To the Editor:
With all the furor being created by the Princeton Battlefield Society about “preserving” for posterity a 22-acre parcel of land contiguous to the existing acreage of the Princeton Battlefield Park, you have to wonder where the Society’s members have been all these years while the Park’s infrastructure has been steadily decaying before their eyes. Have they added any additional land to the Park’s boundaries, as has the Institute (32 acres)? Have they provided any historical markers to better explain the progress of the actual battle? Have they helped maintain the existing infrastuctures in the Park itself?
As an example of constructive involvement, I can refer them back to the year 1957 when the Park’s Portico/Colonnade was about to be dismantled from the nearby Mercer Manor, a private home nearby, on Institute land. At the time, my father, Sherley W. Morgan, was dean of Princeton’s School of Architecture and president of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Because he felt the Battlefield lacked a focal point to direct visitors to the Unknown Soldiers’ graves which lie on the Park’s northwestern boundary, and because the portico was designed by Thomas Walters, the first president of the A.I.A., he set about raising sufficient funds to move the columns to their present location. In this effort he was greatly helped by congressman Frank Thompson, Governor Robert Meyner and the architect members of NJ’s Chapter of A.I.A., and by the Institute.
I think everyone today will agree that his goal has been achieved and the portico is what people remember when they recall a visit to the Battlefield. Unfortunately, both the portico and the grave area behind it, are in urgent need of cleaning, repair, and consistent maintenance.
Instead of hiring expensive “experts” to worry about how many musket balls may/may not be found under the land which the Institute owns and has every legal right to build on, or wasting everyone’s time in endless public meetings, I believe the Battlefield Society’s efforts would be more productive if they hired the appropriate experts to take care of what we already have in place for the public’s edification and enjoyment.
To the Editor:
I am a retired professor at the Institute for Advanced Study. I have enjoyed the beauty of our Battlefield Park and the memory of its history for more than 50 years. To serve as a fitting memorial of the battle, the Battlefield Park does not need to include the whole area over which fighting took place. Fighting extended over a wide area and into the center of Princeton, including the Institute buildings. Nobody suggests that the town or the Institute should be demolished in order to include the whole area of the fighting within the park. So I find it strange that the building of 11 houses for Institute faculty on Institute land should be opposed, just because this little piece of Institute land was included in the area of the fighting. The building of these houses will do no damage to the beauty and solemnity of the Battlefield Park. They will be as harmless and as respectful to our history as the existing Institute buildings.
Institute for Advanced Study
To the Editor:
The Institute for Advanced Study is seeking approval to build faculty housing on its campus. I am writing to express my strong support for the project.
As a faculty member who lives on campus and a former member who spent his postdoctoral years at the IAS I can attest to the importance of the residential nature of IAS. Living on campus greatly facilitates my work, substantially increasing my interactions with IAS members and faculty. This residential nature makes the IAS unique and benefits members and faculty alike.
I believe that through the years the Institute has been a model citizen of this community. As a current neighbor of the Institute I deeply value the Institute’s commitment to preserving open spaces that include the wonderful “Institute woods,” nearly 600 acres of woodlands available to public use, and a substantial fraction of the Battlefield Park. The proposed project will add 13 acres of new land that will be permanently preserved as open space next to the Park.
During the last meeting of the Township’s planning board, Prof. Mark Peterson, a specialist in the American Revolution and early American History at the University of California at Berkeley, gave a very interesting presentation about how different localities preserve their historical heritage. Prof. Peterson helped towns in the Boston area develop plans to better preserve their historical sites and enhance the experience of visitors. I moved to Princeton from the Boston area, so I am very familiar with the sites he described, having enjoyed them on multiple occasions. As I heard him speak, I could not help but think that the current discussion surrounding the Institute’s project presents a perfect opportunity to improve the experiences of visitors to the Battlefield Park and their connection to this area’s past. I was glad to learn that the Institute has stated that it was ready to be a partner in trying to enhance the experience of visitors to the Battlefield
Park, for example by improving the interpretive materials provided in the site.
The Institute is by now also an important part of Princeton’s history. It has housed as faculty and members a large number of Nobel-prize winners, Field medalists, and the intellectual leaders of many fields of study. In my own area, astrophysics, the contributions of scientists who spent time at the IAS can be found almost everywhere and have shaped our current understanding of such diverse topics as cosmology and celestial mechanics.
I am convinced that this project will not only benefit the IAS community but also the Princeton community at large. It will help maintain one of its vibrant academic institutions; it will add permanently preserved open land and can create the opportunity to improve the way the area’s residents can interact with its history.
To the Editor:
The Battle of Princeton is surely a remarkable moment in the history of Princeton as well as the United States. In January of 1777 Patriots battled for American Independence and to protect the rights of future generations.
It is important to commemorate and memorialize the Battle of Princeton, and that has been done with the Battlefield Park. The Institute for Advanced Study, another great historical institution in Princeton, has been a vital partner and supporter of the Battlefield Park. In fact, the Battlefield would not even exist in it’s current state, without the generosity of the Institute. The Institute donated the Portico that stands in Battlefield Park and commemorates the common grave of American and British soldiers. In 1973, the Institute conveyed 32 acres of land to the State which more than doubled the size of Battlefield Park. This conveyance was completed with the express understanding that the Institute could and would build housing on some of the remaining land. The Institute for Advanced Study has also preserved all of the land surrounding the Battlefield, and has made it accessible to the public.
The Institute for Advanced Study owns the tract of land on which they are proposing to build faculty housing. They have met every requirement of the planning board and the historical preservationists that would allow them to build the site plan currently proposed. In fact, they have gone above and beyond what was asked and have made sure the project has minimal impact on the Battlefield Park.
To suggest that the Institute should be prohibited from using their property, simply because it was a site upon which some of the battle took place, is exactly the type of oppression the Patriots were trying to eliminate. We are a country that values the rights bestowed upon us by law. Property rights are certainly one of the oldest and most treasured rights. Those trying so desperately to restrict those rights, by waging a battle against the Institute, should consider whether they value their own property rights. Surely the Patriots did not expect future generations to use the battle as a means of restricting the rights they were fighting for.
To the Editor:
I write in strong support of the Institute’s proposal for more faculty living on its campus, maintaining its walkable community. It would provide landscape screening along its border with the Battlefield Park; and build a memorial pathway as conceived by distinguished historians James McPherson and David Hackett Fischer. Altogether, the Institute’s proposal commemorates our historic past, and sustains our living community.
Dean Emeritus, Princeton University
School of Architecture
To the Editor:
It is vitally important that any new construction at the Institute for Advanced Study not detract from the dignity of the Battlefield Park. The faculty and friends of the Institute (of whom I am one) understand the importance of honoring our history. The proposed new faculty housing at IAS meets this test. The proposed housing consists of a small cluster of single family homes and townhouses located over two hundred feet from the edge of the park. A row of evergreens will stand between the housing and the park. The housing will barely be visible from the park, much less intrusive.
The need to preserve the dignity of the park should not be used as a reason to block all development in this part of Princeton.
Lewis Maltby, President
National Workrights Institute
Wall Street, Princeton
To the Editor:
Based on decades of experience we have long believed that controversies such as the current one involving the Institute’s proposal to build faculty housing near the Battlefield can be resolved in such a way that everyone comes out ahead, especially where people of good will are involved, as is the case here.
If you stand in the middle of the present Battlefield site and look up toward the land in question, what do you see? Well, what you don’t see is the Institute’s land. What you do see is a rather unattractive angled slash of tall trees impeding the overall perspective of the Battlefield site.
Now let’s look ahead around two years and what will you see? First, you will see another row of trees but these, replacing the ones currently there, will be set back some 200 feet and will screen the new housing. What you will also see is another 13 acres of unimpeded land which will greatly open up the visual experience. This land
will have been donated in perpetuity to the Battlefield by the Institute.
We had the privilege of living virtually across the street from the Institute for 21 years and found them to be outstanding neighbors and citizens. It is our great pleasure to strongly endorse their proposal, an outcome where everyone wins, the Battlefield, the Institute and the community.
Harriet and Jay Vawter