Princeton Battlefield’s designation as endangered site may renew development fight

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has released its 2012 list of endangered sites around the country. The 11 sites include stone bridges in Yosemite Valley, California, Malcolm X’s childhood home in Boston and two places in the local region.

The Princeton Battlefield is made up of 200 acres near Princeton, N.J., where, in 1777, during the Revolutionary War, Gen. George Washington led a daring — and successful — retaliation against British troops. Today, most of the battle site is contained within a state park.

The adjacent Institute for Advanced Study, where Albert Einstein worked, wants to develop about seven acres of the battle site. It owns the land, and plans to build faculty housing on it with a tree-line buffer between the housing and the existing park.

The battlefield’s inclusion on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s endangered list could help efforts to block that development.

“It is not a governmental unit. It has no power in and of itself to stop a development,” said Jerry Hurwitz, president of the Princeton Battlefield Society. “Although they have a tremendous track record — 95 percent of the historic sites listed on their most endangered (list) are preserved.”

The Princeton Regional Planning Commission has approved the development plan, which will put additional institute acreage into easement and improve the landscaping of some publicly accessible areas of the park. 

Hurwitz says he will continue to oppose development on both historic and environmental grounds. The Battlefield Society plans to file a complaint with the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission, pointing out that development will compromise the wetland areas of the battlefield site.

The other local endangered site is the gym owned by legendary boxer Joe Frazier.

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