History of Princeton Township and Borough

Mercer County, New Jersey


1683 – New Englander Henry Greenland built a house on what became the King’s 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/