Monday, October 19, 2009

Nassau Hall: 255 Years of Explosive History

Overlooking the south side of Nassau Hall’s west wing, beneath a curtain of ivy, lies the only visible remain of the university’s involvement in the Revolutionary War. A dent was left in the stone wall after American forces shot at the building when it was under British occupation. Ironically, the commander of the American forces who shot the cannon ball, Alexander Hamilton, was a Princeton reject. Surprisingly, it seems that over the years, Princeton students have done more physical harm to Nassau Hall than those who were denied admission. The 1855 fire (one of two fires which left the building completely destroyed) was believed to have started at a student’s stove. On another occasion, student protesters exploded a hollow log filled with 2 pounds of gunpowder in the building’s inner entrance. Please note current students, that Nassau Hill is now considered a “National Historic Landmark” and cannot be subject to any more physical abuses.

Behind the main doors, guarded by the two bronze tigers, is the university’s war memorial, which lists the names of the alumni who perished in all wars leading up to Vietnam. Hopefully, the university will never have to make space for another listing of names. Hence, Nassau Hall is not only a testament to Princeton’s fortitude (literally), but it alludes to the great bravery and valor of its graduates. So, next time you walk by Nassau Hall, be thankful for its illustrious legacy…or at least be thankful for the name it was given. It would have been named after its benefactor, a Harvard grad, if he weren’t so overly modest and deemed “Nassau Hall” to be a more appropriate title. Thank you Mr. Belcher, for sparing as centuries of jokes by our Harvardian counterparts, and hail Old Nassau!