Princeton University in Springtime
May 5, 2020 at 8:00 AM by
With its tree-lined streets and Gothic buildings, the town of Princeton, New Jersey does indeed possess a princely allure. During the early part of the 1700s, in fact, the community was referred to as Prince’s Town and also Princetown. Finally, the Princeton name stuck and today it’s a vibrant municipality of some 30,000 people. Home to the Ivy League Princeton University since 1756, it’s a town steeped in culture, tradition and lots of free-thinking. Other important institutions and companies are also headquartered here, including Westminster Choir College, Berlitz International and Dow Jones & Company, to name just a few.
The central New Jersey location of Princeton makes it equidistant to New York and Philadelphia and just a short train ride to both of those metropolitan destinations. So not surprisingly, a lot of people that work in the big cities live in this lovely little town. It’s this marriage of sophisticated movers and shakers, inspired students and longtime locals sweet on their community that contributes to Princeton’s appeal. (It’s consistently ranked as one of the top places to live in the U.S. by major publications.)
This and so much more also makes Princeton a great place to visit. Now back to its Old World charm. You’ll find the bulk of it in and around Princeton University as well as in the rest of the historic part of town. Be sure to look up to gawk at the many elaborate spires and other interesting architectural features that typify many of the structures. It’s movie set-worthy and, in fact, many movies have been filmed here, including the Academy Award-winning “A Beautiful Mind,” starring Russell Crowe, based on the life of John Forbes Nash, a brilliant mathematician and professor at Princeton.
Many other illustrious people hale from Princeton, including Saul Bellow, T.S. Eliot, Toni Morrison, Woodrow Wilson, Joyce Carol Oates and Michelle Obama. (And that represents just a smidgen of the Who’s Who from Princeton.) Albert Einstein takes the prize for the most brainiac of them all. This world-renowned physicist lived in Princeton from 1933 until his death in 1955. Be sure to take in the mini-museum at the rear of Landau Woolens that showcases a collection of Einstein memorabilia such as photos, personal artifacts and newspaper clippings. This also gives you a good reason to check out the fine quality woolens sold at this more-than one-hundred-year-old establishment. Purchase a Harris Tweed jacket or an authentic Loden coat to look princely fine. Shop here, too, for lots of fun Princeton University garb that makes for great, reasonably-priced gift items for yourself and others.
Allow some time for browsing on and around Nassau Street where you’ll discover many unique shops. Up your I.Q. at Labyrinth Books, a terrific, small independent bookseller just next door to the Einstein Museum. They also put on a number of events that will help you to further expand your intellectual and social potential. Be sure to check out their website for more information.
Culture and education go hand in hand like notebooks and pens, or in today’s world, personal devices and chargers. The Princeton University Art Museum is a must, not only because it’s free but mostly because it houses almost 100,000 works of art from the Age of Antiquity up through Contemporary Art. On the far western side of the college campus–just beyond the Einstein statue–you’ll find the Morven Museum & Garden. Housed in an historic eighteenth-century mansion and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a visit here will imbue you with the sense of what it might have been like to live in Colonial Princeton.
Drumthwacket Foundation, another property listed on the National Register of Historic Places, also wins the hearts of people as a lovely place to visit. It also happens to house the residence of the governor of New Jersey; interestingly enough it’s only one of four residences within the U.S. where the governor does not actual reside in the capital (which is in nearby Trenton). Indeed, this place must be pretty special.