Announcing the 2021 Virtual House Tour

The Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) is pleased to present its first ever Virtual House Tour from May 15 through June 15, 2021. This signature event will feature on-demand, multimedia content of unprecedented depth for participants to navigate at their leisure throughout the entire month.

For 18 years, HSP has offered the House Tour, central New Jersey’s premier history, architecture, and design event, which showcases the stewardship of significant, privately owned houses in Princeton. HSP is taking its expertise in presenting this beloved event to an exciting virtual format.

The Virtual House Tour will feature four unique homes, each a distinct example of its own time and style. Every house will offer an in-depth portal where participants can dive into videos and descriptive details room-by-room, including spotlights on the house’s history, distinctive furnishings and artwork, impressive remodels and restorations, and extraordinary architectural features. Interviews with designers, architects, and artisans will shed light on the decision-making and painstaking work involved in preserving and updating a historic home.

A new house will be released each week during the month when the Tour is live, starting on May 15. Once released, houses will remain available through June 15.

This year’s Virtual House Tour will feature:

2 Boudinot Street: Prolific Princeton builder-architect Charles Steadman likely built this Federal/Italianate-style house in the 1850s at the corner of Nassau Street and University Place. As the University and town expanded, the house was moved twice before landing at its current location. House moving was a common practice in Princeton in the early 19th and 20th centuries, and nearly 200 buildings were moved during this period. Once home to Princeton University Professor Christian Gauss, beloved mentor to F. Scott Fitzgerald, the house has been completely renovated and restored by the current owners, creating a new sunlit kitchen and master suite, while also meticulously restoring period details, like intricate metal knobs and hinges, stunning pocket doors, marble fireplaces, and gas lighting petcocks. Creative décor and furnishings include delightful surprises, like a salvaged armoire used as a bar and pops of exciting wallpaper. Two historic cupolas bring even more light into the already sundrenched home. New landscaping and stone hardscaping surrounding the house create a charming, Charleston-inspired retreat for the homeowners.

20 Boudinot Street: This English manor style house was originally built in 1924 for the family of Charles Erdman, Mayor of Princeton Borough and an influential supporter of many local institutions. The current owners, only the third family to own the home, undertook stylish updates throughout the house and completed renovations that enhance the flow for a 21st century family. They impressively converted a garage into an elegant dining room, installed a gleaming new kitchen, and merged bedrooms to create a splendid master suite with a sitting room and his/hers dressing rooms. Third floor servants’ quarters were combined to create a unique bedroom with custom cabinetry and closets built into the original dormered ceiling. The house exudes storybook charm, and original details, like moldings, French doors, and the 1920s doorbell, remain. Incorporated throughout the house are remarkable pieces of Asian art and furnishings from the family’s time living in Hong Kong. Outside, a picturesque loggia leads into the garden where the original garage doors, complete with Roebling hardware, form a focal point.

8 Evelyn Place: This semi-detached home is steeped in Princeton’s women’s history. Dubbed “The Pines,” the sprawling Victorian was once home to Evelyn College for Women, the first women’s college in New Jersey, founded in 1887. Later, Princeton’s first female mayor of Princeton, Barbara Boggs Sigmund, lived there until her death following a battle with cancer. The current owners undertook major restoration work and modernized the interior to allow for an open kitchen gathering space, a spacious master suite, and a third-floor recreation space with expansive views of Princeton. The renovation also breathed life into stunning historic details like large-scale double doors, a striking Japanese porcelain tile fireplace, clawfoot tubs, and original wood floors. The overhauled front and back yards create a number of unique spaces for outdoor lounging with lush plantings and urns salvaged from the New York Botanical Garden, where the homeowner’s grandfather was a landscaper. 

600 Pretty Brook Road: A specimen of Princeton’s early colonial history, “The Bouwerie” was the homestead for a Dutch farming family. Among other distinctive details, the original 1770 house features a remarkably well-preserved large hearth fireplace with beehive oven, hand-hewn beams, half-timberwork, and a “Jersey winder” staircase. The 19th century dining room showcases a magnificent Delft tile fireplace. The current owners completed a thoughtful addition to the original structure in 1991, which quadrupled the square footage. In the addition, reclaimed wood meticulously matches the original wide plank floors. The spacious new kitchen continues the historic farmhouse aesthetic, including an Aga cast-iron range and a breakfast nook enclosed with hand-made wooden animal moldings. A breathtaking stained glass skylight graces the new foyer and skillful trompe l’oeil painting of floors and walls is an exciting element throughout. Outside, the expansive property includes large patios, a pond, and an infinity pool that falls into a grand English knot garden.

“The virtual format is so exciting because it allows us to bring visitors closer than ever to the stunning details of each of these wonderful properties, and to provide insights from experts that truly enrich the experience,” said HSP Executive Director, Izzy Kasdin. “Princeton’s architectural heritage is extraordinarily special, and we are so pleased to be able to recognize homeowners who carefully steward this legacy. This year’s collection of houses is really not to be missed.”

Tickets for the event start at $20 per screen and are available now. Login credentials will be shared with ticket buyers on May 15. For tickets purchased after May 15, purchasers receive their login within two business days. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.princetonhistory.org or call 609.921.6748 x100. 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.

Lead Sponsors Baxter Construction and Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty generously support this event.

To maintain safety and privacy, in-person visits to the featured houses are strictly prohibited.

Click here for details and to buy tickets.

HSP Digitizes 300 At-Risk Oral History Recordings

The Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) has successfully digitized approximately 300 at-risk audio cassette oral history recordings in HSP’s archival collection, making these resources newly available to researchers, with funding support from the New Jersey Historical Commission. Preservation concerns had previously rendered these cassettes, many of which are almost 50 years old, unplayable and thus inaccessible to HSP patrons.

“Since use accelerates a cassette’s deterioration, the Library of Congress now recommends that audio cassettes and other vintage recordings be played as little as possible in order to maximize their lifespan. Even with such precautions, the average cassette only lasts between 10 to 30 years before it degrades completely. Many of the cassettes that HSP digitized fell far beyond this range, making their immediate preservation a priority,” said Stephanie Schwartz, HSP Curator of Collections and Research.

Funding from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a Department of State, enabled HSP to engage a professional vendor to create high-quality digital files from these delicate recordings. With the tapes digitized, the recordings are now available to researchers and HSP staff for innumerable important and engaging public history uses.

Collections transferred include: 1) interviews conducted by the Princeton History Project, an oral history initiative during the 1970s and 1980s that documented the stories of Princeton residents alive at the turn-of-the-century; 2) interviews conducted by author Jamie Sayen in the 1970s with Albert Einstein’s Princeton friends and colleagues that provide an intimate look at a man with New Jersey connections and worldwide appeal; and 3) oral histories from the residents of Princeton’s historic African-American and Italian-American communities, including interviews conducted by author Kathryn Watterson for her award-winning book “I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African American Princeton,” published by the Princeton University Press in 2017.

“Oral histories are critical resources. They provide records of individuals and perspectives not otherwise represented in our collection or the historical narrative at large. They help us to humanize the study of the past,” said Izzy Kasdin, Executive Director of the Historical Society of Princeton. “We are so pleased to have been able to complete this project, as part of our overall goals to continue to expand the breadth and diversity of history accessible to Princetonians and the research community at large.” 

HSP staff are regularly adding new catalog records documenting the digitized interviews to HSP’s online database. Researchers can reach out to HSP’s Collections Department at stephanie@princetonhistory.org for additional assistance.

Black History Month Resources

February is Black History Month! Below are some resources to learn more about Princeton’s rich Black history. It’s important to tell diverse stories all year round, so remember that all of these resources are available to you at any time.


Engage with Us on Social Media

We’ll be posting fascinating #blackhistorymonth stories all month long on our social media accounts. Make sure you’re following us:

          

 


Color and Learn

Limited-edition coloring books featuring the impact and influence of Black Princetonians are available, while supplies last, at the Arts Council of Princeton at 102 Witherspoon Street. You can pick them up at that location Monday through Thursday, 11 am to 6 pm, and Friday through Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm. You can also download a free digital copy here.

Originally released for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the project was a collaboration between the Historical Society of Princeton, the Arts Council, and Neighborhood Historian Shirley Satterfield, and sponsored by Princeton University and Stark & Stark.


Walk Through Princeton’s Black History

The Albert E. Hinds Memorial Tour: African American Life in Princeton
This one-of-a-kind tour of the Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District gives you the history beyond Nassau Street. Narrated by Shirley Satterfield, a resident of the community and member of the first integrated class at the Nassau Street School, topics include the “Princeton Plan” that desegregated schools; the life of Paul Robeson; and the establishment of Palmer Square, which demolished much of the historic African-American neighborhood across from the University. Click here to access this tour online.

Explore the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society’s Heritage Plaques
The Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society is in the process of installing several dozen historical plaques in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, which tell the rich history of African-Americans in Princeton. Click here to explore the plaques online.


 

Explore a Digital Exhibition

The Princeton Plan: 70 Years of School Integration: Follow the story of the racial integration of Princeton’s Public Schools in 1948, a process known as the “Princeton Plan.” This panel exhibition explores the Princeton Plan’s local impact and national reverberations. Click here to view the exhibition.


Watch a Virtual Event

James Collins Johnson on the Princeton University campus, Collection of the Historical Society of Princeton

The Princeton Fugitive Slave: The Trials of James Collins Johnson
Watch the recorded version of Princeton University’s 2020 lecture delivered by author Lolita Buckner Inniss, in conversation with Miguel Centeno, the Musgrave Professor of Sociology and Vice-Dean at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, discussing her book, The Princeton Fugitive Slave: The Trials of James Collins Johnson. Click here to view the recorded event.

Understanding Princeton’s African American History: An Exploration Through Places
Join historian and multi-generational Witherspoon-Jackson resident, Shirley Satterfield, for a virtual presentation showcasing the 29 plaques that have been installed and will soon be installed as the Heritage Tour in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, Princeton’s 20th historic district. These plaques tell the rich history of African-American establishments in Princeton. This program was co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Princeton, the Princeton Public Library, and the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society. Click here to view the recorded event. 


 

Watch a Video

Princeton Plan: Fifty Years Later: This short documentary tells the story of school integration in Princeton, a process that was nationally recognized and dubbed the “Princeton Plan.” Click here to watch.

It Happened Here: New Jersey: This NY-Emmy nominated series captures short narratives about New Jersey’s remarkable history. Click here for the video about Princeton’s Paul Robeson.


Read About Princeton’s Black History

I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African American Princeton by Kathryn Watterson
Based on oral histories with more than 50 Black residents of Princeton, this book chronicles their triumphs and challenges. Click here to preview the book online on Google Books or click here to order it from our local Labyrinth Books. The oral histories that formed the basis of the book are now in the collection of the Historical Society of Princeton, and accessible to anyone who completes a research inquiry request.

Princeton and Slavery Project
Completed in 2017, the Princeton and Slavery project includes dozens of essays, documents, and multimedia visualizations that trace the University and town’s connections to the institution of slavery. Click here to access.

New Digital Exhibition: Women’s Suffrage in Princeton

One hundred years ago, the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution officially made it constitutional for women in the U.S. to vote. In practice, this right did not initially extend to all women, but the victory in 1920 remains a major milestone, a long and hard-fought win in an ongoing struggle for women’s rights, voting rights, and civil rights.

Its passage was never certain, especially in Princeton, a town that embodied the difficulties in bringing communities, and families, to consensus on the issue of a woman’s right to vote. Though many towns experienced this division, the nation closely watched Princeton, then home to the sitting President and a former First Lady.

Click here to explore how the debate on women’s suffrage played out in Princeton in our new digital exhibition.

Co-sponsored by the Princeton Public Library

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 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. While written by Washington on October 30, General Knox delivered the orders to the remaining Continental Army at West Point, New York on November 2.

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.