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Princeton, Past and Present
By Lisa Halvorsen
Cleveland is buried in the Princeton Cemetery along with other prominent people, including U.S. vice president Aaron Burr, Butterfield 8 author John O'Hara, and three Civil War generals. Public tours are offered occasionally by the Cemetery Committee, and maps indicating the location of famous graves can be obtained at the cemetery for self–guided tours.
John F. Kennedy attended Princeton for one semester before transferring to Harvard. Princeton also claims Albert Einstein as one of its own. The scientist received an honorary degree from Princeton in 1921 and was affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton beginning in the 1930s.
Princeton History – Colonial and Collegiate
A tour of the Princeton campus will offer a sampling of U.S. history and of architectural styles, from Victorian Gothic and Richardsonian Romanesque to the more prevalent Collegiate Gothic style. Tours are conducted by the Orange Key Guide Service, which is a student volunteer organization.
You will see Nassau Hall–the oldest building on campus and the largest building in New Jersey at the time of its construction (began in 1754). Named for William III, King of England and member of the House of Orange–Nassau, the building, at various times, was used as a dormitory, classroom, library and as administrative offices.
New Jersey's first legislature convened here in 1776, and seven years later, when Princeton served as the nation's capital from July to October 1783, the Continental Congress also met at Nassau Hall. In fact, during the Battle of Princeton, January 1777, both forces at times occupied the building, leaving it significantly damaged.
Another prominent campus building is the University Chapel, noted for its magnificent stained glass windows, 16th–century pulpit from France, and its pipe organ with 8000 pipes. The building was completed in 1928 and can seat 2000 people, making it the third–largest college chapel in the world.
Visit the Museum of Natural History in Guyot Hall to view fossils, dinosaur bones and eggs, and exhibits on birds and the geology of New Jersey.
Plan on exploring the Princeton University Art Museum, considered to be one of the country's finest university art museums. It contains more than 60,000 works of art, including paintings by 19th–century French Impressionists, European Old Masters, and well–known American artists. You can see Greek and Roman antiquities; an impressive Asian art collection; and art objects from world cultures, including pre–Columbian sculptures and ceramics, African ceremonial masks and an Egyptian mummy coffin.
If visiting on the weekend, sign up for the afternoon Highlights Tour, which offers a nice introduction to the museum and its collections. Ask about the schedule for gallery talks, which provide an in–depth look at the exhibits in a specific gallery. Before leaving the museum, you can learn about the John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection. The 20th–century outdoor sculptures in this collection are exhibited outside the museum and around campus.
The town was named for Rev. Thomas Prince, the pastor of the Old South Church in Boston. Incorporated in 1759, the area had been settled by Quakers in the late 1600s. This religious group also established the first house of worship here in 1726. Services still take place at the Stony Brook Quaker Meeting House. You can also visit the adjacent cemetery–the oldest burial ground in Princeton–where one of New Jersey's signers of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Stockton, is buried.
Or visit the oldest and largest Presbyterian Seminary in the country. Princeton Theological Seminary, on Mercer Street, was founded in 1812. You will need to call ahead, however, as tours are by appointment only.
Gen. Washington's Army Won the Battle
If Princeton's military history fascinates you, stop by Princeton Battlefield State Park, the site of the Battle of Princeton. Fought on Jan. 3, 1777, it was an important victory for General George Washington and a major turning point in the Revolutionary War.
In the 85–acre park, you can tour the Thomas Clarke House Museum, which holds important historical significance. This farmhouse, owned by Quaker Thomas Clarke, was used as a field hospital to care for both wounded and dying American and British soldiers. American General Hugh Mercer died here after being wounded in combat.
Rockingham State Historic Site in nearby Kingston served as Washington's headquarters for the three months that the Continental Congress met in Princeton. The home's original two rooms date back to the early 1700s, although Judge John Berrien later added onto the house in the 1760s. Today you can see what it was like when George and Martha Washington lived there. The Colonial kitchen garden features plants and flowers commonly found in an 18th–century farmstead garden.
Bainbridge House, the current headquarters for the Princeton Historical Society, was built in 1766 by Job Stockton, cousin of Richard Stockton, a member of the Continental Congress and a College of New Jersey trustee. The house was later named for William Bainbridge, who was born there in 1774 and went on to command the USS Constitution during the War of 1812.
Bainbridge exhibits, including photographs, period clothing, artifacts, and other historical items, document Princeton's history through present day. Information on self–guided tours of historic Princeton or local African–American historic sites is available at Bainbridge House. The society also offers a two–hour guided walk of the historic district on Sundays.
At Morven Museum and Garden, you can tour the mansion and gardens once belonging to Richard and Annis Stockton. You will see exhibits on New Jersey's cultural heritage and the home's history, including the years when it served as the official residence of the New Jersey governor. Today the governor resides at Drumthwacket, a stately mansion built in 1835. It served as home to three prominent families before it was sold to the state of New Jersey in 1966. Tours of some of the public rooms and solarium are offered most Wednesdays, by advance reservation.
Since You're in Town
Be sure to visit the trendy restaurants and shops of Palmer Square, on the town green near the university. For help with trip planning, contact the Princeton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) or check out their Web site, which provides detailed information on where to park in Princeton. You can obtain maps and information about the area's history and points of interest at the CVB office.
While you're there, visit adjacent Hamilton Township to take a tour of the Kuser Farm Mansion and outbuildings, constructed in 1892. This was once the summer estate of New York City businessman Fred Kuser, whose family founded the Fox Film Company (later 20th Century Fox).
Grounds for Sculpture, situated on 35 beautifully landscaped acres, is a sculpture park and museum on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds in Hamilton. More than 240 contemporary sculptures are featured, along with indoor exhibits by new and known artists.
Princeton's Great Outdoors
In addition to its historical and cultural attractions, Princeton offers many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Walk or bike the trails along the Delaware and Raritan Canal, constructed in the 1830s, which runs by Princeton University. Enjoy Lake Carnegie, also near campus–a popular site for picnicking and boating.
You can take a walk in Autumn Hill Reservation or Herrontown Woods. The Charles W. Rogers Wildlife Refuge, with its 300 acres of forest and wetlands, is a great place to go bird–watching as are Woodfield Reservation and the Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve. All three of these avian gems are located within the town limits.
There are more take–home memories at Terhune Orchards, with its well–stocked farm store, bakery, pick–your–own operations and farm walking trails. Open year–round, it hosts a number of fun farm festivals throughout the seasons.