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Princeton, New Jersey is located in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States, and is best known as the home, since 1756, of Princeton University. Although this qualifies Princeton as a "college town", there are so many other important facilities in the vicinity that the town's character and economic basis are far more complicated. These institutions and companies include: the Institute for Advanced Study, Educational Testing Service (ETS), Opinion Research Corporation, Sarnoff Corporation, FMC Corporation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton Theological Seminary, Westminster Choir College, Church and Dwight and Dow Jones & Company. Another factor contributing to the town's independent character is its equidistant location from both Philadelphia and New York. Since the turn of the last century, rail service and major highways to these cities have made the town a bedroom community to both of them. Broadcast media from both cities have been received in Princeton since their inception.
New Jersey's State capital is the city of Trenton, approximately 13 miles away, but the Governor's official residence has been in Princeton since 1945, when Morven became the first Governor's mansion. It was later replaced by the nearby, (and larger), Drumthwacket. Morven is the current home of the New Jersey Historical Society.
Although residents of Princeton (Princetonians) traditionally have a strong town-wide identity, legally there is not one municipality, but two: a township and a borough.The central borough is completely surrounded by the township. The Borough seceded from the Township in 1894 in a dispute over school taxes; the two municipalities later formed the Princeton Regional Schools, and some other public services are conducted together. There have been three referenda proposing to reunite the two Princetons, but they have all been narrowly defeated.
Princeton lies at latitude 40°21' North, longitude 74°40' West. United States Postal Zip Codes include 08540, 08542 (largely the Borough), and 08544 (the University).
During the War for Independence, British and American armies crossed New Jersey several times. On January 3, 1777, the American forces led by George Washington scored an important victory over British forces led by Charles Cornwallis in the Battle of Princeton. British forces marching from New York to respond to the raid on Trenton (December 26, 1777) were spotted by Washington's troops about two miles west of what was then Princeton (now the very center of the town). In one engagement Washington's forces defeated the British rear guard, although Brigadier General Hugh Mercer was killed commanding the unit. The site is preserved as Princeton Battlefield State Park. In a series of other engagements Washington scattered the British in Princeton and achieving a decisive, if minor, victory.
In the summer of 1783, the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall at Princeton University, making Princeton the country's capital for four months. It was there that the Continental Congress learned of the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783) which ended the war. The area was agricultural at that time, Nassau Hall and a few houses comprising the entire University.
The first rail line between New York City and Philadelphia had a stop in the town from the early Nineteenth Century. Mid-19th Century track straightening shortened the route between the two cities, but moved the path several miles south of Princeton. A spur operated by a two-car train connected Princeton Junction with a station in the borough of Princeton. This train, called the "Dinky" remains a cherished, rather unique asset, operated by New Jersey Transit.
In 1894, during his second term as President, Grover Cleveland bought a house in Princeton, and became a fixture of the Princeton community, including the University. He later died in Princeton. After his death, he was buried in Princeton Cemetery.
In 1912, Woodrow Wilson, a former professor (and University president of Princeton) and Governor of New Jersey, was elected President of the United States. He served two terms as President, wrote the Fourteen Points and was President during World War I.
Princeton High School opened in 1915, at time when racial segregation was the norm in the area. Despite this, and the fact that there was a separate elementary school for black Princetonians, the school admitted students of all races. (Reference: 'The Princeton Plan' Fifty years of school desegregation. By Louise Handelman. Princeton Packet. Tuesday, June 8, 1999)
In 1933, Albert Einstein arrived at Princeton, where he was affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Study. Shortly after his arrival, in a private correspondence, Einstein described Princeton as "a quaint and ceremonious village of puny demigods on stilts." Over time, he came to appreciate the environment provided by the town and the Institute, and in many ways became more at home in Princeton than in any of his previous residences. He stayed until his death in 1955.
In the academic year 1948-1949, following the mandate of the 1947 New Jersey State Constitution, which prohibited segregation in the public schools and the state militia, Princeton's lower schools were finally integrated. This was accomplished by an overhaul of the entire system, called the 'Princeton Plan', so that all the building, students, and teachers of the previously all African-American school were incorporated into the new town wide system.
The six public schools of the Princeton Regional Schools district serve both the borough and the township: four elementary schools (Community Park, Johnson Park, Littlebrook and Riverside), John Witherspoon Middle School, and Princeton High School. The high school is located in the borough; the others are in the township. The high school also serves students from Cranbury Township as part of a sending/receiving relationship.
The Princeton Charter School (grades K-8) is located in the township. The school operates under a charter granted by the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education. The school is a public school that operates independently of the Princeton Regional Schools, and is funded on a per student basis by locally-raised tax revenues.
Points of interest
- American Boychoir School
- Battle of Princeton
- Herrontown Woods Arboretum
- Institute for Advanced Study
- Lake Carnegie
- Nassau Hall
- Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
- Princeton Theological Seminary
- Westminster Choir College
- Princeton Cemetery
- Princeton Chinese Language School
- Princeton Day School
- Princeton High School
- Princeton University
- Princeton Record Exchange
- Clark, Ronald W. (1971) Einstein: The Life and Times. ISBN 0-380-44123-3
- Gambee, Robert. (1987) "Princeton" ISBN 0-393-30433-7
- The Princeton Packet (Local Newspaper)
- Princeton Regional Schools
- National Center for Education Statistics data for the Princeton Regional Schools
- Photographic tour of Princeton Cemetery.