July 21, 2021

PU Stonewalls the Community On Its Engineering Complex

To the Editor:

There have been many articles and letters on Princeton’s plans and application to the Planning Board for approval of the ES-SEAS project, a 15-acre engineering campus to be constructed between the Eating Clubs and Princeton Stadium. The plans include building a modern engineering pavilion spanning two lots on Prospect Avenue which is a historic district on the NJ State and National Register. To do this, the architects want to pick up the former Court Club, a massive brick and stone mansion, and move it across the street, demolishing three Victorian houses on the site where they propose to relocate Court Club. I’m an alum who lives in the area and am on the board of the Cap and Gown Club, so I drove down Prospect Avenue to try to envision this plan, and it’s shocking to think of the disruption and destruction it will cause to a residential neighborhood and to one of the most historic streetscapes in America.

There has been so much protest from the local community, including residents, historians, faculty, and local officials, that the University application will carry forward to a third Princeton Planning Board meeting, on September 23. At a meeting in June, the Princeton Historic Preservation Commission unanimously agreed to recommend that the Princeton Planning Board deny the University’s application.  Clifford Zink, a local author and historian who wrote the book The Princeton Eating Clubs (published by the Princeton Prospect Foundation), has documented how the University’s plan violates every one of the National Park Service Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The University claims it’s not subject to the National Register Guidelines and has refused to consider any of the suggestions or ideas from the community, and says if their plan is not approved they will just demolish the former Court Club. There is more information on the Princeton Prospect Foundation website: princetonprospectfoundation.org.

I was one of the first women to attend Princeton. Princeton is where I discovered my love and respect for history, in my studies, and walking the historic campus, Prospect Avenue, and the town. I live in a local historic house in Montgomery Township and was Chair of the Montgomery Township Landmarks Commission. I’m shocked and saddened to witness the University’s callous disregard for the Princeton Historic District and the voices of the community. During the two-month hiatus before the next Planning Board meeting, I urge the architects of this plan to reflect on what they’ve heard from the community about the value and meaning of historic preservation and Prospect Avenue. Princeton’s values will be reflected in the final execution of this project. I’ve learned from my education and life that you can always find a better solution. Princeton has the talent and the resources to meet its objectives and also follow the guidelines for the preservation of national historic properties.

Lisa Schmucki
Class of 1974
Bridgepoint Road