History of Princeton Township and Borough
Mercer County, New Jersey
1683 New Englander Henry Greenland built a house on what became the Kings Highway and opened it as a tavern. He is thought to be the first European settler within the future Princeton Township. (Remnants of the house are within the Gulick House at 1082 Princeton-Kingston Road.)
1683 representatives of East Jersey and West Jersey met at Greenland's tavern to establish their common boundary. East Jersey had four counties, including Middlesex County which extended to the province line and included the Princeton area as part of Piscataway Township.
c.1683 Gulick Farm house built. (Kingston Mill Historic District)
Around 1685 Greenland's son-in-law, Daniel Brinson, settled along the highway (where the house known as "the Barracks" stands at 32 Edgehill Street).
1688 the proprietors created Somerset County which included the northern portions of the Princeton area.
1690's six Quaker families established a community along Stony Brook near the King's Highway (Route 206).
Around 1700 some key families in the area were the Clarkes, Oldens, and Stocktons.
(c. 1702-1710 the farm house Rockingham built.
1707 the Stony Brook settlers built a landing.
1709 land given for the Friends Meeting.
1710 Somerset County redefined to include the northern portion of the Township's land area under its jurisdiction.
1712-1714 the Stony Brook settler built a grist mill.
1714 the boundary between Middlesex and Somerset counties established (and separating the two sides of Nassau Street).
1724 a meeting house built.
1724 the name "Princeton" appeared.
by 1731 farm fields became a common sight.
1734 the name Princeton became common.
by 1740 regular stage traffic operating in Princeton.
by 1745 Princeton was now larger than the Stony Brook settlement. It was now an important landmark between New Brunswick and Trenton.
c. 1750 Morven built at 55 Stockton Street for Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was later substantially rebuilt by his heirs. The building is the former residence of the New Jersey Governors.
1756 the Presbyterian College of New Jersey moved from Newark to Princeton and erected Nassau Hall.
1756-1878 Robert Smith built the Maclean House in 1756 as a residence for the presidents of the Princeton College. It was used for this purpose until the acquisition of Prospect in 1878.
1758 Jonathan Edwards, the New England theologian, took up residence in the Maclean House.
1766 the Georgian-style Bainbridge House at 158 Nassau Street in Princeton built for Job Stockton, a tanner. The house was the birthplace of Commodore William Bainbridge, a hero of the War of 1812. It is now the headquarters of the Historical Society of Princeton, with a museum, shop, library, and offices.
1768 -- Witherspoon comes to the American colonies to be the sixth president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton College). He lived at first in the President's House (now called the John Maclean House).
1772 after several years at Maclean House, he moved about a mile north of the village to "Tusculum,'' a handsome residence he built. The house still stands on Cherry Hill Road. The street named for him follows the route he would take to and from the College. He named the house Tusculum, after Cicero's Roman summer home. The original wooden house burned down soon after it was constructed.
1776 Princetonians Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon and Joseph Hewes signed the Declaration of Independence.
1777 (January) the Battle of Princeton.
c. 1780 originally located on Nassau Street opposite Bainbridge House, the Beatty House was the home of the Hudibras Tavern proprietor, Jacob Hyer, who is thought to have built the house.
1783 (June to November) the Second Continental Congress met in Princeton. The new State Legislature also met at Princeton.
1783 (August to November) Rockingham farmstead rented from the widow of Judge John Berrien and served as Washington's last war time headquarters while the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall. Washington wrote the Farewell Orders to the Armies at Rockingham.
1801 Aaron Burr, Sr., whose son Aaron Burr, Jr. was the first president of the College to live in the Maclean House. Visitors to the house have included George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Henry Clay.
1804 construction of the "straight turnpike" (Route 1) between Trenton and New Brunswick, which drew stage traffic away from Princeton.
1807 construction of the Princeton-Kingston Branch Turnpike (Mercer Road-Mercer Street-Nassau Street-Princeton-Kingston Road).
1811 the Presbyterian Church established Princeton Theological Seminary.
1813 Borough of Princeton created (but at that time boroughs were subordinate governing units within Townships).
1815 Alexander Hall built on the Princeton campus.
1816 the Beatty House purchased by Colonel Erkuries Beatty.
1823 after Beatty's death, the Beatty House became Miss Hanna's Boarding School for young women.
1824 Prospect farm purchased by John Potter, a wealthy merchant from South Carolina.
1825 the Marquis de Lafayette spent the night of July 15 in the house on his tour of the United States.
1830s construction of the Delaware and Raritan Canal and the Camden and Amboy Railroad.
Construction of Princeton Basin as a shipping terminus.
c. 1830 Tusculum barn built.
1835 Drumthwacket, official residence of the Governor of New Jersey at 354 Stockton Street, built by Charles Olden, a Civil War governor.
1838 Mercer County and Princeton Township established. (This brought both sides of Nassau Street into the same county for the first time since 1714,)
1843 West Windsor yielded some of its land south of Nassau Street to Princeton Township.
1840's and 50's Philadelphia architects working in the Picturesque Revival styles popular in Princeton. Architect John Notman designed four imposing villas for Commodore Stockton and his relatives, including Prospect, Guernsey Hall, Springdale, and the Walter Lowrie House.
By the mid-nineteenth century the wealthy concentrated on the westerly side of Princeton.
1850s major alterations made to Morven by Commodore Robert F. Stockton, a United States Senator and a grandson of the original owner.
1851 Thomas F. Potter, son of John Potter, demolished the original Georgian Prospect farmhouse and replaced it with the present Italianate villa designed by John Notman.
1853 West Windsor yielded the rest of its land between the Delaware and Raritan Canal and Nassau Street.
1854-1868 university president John Maclean Jr. lived in the Dean's House, later named the Maclean House in his honor. Today it houses the Alumni Council.
1861-1865 Civil War.
After the Civil War the College launched an aggressive building campaign.
1868-1888 Princeton president James McCosh (1868-88) erected buildings primarily in the Victorian Gothic style.
1870s farming began to decline near continuously.
1875 merchant James Vandeventer purchased the Beatty House and moved it to its present location in this year(. The house is owned by the Historical Society of Princeton.)
1878 Prospect House presented to Princeton University for use as a residence for the president. 1879 Woodrow Wilson graduated from Princeton.
c. 1888 Kingston Mill built (Kingston Historic District).
Charles Smith Olden built the central porticoed block of Drumthwacket with a fortune he brought home from New Orleans.
by 1890 Worth's mill, located on the Stony Brook and what is now Route 206, stopped operating.
1890-1902 Woodrow was a professor at Princeton.
1894 the Princeton Borough became fully autonomous.
1895 Drumthwacket enlarged by Moses Taylor Pyne.
1896 at its Sesquicentennial the college officially became Princeton University. The Collegiate Gothic style became the new architectural style.
1896-1946 twenty-seven University buildings erected in the Collegiate Gothic style.
last quarter of the 19th century many large houses were built on Dickinson Street, University Place, and Bayard Lane.
1897-1908 Grover Cleveland and his wife settled in Princeton after his second presidential term ended in 1897. Their Georgian Revival house is at 15 Hodge Road.
1898 -- Paul Robeson was born in a house on the corner of Witherspoon and Green Streets in Princeton.
by 1900 the Mount Lucas neighborhood in decline.
early 1900s the Cedar Grove area, once the home of numerous French emigres, partly abandoned.
1902-1910 Woodrow Wilson was president of Princeton University. He lived at Prospect House.
1903-1906 -- Paul Robeson was a student at the Witherspoon School for Colored Children.
1910-1912 Woodrow Wilson was governor of New Jersey.
1913-1921 Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States.
After the WWI developers began to create subdivisions with a relatively limited choice of house designs.
1920's and '30's the northwestern section of the Township became suburbanized.
1922 the limestone Battle Monument designed by the prominent Beaux Arts sculptor Frederick MacMonnies with the help of architect Thomas Hastings was dedicated with President Harding in attendance. Commemorating the Battle of Princeton, the sculpture depicts Washington leading his troops into battle, as well as the death of General Hugh Mercer.
1925 no self-sufficient small farms left at Mount Lucas.
Post-WW II boom of housing development.
1930 Albert Einstein agreed to spend part of each year at the newly founded Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
1936-1955 Albert Einstein lived at 112 Mercer Street. The Nazis forced Einstein to resign his position at the Academy of Sciences in Berlin. (His house, originally built around 1840, was moved from Alexander Street to its present location c.1875. Today it is a private residence.)
1936-39 the Palmer Square development built by Edgar Palmer, heir to the New Jersey Zinc Company fortune. Architect Thomas Stapleton built it in the Colonial Revival style.
1954 the owners of Morven, Governor and Mrs. Walter Edge, donated Morven to the State for use as a Governor's mansion. Governors Meyner, Hughes, Cahill, and Byrne lived in Morven.
1980s stores and townhouses added on the north and east sides of Palmer Square.
1982 Drumthwacket became the official governor's mansion, replacing Morven.
Historic Preservation in Princeton Township. A Brief History of Princeton. http://www.princetontwp.org/histofpt.html
Historical Society of Princeton: Visiting Princeton and Princeton Landmarks. http://www.princetonhistory.org/