belt in 2015 with a $391,000 grant from New York State towards the stabilization and restoration of the Palmer Indoor Tennis court.

 


DSC 0285The Jay Heritage Center, known for its efforts to preserve the 23-acre estate and childhood home of one of our nation’s founders, added another notch to its preservation belt in 2015 with a $391,000 grant from New York State towards the stabilization and restoration of the Palmer Indoor Tennis court. The massive structure, 120 feet long by 60 feet wide with a ten-foot high, three-foot thick foundation, was built in 1917 by former resident Edgar Palmer III, who also made a gift of Princeton’s Palmer Stadium.

 

The Jay court is thought to be the third oldest indoor court in the country, predating one at the Racquet and Tennis Club in New York (1918) and J.P. Morgan’s Jekyl Island court (1929). When work is completed, sometime in 1917, it will join a rare group of gemlike indoor courts still in use, including the 1914 Brown Nickerson Court in East Providence, Rhode Island.

 

The clapboard-sided building uses a wood truss system to support a roof with three copper-trimmed skylights. Funds from the grant will be used to secure the roof and the trusses, one of which is cracked. That emergency stabilization work began in March. This summer, Jay Heritage will seek bids for a historical structure report and archeological work which must be done in order to assess feasibility and costs for additional restoration of the court. Work is expected to be finished in early 2017.

TENNIS COURT-DSC 2043

Opening up the roof, which had been boarded up for about 25 years, let an abundance of light in, demonstrating the remarkable nature of the design of the building, whose architect may have been Walter D. Blair.

 

Jay’s President Suzanne Clary, who toured the site with the paper in May, is currently looking for a local partner to help defray additional restoration and operating costs. Ultimately, her vision is “to see USTA youth groups playing on the court. We want it to be an expanded community resource.”

 

photos by Robin Jovanovich and Tom McDermott