This driving tour will take you around some of most interesting locations in the Princeton area. The tour starts at the Battle Monument of Princeton (statue of George Washington) and includes such sites as Morven Museum and Garden, Drumthwacket (the NJ Governor’s mansion), the Stony Brook Bridge, Updike Farm & Princeton Historical Society, Stony Brook Meeting House and Cemetery, Princeton Battlefield Park, Thomas Clarke house, Mercer Oak, Colonnade, Albert Einstein house, the Barracks, Woodrow Wilson’s homes, and Grover Cleveland’s house.
If traveled directly from point to point the drive should take a little over 30 minutes over 5 1/4 miles.
Stop 1. Battle Monument of Princeton
(1 Monument Dr)
The 50 foot tall beaux arts monument commemorates the January 3, 1777 Battle of Princeton. George Washington is on horseback leading his troops to victory over the British Regulars while below him there are a number of his troops, a young woman signifying liberty and General Hugh Mercer who is stabbed during the battle and dies a few days later. The monument, created by Frederick MacMonnies in conjunction with architects Carrere and Hastings, was completed in 1922 and dedicated by President Harding.
The monument is found at the south end of downtown Princeton on Nassau Street. There is a tree lined park leading to the monument with several notable sculptures including a bust of Albert Einstein, who lived in Princeton until his death, The Newspaper Reader by J. Seward Johnson Jr., and the bell of the USS Princeton. In the spring, the cherry blossom trees that line the path create an especially beautiful entrance to the monument.
There is a parking lot at 1 Monument Drive.
Stop 2. Morven Museum and Garden
(55 Stockton St, www.morven.org)
Morven was built by Richard Stockton, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, in 1750 and was named Morven, or big hill in Gaelic by Stockton’s wife Annis Boudinot Stockton. From 1944 until 1981 the house served as the New Jersey Governor’s Mansion (currently see Drumthwacket).
Currently the house and grounds are a museum which contains a significant collection of fine and decorative arts covering an important period of history and cultural heritage for New Jersey. Many exhibitions and special events are scheduled in the museum or on the grounds.
There is a parking lot at Morven.
Stop 3. The Barracks
(32 Edgehill Street, private residence)
The Barracks, at 32 Edgehill Street, is one of the oldest houses in Princeton. It was built by Richard Stockton’s (one of signers of the Declaration of Independence) grandfather and is believed to have served as a military barracks (and thus the name) during either the French and Indian War or the American Revolution.
In 1783 when the still newly formed United States government had to flee unrest in Philadelphia, the government was relocated to Princeton. While the government met in Princeton, Alexander Hamilton stayed at this house that was then owned by Thomas Laurens.
There is street parking and the house can be seen from sidewalk.
Stop 4. Albert Einstein House
(112 Mercer Street , private residence)
The house at 112 Mercer Street was Albert Einstein’s home from 1935 until his death in 1955. Einstein had been living in Germany but while traveling outside of the country the increased anti-sematic policies of the German Government convinced him to emigrate elsewhere. He accepted an offer in 1933 to become a resident scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and in 1935 decided to remain permanently in the US and purchased the house on Mercer Street. Einstein lived in Princeton working at the Institute, taking walks around town and through the institute woods, sailing on Lake Carnegie, and playing music with friends.
The house is a private residence and is not open to the public but one can view the outside of the house from the sidewalk
Furniture from the house was donated to the Princeton Historical Society and can be viewed at the Updike Farmstead.
Street parking is available.
Stop 5. Princeton Battlefield Park
(500 Mercer Rd, www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/parks/princeton.html)
George Washington and his men crossed the Delaware River to surprise and defeat the Hessian soldiers on a Christmas night surprise attack in 1776. A week later when the British arrived in force to attack, Washington, using the cover of night, made a retreat to Princeton in order to attack the British soldiers that had been garrisoned in the town.
The woods and fields about a mile from Princeton University were the battleground between the British and George Washington’s army. This battle on January 3, 1777 was one of the fiercest of its size during the American Revolution and delivered to General Washington his first battlefield success against the British regulars.
The Park is open from sunset to sundown. No park fees. There is both a parking lot and street parking.
Stop 6. Thomas Clarke House
(located in the Princeton Battlefield. Closed Mon & Tue and most holidays)
The house was built around 1772 and was part of a 200 acre farm. The Clarke family were members of the nearby Stony Brook Friends Meeting.
The “10 Crucial Days” started with Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River and the subsequent defeat of the Prussians in Trenton and ended with the Battle of Princeton. When Washington’s troops neared the town of Princeton, the British soldiers attacked the Continental Army in the orchards surrounding Thomas Clarke’s house.
During the battle the house served as a refuge for the wounded from both sides and housed Brigadier General Hugh Mercer who was wounded in the battle and died nine days later.
The house now contains one of the largest exhibits of firearms from the Revolutionary War period in the area. “Arms of the Revolution” contains a cross section of weapons from both the American and British soldiers with items such as: shoulder arms, pistols, military swords, canteens, powder horns, cannons, cannonballs, an artillery caisson, a cartridge box and various artifacts from the battle. There are also a number of prints and paintings related to the Battle.
During the year there are various events held at the house including: candle making, playing 18th Century games and observing how cooking was done over an open fire pit.
There is both a parking lot and street parking for the battlefield area.
Stop 7. Princeton Battlefield's Mercer Oak
(located in the Princeton Battlefield)
During the Battle of Princeton, American Brigadier General Hugh Mercer was bayonetted by British Soldiers. Legend states that he lay under the Mercer Oak and refused to leave the battle until the Continental Army defeated the British. Regardless of the legend the tree is believed to have been alive at the time of the battle and would have been close to where Mercer was mortally wounded.
The tree collapsed in strong winds on March 3, 2000. The stump survives next to an offspring grown from a 1981 acorn from the original tree.
Stop 8. Colonnade
(located in the Princeton Battlefield)
The ionic Colonnade is a monument to the British and American soldiers that died during the Battle of Princeton.
The Colonnade itself was originally the façade of Philadelphia merchant Mathew Newkirk's home, located in downtown Philadelphia at 13th and Arch Streets, and was designed by Thomas Walter who became the architect of the U.S. Capitol. In 1900 Newkirk’s home was torn down and the Colonnade was moved and incorporated into the Mercer Manor which stood on the edge of the Princeton Battlefield. This house burned down in 1957 and the Colonnade was moved to its present location in 1959.
Behind the monument is a circular stone patio with a plaque commemorating the deaths of the 21 British and 15 American soldiers who perished in the Battle of Princeton but whose exact grave location is unknown.
Stop 9. Stony Brook Meeting House and Cemetery
(470 Quaker Road)
In the late 1600s, six Quaker families owned much of what is now Princeton. The families -- Richard Stockton (the grandfather of the signer of the Declaration of Independence), Benjamin Clarke, William Olden, Joseph Worth, John Horner, and Benjamin Fitz Randolph – built their homes near the Stony Brook.
In 1709 Benjamin Clark deeded 9.6 acres to establish a Friends meeting house and burial ground. While the Meeting House was not built until 1726, the burial grounds were put to use and were the earliest in Princeton and the most prominent before the Revolutionary War. By Quaker tradition graves were marked by a simple plain stone or in some cases unmarked. Richard Stockton (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) and Charles Smith Olden (19th governor of NJ) are buried here.
The Meeting House was the first house of worship in Princeton. The building was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1760.
By 1777, when Washington and his troops attacked the British at the Battle of Princeton, the meeting house was at the edge of open fields and right beside it ran a road connecting Quaker Road with downtown Princeton. While today there are woods, at that time the soldiers could see the battlefield from the Meeting House. There are now walking trails through the woods that lead to the Princeton Battlefield.
During the Revolutionary War, the Meeting House was used as a hospital by both the Continental and British Armies.
The Meeting House and Cemetery have a parking lot.
Stop 10. Updike Farm & Princeton Historical Society
(354 Quaker Rd, princetonhistory.org/visit/updike-farmstead/)
The six-acre Updike Farmstead consists of a late 18th/early 19th century farmhouse, a large barn built in 1892, wagon shed, corn crib, three-bay garage, and garden sheds. The Historical Society of Princeton now owns and maintains the farm and operates a museum of early Princeton life inside the farmhouse.
The Farmstead is along the route followed by Continental troops in 1776 to engage British soldiers at the neighboring Thomas Clarke farm in the Battle of Princeton. In 1892, George Furman Updike Sr. acquired approximately 190 acres of the original farmland and added buildings to the site, including a large barn.
Admission is $4. Free on Thursdays from 4-7pm.There is a parking lot at the farm.
Stop 11. Stony Brook Bridge
This is the oldest state-owned bridge in NJ that is still in use. The stone bridge was built in 1792 replacing a wooden bridge that was built in 1738. The bridge was enlarged in 1916 and after emergency repairs in 2016 is again in operation.
On the morning of January 3, 1777, British soldiers that were stationed in Princeton were on their way to Trenton NJ when they turned back at the bridge after sighting General George Washington’s Continental troops marching towards Princeton. The solders met in battle at what is now called the Princeton Battlefield.
A stone plaque in the middle of the bridge notes the 1792 construction date and that Princeton is 40 miles from Philadelphia and 56 miles from New York City. Behind the plaque is a time capsule that contains old photographs, a short history of the bridge and diary entries from the miller who lived in the fieldstone house to the south of Worth's Mill.
There is pullover space on Quaker Road.
Stop 12. Drumthwacket
(354 Stockton Street, www.drumthwacket.org)
Drumthwacket is the official residence of the Governor of New Jersey. It was built in 1835, by Charles Smith Olden, the 19th Governor of New Jersey and the first governor to live in the house before it was designated in 1982 as the official residence of the NJ Governor. Olden named the estate Drumthwacket, a Scottish-Gaelic name, which translates to “wooded hill”.
The grounds are private but the house can be seen from the road. On Wednesdays, free guided tours can be scheduled to visit the grounds and the interior. During the holidays there is a traditional holiday display – reservations required. Onsite parking is only available during the guided tours.
Stop 13. Woodrow Wilson’s Houses while at Princeton University
(72 and 82 Library Place - private residences)
Woodrow Wilson graduated from Princeton University in 1879 and served as a professor of law from 1880 to 1902. Wilson lived at 72 Library Place in 1889 and while there commissioned New York architect Edward S. Child to design the house at 82 Library Place.
In 1896 Wilson, his wife and their children moved into 82 Library Place where they stayed until Wilson took the position of President of Princeton University and moved on campus into the Presidents house, the Prospect House, in 1902. The house at 82 Library Place is one of the few in the United States that was designed and built by a U.S. president, and is still in use.
These houses are now privately owned and are not opened to the public. There is street parking available.
Stop 14. Grover Cleveland House
(15 Hodge Road – private residence)
After his second presidential term ended, Grover Cleveland moved to Princeton and in 1897 he purchased a Georgian Revival house on Hodge Road, which he called Westland after Andrew Fleming West, first dean of the Princeton University Graduate College.
Although Cleveland never attended Princeton University, he accepted a seat on the Board of Trustees and chaired a committee to establish a graduate school. He gave a series of four lectures at the university, which were later published as a book. The Cleveland home became a gathering place for undergraduates after athletic or debating triumphs, and the students paraded there every March 18 to celebrate Grover Cleveland’s birthday. Cleveland lived in the house until he died in 1908 and was buried in the Princeton Cemetery.
The main tower of the Princeton University Graduate College was named after Cleveland.
The house was built by Robert F. Stockton in 1856, grandson of the Declaration of Independence signor Richard Stockton. Stockton patterned the house after Morven (which became the residence for the Governor of NJ) which he also owned. Stockton was a United States Senator and naval commodore, notable for the capture of California during the Mexican–American War. A wing was later added to Westland to house the servant’s quarters and stables but is now a separate home divided by a wall at the back of the house. The original entrance was from Bayard Lane (now Rt 206).
The house is now privately owned and is not opened to the public. There is street parking available on the side streets and there is a sidewalk so one can walk in front of the house.