December 4, 2013


Friday’s tree-lighting spectacular launched the holiday season on Palmer Square with some mechanical help from Santa Claus. The Square’s 65-foot Norwegian spruce wears a raiment made from 32,000 lights. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)


November 27, 2013
A SPIRIT OF GIVING: Volunteers from the Jewish Center of Princeton recently helped donate food to the needy as part of the “Chanukah Give-Back,” inspired by the confluence of Chanukah and Thanksgiving. Shown here are Lesley Schwartzman, left, and Eliza Rosenthale.

A SPIRIT OF GIVING: Volunteers from the Jewish Center of Princeton recently helped donate food to the needy as part of the “Chanukah Give-Back,” inspired by the confluence of Chanukah and Thanksgiving. Shown here are Lesley Schwartzman, left, and Eliza Rosenthale.

In a rare quirk of the calendar, two major holidays are colliding this year. Chanukah, the eight-day Festival of Lights that usually falls later in the season, reaches its second night on Thanksgiving. This strange overlapping hasn’t happened since 1888, and won’t occur again until the year 79,811, experts say.

“Thanksgivvukah,” as some are calling it, presents certain challenges. But it also provides some rare opportunities. Focused on being thankful, the holidays actually share a similar message.

At the Jewish Center of Princeton, a “Chanukah Give-Back” series of community service events is in full swing. For the past several weeks, members of the congregation have been helping out at Habitat for Humanity, donating blood, delivering food to disadvantaged families, and welcoming artists from the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. Today, they are serving meals at Princeton United Methodist Church’s Cornerstone Community Kitchen.

“People are responding to the challenge,” says Neil Wise, the Jewish Center’s Director of Programming. “It reminds them of the message of Chanukah, and of what being a Jew is all about — tikkun olam, which is repairing the world, and tzedakah, which is charity.”

Last year, the congregation was entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for lighting the most menorahs at one time, in one place. “We had 834 people lighting menorahs at Princeton Airport, and more than 900 people attended,” Mr. Wise says. “After a program like that, the only thing you can do is run in the opposite direction. My goal for this year was to completely reinvent. Having Thanksgiving on top of Chanukah gave us the perfect opportunity for the biggest mash-up of all time.”

For Princeton resident Rabbi Justus Baird, Dean of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, the rare confluence of holidays provides a reaffirmation of what Chanukah is about. “Having it early in the calendar is a reminder that Chanukah is really it’s own holiday,” he says. “Jews in America are so conditioned to associate it with Christmas, but really, it has it’s own message. This is a chance to associate with a different holiday and let that message come through.”

Mr. Baird says his rabbi friends are divided about the situation. “Some are really excited about the chance to tell our Jewish story in a new way,” he says. “Some are confused about what the hubbub is about. For me, I’m excited about it, because I’m so used to defending Chanukah against Christmas. This has been a needed reminder about the original meaning of the holiday.”

Adding the traditional Chanukah latkes or other themed dishes to the Thanksgiving menu is one way to acknowledge both holidays. Mr. Baird knows of people who have, with their children, created Thanksgiving-themed Hanukiahs (a nine-branched menorah) in the shape of a turkey.

“There is a great diversity of practice in American Judaism,” he says, “from Jews who will celebrate this confluence in a very excited way, to Jews who might think it doesn’t matter and isn’t a big deal. As for me, I’ll be expressing my thanks for living in a country that is so committed to religious freedom, which is what this is all about. The story of Chanukah is about how a small group of Jews kept their traditions alive in the Greek majority culture. Jews are less than two percent of the American population, and it is a struggle for us to keep our traditions alive. This holiday reminds us of the importance of doing so, even though we celebrate how integrated we are with American culture.”


The Alchemist & Barrister (A&B) is holding a hunger-fighting fundraiser to benefit The Mercer Street Friends Food Bank. Patrons can contribute to the effort to fight hunger in Mercer County by donating canned goods, and by buying paper turkeys containing an anti-hunger message to be posted throughout the bar. Paper turkeys are available for a donation of $2 for one or $5 for three.

New boxes are now up on the patio next to the reception desk where patrons can drop off canned goods, including items that will help put a turkey dinner on the tables of many Mercer County families. Patrons are asked to contribute cranberry sauce, packages of stuffing and mashed potatoes, broth, canned fruits and vegetables, and gravy mix.

The A&B’s general manager, Amanda Armenante is organizing the campaign. “This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month, and we hope to help raise awareness of the problems of hunger, in our own community, not just during the holidays, but year round,” she said.

The A&B’s previous fundraisers have included the annual Longbeard Contest and St. Patrick’s Day celebration that raises funds for a selected local charity. “We felt that by focusing on a single charity throughout the year, we could do more to raise money and awareness,” says executive chef and owner Arthur Kukoda. Plans are underway for the months ahead, marking Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and some additions to the A&B’s Celtic Celebration on March 17, 2014.

The Food Bank supplies over 2.5 million pounds of food each year to more than 60 organizations in Mercer County including the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK), Homefront, Crisis Ministry, and The Rescue Mission of Trenton, that feed over 25,000 people at risk for hunger. The Food Bank is part of Mercer Street Friends, a Quaker-affiliated, nonsectarian human care organization, providing compassionate and practical solutions to the problems of poverty and health.

Over 160 Princeton residents who were charged twice for their property taxes this month had to wait several days for a refund. The residents who had paid online were shocked to find a second deduction for the same amount from their bank accounts.

One resident who called Town Topics spoke of the “the incompetence of the Princeton tax collection department,” adding that after being charged on November 13 and then again on November 14, she had called to ask for a refund. “It was clear to me that the staff didn’t know how to do this,” said the caller who wished to remain anonymous.

The incident provoked a slew of calls to the tax office by residents.

According to Princeton’s assistant administrator and director of finance Kathryn Monzo, the double billing happened when an electronic file was submitted to the Bank of Princeton twice in error.

“We have been taking online payments for eight years and this has never happened before,” said Ms. Monzo.

Asked what could be done to prevent such an occurrence from happening again or to make sure that any such issue be handled more quickly, Ms. Monzo said: “We have worked with our bank to reject any duplicate files. For example if the total deposit amount is identical, it will be rejected. This would have red-flagged our mistake. We also have worked with the bank to apply a quicker “fix” if something like this were to ever happen again.”

“Internally we are reviewing our processes and inserting additional checks and balances,” she added.

In response to the possible costs to property owners incurred by the error, such as bank overdraft fees, Ms. Monzo said: “Any fees or charges that taxpayers experience resulting from this mistake will be reimbursed.” Any taxpayers affected in this way should contact the department by telephone: (609) 924-1058.

In all, 163 residents were affected. As of Wednesday, November 20, all had received refunds.

One possible side-effect of the incident is that it may take longer to recover from: loss of confidence in online payments.

The resident who called Town Topics later emailed to say that her family would not be paying online in future as they were unhappy giving the municipality direct access to their bank account. “My family will go back to good old fashioned snail mail to send our property taxes to Princeton,” she wrote.

Such a response is understandable, said Ms. Monzo, when told of the resident’s concerns. She reiterated however that the mistake was the first such in the eight years that the municipality has been taking payments online.

“We are very sorry about the error,” added Mayor Liz Lempert. “We will be reimbursing the affected residents for any charges they received as a result.” she said.“I hope it doesn’t discourage residents from choosing the convenience of paying online, but paying by mail or in person remain options,” she said.


Princeton Community Housing (PCH) has just released its annual report for the year 2012. While the good news is that the organization and its goals have the support of the Princeton community, the need for more affordable accommodation, particularly in the downtown area, continues to grow.

The report shows an increasing demand for affordable housing as well as longer waiting times for would-be tenants. Currently there are 800 households on the PCH waiting list. “Most of these people have some connection to Princeton, said PCH Executive Director Ed Truscelli, “either they work in the town or they have family living here.”

Besides a call to action by Mr. Truscelli, the report describes the Princeton-based nonprofit’s collaboration with community partners to purchase and renovate homes, including the former Borough of Princeton, which resulted in two new affordable rentals on Shirley Court in the Witherspoon Street neighborhood.

“The generous community support we received in 2012 was instrumental in helping us to increase the number of rental opportunities in town,” said Mr. Truscelli. “We can’t do this alone and we are looking for ways to develop more opportunities in the downtown area. More affordable homes closer to the center of town would allow people to walk to places like the University, the library and shops,” he said.

PCH has been providing, managing and advocating for affordable housing in Princeton for 46 years. An architect who has worked in the field for most of his career, Mr. Truscelli has been PCH’s executive director since July 2012. The Hopewell Valley resident finds his architectural and design skills invaluable in his current role.

In addition to raising money for homes such as those on Shirley Court, the organization acts as an administrative agent for organizations such as Princeton University, making sure that tenants meet government requirements as specified by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).

COAH was created by the state in response to the Fair Housing Act of 1985 and is responsible for ensuring that all of the state’s municipalities provide a fair share of low and moderate income housing. Tenants qualify on the basis of income.

PCH was founded in 1967, long before the creation of COAH, by volunteers and local sponsoring organizations wishing to ensure a balance of housing opportunities essential to a thriving and economically diverse Princeton. The organization owns and manages 467 affordable rental homes.

This month, PCH is moving its offices from 245 Nassau Street to the former Borough Town Hall, now known as Monument Hall, where it will join a nexus of organizations serving the municipality, such as the departments of affordable housing, health and human services, TV 30, and Corner House. “We’ll be up and running there by mid-December and completely settled in by the start of the new year,” said Mr. Truscelli.

As a response to the increase in the number of applications for affordable units and longer waiting times for applicants, the PCH report calls for “continued community action,” “more affordable units,” and “additional services.”

The report also details programs and services offered to residents in two senior affordable communities on Elm Road, Elm Court and Harriet Bryan House, as well as in Princeton Community Village, off Bunn Drive, and in Griggs Farm, off Cherry Valley Road.

For more information on affordable housing in Princeton, including locations, eligibility criteria, application forms and the 2012 Annual Report, visit:



Braving a chilly evening, a throng of students, alumni, and community members turned out to enjoy the bonfire that lit up Cannon Green last Sunday to honor the Princeton University football team’s wins over Harvard and Yale this fall. It marked the second year in a row that Princeton has held the bonfire, a longtime campus tradition emblematic of a “Big Three” football title. For details on the football team’s finale against Dartmouth as it wrapped up its Ivy League championship campaign, see page 31. (Photo by Charles Plohn)


November 20, 2013
THE SIGN AND THE OWNER: In the unlikely event that Bobbie Fishman should ever decide to turn her Hopewell book shop into a pub, she says she would paint out one letter, making it The Bear and the Book. “The sign was painted by my neighbor, Jody Olcott, whose store, Ebb, shares my building. It was framed by Tom and Terence Johnson, whose metal works are also in town. I feel very grateful to all of them. I love that sign.”

THE SIGN AND THE OWNER: In the unlikely event that Bobbie Fishman should ever decide to turn her Hopewell book shop into a pub, she says she would paint out one letter, making it The Bear and the Book. “The sign was painted by my neighbor, Jody Olcott, whose store, Ebb, shares my building. It was framed by Tom and Terence Johnson, whose metal works are also in town. I feel very grateful to all of them. I love that sign.”

The first time I drove through Hopewell looking for the sign of The Bear and the Books, I couldn’t get a clear view because of the bough of the Calley pear tree leaning overhead. An artist sketching Bobbie Fishman’s newly opened bookshop could easily reposition the bough or even do away with it, but if this hypothetical artist had had a happy bookish childhood he or she would want the scene to remain just so, everything cohering, the tree like a protective presence for the sign and shop, like a picture in — what else but a storybook.

After all, bookshops are about stories, especially ones for children, and special shops have special stories. In this case, the tale can be traced back to a Princeton retail legend with the name of a beloved literary character impersonated for a time by Logan Fox. As coincidence would have it, Mr. Micawber’s eldest son, who went by the name of Roland Roberge, once ran a used bookstore on the very street occupied by the one just opened by the proud Micawber’s youngest daughter, which only goes to show that “something will turn up” if you’re patient enough to keep the faith.

Parents and kids who got to know Bobbie Fishman when she oversaw the children’s section at Micawber Books from 1999 until it closed in 2007 and went on to do the same at Labyrinth until 2012 will find another old friend seated in a little red-cushioned chair, this being the Bear that generations of visiting children dragged around and cuddled and covered with sloppy kisses and put to bed in a basket, according to Bobbie, who spent the better part of a summer cleaning and grooming the star of the store. Like all good bears, it’s there to be loved and if that means more and more hugs and kisses from a brave new world of children, so be it.

Born and raised in Hightstown, Bobbie spent much of her childhood in downtown Princeton, where her earliest encounter with someone in the business was with a Miss Hoadley, the children’s book person at the University Store. “She was soft-spoken, wore her white hair in a bun, and she knew what she was doing; the books were in her blood. She sent me home with wonderful things and I thought ‘I’d like to be this lady when I grow up.’”

On the subject of other inspirational people in the field, Bobbie mentions Princeton Public Library children’s librarian Dudley Carlson, to whom she bears a certain resemblance, if only by projecting the eager, genial manner of someone who understands “that children are better listeners than adults.” This is also a parent whose son’s ninth birthday wish was “to be read to all day every day,”

The most important influence in Bobbie’s evolution from Sarah Lawrence English major, nursery school teacher (Crossroads), and freelance copy editor to bookstore owner was Micawber’s Logan Fox. “I was just a customer at first, always buying children’s books, when my kids were growing up. It became a friendship of sorts. Logan asked me to work with him when Micawber moved into the bigger space. I began by working a few hours a day a couple of times a week. Once I started working full time I couldn’t leave. It was like being let out of a box. At first I was terrified of the part of the job I came to love the most — dealing with the public. I started talking and never stopped, my conversation with the world, which usually began, ‘What’s your child reading?’ “

BookRev3When she began ordering books for Micawber, her boss told her, “Don’t buy it unless you think you can’t live without it.” It wasn’t long before the new employee had proven herself to be the all but infallible commander of her domain. As Logan admits, “She was extraordinary. She had an eye for selecting just the right book. Her commitment and honesty were priceless. When she got behind something, people bought it, people trusted her. You’d come in and say, ‘I need four gifts,’ and mention the ages of the children, and she’d know exactly what to recommend. She’d even keep lists for specific customers of what each kid had been given, so when the parents or grandparents came back next Christmas or birthday, she was ready, she’d kept track.”

Needless to say, this is a practice that will be continued at The Bear and the Books.

Recalling her days in Princeton, Bobbie says, “I loved being part of Nassau Street, part of this organism, learning about how a town works, what people need.” She’s already had lots of support in Hopewell, from the elementary school, in particular, for which she’s very grateful.

Asked about hosting readings like the one at Labyrinth several years ago by her Hopewell neighbor, poet C.K. Williams, she admits being hesitant to host any at the Bear and the Books. “I had a colleague introduce him. I’m very shy. When Rebecca Stead gave a reading at Labyrinth — she’d won the Newberry Award that year — I had to introduce her and I was so moved by what I wanted to say about her I was in tears, and I thought, ‘I can’t do this any more.’”

The mixture of devotion and expertise bodes well for the Bear and the Books, as does a look around the beautifully arranged store. “I read all the picture books before I put them out,” says Bobbie. “I know or have read most of the others, including much of the Young Adult stock. The ones I don’t put out are the ones that merchandise childhood by people who are laboring to write what they think will sell in the market. Finding books that are ‘real’ isn’t easy.”

About working for Logan Fox, Bobbie says, “I’ve worked in many places, and getting a large group of employees to be comfortable, efficient, and happy to come to work is an enormous achievement. We were all very happy to be there.”

Bobbie’s husband, Tom Van Essen, a researcher at ETS, is the author of a highly regarded new novel, The Center of the World (Other Press), which was the second book listed on Kirkus’s list of most overlooked books of the year; it was also recently announced on the Kirkus list of Best Fiction Books of 2013, as well as being one of 13 in the Kirkus list of best debut fiction. The couple have two children; the oldest, Sam, is in law school at St. John’s; their daughter Lucy is studying classics at Oxford. Judging from Sam’s ninth birthday wish, these two children were treated to a lot of reading out loud, even if not “all day every day.”

The Bear and the Books at 45 West Broad Street in Hopewell is open Wednesday through Sunday. The phone number is (609) 466-1166 or visit


CRAFTERS MARKETPLACES: Skillman artist Ellie Wyeth’s hand-painted floor cloths, like the one shown here, will be among a variety of pottery, glass, paintings, sculptures, and jewelry for sale at the Annual Crafters’ Marketplace this weekend at the John Witherspoon Middle School. Ms. Wyeth’s work will also be on view next weekend in the Covered Bridge Artisans 19th Annual Holiday Studio Tour in Lambertville, Stockton and Sergeantsville, For more information, call (609) 497-2100, or visit: and

CRAFTERS MARKETPLACES: Skillman artist Ellie Wyeth’s hand-painted floor cloths, like the one shown here, will be among a variety of pottery, glass, paintings, sculptures, and jewelry for sale at the Annual Crafters’ Marketplace this weekend at the John Witherspoon Middle School. Ms. Wyeth’s work will also be on view next weekend in the Covered Bridge Artisans 19th Annual Holiday Studio Tour in Lambertville, Stockton and Sergeantsville, For more information, call (609) 497-2100, or visit: and

It’s hard to believe, but the YWCA’s annual Crafters’ Marketplace is now in its 40th year. This weekend on Saturday, November 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday, November 24, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., the John Witherspoon Middle School will be abuzz with creativity and shoppers bent on getting a jump on the upcoming holidays.

As usual, proceeds from the event will support the YWCA Princeton and its Bates Scholarship program, which enables those in the community who are economically disadvantaged to participate in a range of YWCA activities such as aquatics, arts, breast cancer resources, dance, early childhood education, after school programs, English as a second language, gymnastics, martial arts, newcomer and women’s networking groups, and summer camps.

Not only is the Crafters’ Marketplace a forum for buying and selling — it is also a juried show for upscale wearable art, pottery, glass, jewelry, and more — by skilled crafters whose reputations go well beyond the local.

Among the almost 100 artisans showing their work this year, is area resident Ellie Wyeth of Skillman. Ms. Wyeth has been making art for as long as she can remember, but this is only her second year participating in the Crafters’ Marketplace. “I’d known about it for years but until last year it conflicted with another event,” she said. “I loved taking part last year and did pretty well so I’m looking forward to going again. I’ve been in the Princeton area since 1981 and so I ran into lots of people I know.”

A distant relative of the famed Wyeths of Pennsylvania, the artist grew up surrounded by artistic relatives. Her mother taught art, her sister was a painter, as were several aunts and cousins. When her children were small, Ms. Wyeth’s creativity took a back seat to their needs. She worked around their school schedules. Now, she is able to devote herself to art full-time; including sales and commissions via her website (

Her first ambition was to be a cartoonist and she studied humorous cartooning. After taking her degree, she went to Italy for an art residency in Umbria, which led to a five-year stint teaching there.

At this weekend’s Crafters’ Marketplace Ms. Wyeth will have a selection of floor cloths and other items for sale, including placemats that she says are a fun way to include art in the home. Like the floor cloths, this is art made to be used. “Sometimes people are loathe to put floor cloths down to walk on but they are very robust and I think that they look better with age. This is a tradition that goes back to the 1700s when floor cloths would be put down, sometimes nailed down, to keep out drafts and to add some interest. I created my own way of making them on gessoed canvas with a rubber non-skid backing and six layers of polyurethane protection. They can be mopped, even scrubbed,” said Ms. Wyeth, whose floor cloths run from between $45 and $55 a square foot; placemats are about $12 each.

For a complete listing of participating artisans, their work and their websites, visit the Crafters’ Marketplace website.

The Crafters’ Marketplace is at the John Witherspoon Middle School, 217 Walnut Lane. Admission is:$8 (adults); $6 (seniors over 62, under age 16); free (under age 6).

For more information, call (609) 497-2100, or visit: and


Between the burgeoning deer population and a growing dominance of invasive plants, local forests are fighting to survive. But a project on two acres at Princeton’s Mountain Lakes Preserve, a prototype of sorts, aims to show how to return wooded areas to health.

“This problem isn’t unique to Mountain Lakes, but we decided we had to start somewhere,” says AeLin Compton, natural resource manager for Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS), who spearheaded the project along with Greg O’Neil, Princeton arborist. “It exists everywhere. It’s a very common issue. These plants are the number one enemy in trying to restore health to the forest. The other culprit is the overabundant deer population.”

Members of FOPOS were joined recently by volunteers from ZS Associates of Princeton in the planting of 300 native trees and shrubs in the acreage at Mountain Lakes Preserve. The planting follows up on efforts last August to install a deer fence, and clear the site of invasive plants such as multiflora rose, invasive honeysuckle, and photinia, The plants were replaced with spice bush, winterberry, black cherry, and other native species that have disappeared over the decades.

“The forest was completely dominated by the invasive plant species, which weren’t providing any benefit to our wildlife and ecosystem and were affecting the overall health of the forest,” Ms. Compton says. “Before we started, we identified 90 percent of the understory, or younger trees, shrubs, and anything under the trees, as exotic and harmful. The forest was in terrible shape, severely degraded.”

Work on the site has been supported by grants from Partners for Fish and Wildlife, a program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with additional funding from the municipality of Princeton and FOPOS. The native plants will help create a balanced ecosystem and provide a vital habitat for a diversity of birds and animals. In turn, the forest will be regenerated.

Ms. Compton blames the deterioration of the forests on several factors, most notably exotic plants brought to the area to help landscape homes and gardens. “There are many different ways they get in, but that’s the most common reason,” she said.

Now that the major planting has taken place, the challenge is to monitor the site. “We do follow-up eradications to make sure the invasive plants don’t take over again,” Ms. Compton says. “The restoration is well situated next to our offices at Mountain Lakes, so we’re committed to going back and making sure these changes stick.”

Volunteers interested in helping water and monitor the plants, even during the winter season, should contact Ms. Compton at


It is time again to set out and light the candles for Rockingham Historic Site’s Annual Candlelight Christmas Tours. The program is being offered Sunday, December 15 from 11 o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

The tours, for which advanced reservations are required, include information on 18th-century Christmas traditions and revolve around a special theme rather than the regular house tour — this year the theme is the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment had roots in the later 17th century, but flourished in the 18th, with major shifts in fields such as philosophy, communication, transportation, religion, science, education, government, and the arts. Our tour guests will learn about different aspects of this age as they pass from room to room, led and informed by the period-dress attired Live Historians Club of Montgomery Township High School.

In addition to the tours by candlelight, there will be period music provided by Practitioners of Musik in one of the rooms and 18th-century-style decorations arranged by the Stony Brook Garden Club. As ever, the Live Historian will also provide refreshments of cookies and warm cider in the Children’s Museum. The Rockingham Association will be present, greeting tour guests, minding candles, and staffing the museum store for light holiday shopping.

Advance tour reservations are required with a suggested donation of $5 and must be made by calling (609) 683-7132 through November 24 or (609) 683-7136 after November 24. Tours will be offered at least every half-hour with 3:30 being the last tour.

Rockingham is located on Laurel Avenue/Kingston-Rocky Hill Road (Route 603) between Route 518 in Rocky Hill and Route 27 in Kingston. For more information, call (609) 683-7132 or visit:

#29 (middle) is congratulated by players after scoring a td

Princeton University football player Jakobi Johnson, middle with football, jumps for joy with teammates after scoring a touchdown against Yale last Saturday. Princeton won the game 59-23 to earn a share of the Ivy League title and secure a second straight bonfire celebration emblematic of beating Yale and Harvard in the same season. For more details on the game, see page 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)


November 13, 2013
YO HO HO AND A BOTTLE OF RUM: Chances are this 19th century American ditty box contained a sailor’s sewing kit and other small items rather than a pirate’s booty, but you’ll never know. It may also have been made in New Jersey and it is on display in “The Age of Sail: A New Jersey Collection” at Morven Museum and Garden, opening with a reception Thursday evening. For more information, call (609) 924-8144 or visit: Courtesy of Morven Museum and Garden)

YO HO HO AND A BOTTLE OF RUM: Chances are this 19th century American ditty box contained a sailor’s sewing kit and other small items rather than a pirate’s booty, but you’ll never know. It may also have been made in New Jersey and it is on display in “The Age of Sail: A New Jersey Collection” at Morven Museum and Garden, opening with a reception Thursday evening. For more information, call (609) 924-8144 or visit: (Photo Courtesy of Morven Museum and Garden)

Morven Museum and Garden will hold an opening reception for its latest original exhibition The Age of Sail: A New Jersey Collection this Thursday, November 14, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The exhibition showcases maritime artifacts and art assembled by New Jersey collector Richard W. Updike. Mr. Updike is co-curator of the show with Morven’s Elizabeth (Beth) G. Allan. He began collecting in the late 1960s and his collection was brought to Morven’s attention by prominent Princeton book collector and dealer Joe Felcone at the time of the Morven exhibition, Portrait of Place: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints of New Jersey, 1761-1898, From the Collection of Joseph J. Felcone.

While that show featured prints, paintings, drawings, and ephemera, The Age of Sail is somewhat of a departure from the museum’s usual focus on paintings, said Ms. Allan Monday, while working to put the final touches of the exhibition in place.

“In this collection there are many three dimensional objects to display including scrimshaw pieces; one that I particularly enjoy is a pie scrimper that a sailor made either for use on board ship or to take back to someone on shore,” said Ms. Allan.

While The Age of Sail does have paintings and engravings by several artists, including views of New Jersey maritime history by George Essig (1838-1926), Frederick Schiller Cozzens (1846-1928), and Gerard Rutgers Hardenberg (1855-1915), there are also over 100 objects from the history of American shipbuilding, sail-making, naval warfare, shipwrecks, and rescue. Many items, such as sea chests and scrimshaw, reveal the daily life of American sailors on board ship.

The exhibition is the first time Mr. Updike’s collection, which Ms. Allan calls “unmatched,” is being presented to the public.

The Age of Sail: A New Jersey Collection opens November 15 at Morven Museum and Garden at 55 Stockton Street. Admission is $5 and $6. The opening reception is free. Hours are Wednesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 924-8144 or visit:


Victoria GebertReaders of this year’s holiday issue of Princeton Magazine will be stunned by the artwork that appears on its cover. They’ll be even more impressed when they find out that the recycled gown is the work of 16-year-old artist Victoria Gebert, a junior at Princeton High School (PHS).

Ms. Gebert won the magazine’s annual student art contest. She also placed first in fashion design at Princeton University’s Trash Artstravaganza and has been recognized by the the selection committee for the annual National YoungArts Foundation competition.

Out of over 10,000 talented young artists nationwide, Ms. Gebert has been selected as a 2014 Young-Arts winner, one of only 25 visual artists named as such. She will have the opportunity to participate in the Foundation’s finals week in January in Miami when her work will be considered in the final adjudication for a prize of between $1000 and $10,000.

For over 30 years, Young-Arts has been inspiring the country’s outstanding young artists and Ms. Gebert is looking forward to the trip, which she expects to be a “life changing experience.”

YoungArts Week is a chance to meet other talented and motivated artists, share creative energy, and learn from master teachers. “I feel so lucky to be recognized for work that I just love doing so much,” said Ms. Gebert, who has been painting, drawing, and sculpting since she was a student at Princeton Day School. By her freshman year at PHS she was already creating dozens of highly personalized, detailed paintings for her peers.

In addition to a permanent mural at PHS, she has designed and painted flyers, t-shirts, and fundraising posters. Some of her best work so far includes the beautiful dress chosen for the cover of Princeton magazine. With its exquisitely crafted bodice, it is hard to believe it is constructed entirely of trash. She has also created a sculpture of a gaping mouth from plastic eating utensils and nutrition labels. The young artist has said that she is inspired by the beauty in everyday things and finds her work most satisfying when it takes advantage of simple materials like tin cans and plastic bottles.

The Gebert family came to Princeton from Germany in 1996 when string theorist Reinhold Gebert was invited to the Institute for Advanced Study by Edward Witten. Victoria was born in Princeton hospital in 1997. She is the youngest of four children and has two sisters and a brother. “She has always been creative in the way she dresses and in the way she decorates her room,” said her mother Brig Gebert. “She is a great reader and I think that has contributed to her artistic development. Contrary to the idea most people have about artists as flamboyant, Victoria is quite introverted and is most content when working on a project. That’s her private time. She is very focused and very dedicated. I’ve seen her rip stuff apart if it doesn’t satisfy her. And it’s work that looks wonderful to me,” said Ms. Gebert.

Chances are, we will be hearing more about Ms. Gebert.


After two months of being closed for renovations and expansion, Trenton-Mercer Airport reopened last week and announced the addition of three more routes for Frontier Airlines, which has been operating out of the Ewing Township airport for the past several months. Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes presided at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on November 7.

Service to Nashville, Cleveland, and Indianapolis was added to the airline’s list of destinations, which already includes Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago-Midway, Columbus, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, and Tampa. Cleveland service begins February 13, Indianapolis starts April 29, and Nashville flights start April 30. Charlotte and Cincinnati flights are scheduled to begin in February.

“The enhancements we’ve made during the past couple of months — improved baggage service; a gate area featuring more seating, restrooms and refreshments; and additional parking with better traffic circulation — were necessary and will result in a more efficient and a more enjoyable traveling experience,” Hughes said. “Frankly, this terminal has undergone a complete transformation and now has the amenities that travelers desire.”

Mr. Hughes was joined at the ribbon-cutting by James Simpson, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation; Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann; and Daniel Shurz, Frontier senior vice president. Also in attendance were County Freeholders John Cimino, Andrew Koontz, Ann Cannon, Anthony Carabelli, and Pasquale “Pat” Colavita.

The renovated airport now has additional parking, but it is no longer free. It now costs $2 an hour or $8 a day to park at the airport. Cost of the parking renovations is approximately $3.5 million, which will ultimately be paid for through the parking fees, according to information from Mercer County.

Special deals are available on flights to the new destinations. Service to Nashville will be available Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while flights to Cleveland will be on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Service to Indianapolis will take place Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.

Mr. Shurz said Frontier will be offering 55 weekly flights from Trenton-Mercer Airport by the end of April. “We’re hoping to be back with more good news as people discover the wonderful convenience of this airport,” he said.

Frontier operates all flights on 138-seat Airbus 319 aircraft. Visit for information.

AHEAD OF HER TIME: Sarah Josepha Hale, who pushed to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, was an accomplished writer and editor. In this illustration from Mike Allegra’s book “Sarah Gives Thanks,” she works with the printer of Lady’s Book, the most widely read magazine in the country.

AHEAD OF HER TIME: Sarah Josepha Hale, who pushed to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, was an accomplished writer and editor. In this illustration from Mike Allegra’s book “Sarah Gives Thanks,” she works with the printer of Lady’s Book, the most widely read magazine in the country.

Mike Allegra is sitting cross-legged on the floor in the children’s section of Barnes & Noble in Princeton MarketFair. A group of youngsters and a few parents are wandering in after hearing an announcement over the public address system that a reading is about to begin.

“Who’s looking forward to Thanksgiving?”, Mr. Allegra asks enthusiastically, searching the faces assembling around him. The response is lukewarm — at first.

It only takes a few moments for Mr. Allegra, who is the editor of The Lawrenceville School’s alumni magazine The Lawrentian, to warm up his young audience. By the time he starts telling the story of the woman whose persistence convinced President Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday, the kids are rapt.

That woman is trailblazing 19th century writer and advocate Sarah Josepha Hale. She is the focus of Sarah Gives Thanks, the children’s book Mr. Allegra collaborated on with illustrator David Gardner. Ms. Hale was, in Mr. Allegra’s words, “the Oprah of her time.”

“What Sarah did in her lifetime is not what other women were doing at that time,” he said last week. “She became the editor, or editress, as she liked to say, of the most widely read magazine in the United States. She also promoted education for women, founded and supported charities, wrote and edited books, and raised five children as a single mother after her husband died young. She was incredible.”

Mr. Allegra discovered Ms. Hale’s story when the publisher Albert Whitman & Company asked him to write a children’s book with a Thanksgiving theme. After doing some research at The Library Company in Philadelphia, he realized he had a great story on his hands.

“Here was someone who was really important, but whose story was not widely known,” he said. “This is the woman we can thank for making Thanksgiving a national holiday, and not many people know that. And that’s only part of the story.”

As Mr. Allegra tells it, Ms. Hale was always interested in writing. But as a woman in early 19th century New Hampshire, she was expected to be a wife and mother and not much more. Her husband, a lawyer, was the only one to encourage her. When he died young, leaving her with five small children, she was devastated. She wore black for the rest of her life.

The book begins with the family around the Thanksgiving table, just after Mr. Hale’s funeral. While she gives thanks for the food on their table, she knows she has to think of a way to support the family. After unsuccessfully selling hats for a while, she turns to writing. Soon, Boston magazines are featuring her articles and poems. She publishes books, too, and becomes a household name.

“Each fall, Sarah wrote about Thanksgiving in her magazine,” the book reads. “She explained how it promoted family, friendship, gratitude, and religion. She even offered a delicious recipe for pumpkin pie.”

In early to mid-19th century America, Thanksgiving celebrations were relegated mostly to the New England states. But Ms. Hale’s work made the holiday more popular. In 1894, she began an annual tradition of making her case to the president. Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan ignored her requests. But Abraham Lincoln finally gave in after receiving Ms. Hale’s letter. On October 3, 1863, he issued a proclamation declaring a National Day of Thanksgiving the last Thursday of November.

Among the reviews for the books is one from the School Library Journal. “this well-researched, engaging read-aloud offers youngsters a glimpse into the lives of women and families in 19th-century America as well as to the history of how Thanksgiving became a national holiday …. Generous, full-spread watercolor illustrations add humor and colorful details.

“So we have Sarah to thank for Thanksgiving,” Mr. Allegra said. “She was a remarkable woman and it was fascinating to learn about her.”


November 12, 2013


This was the scene at the All Wars Monument as Mayor Liz Lempert expressed Princeton’s gratitude to veterans as well as men and women still serving. “I’m thinking about all veterans,” Spirit of Princeton Chairman Ray Wadsworth told Town Topics. “I’ve been to church this morning. I have been praying for the ones who are coming home. I am praying our government will take care of these men and women.” Master of Ceremonies Lee Wofford and keynote speaker Herb Hobler share their thoughts in this week’s Town Talk. (Photo by Charles R Plohn)


November 6, 2013
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD: Solemn vows having been exchanged and official documents signed and witnessed, newlyweds Bob McQueen (right) and Rob Martens share smiles and laughter with Mayor Liz Lempert Friday. The same-sex couple are among the first to be married in Princeton after Governor Christie dropped the state of New Jersey’s appeal against a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court decision extending gay couples the right to marriage.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD: Solemn vows having been exchanged and official documents signed and witnessed, newlyweds Bob McQueen (right) and Rob Martens share smiles and laughter with Mayor Liz Lempert Friday. The same-sex couple are among the first to be married in Princeton after Governor Christie dropped the state of New Jersey’s appeal against a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court decision extending gay couples the right to marriage. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

Last Friday started out with drizzling rain and overcast skies. But by five o’clock, the time set for Bob McQueen and Rob Martens marriage ceremony, the skies had cleared and the afternoon sun had set the fall leaves aglow.

Mr. McQueen is Princeton’s Chief Information Officer, in charge of the information technology department; he’s worked for the municipality since 1998. Mr. Martens is a professor of biology at Brookdale Community College.

The grooms wore coordinating shirts for a simple ceremony held in Mayor Liz Lempert’s office at Witherspoon Hall. Ms. Lempert conducted the proceedings. Several of Mr. McQueen’s colleagues attended and clapped as official documents were signed and witnessed by Kathy Monzo, the municipality’s assistant administrator and director of finance, and Curt Berry, an information technology specialist.

Once the paperwork had been dealt with, amid much laughter over the proper protocol, vows were exchanged. As Ms. Lempert read the familiar lines: “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health …,” the mood grew a little more subdued. Tears coursed down Mr. McQueen’s cheeks as he and his partner became “lawful wedded husbands” and exchanged rings. “From this day forward, to love and to cherish, this is my solemn vow.”

The couple met three years ago on September 13. “We’ve been looking forward to this day, ever since,” said Mr. Martens.

Although a civil union  was held August 3, Friday’s ceremony was important to both of them, said Mr. Martens, because of the “recognition at the Federal level.”

“This is definitely one of the best parts of my job,” said Ms. Lempert. “Today has been especially busy, this is my third wedding and the second same sex union. It is extra special when the couple being married has been together for some time.”

Ms. Lempert was the first in Mercer County to officiate at a same-sex marriage on Monday, October 21, when Maria Boes and Susan Levine were married shortly after the New Jersey Supreme Court announced Friday, October 18, that it had denied a stay on same-sex marriages, rejecting Gov. Chris Christie’s effort to appeal Judge Mary Jacobson’s decision to allow them. With that, gay marriage became legal in New Jersey, the 14th state to recognize it, and the first to do so in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Ms. Boes and Ms. Levine, who have been together for over 30 years, were the first couple in Princeton to apply for a marriage license under the new ruling and had raced to the registrar’s office as soon as they discovered that Princeton was accepting applications.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had been fighting the legalization of gay marriage in the courts for months. He vetoed a bill in the state legislature last year that would have allowed it. But on October 21, Mr. Christie withdrew his appeal, bringing an end to a decade-long legal battle. Now same-sex couples are eligible for the financial benefits of marriage that have long been the privilege of heterosexual couples, including tax, medical, and other legal benefits.

The law marks a new era for equality in the state of New Jersey.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office issued three announcements last week regarding investigations of incidents that took place in Princeton.

One announcement revealed that the man charged in the reckless driving incident resulting in the death of a local rabbi has been indicted. The office also indicated there will be no charges filed related to Councilwoman Jo Butler’s 911 call last month when no emergency existed. In a third incident, involving two parking meter enforcement officers who received food and other goods with downtown businesses in exchange for not issuing parking tickets, no charges are being filed.

Eric D. Maltz, 21, of Braeburn Drive, has been indicted on one count of first-degree manslaughter, one count of second-degree death by auto, and one count of fourth-degree assault by auto in the March death of retired Rabbi Diamond, who served as the director of Princeton University’s Center for Jewish Life for many years. A Mercer County grand jury returned the indictment October 30, according to Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini, Jr. If convicted of the first degree offense, Mr. Maltz could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in state prison. He is currently free on $100,000 bail.

It was on the morning of March 28 that Mr. Maltz was driving his 2003 BMW south on Riverside Drive at a speed between 60 and 80 miles per hour in the 25-per-hour zone. He struck an unoccupied, parked Toyota Camry, which then traveled 500 feet and struck a parked Toyota Prius. Rabbi Diamond, 74, was struck and killed as he was preparing to enter the Prius. Robert Freedman, 63, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of the Prius, was seriously injured.

Mr. Maltz, who had struggled with mood swings and depression and had been previously treated at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, was driving with a propane tank in his vehicle, according to witnesses at the scene. The presence of the tank led to questions about whether he intended to harm himself by crashing his car.

911 Call

The decision not to charge Ms. Butler in the 911 call she made September 18 was announced by the Prosecutor’s Office on October 30. She was issued a warning for the call made from the Dinky station to 911, during which she asked whether she was talking to the Princeton Police or Princeton University Public Safety department but hung up when asked if she was reporting an emergency.

Ms. Butler has expressed concern in recent Princeton Council meetings about whether calls made from a cell phone are sent to municipal police or to campus safety officials. Unable to get a satisfactory answer, she decided to try and make such a call herself. She has apologized to the Prosecutor’s Office and the Princeton Police for making the call.

Parking Enforcement

The Prosecutor’s Office announced on October 29 that it would not file charges against parking enforcement officials Chris Boutote and Jon Hughes. Mr. Boutote was fired after an internal investigation into allegations that he allowed employees of local businesses to park without paying in exchange for free food and drink. Mr. Hughes was suspended for one month without pay, and reassigned to a municipal parking garage as an attendant.

In an email to reporters, Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Casey A. De Blasio wrote, “In light of the proofs in the case, Mr. Boutote’s age and lack of prior record, our office determined that his likely sentence would have been admittance into a pretrial intervention program conditioned upon job forfeiture. This was accomplished through Mr. Boutote’s termination by Princeton, and our office felt that prosecution would not serve the interest of justice.”

Regarding Mr. Hughes, Ms. DeBlasio wrote, “Our office agreed that he was appropriately addressed through Princeton’s administrative channels.”


The water was sloshing up to the top of the Liberty Island sea wall by 11 a.m. on October 28, 2012, the day the Statue of Liberty was being dedicated following an extensive renovation project carried out by the Princeton firm Mills + Schnoering Architects. Members of the firm were on hand to help celebrate the completion of what was arguably one of their most important undertakings.

“It actually opened for half a day on that Sunday, accommodating some crowds,” Michael Mills, a partner in the firm, recently recalled. “The Secretary of the Interior and lots of dignitaries were there. It was quite an event. But Hurricane Sandy was already gearing up. And the next day, it came in and tore up the island.”

It took eight months to fix the damage caused by the monster storm. The docks, snack bar, electrical systems, and walkways were destroyed. Several buildings on the island were gutted, though the statue itself was unharmed. About 500 people had to be laid off. But by July 4, 2013, the site was officially reopened to the public.

During repairs from the storm, small generators were used to keep the statue illuminated at night until electricity could be restored.

For Mills + Schnoering, the brief dedication ceremony came after several years focused on the site. What started as a relatively simple assignment involving the staircase up to the statue’s crown evolved into a much larger task. “This was a very quick, three-month project to make the stairs up to the crown much safer,” Mr. Mills said. “It was fairly small from a design and construction standpoint. But it was also kind of a test, in a way. I think we made the National Park Service very comfortable with the idea of giving us the more significant project.”

The firm was charged with replacing the elevator and installing a new emergency elevator, designing new stairs, higher railings, reopening a closed entrance, and making the site accessible. “It was very complicated. It took a year to build and two years to design,” Mr. Mills said. “We added a ton of mechanical, too.”

Formerly known as Fort Wood, Liberty Island once housed a land battery in the shape of an 11-point star that was later used as the base on which the statue now sits. The 225-ton statue, designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, was given by France to the United States for the 1886 centenary celebration. Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who later created the Eiffel Tower, designed the metal skeleton supporting the sculpture.

The historic site was closed for a year while work progressed. The architecture firm, which is known for its historic preservation projects, was given a full historic structures report by the National Park Service, helping them to understand the site’s significance. A surprise discovery during construction was an old armory, which they preserved.

Much of the challenge of renovating the site came from the constraints of the monument. “The idea of getting two separated fire stairs and an elevator into a space 27 feet square, and crisscrossed by the Eiffel girders that you’re not allowed to touch, presented a huge challenge,” Mr. Mills said. “Those girders were there to support straps that came down from the statue to hold her down in a high wind.”

The location in the middle of an island in New York harbor required very -specific planning and logistics. Because the docks had been destroyed by the storm, the contractor figured out a way to land at the island by hiring a World War II landing craft, Mr. Mills said. “The contractor did a wonderful job of getting materials out there. They had to deal with not only taking everything out by boat, but also the security concern,” he said. “Every boatload that went out was checked by men and dogs in Jersey City and on the island when it arrived.”

For Mills + Schnoering, the goal of the project was to make the experience of touring the statue safe and less claustrophobic. By using protective glass in some locations, they were able to create a sense of open space that had previously not existed.

Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the story of the project became more about the recovery than the project itself. But now that the site is reopened to visitors and several months have passed, the focus is back where it belongs. “This was a very special project for us,” Mr. Mills said. “It took a long time. But hopefully, the results speak for themselves.”



The Princeton Half Marathon began on Paul Robeson Place with runners covering a course that included the Einstein and Battlefield Breakthrough, Oppenheimer Atomic Hill, von Neumann’s Curve, the Other Side of Paradise, the Gallup Gallop, and Aaron Burr’s Killer Mile. The winner was Michael Davis of Scotch Plains, with a time of 1:21:23. (Photo by Emily Reeves)


October 30, 2013
ART IMITATES ART: This painting by Robert Beck is one of seven he did during the renovation of the Bucks County Playhouse in 2012. The artworks are part of the current exhibit at the Michener Art Museum detailing the history of the theater.

ART IMITATES ART: This painting by Robert Beck is one of seven he did during the renovation of the Bucks County Playhouse in 2012. The artworks are part of the current exhibit at the Michener Art Museum detailing the history of the theater.

The Grace Kelly exhibit that opened in Doylestown, Pa. this week isn’t the only attraction drawing crowds to the Michener Art Museum. In a cozier space connected to the lavish Kelly show, “Local Mill Makes Good: Celebrating 75 years of American Theater at the Bucks County Playhouse” is taking visitors back through the rich history of this iconic New Hope, Pa. institution, which thrived for decades, faltered in recent years, and has since been restored and reborn.

Among the diverse collection of materials on display are artworks by Al Hirschfeld, Robert Beck, Ben Solowey, Edward Redfield, and Charles Child (brother of Julia Child’s husband Paul); a blown-up photo of the audience from the 1965 opening of The Hostage, which starred Julie Harris; set models from The Lion in Winter, which starred George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst, numerous photos and posters, and a plaque from 1956 listing plays that had been performed at the theater to date. David Leopold, curator of the show, said the plaque was found in a dumpster.

“The hardest part of doing this show was that not many people kept any of the history of this place,” he said during a tour of the exhibit as it was being hung last week. “A lot of things were thrown out. But with some sleuthing, we were able to locate this wonderful stuff that came from private and public collections.”

Mr. Leopold, who has organized exhibitions for the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is a walking encyclopedia of the Playhouse. He has divided the show into five different sections, taking visitors from the theater’s founding in 1939 to its recent re-establishment as a leading artistic center.

Housed in an old grist mill on the Delaware River, the Playhouse has been the scene of debuts and appearances by such stage and screen stars as Helen Hayes, Robert Redford, Liza Minnelli, John Lithgow, Walter Matthau, Tyne Daly, Audra McDonald and Angela Lansbury, who was honored by the theater this past Monday. Another veteran was Ms. Kelly, whose appearance in the 1949 play The Torch Bearers, written by her uncle George Kelly, gets a spot on the exhibit wall.

It is a popular misconception, Mr. Leopold said, that the Playhouse was founded by George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart, Oscar Hammerstein III and other theatrical luminaries who had homes in Bucks County. The real credit goes to a man named Henry Chapin and orchestrator Don Walker, who joined forces to start a summer theater at the old mill, which had ceased operating in 1938.

“Walker ran into Chapin and his group at a party,” Mr. Leopold said. “They started talking and realized they had a similar interest in starting a summer theater that would be a kind of social gathering place for the community as well as an economic engine. They started the theater in the fall of 1939. Raising the initial $10,000 was easy, but then they had trouble. The only person they got to invest was [playwright] Moss Hart, who gave them $100. I’m sure he gave them the money just to get them out of his house.”

The first production was Springtime for Henry (fans of the 1968 Mel Brooks film The Producers will recognize that title as the inspiration for Springtime for Hitler), starring Edward Everett Horton. While the night before the opening a sodder lamp on the roof almost started a fire, the show opened on schedule and the Playhouse was on its way. A famous drawing by Mr. Hirschfeld that appeared on the front page of the New York Times’ Arts and Leisure section, documenting the event, is part of the display.

While summer theaters were popular at the time, the Bucks County Playhouse was unlike others. “It was the kinds of things they did there that made it unique,” Mr. Leopold said. “It was a laboratory for new theater and young actors, not just for established plays like Springtime for Henry, which Edward Everett Horton had done for years. Neil Simon premiered plays there. Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn first appeared together for the first time in The Fourposter on that stage before it went to Broadway.”

According to Jed Bernstein, the Playhouse’s current producing director and the man considered mostly responsible for its recent revitalization with the Bridge Street Foundation, the exhibit captures that premise. “It pays homage to the founding of the Playhouse, but it brings it all the way up to our time,” he said. “We’re returning to first principles — doing exactly what the founders did back in the 1930s and 40s. Their strategy turns out to be incredibly doable. All iconic great institutions retain their relevance. That’s what’s so thrilling.”

By the 1990’s, the Playhouse was presenting community theater rather than Actors’ Equity productions. Its reputation had suffered. In 2010, the state of the economy and flood damage caused by two major storms had forced the theater to close. But a public/private partnership headed by Mr. Bernstein led to an extensive renovation, and the theater reopened in July of 2012. Since then, it has been earning positive reviews, both from critics and the community.

This year, the Playhouse will have performances on its stage approximately 210 days. “In only a season and a half, we’re already up to 75 percent capacity,” said Mr. Bernstein, who will depart in January to become the president of Lincoln Center. His successor will be announced in the next few weeks, he said.

The Michener exhibit will include actual pre-renovation seats from the old Playhouse, as well as footage from productions staged in 1949. Some film clips of Ms. Lansbury, Tyne Daly, actor Eli Wallach and others reminiscing about their days at the theater are also part of the display. A whole section is devoted to playwright Neil Simon, whose Barefoot in the Park debuted on the stage.

The show is focused on the history of the Playhouse, but acknowledges the present and the future. “It’s not just about the past, when stars performed here because they were doing good quality theater to a discerning audience,” Mr. Leopold said. “It also celebrates the Playhouse today, because that same thing is happening.”

“A lot of things envisioned back in the 1940s are coming true again,” added Mr. Bernstein. “It’s a place for stars, for plays, and for young people to get their start. There is live music again. We work with Actors’ Equity. For theaters like this in relatively small communities that are historic in some ways, I think this is a model that will be copied. It apportions the risk in the right place.”

“Local Mill Makes Good” continues at the Michener Museum through March 2. Several special events and lectures are planned. Visit for details.


MARTIANS AT GROVER’S MILL, AGAIN: In 1938, Martians decimated most of New Jersey and set planet Earth on fire. Not really. Orson Welles (shown here in action) was responsible for the “panic broadcast” that simulated a dance program being interrupted by news of an alien invasion that caused listeners to flee their homes. Tonight at the Princeton Public Library, the 75th anniversary of the event is being marked by Raconteur Radio.

MARTIANS AT GROVER’S MILL, AGAIN: In 1938, Martians decimated most of New Jersey and set planet Earth on fire. Not really. Orson Welles (shown here in action) was responsible for the “panic broadcast” that simulated a dance program being interrupted by news of an alien invasion that caused listeners to flee their homes. Tonight at the Princeton Public Library, the 75th anniversary of the event is being marked by Raconteur Radio.

It’s been 75 years to the day since Orson Welles caused radio listeners to flee a Martian invasion. On October 30, 1938, he took Howard Koch’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’s classic The War of the Worlds, and convinced more than a million radio listeners that Martians had landed and Earth was under attack.

The fictional attack was the substance of a radio play performed with such gusto that it was mistaken for the real thing by some listeners who tuned in half way through the broadcast and didn’t hear the disclaimer about it being fiction.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the historic broadcast described as one of the best radio dramas of all time will be recreated in the Community Room at the Princeton Public Library by members of Raconteur Radio, a six-member team of radio enthusiasts from Metuchen.

The original broadcast was a Halloween episode of the radio drama series The Mercury Theatre on the Air, directed and narrated by Welles before he went on to become a legend of cinema. It transferred the action from turn of the century England to contemporary New Jersey.

The effect was so dramatic that the 23-year old Welles “apologized” at the end of the live CBS broadcast. He said: “This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character, to assure you that The War of the Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theatre’s own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo! …. We annihilated the world before your very ears and utterly destroyed CBS. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn’t mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember please for the next day or so the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian, it’s Halloween.”

In the late 1930s, radio was the entertainment and news information gateway to the world. Almost every home had a special spot in the living room for the radio and entire families gathered for their favorite shows.

For the simulated live newscast, Welles played the part of a Princeton University astronomer dismissing speculation about life on Mars. Thousands of listeners took the broadcast for news reports of Martians killing earthlings with death-rays at Grover’s Mill — just a stone’s throw from Princeton.

Such classic radio drama lives on thanks to Raconteur Radio, a six member team headquartered in the Old Franklin School, an historic 1807 one-room school house located at 461 Middlesex Avenue in Metuchen. The group adds a new show to its repertoire every month: theatrical stagings of vintage and original radio plays as well as pop culture parodies for live audiences.

Inspired by the former Metuchen bookstore and performance space known as The Raconteur, the group was founded by bookstore owner Alex Dawson, who is also a novelist and award-winning playwright. His forthcoming book, The Rapscallion Club, is an archeological adventure for all ages.

Raconteur Radio perform in libraries, adult communities, senior centers and schools, as well as in restaurants, bars, and, sometimes private homes. Their productions are amplified and feature theatrical lighting, costumes, and extensive sound effects.

In the past, they’ve put on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea; Jaws; From Russia with Love; The Great Gatsby; Sunset Boulevard; Casablanca; Rebecca; The Green Hornet; Sherlock Holmes & The Final Problem; The Third Man; Sorry, Wrong Number; The Maltese Falcon; The Twilight Zone; The Abominable Snowman; and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

Upcoming shows include: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood; Flash Gordon on the Planet Mongo; Gaslight; The Man Who Would Be King; It’s a Wonderful Life; Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple; Jane Eyre; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Macbeth; Alice in Wonderland; and The Lone Ranger.

Raconteur Radio’s “War of the Worlds” is at the Princeton Public Library, Wednesday, October 30, at 7:30 p.m. and at the West Windsor Library, Thursday, October 31, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call (609) 924-9529 or visit:; for more on Raconteur Radio, contract or visit:


Dr. M. Craig Barnes was installed as Princeton Theological Seminary’s seventh president at a service at the Princeton University Chapel last week.

Mr. Barnes is also a professor of pastoral ministry.

The October 23 event featured an inaugural procession in which delegates from 37 academic institutions took part, including those from the University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582.

In addition, 18 delegates from churches and denominations in the United States and around the world participated, including the Church of Central Africa, the Mar Thoma Church of India, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, the Diocese of Trenton of the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and the United Church of Christ.

The Reverend Dr. Neal D. Presa, moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the founding denomination of the Princeton Seminary, took part in the service. Dr. William P. Robinson, chair of the Seminary’s Board of Trustees and president emeritus of Whitworth University, presided over the inauguration and Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber welcomed the new president.

Mr. Eisgruber described the relationship between the Seminary and the University as “historic and strong.”

“The Seminary and the University remain strong civic and scholarly partners,” said Mr. Eisgruber, adding that while the two institutions have distinct missions, at the core of both is “a commitment to examining questions that help us understand, support, and strengthen our society.”

In his inaugural address, titled “Beauty and Truth,” Mr. Barnes stressed the importance of finding both in “our ethics” and in “our commitment to making a difference.”

Dr. Barnes, 57, has been leading the Seminary since January. Before that, he served as pastor of Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pa., and as the Robert Meneilly Professor of Leadership and Ministry at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He previously served pastorates in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Madison, Wisconsin, and at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.


Diane Ravitch, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, will speak about her new book, Reign of Error; The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, on November 4 from 4 to 5:20 p.m. at Princeton High School Performing Arts Center, 151 Moore Street.

Ravitch is leading a national battle to save public education. She will put forth a plan for what we can do to protect and improve public schools, including here in New Jersey.

Reign of Error is a comprehensive look at today’s American school system that argues against those who claim it is broken and beyond repair. It is an impassioned but reasoned call to stop the privatization movement, which is draining students and funding from our public schools.

Ms. Ravitch argues that federal programs such as George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” and Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” set unreasonable targets for American students, punish schools, and result in teachers being fired if their students underperform, unfairly branding those educators as
failures. She warns that major foundations, individual billionaires, and Wall Street hedge fund managers are encouraging the privatization of public education; some for idealistic reasons, others for profit. She makes clear what is right about U.S. education, how policy makers are failing to address the root causes of educational failure, and how we can improve our public schools rather than destroying them.

Ms. Ravitch is a historian of education and research professor of education at New York University. She was assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education in the administration of President George W. Bush and was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by President Bill Clinton. She is the author of seven previous books on education, including the critically acclaimed The Death and Life of the Great American School System and Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School


The Arts Council of Princeton’s Annual Hometown Halloween Parade began on Albert Hinds Plaza Sunday and followed the Princeton University Marching Band to Palmer Square. The subject of this week’s Town Talk is favorite costumes. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)