Bainbridge House, the Nassau Street home of the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) since 1967, will be vacated by the organization by the end of next year. The HSP made the official announcement at its annual meeting last week.
The Society will move all of its operations to Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, purchased from the estate of Stanley Updike a decade ago. The future plans for Bainbridge House, which is owned by Princeton University, have yet to be determined. In the meantime, programming will continue at both locations.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Erin Dougherty, the HSP’s executive director. “Since we purchased the farm back in 2004, we have spent time renovating, putting up exhibitions, and doing programming. We’re now ready to make that leap, which will happen in two years.”
An official at Princeton University, to which the HSP has paid rent of one dollar a year, said last week that while no decision has been made on what to do with Bainbridge House, the exterior will be preserved because the property is part of the Historic Princeton Downtown District. “I think we learned about it just a few weeks ago, so we don’t have a plan yet,” said University Vice President Bob Durkee. “From the outside, it will continue to look like it does now. We’ll have to figure out what kind of renovations will be done on the inside depending on what we use it for. They said they expect to be out by the end of 2015, so we have time to think about it.”
According to the HSP website, Bainbridge House was built in 1766 by Job Stockton, a prosperous tanner and cousin of Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence. The building is considered one of the finest surviving examples of Georgian architecture in the area. It was the birthplace of William Bainbridge, a hero of the War of 1812.
In 1783, the house provided accommodations for the Continental Congress. It has also served over the years as a boarding house for University students and was the home of Princeton Public Library. The exterior was restored by the HSP in 1969 to its original 18th century appearance. Nearly 70 percent of the original interior woodwork remains, as does most of the original structure. The building was completely renovated from 1991 to 1992 to make it safe, secure, and accessible.
Bainbridge House has served as an information center for the Society’s programs, as well as an exhibition space and library housing historical information and photographic archives. All of these functions will be moved to Updike Farmstead.
The six-acre Updike Farmstead includes a late 18th century/early 19th century farmhouse, a large barn built in 1892, wagon shed, corn crib, three-bay garage, garden sheds, and chicken coops. The site is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places and lies within the Princeton Battlefield/Stony Brook Settlement Historic District. It is along the route followed by Continental troops on their way to engage British soldiers at the battlefield. Brother and sister Stanley and Sarah Updike lived on six acres of the property until their deaths in 2002.
“Bainbridge House was our first permanent home,” said Ms. Dougherty. “We have taken care of it. This was a big decision for us, and now we’re on our way. We love the farm and the whole flexibility of the site, its beauty, and the history built in. It’s just second to none.”