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June 22 , 2009

A Walking Tour of Princeton, New Jersey


There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. This walking tour of Princeton, New Jersey is ready to explore when you are. Each walking tour describes historical, architectural landmarks, cultural sites and ecclesiastic touchstones and provides step-by-step directions.

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Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.

The original settlers, Quakers mostly, came to this verdant stretch of West Jersey in the late 1600s to be planters. The settlement was called Stony Brook after the small stream that defined two sides of the town but was named Prince-Town in 1724 in honor of Prince William of Orange and Nassau. The main road from New York to Philadelphia came right through town, located approximately half-way between the key cities (45 miles to NYC and 40 to Philly) and Princeton evolved into an important coaching center. Some days as many as 15 coaches would start off each way on Nassau Street, the main thoroughfare.

In 1756 the College of New Jersey arrived from Newark and set up shop in the newly constructed Nassau Hall, the largest academic building in the colonies. After that, save for a few critical days during the American Revolution, the history of Princeton the town has been the history of the school. There was a brief flurry of industrial activity when the Camden and Amboy Railroad showed up in 1834 and the Delaware and Raritan Canal was dug nearby in the 1830s but by the end of the 19th century when the school officially became Princeton University the two would be marching practically in lockstep. Manufacturing is not permitted in the borough and as early as 1883 Major E. M. Woodward & John F. Hageman wrote presciently in History of Burlington and Mercer Counties, New Jersey, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Their Pioneers and Prominent Men: “Far distant be the day when the pure, bright atmosphere of Princeton shall be darkened and tainted with the smoky, dirty exhalations of a manufacturing city.”

So we will concentrate our explorations around Princeton University and begin right at the main gate. But we won’t go in straight away since as we’ll learn, we weren’t always welcome...

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