Announcing a Virtual Tour of Hamilton’s Princeton

To coincide with Disney+’s release of Hamilton: An American Musical, the Historical Society of Princeton has added a new virtual tour to its History@Home resources. The content explores the myths and the true stories of places in Princeton connected to Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Aaron Burr Jr., and more!

Click here to access the map-based tour, or scroll down to read through the sites as an article.

    1. Nassau Hall
    2. Princeton Battlefield State Park
    3. Quaker Road
    4. Mercer Oak
    5. Blair Hall
    6. Princeton University Art Museum
    7. Maclean House
    8. Princeton Cemetery
    9. Hudibras Tavern
    10. The Barracks
    11. Rockingham Historic Site
    12. Morven Museum & Garden
    13. Beatty House

Nassau Hall

Princeton University

SONG: “AARON BURR, SIR”
HAMILTON: “Sir… I heard your name at Princeton. I was seeking an accelerated course of study when I got sort of out of sorts with a buddy of yours. I may have punched him. It’s a blur, sir. He handles the financials?”
BURR: “You punched the bursar.”

Nassau Hall was built in 1756 to house the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) when it moved to Princeton from Newark. According to Hamilton’s friend, Revolutionary War spy Hercules Mulligan (also a character in the musical), Hamilton very much wished to attend the College of New Jersey and had been conditionally accepted after meeting with college president John Witherspoon. This offer was later revoked by the College’s trustees due to Hamilton’s plans to accelerate his studies and earn his degree in less than four years. Mulligan claimed that Hamilton was notified of the decision through a letter from Witherspoon. Hamilton did not, in fact, “punch the bursar” in response– this anecdote was added by musical creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who found that “the rhyme was too good to pass up.”

There are several issues with Mulligan’s account that call this story into question. For one, there already existed a model at the College of New Jersey that allowed students, such as Aaron Burr Jr., to graduate early, so the Trustees should have had no issue with Hamilton’s interest in doing the same. Secondly, no records of this tale other than Mulligan’s telling seem to exist. Hamilton’s rejection does not appear in the Trustees’ minutes and the alleged letter from Witherspoon has yet to be found.

Princeton Battlefield State Park

500 Mercer Road

SONG: “RIGHT HAND MAN”
WASHINGTON “Any hope of success is fleeting, how can I keep leading when the people I’m leading keep retreating?”

At the end of 1776, following a string of highly publicized defeats in New York and New Jersey that crushed morale and forced the Continental Army into Pennsylvania, the Revolution was at crossroads. American soldiers were cold, hungry, tired of retreating, and looking forward to returning home when their enlistments expired on December 31. With a majority of his army set to leave the war effort behind, Washington needed a victory to inspire hope. With the Hessian garrison at Trenton in his sights, Washington and his army crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night, and marched 19 miles under the cover of a relentless snowstorm. On the morning of December 26, Washington’s army surprised the Hessians and claimed their first major victory of the war.

Over the course of the next eight days, the Continental Army would go on to win major victories at Battle of the Assunpink Creek (also called the Second Battle of Trenton) and the Battle of Princeton. This ten day period from December 25, 1776 to January 3, 1777, often referred to as The Ten Crucial Days, turned the tide for the Continental army. Hamilton served as the captain of an artillery unit in both Battles of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton.

Quaker Road

SONG: “RIGHT HAND MAN”
WASHINGTON: “Nathanael Greene and Henry Knox wanted to hire you”
HAMILTON: “To be their secretary, I don’t think so”

In the lead-up to the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777, as the Continental Army approached British-occupied Princeton from the south, George Washington paused on Quaker Road to strategically divide his forces for the attack on Princeton. Nathanael Greene, an unseen character in the musical, led the smaller column of troops that unexpectedly clashed with British forces in the location that is today known as Princeton Battlefield State Park. Later, Greene reflected on the intense conflict, saying that the actions of the day showed “the horrors of war beyond description.”

Image: A Washington’s Route obelisk along Quaker Road. Twelve markers were erected in 1914 by the New Jersey Sons of the Revolution to mark the Continental army’s route from Trenton to the Battle of Princeton.

Mercer Oak

500 Mercer Road

SONG: “IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS”
BURR: “Ah, Mister Secretary.”
HAMILTON: “Mister Burr, sir.”
BURR: “Did’ya hear the news about good old General Mercer?”
HAMILTON: “No.”
BURR “You know Clemont Street?”
HAMILTON: “Yeah.”
BURR: “They renamed it after him, the Mercer legacy is secure.”
HAMILTON: “Sure.”
BURR: “All he had to do was die.”
HAMILTON: “That’s a lot less work.”
BURR: “We oughta give it a try.”

General Hugh Mercer was a seasoned revolutionary, having volunteered in the army of the unsuccessful Jacobite Revolution against the British in Scotland in the 1740s. Fleeing to America as a fugitive, he became a respected physician and general, a close friend of General Washington’s, having treated members of the Washington family as a surgeon. Upon his death, Nathanael Greene remembered him as, “a fine companion, a sincere friend, a true patriot, and a brave general.”

The Battle of Princeton began in the early morning of January 3, 1777, when troops under the command of General Hugh Mercer clashed with British forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood. After exchanging several volleys, Mawhood’s troops charged with bayonets fixed. In the skirmish that followed, Mercer was thrown from his horse, and stabbed seven times.

Legend has it that Mercer refused to leave his troops on the battlefield, so he rested against the trunk of a tree that would become known as the Mercer Oak. After the battle, he was taken to the Clarke farmhouse, where he died nine days later. The Mercer Oak stood in Battlefield State Park until March 2000, when it was knocked down by strong winds. Today, a descendant of the original tree stands in its place.

New Jersey chose to honor General Mercer’s legacy once again in 1838 by naming the newly created Mercer County after him.

Blair Hall

Princeton University

SONG: “AARON BURR, SIR”
HAMILTON: “God, I wish there was a war! Then we could prove that we’re worth more than anyone bargained for”

During the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777, Alexander Hamilton served as the captain of an artillery unit. Hamilton commanded his men to set up cannons where Blair Hall is today; they then fired several shots at Nassau Hall, which was occupied by Hessian and British soldiers. This action helped the Continental soldiers win the day. After the battle, in recognition of Hamilton’s efforts at the first and second battles of Trenton, as well as the Battle of Princeton, General George Washington promoted Hamilton to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and invited him to join his military staff as his Aide-de-Camp.

Princeton University Art Museum

Princeton University


SONG: “I KNOW HIM”
KING GEORGE III: “They say George Washington’s yielding his power and stepping away. ‘Zat true? I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do. I’m perplexed. Are they gonna keep on replacing whoever’s in charge? If so, who’s next? There’s nobody else in their country who looms quite as large…”

According to legend, when Alexander Hamilton directed his cannons at Nassau Hall, one of the shots fired burst through a window, decapitating a portrait of King George II.

While the story has not been proven to be true, the painting did suffer permanent damage during the battle. The frame, however, was unharmed. After the war, to pay homage to General George Washington, the Trustees of the College of New Jersey commissioned Charles Wilson Peale to paint Washington’s portrait. The resulting work, “George Washington at the Battle of Princeton,” was displayed in Nassau Hall, occupying the same frame that the portrait of King George II once did. In 2006, the painting moved to the Princeton University Art Museum.

Peale was a member of the secret revolutionary group the Sons of Liberty along with Hamilton’s friend, Hercules Mulligan. Mulligan brags in the musical’s song “Yorktown” that he’s “runnin’ with the Sons of Liberty and I am lovin’ it!”

IMAGE: George Washington at the Battle of Princeton, painted by Charles Willson Peale, 1783–84. Princeton University, commissioned by the Trustees

Maclean House

Princeton University

SONG: “AARON BURR, SIR”
HAMILTON: “Yes! I wanted to do what you did. Graduate in two, then join the revolution. He looked at me like I was stupid, I’m not stupid. So how’d you do it? How’d you graduate so fast?” BURR: “It was my parents’ dying wish before they passed.”
HAMILTON: “You’re an orphan. Of course! I’m an orphan.”

Named after John Maclean Jr., the tenth President of the College, and the founder of Princeton’s Alumni Association, Maclean House was built In 1756 to serve as the residence of the president when the College of New Jersey moved to Princeton.

Aaron Burr, Sr., though the College’s second president, was the first president based in Princeton and the first to live in Maclean House. Burr lived there for just a year with his wife Esther, their children, Sarah and Aaron Jr., and enslaved men, Ceasar and Harry. In September 1757, Aaron Burr, Sr. died of a fever. Esther died seven months later after contracting smallpox, orphaning the two-year-old Aaron Jr. and Sarah. The children soon relocated to Philadelphia.

Aaron Burr is accurately described as “the prodigy of Princeton college” in “Aaron Burr, Sir.” He enrolled at the College of New Jersey in 1769 at the age of 13. He graduated summa cum laude in just three years.

Princeton Cemetery

29 Greenview Avenue

SONG: “WAIT FOR IT”
BURR: “My grandfather was a fire and brimstone preacher. But there are things that the homilies and hymns won’t teach ya. My mother was a genius My father commanded respect When they died they left no instructions. Just a legacy to protect.”

Aaron Burr, Jr. is buried at the foot of his father’s grave in the Presidents’ Plot at Princeton Cemetery of Nassau Presbyterian Church. Aaron Burr, Sr., the 2nd president of the College of New Jersey, has the cemetery’s oldest grave. It is next to the resting place of Jonathan Edwards, the 3rd president of the College, who was also a famed theologian and Aaron Burr Jr.’s grandfather. Burr’s mother Esther is buried in Northampton, MA; his sister Sarah’s grave is in Litchfield, CT.

Aaron Burr, Jr. is the only person buried in the president’s plot who was not a College/University president, or married to one. College president James Carnahan conducted the funeral sermon in Nassau Hall, and spoke about the evils of dueling. Burr’s body was escorted to the cemetery by members of the College faculty, students, alumni, a military band, and “Mercer Guards,” an honor guard of the College’s Cliosophic Society, of which Burr was a founding member. 

Hudibras Tavern

Present-Day Firestone Library

SONG: “THE ADAMS ADMINISTRATION”
BURR Hamilton is out of control. MADISON This is great! He’s out of power. He holds no office. And he just destroyed President John Adams, the only other significant member of his party.

Built in 1761 and purchased in 1768 by Colonel Jacob Hyer Sr., the Hudibras Tavern, located on Nassau Street, was one of Princeton’s earliest and most popular lodging establishments. Boasting twelve rooms, the Hudibras could accommodate forty people and thirty horses. On August 27, 1774, on their way to a meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, John Adams (a future political enemy of Alexander Hamilton), Samuel Adams, Thomas Cushing, and Robert Treat Paine stayed at the Hudibras. During this time, John Adams observed the revolutionary spirit of College of New Jersey president John Witherspoon and his students, calling them “Sons of Liberty.” John Witherspoon would later become a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, with John Adams. Today, Princeton University’s Firestone Library stands in this historic location.

IMAGE: Plan of Princeton, Dec. 31, 1776 [Detail, with Hudibras Inn highlighted]. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

The Barracks

32 Edgehill Street

SONG: “WHAT’D I MISS”
JEFFERSON: “But who’s waitin’ for me when I step in the place? My friend James Madison, red in the face. He grabs my arm and I respond, “What’s goin’ on?”
MADISON: “Thomas, we are engaged in a battle for our nation’s very soul. Can you get us out of the mess we’re in?”

Situated at 32 Edgehill Street and built near the end of the 17th century, the Barracks (named for the fact that it was used as a lodging for soldiers during the French and Indian War) is one of the oldest structures in Princeton. In 1783, when Princeton played host to the Continental Congress, the Barracks housed the future political enemies Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

While there is no evidence that Hamilton had any issues with his stay, Madison, who was used to more lavish comforts, wrote to his good friend Thomas Jefferson to complain about the narrowness of his room, saying the house was “without a single accommodation for writing,” and he was “obliged to write in a position that scarcely admits the use of any of my limbs.” In response, Jefferson asked Madison “to engage me a tolerable birth” upon his arrival to Princeton– emphasizing that “a room to myself, if it be but a barrack, is indispensable.” Underscoring Madison and Jefferson’s professional relationship was a very real friendship, which is captured, and sometimes satirized, in the musical.

IMAGE: Photograph by Robert Manella, Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty

Rockingham Historic Site

84 Laurel Avenue, Kingston

SONG: “RIGHT HAND MAN”
ENSEMBLE: “Here comes the General!”
BURR: “Ladies and gentlemen!”
ENSEMBLE: “Here comes the General!”
BURR: “The moment you’ve been waiting for!”
ENSEMBLE: “Here comes the General!”
BURR: “The pride of Mount Vernon!”
ENSEMBLE: “Here comes the general!”
BURR: “George Washington!”

George Washington’s final wartime headquarters, Rockingham, was built around 1710, and is believed to be the second oldest house in the Millstone River Valley. At the invitation of the Continental Congress, which was then headquartered at nearby Nassau Hall, General George Washington and his wife Martha stayed at Rockingham with their entourage of soldiers, servants, and enslaved people from August 23, 1783 to November 10, 1783.

While at Rockingham, the Washingtons entertained James Madison and Thomas Paine, among other members of Congress, in gatherings at the house. It was at Rockingham that, on October 31, 1783, George Washington received word that the Treaty of Paris had been signed, ending the Revolutionary War. It was also at Rockingham that, three days later, on November 2, Washington wrote his Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States, a document that discharged his troops and announced his retirement to civilian life.

Morven Museum & Garden

55 Stockton Street

SONG: “GUNS AND SHIPS”
WASHINGTON: “We rendezvous with Rochambeau, consolidate their gifts.”
LAFAYETTE: “We can end this war at Yorktown, cut them off at sea, but for this to succeed, there’s someone else we need”

France joined the American Revolution on the side of the Continental forces in 1778. Their support, both in finances and in manpower, was critical to the eventual American victory. In July 1780, around 5,500 French troops, under the command of the Comte de Rochambeau, landed in Rhode Island. After staying in the Rhode Island area for less than a year, the French force mobilized and met up with George Washington’s army. With the promise of aid from a French fleet under the command of the Count de Grasse, Washington and Rochambeau set their sights on Yorktown, Virginia. They planned to rendezvous with the Marquis de Lafayette and his army of 5,000 men, and cut the main British army off by land and by sea.

Their objective set, Washington and Rochambeau’s combined troops began a 14-week, 680 mile march to Yorktown. En route, the armies stayed in Princeton from August 29 to September 1, 1781, with the French making camp across the road from Morven. Upon arriving in Princeton himself, Washington joined Rochambeau for dinner in town at 3 PM on September 1st before the troops continued on to Trenton for the night.

IMAGE: 69. Camp à Prince-town, le 31 Aoust, 14 miles de Sommerset Court-house; Louis-Alexandre Berthier Collection, C0022, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Louis-Alexandre Bertheir, a soldier in Rochambeau’s army as well as a topographical engineer, created over 100 maps of the routes taken and campsites made by the French army as they traveled to Yorktown. The French camp in Princeton can be seen here west of the college on what is today Stockton Street. 

Beatty House

19 Vandeventer Avenue

SONG: “AARON BURR, SIR”
LAFAYETTE: “Oui oui, mon ami, je m’appelle Lafayette! The Lancelot of the revolutionary set! I came from afar just to say “Bonsoir!” Tell the King “Casse toi!” Who’s the best? C’est moi!”

SONG: “GUNS AND SHIPS”
BURR: “Yo. Turns out we have a secret weapon! An immigrant you know and love who’s unafraid to step in! He’s constantly confusin’, confoundin’ the British henchmen. Ev’ryone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!
COMPANY: “Lafayette!”

Originally located on Nassau Street, opposite Bainbridge House, and built c. 1780, Beatty House (now located at 19 Vandeventer) was the home of Colonel Jacob Hyer, owner of the Hudibras Tavern. In 1816 the house was purchased by Colonel Erkuries Beatty, for whom the house is named.

The French Marquis de Lafayette spent the night at Beatty House on July 15, 1825, during his fifteen month tour of the United States. Although just nineteen years of age when he first came to the United States from France to lend his aid to the American soldiers in 1777, he quickly rose to the rank of Major-General in the Continental Army, and became an integral member of General George Washington’s staff. Even during his return visit nearly fifty years later, Lafayette still received a hero’s welcome wherever he went.

HSP Responds to Current Events

As we watch and share in the grief and outrage of recent days, we are reminded that history offers context to help us understand the events of our present world. In the coming weeks, as part of the educational programming on our social media channels, we will be amplifying voices from the Historical Society’s oral history collections; these will include voices of Princetonians who experienced racial injustice and those who have been involved in the long and ongoing struggle for equity, diversity, and inclusion. As a community, we should listen to these voices. We should contemplate and acknowledge the challenging historical legacy of racism and discrimination in our own town, and in the nation. Only by grappling with the past can we process current events and collectively shape a better future.
 
          

Historical Society of Princeton Launches History@Home

At the end of March, the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) launched a series of digital activities and content to engage homebound history lovers of all ages.

With the temporary closure of the Updike Farmstead museum and suspension of walking tours and other public programs, HSP has turned to the internet to continue to bring the past to life and explore its enduring relevance. This free initiative, History@Home, is available on HSP’s website:  https://princetonhistory.org/athome/

“While this is a difficult time for all of us, we are pleased to be able to provide digital learning opportunities and some fun diversions for the online community,” said Eve Mandel, Director of Programs and Visitor Services. “We keep adding content, so we encourage people to regularly check History@Home to see what’s new, and look for new Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts everyday.”

From the comfort and safety of their home, people can take a virtual walking tour or view an online exhibition. There are links to explore digitized photographs, documents, and newspapers illuminating Princeton history. Exciting history stories are posted to HSP’s social media accounts daily, under #historyathome.

A video resource on History@Home is the NY-Emmy nominated video series, “It Happened Here: New Jersey.” Short narratives about NJ’s remarkable history include six Princeton-related topics, such as Paul Robeson, Albert Einstein, and the Ten Crucial Days of the Revolutionary War.

For families, the annual Building Princeton event – constructing historic buildings out of LEGOs – will be online. The event is free, but registration by April 12 is necessary to receive a building assignment. The finished projects will be posted on Sunday, April 19. 

Parents can also find hands-on Princeton history projects to supplement students’ remote learning. Each activity features real historic photographs and documents. All ages will enjoy digital jigsaw puzzles featuring historic images from HSP’s collection. 

As part of this initiative, HSP is also encouraging people to document and share their perspectives on this historic pandemic’s impact. Sharing photographs, recording observations in a Google Form, or keeping a journal are all ways to add to the historical record. These contributions will tell the story of current events to those in the future and aid them in understanding this challenging time. 

For those looking for other ways to help, History@Home includes a list of transcription initiatives. Volunteers can transcribe documents for a variety of institutions, including the Smithsonian, National Archives, and the New York Public Library. The Library of Congress’ project focuses on documents relating to women’s suffrage, as 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. 

“We feel it is important for us to continue pursuing our history education mission, especially during these challenging times,” said Izzy Kasdin, HSP’s Executive Director. “History reminds us that we have faced tough times as a community before and shows us the resilience of the human spirit. History is a source of hope for us at the Historical Society right now, and we would like for it to provide inspiration and courage to the broader community.”

COVID-19 UPDATE: Museum closed and in-person events cancelled until further notice

The Historical Society of Princeton, as an organization whose mission it is to bring members of the community together for history education experiences, is actively monitoring and addressing concerns related to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Our highest priority is the safety of our visitors, staff, volunteers, and collaborators. In order to protect them and to support the nationwide effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, the museum at Updike Farmstead is temporarily closed to the public. In addition, all scheduled in-person public programs and events have been cancelled or postponed. 

A list of virtual programs can be found on our online calendarWe encourage you visit  History@Home, a compilation of digital initiatives and interactions for history lovers of all ages, and stay connected with us online through our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. 

Although the museum is closed, our staff is still hard at work fulfilling our mission, and can be reached by phone or email, as needed. 

We will continue to monitor the situation and follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and local and state health organizations. Please continue to check and explore the CDC website for recommendations about what you can do to stay healthy and protect others.

Updated May 18, 2020

HSP and PPL Host “Open Archive” in Conjunction with World War II Exhibition

On January 23, 2020 at 6:30 pm, the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) and Princeton Public Library (PPL) will host an “Open Archive” program, displaying real historical materials related to the World War II home front experience in Princeton. This pop-up display is presented in conjunction with the panel exhibition, World War II on the Princeton Home Front, running in the Princeton Room at the Public Library through February 6, 2020.

The panel exhibition investigates the major home front activities of civil defense, foreign relief, and rationing, showcasing reproductions of archival materials from HSP’s collection. In so doing, the display sheds light on the local debates at the time about foreign intervention, the extent to which civil liberties should be limited to ensure safety, and the value of democracy as a system of government, conversations that reverberate in American society today.

“Visiting the exhibit is a wonderful way to learn about important local history and contemplate significant questions about contemporary issues as well. The Open Archive on January 23 provides a special opportunity to interact with historical materials and discuss with other attendees and HSP’s experts,” said Hannah Schmidl, PPL’s Public Humanities Coordinator.

The January 23, 2020 Open Archive program will enable visitors to view and explore the “real” documents featured in the panel exhibition, in addition to other materials that highlight the home front experience in Princeton during World War II. HSP and PPL regularly present “Open Archives,” which are pop-up opportunities for members of the community to come face-to-face with the contents of HSP’s vast collection, and to engage in conversation with other participants about what they observe.

“Our Open Archive series at PPL allows attendees to interact with archival documents and artifacts from the HSP collection without the barrier of glass cases. People get to really see the documents up close,” said Stephanie Schwartz, Curator of Collections and Research at the Historical Society. “It will certainly add an extra layer of meaning to their experience of the panel exhibition.”

While the Open Archive event is one-night-only, the Princeton Room exhibition is open to the public during the Library’s open hours, seven days a week, whenever another program is not scheduled in the Princeton Room.

HSP Acquires Collection of Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Oral Histories

Historical Society of Princeton Acquires I Hear My People Singing Collection of Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Oral Histories

In April, Kathryn (Kitsi) Watterson transferred to the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) the research materials, notes, and oral histories of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, collected during the twenty-year development process for her 2017 book, I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African American Princeton. This gift was made with the endorsement of community advisers and coordinators, Henry F. (Hank) Pannell, Penelope S. Edwards-Carter and the late Clyde  (Buster) Thomas, as well as interviewees and former Princeton University students, who contributed to the project.

“I am grateful that the stories in this book, from people who have witnessed the barriers and racist assumptions erected to bar their progress, will be more widely available now,” said author Kathryn Watterson. “Their words provide a window into the inner strength and ingenuity of a people who built families, institutions and a vital community life, despite the pernicious injustices they faced. I also appreciate that this collection reveals the creative process involved, from the oral history project we began in 1999—when Hank Pannell told me that if we didn’t get these stories now, it would be too late—to all of the work, love, and spirit embodied in this book.” 

The collection consists of over 60 oral history interviews on 88 video and cassette tapes, as well as transcriptions, photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, maps, census records, historical documents, and drafts of the book.

The collection joins nearly five hundred existing oral histories in HSP’s collection, including oral histories conducted with members of Princeton’s African American community for the seminal A Community Remembers: African American Life in Princeton exhibition at HSP in 1996. The material from Watterson also supplements existing HSP collections that document African American life, such as a time capsule from the Witherspoon School for Colored Children, records related to African American social clubs, and artifacts from African American-owned businesses in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, among many other items.

“We are honored to steward this significant collection,” said Stephanie Schwartz, HSP’s Curator of Collections and Research. “Oral histories are vitally important local history research tools, often filling in the gaps where written historical records are silent, which commonly occurs when it comes to the histories of marginalized communities.” She added, “We’re particularly excited that we have grant funding in hand from the New Jersey Historical Commission to immediately digitize the voices recorded on these vulnerable cassette tapes, ensuring that they are preserved.”

“I feel it is, and felt it was, important to preserve the history of the Princeton African-American community,” said adviser and coordinator, Penelope S. Edwards-Carter. “The community was shrinking when the project started and is rapidly disappearing. We’re happy that this digitalization by the HSP means that family members and descendants will be able to access these materials for genealogical research.”

Project originator and adviser Hank Pannell said, “I’m glad that people can learn about this wonderful neighborhood and all the great people who lived here and took care of each other. I couldn’t be happier about these stories being available for the future—especially for lessons they teach about living, respecting each other, and being human.”

I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African American Princeton was published by the Princeton University Press in 2017 to much acclaim. In vivid first-person accounts, the book shines light on slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow racism as lived and confronted by African Americans in a Northern town through the past three and a half centuries. In 2018, the book won the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance Author Award for Popular Non-Fiction.

This collection is now open for researchers to access by appointment with the Historical Society’s research staff. Research appointments can be requested via a form on www.princetonhistory.org.

“We hope that, once we digitize the oral history recordings, they will be available to people in several locations,” said Schwartz. “Our priority is to make these recollections, in the singularly evocative voices of the people who personally experienced this history, as widely and easily accessible as possible.”

Historical Society of Princeton Presents 2019 House Tour

The Historical Society of Princeton is pleased to present its 18th annual House Tour from 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday, November 2, 2019. This signature fall event celebrates significant architecture and design in the homes of HSP’s supportive community. This year’s Tour features six unique homes, each one a distinct example of its own time and style. Visitors will marvel in the modifications, redesigns, furnishings, salvaged materials, and architectural features during a self-guided tour of the homes throughout the day.

This year’s Tour will feature:

Manor House at Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart (pictured): Perhaps one of the most intricate homes designed by prolific Princeton architect, Rolf Bauhan, the Manor House was constructed for Mr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Dignan and completed around 1930. Mrs. Dignan’s family owned the Ward Baking Company, makers of Wonder Bread. Bauhan’s largest residential project, Manor House showcases his characteristic attention to detail, from stained glass representing Arthurian legends to complex plasterwork, carved wood detail, and decorative copper downspouts. The original 1930s kitchen, with antique dishwasher, remains preserved. Manor House’s expansive grounds retain a walled garden with stone gazebos and a groundskeeper’s cottage.

56 Balcort Drive: This imaginative renovation extended what was once a 1,600-square-foot pattern-book house, built in the 1930s by a carpenter for the Matthews Construction Company, into a sizable modern home respectful of the original’s Dutch Colonial style. Original features of the cottage, such as fireplaces, a staircase, and cabinetry, dot the expanded home, with pre-war fixtures and other salvaged antiques added throughout. The rare tiger maple and typhoon green granite kitchen was featured in the Wall Street Journal. A nature walk winds under large American Elms through the thoughtfully landscaped grounds.

211 Winant Road: This stunning Tudor Revival home was constructed for Moses Taylor Pyne’s mother, Albertina. Pyne, a noted philanthropist and owner of Drumthwacket, engaged his favored architect, Raleigh Gildersleeve, to design the house, which was completed around 1900. In the century that followed, the grand home fell into disrepair. The current owners completed a top-to-bottom renovation by architect David Abelow, a protégé of I.M. Pei, opening up the structure to give the home an urban, loft-like feel while still retaining the appropriate grandeur. The original brick walls and Carnegie steel beams are exposed and juxtaposed with formal plasterwork. A striking three-story glass and metal main stair illuminates the space. Extraordinary attention-to-detail distinguishes this mansion’s not-to-be-missed rescue story.

6 Highland Road: This modern house serves as the design laboratory of interior designer Katie Eastridge. The house forms part of the unique Province Hill neighborhood, which was developed by Richard Dickson and designed by Short and Ford in the late 1970’s with empty nesters in mind. The original home, which features a dramatic central fireplace and tall angled ceilings, has been completely reimagined by Katie Eastridge in her signature exuberant style. The highly edited interior blends Katie’s personal collections (some from her childhood home) with her own furniture design and rare, authentic specimens of mid-century modern design. 

29 Cleveland Lane: This classic Tudor-style home was one of the earliest residences on Cleveland Lane, a street carved out of the former Morven Tract enclave. The home recently enjoyed a top-to-bottom renovation by Baxter Construction, installing a gleaming new kitchen and bathrooms and faithfully upgrading period hardware, including turn-of-the-century knobs and push-button light switches. Works by local artists decorate the walls of this house that seamlessly blends the traditional with the modern. A new bluestone patio graces the backyard next to an original shed built out of the argillite stone used in Princeton University’s collegiate gothic buildings.

17 Maclean Street: This traditional house nestled in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, built around 1880, encloses a jewelbox of whimsical design. A recent addition and renovation led by Material Design Build and Steven S. Cohen, Architect P.C. created a colorful new kitchen, master bath, and treehouse library space. Eclectic furnishings and exposed wood salvaged from the original home, as well as the former SAVE animal shelter and a high school gymnasium’s bleachers, add accents throughout the house. The backyard features an array of fruit trees and sizable home garden.

“Princeton’s uniqueness and historicity as a town is grounded in its remarkable built environment,” said HSP Executive Director, Izzy Kasdin. “This year’s Tour provides a window into the variety of twentieth-century architecture in Princeton and the varied revivalist and modern styles that defined that period. We’re so pleased to be able to recognize homeowners who steward this legacy of magnificent architecture in Princeton. The House Tour is always an enjoyable and enriching experience for all involved!”

New this year, the Historical Society will be offering a pre-House Tour lecture to ground the visitors’ architectural history experience during the Tour. On October 24 at 7 pm, author/historian Clifford Zink will offer “Rolf Bauhan’s Architectural Legacy,” an exploration of the renowned local architect who was behind the Manor House at Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart and over 100 other local revivalist buildings.

Advance tickets for the Tour are $45 for HSP members and $50 for non-members. All tickets purchased the day of the tour are $50. Proceeds help fund the Historical Society’s core history education activities throughout the year, including collections stewardship, exhibitions, public programs, and co-curricular support for schools.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.princetonhistory.org or call 609.921.6748 x106. On the day of the event, tickets will not be available at any of the houses on the Tour. Tickets can be purchased online during the tour, and emailed confirmations can be shown at the check-in tables at the houses. On the day of the tour, tickets can also be purchased from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm at Updike Farmstead, 354 Quaker Road. From 9:30 am to 2 pm, tickets will also be available for purchase at Princeton’s municipal building, 400 Witherspoon Street.

Lead Sponsors Charles Schwab and Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty generously support this event.

Reviving New Jersey’s Hard Cider Heritage

On October 10, the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) welcomes writer/educator Fran McManus for a talk on New Jersey cider, past and present. The program will take place at 7:00 PM in the historic barn on the Society’s six-acre site, Updike Farmstead, at 354 Quaker Road.

Apple-picking is a popular fall activity, but few may realize the significant history of apples in the “Garden State.” New Jersey colonists started planting apple orchards in the 17th century, providing not just fruit to eat, but also to make cider, the favored alcoholic drink of the day. By the end of the colonial period, Newark Cider was renowned, and even fueled a thriving industry in counterfeit champagne.

The evening will include a sampling of New Jersey’s own Ironbound Hard Cider. Named for the historic Newark neighborhood, Ironbound Hard Cider is crafted by Jersey Cider Works, and made with fresh-pressed apples sourced from orchards in NJ and nearby states. The company’s mission is to restore Jersey cider to its former glory.

“Hard cider has become very popular in recent years,” said Eve Mandel, Director of Programs and Visitor Services. “We’re thrilled to partner with Ironbound to share this story, and taste two varieties of their cider!”

Tickets are $10, and are available on HSP’s website, www.princetonhistory.org. The program is held in conjunction with the Garden State History Garden exhibition at Updike Farmstead. 21 and over only.

 

Time-Traveling Fun at HistoryFest on October 6

HistoryFest: Time Travel through Princeton
October 6, 2019
1:00 – 4:00 PM
Free

Join us for the third annual HistoryFest, a free exploration of Princeton history for the whole family! Visitors will travel through four centuries of Princeton history, with hands-on activities and presentations showing the town’s changes over time. Children will receive a “Time Travel Passport” to be stamped at each station. A slide-show presentation featuring vivid images from HSP’s photograph collection, Princeton: Then and Now, will be offered at 3:00 PM.

 

Historical Society Completes Five-Year-Long Collections Review

Culminating a five-year collections planning and review process, on August 26, 2019, the Historical Society of Princeton’s (HSP) Board of Trustees approved items from HSP’s objects collection for deaccession, upon the recommendation of HSP’s Collections Committee. HSP retained and improved use, access, and interpretive strategy for the majority of its vast collection as part of this process.

As per field-wide best practices, HSP periodically reviews its holdings, a process that includes determining which items truly support HSP’s mission and which items are not relevant. HSP has reviewed and deaccessioned material several times over the course of its history, in 1978, 1997, and 2004.

Starting in 2014, HSP began its most recent collections review, an extremely thorough look at each and every three-dimensional artifact in HSP’s possession, of which there are approximately 3,000. HSP’s extensive archival holdings, including 35,000 historic photographs, over 800 manuscript collections, and 2,000 maps and architectural drawings, were not part of this artifact review.

As part of this process, HSP reunited objects with records, improved the documentation of objects in its collections database, repackaged holdings according to conservation standards, extensively researched objects to confirm their provenance, and identified 487 items that do not support HSP’s mission, which were recommended for deaccession. Each item was reviewed three times in the last three years. HSP has retained the majority of its collection.

Consistent with established best practices, deaccessioned objects deemed suitable will be offered to other cultural institutions, while others will be sold at a well-advertised public auction. Some will be retained at HSP as handling objects to be used for educational programs. All proceeds generated by the auction sale will be restricted for the direct care of HSP’s important remaining collection.

From its inception in 1938, the Historical Society of Princeton has actively collected museum and reference materials relevant to Princeton or of general historical interest as part of its history education and stewardship mission. Over time, a substantial and important collection of over 100,000 items was established, consisting of artifacts, maps, architectural drawings, archival manuscript materials, photographs, newspapers, and reference books.

“HSP’s collections create tangible links between the past and present, allowing community members to come face-to-face with Princeton’s story. Nothing is more educationally powerful than this encounter. It’s what makes museum collections so essential,” said Stephanie Schwartz, HSP’s Curator of Collections and Research. “As a history organization, we always prioritize strategies to more effectively bring our exciting and important collections to the public, through school curricula, public programs, exhibitions, and more.”

As with all professional museum institutions, a formal, Board-adopted Collections Management Policy governs all collections practice at HSP. This policy aligns with all best practices, industry standards, and American Alliance of Museums guidelines. Within its Collections Management Policy, HSP outlines its criteria for the acquisition and deaccession of museum materials. Primarily, items in HSP’s holdings must document the history of the Princeton area or its role in state or national history. The deaccessioned items did not meet HSP’s collecting criteria, largely because they lacked sufficient connections to Princeton history.

“Deaccessioning is a healthy process that is part of the natural life cycle of a museum collection,” said Dan Scheid, HSP’s Vice President of Collections. “This review process has positioned our collection to be the best possible historical resource for the Princeton community, and has allowed the Historical Society to ensure it focuses on preserving, interpreting, and sharing the collections that are truly meaningful to the Princeton community.”

Rago Auctions will sponsor the public auction of deaccessioned items designated for sale on October 4. More details about this event will be released soon.