Monument Lighting Closer to Goal Thanks to Special Purpose Grant

Matthew Hersh

Prospects of having the darkened monolith that is the Princeton Battle Monument at Borough Hall permanently lit brightened significantly last week with news that a state grant will cover a significant portion of the cost.

A Special Purpose grant sought by Asm. Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton Borough), will give $50,000 to the Princeton Parks Alliance for the monument lighting effort, which includes a goal of $125,000.

The effort initiated by the late Joseph O'Neill is now being carried out by the Alliance in honor of the late Borough mayor, who died of complications from leukemia in October of last year. After the $50,000 grant, in addition to a $25,000 donation from Princeton University and $5,000 in private donations, the initiative moved considerably beyond the halfway point, apparently moving the project forward faster than expected.

Last year, Mr. O'Neill had begun conversations with Jefferson Road resident Charles Stone, a partner with the architectural lighting firm Fisher Marantz Stone, who agreed to work on the monument's lighting.

In October the monument was temporarily illuminated as a preview of how it would appear when lit. In addition to visual aesthetics, a lit monument could provide a "drawing effect" for the western end of town, said Andrew Koontz, president of the Alliance, adding that the grant is "a tremendous step forward.

"We're very happy that the project is on track and I think we can look forward to actually seeing it accomplished," he said, adding that a concurrent cleaning project, which is being handled by the state, should be complete by the end of the year. The goal, Mr. Koontz said, is for the lighting effort to be completed at the same time.

The state grant awarded to the Alliance allows the group to move forward into the design phase, which will be followed by the pursuit of corporate funding. Since negotiations are still underway, Mr. Koontz would not elaborate on which corporations were being solicited.

The Alliance will host a fund-raiser April 29 at Palmer House from 5 to 8 p.m., offering a history of the Battle of Princeton and of the monument itself. Mr. O'Neill's wife, Anne, has agreed to host that event, with proceeds going to the monument fund.

This is the second attempt to shed light on the monument. the first having come 13 years ago, but at the time, the finances of the projects delayed the overall effort.

The progress of the project this time around serves as a fitting tribute to Mr. O'Neill, who identified the monument lighting as one of his goals as mayor. "I can't think of a better legacy to Joe O'Neill," said Mr. Gusciora.

In addition to contributing to the monument lighting effort, the Alliance has set its sights on improving Harrison Street Park and Pine Street Park. Mr. Koontz also indicated that Quarry Park, lodged between Spruce Circle and Spruce Street, would also be examined by the group.

The Thomas Hastings-designed Battle Monument was completed in 1922 and unveiled by President Warren G. Harding.

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