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History of Princeton


Princeton has always played a significant role in the history of New Jersey and the United States. Settled in the late 17th century, it was named Prince-Town in honor of Prince William of Orange and Nassau. In 1756 it became the home of the College of New Jersey - now Princeton University - with the entire college housed in Nassau Hall, the largest academic building in the colonies.

PhotoThe Battle of Princeton, fought in a nearby field in January of 1777, proved to be a decisive victory for General George Washington and his troops. Two of Princeton's leading citizens signed the Declaration of Independence, and during the summer of 1783, the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall making Princeton the country's capital for four months.

Located midway between New York and Philadelphia, the town was the overnight stagecoach stop on the Trenton-New Brunswick line until the mid-19th century. In the 1830s the building of a nearby canal and railroad encouraged further commerce, real estate development, and general prosperity.

A center for learning and culture throughout its history, Princeton has been home to world-renowned scholars, scientists, writers, and statesman, including two United States presidents, Woodrow Wilson and Grover Cleveland.

In 1930, the Institute for Advanced Study was founded in Princeton and became the first residential institute for scholars in the country, with Albert Einstein appointed as one of its first professors. The 20th century has seen an influx of scholars, research personnel, and corporations from all parts of the world.

Shaped by residents of all backgrounds, Princeton has been a dynamic community, growing and changing with the times yet retaining an essential small-town quality. Paul Robeson grew up in Princeton and artisans from Italy, Scotland, and Ireland have contributed to the town's rich architectural history. This architectural legacy, spanning the entire history of American architecture, is well-preserved through buildings by nationally renowned architects such as Benjamin Latrobe, Ralph Adams Cram, McKim, Mead & White, Robert Venturi, and Michael Graves.