Indoors and Out

A MONTHLY MAGAZINE DEVOTED TO ART AND NATURE

Volume I December, 1905 Number 3

PRINCETON

A TYPICAL AMERICAN UNIVERSITY TOWN AND ITS BEAUTIFUL ARCHITECTURE

By HOWARD CROSBY BUTLER


To the majority of the thousands who daily pass upon the great line between New York and Philadelphia, Princeton is but the name of a town, or perhaps the name of a University. Yet the more observing of these passers-by cannot fail to notice, at a few miles to the west of the railway, a bold sky-line, broken by battle-mented towers and low spires, rising to a considerable height above the intervening country, and suggesting a mediaeval town set thickly about with trees, dominating a quiet landscape.

To those who know the place, to those who leave the main line of travel and take the little Junction train that climbs the gradual ascent to the crest of the ridge on which the town is set, Princeton, even if it have no other interest, has the charm of be ing a unique American town, a town that is rapidly be coming, in its architectural aspect, one of the most in teresting places in the coun try. This is true, not solely because here, and at this moment, a great University is working out architectural problems upon a grand scale, and at the ex penditure of hundreds of thousands of dol lars, but because the town itself is devoting its energies to the evolving of an ideal vil lage, and because the whole neighborhood round about is being rapidly converted from a poor farming district into a region of mag nificent country places.

Princeton is fortunate in its location, placed as it is equidistant between the two great cities of the East, upon the highest ground between the mouth of the Hud son and lower waters of the Delaware, commanding a distant view, and provided with the more useful benefits of pure water and good drainage. Though within easy reach of two great cities, the town is far enough removed from the chief avenue of traffic to be free from the drawbacks of a way station; and the trolley lines which con nect it with the capital of the state have not been permitted to mar the dignity and safety of its streets, but come across the country and enter the town unconspicuously.

Princeton, moreover, has been fortunate in its past. The town came into being and the Uni versity was rounded in Colonial days, and the nucleus established during the early years of the Republic has given character to all later develop ments. During the period when the taste of the country was at its lowest ebb, the University was poor and the town stood still; and at the time when taste was reviving the University and the town both entered upon an era of pros perity, and a period of great building activity began, which, with a few ex ceptions, was guided by competent hands, and is still in the ascendent under the guidance of the best architects in the land.

A typical University town, Princeton has ever been depend ent upon the great institution of learning that from the first has ruled its destiny. Both have much to interest the historian and the antiquary. The University still preserves, as monuments of its early history, Nassau Hall, the oldest college building now existing in America, where the Continental Congress sat during the troublous times in Philadelphia, besides an ancient dormitory, a lecture hall, and the residence of the early presidents of the college, all built in the dig nified and reserved style of the first American architecture. The town, originally laid out with broad straight streets, shows an old church built on simple classic lines, an ancient tavern, and a number of houses of the Colonial period, in one of which lived a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The grounds of the college and the streets of the town were planted out with trees that are now the pride of the neighborhood. The huge buttonwood trees of the dean's yard, still called the Stamp Act trees, the colossal weeping elms and the long row of catalpas, opposite Trinity Church, are the delight of all tree lovers.

With a nucleus such as this, historical build ings, spacious streets and aged trees, the great building operations of today cannot take away the appearance of age from Princeton. The passing of a century and a half has not disturbed its historical traditions; yet the place has de veloped, upon this foundation, along lines that make it unusual in America, totally different from any town on the Continent of Europe, and not a duplicate of the University town in England, though the resemblance to this last is perhaps the closest.

Princeton is a great rural University, owning or controlling its own broad acres of field and for est. The tendency that has 'always existed, and that is still fostered, is to make the domain of the University also its habitation. So far as it is pos sible to provide for the rapid increase of numbers, the students live on the campus; their work, their play, their study, their leisure and their sleeping hours are spent upon the estate of their Alma Mater. They have a little. world all of their own. Their countryside embraces shady parks, broad meadows, wooded glens, and soon will have its stretch of water. Their city is set on a hill, and it is to be a walled city; indeed the circuit wall is well begun, as the visitor discovers upon his arrival. Alighting from the train he sees high walls extending to the right and left, and a massive tower in the middle, be neath which is the chief entrance to the students' city. It is soon perceived that the wall is inhabited, that it is com posed of a long series of residential buildings which are entered from within the wall, but which have a host of windows and graceful oriels look ing outward into the world. A broad flight of steps mounts to a noble arch through which one passes on to the campus, --the student domain, --with its full complement of buildings designed to fulfill every need of the life of the student community. Buildings old and new, buildings gray with age, half clad with ivy, and buildings bright and new, fresh from the hammer and chisel, extend in every direction. The greater number of these buildings are called dormitories, though in reality they are compartment houses; for there are few citizens of the community who have not at least two rooms, a livingroom and a sleeping apart ment. The first building that greets the eye is the hall of audience--Alexander Hall--with its ambulatory ot Norman arches and its sculp tured facade. To the left is the old gymnasium and the observatory, to the right three of the older dormitories. The buildings of the Univer sity are not crowded. together, nor are they strung out in long rows as the manner of some is, but they are grouped somewhat irregularly about large open spaces of greensward planted with trees and shrubbery. This arrangement, which follows largely the natural conformations of the ground, lends the charm of variety, and provides a succession of vistas, each presenting a new and usually pleasing effect.

The open space next to the one adjoining the entrance is the agora of college life, a large quad rangle of smooth lawn set with trees and sur rounded with buildings more systematically arranged than in the other quadrangles. In the center of the green is a sanded circle edged with flat stones, like the orchestra of an ancient Greek theater, and in the center of the drcle is the historic cannon of Princeton, buried muzzle down up to its trunnions; this is the axis of the University. On one side of the quadrangle rises the rear wall of Nassau Hall, adjoining it on the east side of the square is the great new library, the center of studious activity, with its spacious stacks and its numerous separate studies, or semi nary rooms, devoted to the special pursuit of different branches of the arts and sciences. On the other side, facing Nassau Hall, are two build ings in white marble, the halls of the two literary associations, the American Whig and Cliosophic Societies. These twin buildings, the particular haunts of literature and the forensic arts, are suit ably designed in the purest classic style; their six columned Ionic porches are among the best examples of Greek architecture to be seen on this side of the Atlantic.

In all directions from this square open the other quadrangles, and beyond these, still others, stretching along the summit of the ridge and down the slope toward the valley that is soon to become a lake. Upon one of these quadrangles are the School of Science and the general recitation hall, upon another the Marquand Chapel, Murray Dodge Hall, the home of the Y.M.C.A. and the Art Museum; others are composed en tirely of residential build ings. One of the most interesting groups is that made up in part of the wall dormitory and the facade of the splendid new gymnasium.

Long vistas down shaded avenues are to be had at many points, one through the arch of entrance to the students' athletic field, and far down the slope, another through the two great arches of the library down a straight street toward the "Varsity Field." The president, the ruler of the academic community, and his prime minister the dean live in mansions of suitable dignity in the midst of the college buildings. "Prospect," the president's home, stands in the midst of a wooded park; the deanery, which was the old presidents' house, faces the main street of the town.

During the great building period at Princeton, that is to say for the last ten years or more, many experiments in architecture have been tried with but few unfortunate results. Some of our best architects are represented in the college build ings. The Marquand Chapel was designed by the late Mr. Hunt, the Commencement Hall by Mr. Potter. These two buildings were designed un der the influence of the Romanesque revival in augurated by the late Mr. Richardson. Whig and Clio, with their Greek porches, are works of the brief and brilliant career of the late Mr. Page Brown. The library is another work of Mr. Potter, a large building disposed 'about a court, with arched passages under massive towers, open ing from the court toward the east and west, through which passes one of the chief highways of the campus. This building is in the late Gothic style; its great western tower is one of the fea tures of the campus, suggesting some of the older buildings at Oxford. BIair Hall, the first section to be built of the wall dormitory, with its splendid tower and gateway which make so pleasing an introduction to Princeton, was designed by Messrs. Cope and Stewardson, and so happy was the effect when the building was completed that the style in which it was designed--the Col legiate Gothic--was practically chosen as the style which Princeton's future architectural de velopment should follow. Another long section of wall dormitory--Stafford Little Hall--and the Gymna sium, both designed by Cope and Stewardson, soon followed, completing a striking group of academic buildings along one end of the campus. The library had been built' of brownstone, like the chapel which preceded it; Alexander Hall was of light limestone with brownstone trim mings; Blair and its immediate successors were built entirely of light limestone with white lime stone trim. The whole effect was harmonious and beautiful. When Mr. Morris designed the Memorial Dormitory of the Class of '79, at the opposite end of the campus, the Collegiate Gothic was still adhered to, and brick of a deep reddish tone with limestone trim was tried as an experiment. The effect is charming and gives variety to the color scheme.

The Collegiate Gothic, as employed in the buildings of Princeton, has certainly proved to be the most suitable style for a rural university, adapting itself, as no other style will, to uneven surface conformations, lending variety of line and mass in broken ridges and playful fenestration, to the most charming combinations of light and shade, and composing, with a verdant setting of trees, vines and shrubbery, ever changing pictures of rural beauty.

Of the three materials chiefly employed in the buildings, the light colored limestone is per haps the most effective in combination with the dark hue of the evergreen ivy, the lighter greens of the summer trees, and the brilliant hues of the autumnal ampelopsis. The brownstone gives a sombre variation, not unpleasing to the color scheme, and serves to bring the old and new into closer harmony, while the deep red brick affords warmth to what might otherwise be too cold a general effect. The crystalline whiteness is not out of place for two similar buildings placed as the literary halls are; their brightness only serves to accentuate their purity of design, and sets them apart as jewels of classic art.

The one class of buildings that is not repre sented on the campus is the hall of refection; for the University has never seriously attempted to feed her own flock, and for this reason the stu dents have, from time immemorial, formed "eat ing clubs" in certain houses of the town. These clubs have grown by slow degrees into institutions, having their own houses on a particular street. Princeton, from its location and from other more sentimental rea sons, is the sort of place to which those who have once been students love to return. The alumni, weary of toil in town or living far in the West or South, come back to Princeton for weekends and game days in such numbers that some years ago it was difficult for them to find comfortable accommoda tions. The outcome of the situ ation was the development of the old eating club into a graduate institution. The students made their clubs permanent, raising funds for their maintenance.

The former members contributed until one club after another was able to build its own house with dining-rooms, libraries and billiard-rooms for the constant use of the student members, and bedrooms and baths for the con venience of the graduates when ever they should return. In this way Prospect Avenue, with its double file of clubhouses, came to be one of the chief attrac tions of Princeton. Many styles are represented in the architecture of this street of clubs, the Tudor style in dark red brick, and in half timber, the Georgian style and the Colonial, besides several cottage types; yet the effect is most pleasing, and the street is interesting from end to end.

The character of the town of Princeton is un usual. Without industries, without large com mercial interests, it has none of those features of the average town of its size which are objection able from the artistic point of view. In addition to this the citizens are of an unusual type, a type that has always been interested in developing the beautiful side of the village, and intelligent in the application of its interest, as a number of semi public buildings demonstrate. The Princeton Bank, a building on the main thoroughfare and at the head of another important street, is an inter esting example of the Flemish style. The Pyne Build ings, with shops below and student apartments above, are charming speci mens of village architecture in English timbered style. Trinity Church is a beautiful Gothic design already mellowing with age. But the residential portions of the place are even more interesting. The residents are people of various interests; there are the old Princeton families, the people who conduct the business of the town, and the professors of the University, beside a goodly number of families who have settled in Princeton because they have friends connected with the University, or simply because they think Prince ton a good place in which to live. The village is not divided into quarters according to the in terests of the citizens; the merchant, the professor and the retired professional man have adjoining gardens. The residents build on the same street according to their means, but the hand of taste is visible in almost every house. Here is a stately Colonial mansion and beside it is a roughcast cottage overgrown with climbing roses. There is a costly stone house of the Elizabethan style, and beyond, an artistic combination of stucco and timber. Two styles seem to be trying titles for the supremacy in the residences of Princeton, the Colonial and the Tudor. The one may be taken to represent a perpetuation of old Princeton, and the other stands abreast with the later architectural developments of the Uni versity, though it is to be doubted if the owners have either of these thoughts in mind when they build. These two styles are capable of endless variation in material and color treatment, and as each house has a sufficient garden space about it to overcome incongruities of juxtaposition, the village becomes more and more attractive as the rivalry progresses.

The country seats that have recently been built and laid out in the beautiful rolling country around Princeton are for the most part the spring and autumn residences of well-to-do officers and devotees of the University, and of students of former years who have come back to be near their Alma Mater. In some cases old places have been rehabilitated; in others new sites are being laid out in parks and lawns. Here again a wonderful variety of architectural styles has been employed with intelligence and skill. One of these residences is a fine old Colonial mansion, remodeled and enlarged and enhanced in beauty by the addition of an Italian garden, with fountains and balustraded terraces. Another is an American adaptation of the Italian villa built some sixty years ago, set in the midst of a park which age has beautified as no human agency can do. Another still is a stately hall of early Jacobean design, and there are others which represent a skillful handling of the styles of the reigns of Elizabeth and James.

From such a collection of beautiful houses within the village and in its environs it is difficult to single out any one as being of particular merit. There are several miles of attractive residences, showing all grades of expenditure and represent ing the expression of good taste in manifold vari eties of domestic architecture. The pretty gar dens, the closecropped lawns, the welltrimmed hedges, the clusters of shrubs and masses of vine, and above allthe magnificent trees which grace the architectural creations of Princeton, give a distinctive charm to the place and make it, not an ordinary country town, with a University beside it, but the University town par excellence, composed of a rural University and a village of villas.


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