62. College Refectory


The poor quality of the College’s dining services was a constant complaint in the early history of Princeton.  Meals were first served in the basement of Nassau Hall and students were forbidden to purchase additional food from townspeople.  Undergraduates expressed their disapproval of meals by shuffling their feet under the table, though anyone caught behaving in this fashion was severely punished; later, students grew bolder and threw distasteful food out the windows, dishes and all.  By the nineteenth century, College refectories were established in nearby buildings.  The William Street refectory, shown here, operated from 1834 to 1846 and supplied spartan fare for a bargain $1.50 per week; nonetheless, most students avoided the “poor house,” as it was called, and ate at village boarding houses or banded together to create informal “eating clubs” with their friends.  By the late nineteenth century, these groups had grown larger and more formal, eventually acquiring property, building club facilities, and transforming into an upperclassmen eating club system still recognizable today.  The University established a successful dining “commons” in University Hall (the former University Hotel) for underclassmen by the beginning of the twentieth century.