State Senator Kip Bateman and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora wrote a letter May 4 requesting a meeting with representatives from the Institute for Advanced Study Board of Trustees to discuss plans to build 15 faculty housing units on the 22-acre Maxwell’s Field Tract, which was part of the historic Battle of Princeton.
The trustees for the Institute are meeting in Princeton this week.
“As you are aware, this development project is the subject of debate – both nationally and locally – because of the property’s unique historic connection to the 1777 Battle of Princeton,” reads the letter.
“There is no question about the historic importance of the property.”
The letter then lists the various organizations and agencies that have recognized the site’s historic significance. The National Park Service has identified all of Maxwell’s Field as within the Princeton Battlefield’s historic boundary, with 60 percent of the property identified as core battlefield land. Half of the Maxwell’s Field Tract is included within the Princeton Battlefield National Historic Landmark boundary. And the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office affirmed the historic significance of the property in 2003 and 2007.
“Despite this overwhelming evidence, the official position of IAS, as indicated on the Institute website, is that this property is not historically significant. In taking this stance the Institute is doing itself and the local community a disservice,” reads the letter.
The legislators then go on to say that the Institute’s argument rests on a 2011 study by two historians who were hired by the Institute to find fault with the Battle of Princeton Mapping Study.
“We can all agree that IAS should not be staking its reputation on a report produced by consultants hired with a pre-ordained result in mind,” reads the letter. “As members of the New Jersey Legislature, we believe it is in the interest of the State of New Jersey, as well as the Institute for Advanced Study, to find a solution that both preserves this unique historic treasure and enables IAS to build the faculty housing elsewhere.”
The two call for a partnership between the Institute and the state to make the park a jewel of the state park system.
“A meeting between ourselves and representatives if the IAS board would be a natural first step toward finding a solution and developing a partnership,” reads the letter. “It cannot hurt to meet.”