December 14, 2016

Civil War Trust and IAS Reach Accord

Institute for Advanced Study

A 21st-century battle of Princeton, which has raged on at least since 2003 when the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) first announced its plans to build faculty housing on land adjacent to the Princeton Battlefield State Park, seems to be finally drawing to a close, with Monday’s announcement of an agreement between the IAS and the Civil War Trust (CWT), through its Campaign 1776 initiative to protect Revolutionary War battlefields. 

The Institute has agreed to sell 14.85 acres of land to the Trust for $4 million. That land will eventually be transferred to the State of New Jersey for incorporation into the existing Battlefield Park. IAS will condense and reconfigure its faculty housing project, with eight townhouses replacing seven single family home lots, for a total of 16 residences, all located east of Godel Lane on Maxwell’s Field.

The Civil War Trust purchase includes approximately 2/3 of Maxwell’s Field, along with an additional 1.12 acre parcel north of the property that has been identified as part of the battlefield. The new Institute building plan includes no development within the Princeton Battlefield National Historic Landmark boundary, which was designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1961.

The new plan requires review and a vote by the Princeton Planning Board and the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission, which most recently reviewed and approved the original Institute housing proposal about two years ago.

The official transfer of property to the Trust is scheduled for the end of June 2017, but the agreement will not go into effect until all necessary project approvals have been received.

In a joint statement, Robbert Dijkgraaf, IAS director, and James Lighthizer, CWT president, said, “We are delighted to reach this agreement, which both meets the needs of the Institute and ensures the preservation of this site through an enlarged and revitalized Princeton Battlefield State Park.”

The Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS), which has fought against the IAS project over the years with court injunctions, law suits under the Clean Water Act,
public hearings, and historical studies joined the Trust and the Institute in praising the agreement. “This landmark compromise brings to fruition a long-standing goal of the Society to preserve and interpret the site of George Washington’s famous counterattack at Princeton,” a PBS statement read.

“In our view,” the statement continued, “this agreement is a ‘win-win’ solution in which all stakeholders benefit: the Institute achieves its goal to build faculty housing on a more modest scale; preservationists get to protect one of the most historic battlefield properties in the nation, and the Princeton region gets an enhanced historic destination that will attract visitors from around the globe. We also hope this agreement will usher in a new era of cooperation between the Institute and the Society to transform the state park into the national treasure it ought to be.”

The PBS has agreed to suspend pending litigation against the Institute now and to dismiss all legal challenges after the anticipated June closing on the property.

PBS secretary and spokesperson Roger Williams further expressed his excitement about future prospects for the enlarged Battlefield. “I’m pleased with the idea of being able to work with the Trust and the Institute to help achieve our goals. This is a win for national historic preservation. I’m thrilled.”

Mr. Lighthizer, calling attention to General Washington’s counterattack that helped to defeat the British forces at the January 2,1777 Battle of Princeton, stated, “this landmark agreement will enable us to preserve one of the defining moments in American history. We are pleased by this opportunity to work with the Institute for Advanced Study to save an important part of our Revolutionary War heritage.”

Voicing his individual acclaim for the long-awaited resolution, Mr. Dijkgraaf noted, “As part of our original faculty housing plan, the Institute expressed a commitment to working with stakeholders in the preservation and commemoration of the Battle of Princeton and its role in the American Revolution. We are confident that this new plan and partnership will enhance the experience of the Park for all who visit.”