Princeton Weekly Bulletin   February 25, 2008, Vol. 97, No. 17   prev   next   current

By the numbers

Evolution of the Princeton campus

The new Campus Plan book has a timeline of the evolution of the Princeton campus. It includes:

• In the late 1600s, Nassau Street (then King’s Highway) was a major traveling route between the Raritan River and the Delaware River. In the mid-1700s, located halfway along the route between New York and Philadelphia, the village of Prince-Town provided an overnight stay for travelers and began to grow along Nassau Street. In 1756, the College of New Jersey, as Princeton University was then known, was relocated from Newark, N.J., to Prince-Town, N.J., with approximately 70 students. Set on a protected topographic ridge, Nassau Hall was the largest academic building in the colonies and had an expansive panorama of farmland and forested valley to the south.

• By the 1850s, the campus was organized into an open quadrangle plan with a central axis and clear hierarchy, with Nassau Hall at the center. The new back campus quadrangle reflected the high value placed on the preservation of landscape openness by maintaining generous spaces between buildings.

• During the second half of the 19th century, President James McCosh (1868-1888) and President Francis Patton (1888-1902) oversaw a period of rapid building expansion that favored a more park-like setting for buildings, placing less importance on axes and symmetry than previous styles. The Victorian style of architecture provided an organic approach that complemented this landscape philosophy. This change of style coincided with a pedagogic shift from the fixed curriculum of a small Protestant college to a more modern concept of a university.

• A major building program in the early 20th century was initiated by President Woodrow Wilson (1901-1912) and overseen by Ralph Adams Cram, supervising architect. In addition to new buildings, Lake Carnegie was created and the Dinky railroad station was relocated to the south. Princeton was one of the first universities to undertake a master plan for its future growth. Wilson and Cram shared a vision for the campus that shifted away from the McCosh era’s outward-looking and expansive landscape to a more enclosed arrangement of buildings, influenced by the architecture and scholarly focus of Oxford and Cambridge and emphasizing academic discourse among faculty and students.

• The combined effects of the Great Depression and World War II resulted in a 14-year building hiatus at Princeton from 1933 to 1947. Due largely to increased government funding for laboratory buildings, a major and rapid campus expansion occurred in the 1960s, which pushed the campus boundary farther to the south and located major academic facilities east of Washington Road, including the Engineering Quadrangle.

• Since the 1970s, the campus has continued to grow, while maintaining walkability, bringing innovative architecture to complement the historic buildings, and sustaining its landscapes and natural resources.

Source: “Princeton Campus Plan: The Next Ten Years and Beyond.”

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