Planet Princeton

Institute for Advanced Study and American Battlefield Trust finalize deal that enlarges Princeton Battlefield Park

Looking southeast across Princeton Battlefield State Park, the viewer sees the distant high ground from which Gen. George Washington counterattacked British forces during the Battle of Princeton, after rallying his Continental Army troops. Photo by Eric Malave, American Battelfield Trust.

The American Battlefield Trust has finalized the $4 million purchase of almost 15 acres of land from the Institute for Advanced Study, finally putting to rest a lengthy dispute that had divided the Princeton community.

Land adjacent to the current Princeton Battlefield State Park will be preserved, and the Institute will also move forward with revised plans for new faculty housing. The newly acquired land will eventually be conveyed to the State of New Jersey as an addition to the existing Princeton Battlefield State Park. The purchase includes about two-thirds of the Maxwell’s Field property, along with an additional 1.12-acre tract north of the property that has been identified by historians as a key part of the battlefield in the Battle of Princeton.

To make the acquisition possible, the Institute reduced the footprint of its housing project by substituting a new plan to build 16 townhouses for its original proposal to subdivide lots for seven single-family houses and eight townhouses. The American Battlefield Trust and the Institute will continue to work together to fully restore the battlefield site and complete construction of the faculty housing. The Trust plans to install interpretive trails and signage on the land to better tell the story of the pivotal battle.

“This addition to the Princeton battlefield is one of the most important acquisitions in the Trust’s 30-year history and preserves the site of one of the defining moments of the American Revolution,” said James Lighthizer, president of the American Battlefield Trust.

The Trust raised almost $3.2 million from private donors, matched with $837,000 awarded by the National Park Service and the Mercer County Open Space Assistance Program. In addition to the private and public funds raised to purchase the Washington’s Charge site, the Trust received a federal grant in 2017 to create a five-year preservation and interpretation plan for the Princeton Battlefield to prepare for its 250th anniversary in 2027.

Fought on Jan. 3, 1777, the Battle of Princeton culminated a bold10-day campaign that began with Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day in 1776. In a series of daring maneuvers, Washington successfully attacked isolated elements of the British army. His decisive charge at Princeton marked his army’s first victory over British regulars and revitalized the cause of American independence.

“The land purchase brings to fruition decades of work to preserve the Princeton battlefield and honor the men who fought on this land 240 years ago,” Princeton Battlefield Society President Jerry Hurwitz said.

“This landscape is a precious reminder of America’s struggle to create a democratic republic dedicated to ordinary people’s liberty,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson. “Of all the sites that figured in George Washington’s ‘Ten Crucial Days’ campaign, it is the only one that survives for people to see, understand and appreciate today.”

An artist depicts a preserved and restored Washington’s Charge site (center right), with new housing (right) for the Institute of Advanced Study faculty, and the existing Princeton Battlefield State Park. The Mercer Oak’s offspring is at center top in the fenced enclosure, with the Princeton Battlefield State Park’s memorial colonnade beyond. Image: Peter Giraudeau for the American Battlefield Trust.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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