Traveling - Princeton, New Jersey
Published in Ed Hitzel's Restaurant Magazine Spring 2007
Long associated with the
Ivy League university of the same name, Princeton holds more in store
for out-of-towners than student-clogged sidewalks and collegiate-themed
stores. Equidistance from New York City and Philadelphia, the
prosperous borough of 14,000 possesses small town charm and big city
sophistication, offering expansive Revolutionary War battlefields and
wildlife preserves as well as art museums and Tony-award winning
Originally called Stony Brook for the stream running along the
town’s borders, the region dates back to the late 1600’s.
By 1724 Stony Brook went by the name of “Prince- Town,” for
England’s Prince William of Orange. Subsequently it became
Thirty-two years later, in 1756, the College of New Jersey moved its
campus onto 10 acres of donated land in Princeton. Today the campus
encompasses 500 acres, supports approximately 6,000 students, and holds
both the status of an Ivy League school and the fourth oldest
university in the country. The College of New Jersey is none other than
Princeton University (609-258-3000).
During the American Revolution Princeton University’s Nassau Hall
served as a hospital and barracks for Continental as well as British
troops. While under British control, Nassau Hall sustained artillery
fire from Washington’s men; scars from a Continental Army
cannonball can still be seen on the south wall of the west wing. After
the War the Continental Congress would meet in Nassau Hall for four
months in 1783. At that time Princeton would also act as the
Revolutionary fighting was not limited to the campus grounds. On
January 3, 1777 the Battle of Princeton took place about one mile
southwest of the downtown area. Considered the fiercest battle in the
American Revolution by many historians, this fight would result in a
decisive victory for George Washington and serve as one of several
turning points in the war.
The 85-acre Princeton Battlefield State Park, 500 Mercer Street,
commemorates this important event. The Ionic Colonnade marks the grave
of 21 British and 15 American soldiers killed during combat. The Thomas
Clarke House, site of General Hugh Mercer’s death, contains
period furnishings and Revolutionary War exhibits. The park is open
daily from dawn until dusk. Admission is free.
Adjacent to the park sits the 588-acre Institute Woods. Popular with
hikers, cross-country skiers and picnickers, the wildlife preserve
contains trails through hardwood forests, wetlands, and fields.
Additionally, it surrounds the Institute for Advanced Study, the
world-renowned center for theoretical research and scholarship.
Hikers will enjoy traversing the 39-acre Charles H. Rogers Wildlife
Refuge on West Drive, abutting Institute Woods. The area consists of
marsh, thickets, woods, and the north bank of the Stony Brook. An
abundance of wildlife, including muskrats, woodchucks, and white tailed
deer, makes its home here.
Another walkers’ paradise can be found at Mountain Lakes Nature
Preserve (609-924-8720) at 57 Mountain Avenue. The preserve’s
trail winds through 90 acres of woods, fields, wetlands and lakes.
Birders will want to explore the three miles of marked trails in
Herrontown Woods on Snowden Lane (609-989-6532). Year-round sightings
include warblers, thrushes, and great horned and screech owls.
A stroll through Princeton Cemetery, on the corner of Witherspoon and
Wiggins Streets, reveals sights of a historical nature. The cemetery
provides the final resting places for such political luminaries as
two-time president Grover Cleveland and Aaron Burr Junior, the third
Vice President and winner of an infamous and deadly duel with Alexander
Hamilton. Other famous residents include novelist John O’Hara,
George Gallup, creator of the Gallup public opinion poll, and Sylvia
Beach, founder of Paris’s renowned Shakespeare and Company
bookshop and publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Pristine Federal- and Colonial-style homes dot the landscape of
Princeton, affording walkers not only architectural delights but also a
further glimpse at U.S. history. Built in 1766, the Bainbridge House at
158 Nassau Street was the birthplace of William Bainbridge, naval
commander of the U.S.S. Constitution during the War of 1812. Today it
is the residence of the Historical Society of Princeton (609-921-6748).
The Historical Society presents permanent and changing exhibits, a
library, a gift shop and maps for self-guided, walking tours.
The 18th century Morven Museum and Garden (609-924-8144), 55 Stockton
Street, was the home of Richard Stockton, member of the Continental
Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Stockton’s stately mansion functioned as the governor’s
residence from 1953 to 1981. It became a museum in 1982. After
undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation, Morven now displays
exhibits of New Jersey’s cultural heritage and a period garden.
Theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein arrived in
Princeton in 1933 and taught at the Institute for Advanced Study
(Einstein Drive) until his death in 1955. While in Princeton, Einstein
resided and often worked from his second floor study at 112 Mercer
Street. Unfortunately, neither the Institute nor Einstein’s home
can be accessed by the public.
At 354 Stockton Street the official residence of New Jersey’s
governor, Drumthwacket, is open to visitors. Guided tours are available
on Wednesdays. To tour the 19th century Greek revival mansion and its
12 acres of landscaped gardens and grounds, call 609-683-0591.
Across the front lawn of Drumthwacket sits the four-room, 18th century
farmhouse known as the Olden House. The birthplace of Thomas Olden,
founder of Drumthwacket, the Olden house has operated as the
butlers’ quarters, a rare bird aviary, and a “monkey
house,” which, as the name indicates, was a facility for monkeys.
Today the restored home holds an office and gift shop.
Art enthusiasts will appreciate Princeton’s lively arts
community. The McCarter Theatre Center for the Performing Arts
(609-258-ARTS), 91 University Place, offers music, dance, and dramatic
performances. A Tony award winner for outstanding regional theater, the
McCarter has premiered such productions as Thorton Wilder’s
“Our Town” and William Inge’s “Bus Stop.”
It has also showcased such artists as Luciano Pavarotti, Mikhail
Baryshnikov, and Wynton Marsalis. Upcoming 2007 performances include
the Flying Karamazov Brothers, jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, and August
Wilson’s contemporary play “Radio Golf.”
The Princeton Symphony Orchestra (609-497-0020) presents classical and
chamber music series, pops concerts, and children’s shows
throughout the year. The professional orchestra plays at Richardson
Auditorium in Alexander Hall, behind the Nassau Presbyterian Church on
Located in McCormick Hall in the center of the campus, the Princeton
University Art Museum (609-258-3788) possesses more than 60,000 works
of art. Its holdings range from ancient to modern art and include
Chinese paintings and bronzes, pre-Columbian and African art, and works
by such contemporary masters as Picasso, Calder, and Warhol. The free
museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM, and on Sunday
from 1 PM to 5 PM.
Ardent shoppers will revel in the bevy of stores and boutiques lining
Nassau Street as well as Palmer Square. Facing the green and the 18th
century Nassau Inn, the Square is home to more than 40 stores and
cafes, including the toney Simon Pearce Glass, Ann Taylor, and Thomas
At 20 South Tulane the Princeton Record Exchange (609-921-0881) is a
music lover’s mecca. One of the largest, independently-owned
music stores on the East Coast, it has over 160,000 new and used CDs,
LPs, and DVDs in stock. The store sells and buys music and DVDs so dust
off your vinyl and get ready to bargain.
Princeton has an assortment of dining options for every budget and
taste. For lighter fare, stop at Small World Coffee’s two
locations at 14 Witherspoon Street and 254 Nassau Street or the revered
PJ’s Pancake House (609-924-1353) at 154 Nassau Street. Triumph
Brewery (609-924-7855) at 138 Nassau provides such upscale pub grub as
veal tenderloin, fish ‘n’ chips, and vegan dumplings. The
Brewery also hosts live music on weekends. Mediterra (609-252-9680) at
29 Hulfish serves Mediterranean cuisine in a laidback yet fashionable
atmosphere. At The Ferry House (609-924-2488), 32 Witherspoon Street,
Chef Bobby Trigg specializes in French-American cuisine.
Princeton’s overnight guests have a variety of lodging options.
Those who prefer the familiar amenities of a hotel chain can choose
between such reputable establishments as the Hampton Inn Princeton
(609-951-0066) at 4385 Route 1 South and the Princeton Marriot Hotel
and Conference Center at Forrestal (609-452-7800), 100 College Road
East, about 10 minutes from downtown.
A model of hospitality since 1756, the Nassau Inn (800-862-7728) at 10
Palmer Square, has 203 Colonial-style rooms and suites, a tap room, and
fitness center, all in the heart of Princeton. At the Inn at Glencairn
(609-497-1737), 3301 Lawrenceville Road, guests can choose from five
period rooms in the fully refurbished and elegantly appointed 1736
Georgian manor house. Seasonal, organic breakfasts and afternoon tea
In the historic yet hip town of Princeton past and present blend
seamlessly, offering visitors and townspeople an array of diverse