Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 48
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
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Princeton’s Present, Past, Future Come Together at Updike Farmstead Groundbreaking Ceremony

Dilshanie Perera

With construction efforts already underway at the Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) staff, trustees, and friends gathered together with elected officials on Monday to celebrate the restoration of the space.

The groundbreaking event featured remarks by HSP Board President John Dumont, Executive Director Erin Dougherty, and Congressman Rush Holt, as well as a tour of the Updike property. Over 70 people were in attendance, including members of the Updike family and fourth graders from Community Park Elementary School.

Purchased by the HSP in 2004, the Updike Farmstead is the future home base of the Historical Society. The main house and barn are being restored in order to showcase exhibitions, promote educational programming, and serve as a meeting space and teaching tool.

Mr. Holt said that the purchase “was not an obvious move, but an inspired move.” He spoke about the importance of preserving open space, mentioning the Land and Water Conservation Fund and New Jersey State matching grants that have gone to conserve green space.

“There are stories to tell, and these are stories with a purpose,” Mr. Holt remarked of the importance of the site and the Historical Society’s mission. Such stories reveal “what it takes to repair and maintain a community,” and “how it is we try to build a more perfect union,” he said.

“We will be two facilities in the future,” said Ms. Dougherty, referring to Bainbridge House on Nassau Street and the Updike Farmstead.

Development Associate Kate Johnson noted that the expansion would allow the HSP to bring items from its collection out of storage and into the public eye.

Curator of Collections Eileen Morales led a tour of the property, explaining that 1,200 acres were purchased by Benjamin Clarke in 1696. The land was eventually subdivided, with George Furman Updike, Sr. acquiring 190 acres of farmland in 1892.

The farmhouse dates back to the 1820s, though it is possible that it was built in the 1790s, with interior architectural details showing off a Greek revival or Federalist style, Ms. Morales explained. When the Updike family sold the land in 1969 to the Institute for Advanced Study, they retained six acres, which were later purchased by the Historical Society.

Much of the house will be renovated for meeting space and to showcase rotating exhibits, the photographs and documents from the Updike family, and artwork. Ms. Morales said that the programs hosted on the property would be interdisciplinary in nature, and would serve kindergarteners through high school students, as well as adults.

By analyzing core samples, it was ascertained that the barn on the property was built in 1892, according to Ms. Morales. Once restored, the structure will also house exhibitions and programs.

Farewell Mills Gatsch Architects, LLC; Precision Building and Construction, LLC; and Consulting Engineer Van Note-Harvey Associates, LLC are collaborating on the improvements to the site, which are scheduled to be complete by 2013.

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