Saturday, May 29, 2010

Reunions Coverage: Lost Vistas of Princeton

Though Princetonians may think of Old Nassau as timeless, its buildings and landscapes have changed a great deal since its founding in 1746. Richard D. Smith, member of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department and the Princeton Alumni Council’s Princetoniana Committee, chronicled the major transformations that have taken place on Princeton’s campus in a talk sponsored by the Princetoniana Committee this morning at the Frist Campus Center.

Smith, who is also the author of "Princeton Then & Now," used images that he found in University archives to illustrate his presentation, showing how landmarks like Nassau Hall and Prospect House have evolved over the years. He also shared photographs of edifices that no longer exist, such as the Cloaca Maxima, the stone privy that used to be located just behind Whig Hall, and the University Hotel, which supplied Princeton’s stagecoach line with hotel rooms, a barber shop, and a bank.

Reunion Hall, a five-story dormitory commemorating the reunion of the Presbyterian Church, was another such building discussed. During his brief time at Princeton, John F. Kennedy roomed in Reunion Hall, and some of the alumni in the audience recalled how Kennedy’s classmates preserved some of the bricks from his fireplace in his honor after his assassination in 1963. Several alumni also remembered living in or having class in Reunion Hall; Bruce Leslie ’66 reminisced about having a history precept there.

Though Smith’s talk centered on the transformations that have occurred at Princeton’s campus, he assured the audience that some things never change. “There will always be building projects in Princeton,” Smith said, showing a photograph of men toiling in a ditch, installing the central heating line for the University dormitories. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Image: An engraving of the original Nassau Hall, four years after it was built.

by Ellie Wilkinson


Anonymous said...

Yeah, by the time the Class of 2010 returns for their Fifth Reunion, what was once Osborne Field House will only be a memory. During its lifetime, it served various athletic teams (baseball used to be played on the field that where Bowen Hall now stands) and more recently the building was the Third World Center. For many years, it was the terminus of the P-rade.

But soon it will be dust. Sic gloria transit.