Visiting History

Photo courtesy of Princeton Tour Company.

Walking, Trolley, and Driving Tours of Princeton and Hunterdon County

By Taylor Smith

The town of Princeton was made for walking, but why explore the many historic landmarks with your nose stuck in a guide book? These innovative tour companies allow you to navigate the town and Princeton University’s campus, all with the aid of your iPhone or with or without a tour guide. In addition, during the Covered Bridge Artisans Tour, visitors can go on a self-guided scenic drive through picturesque Hunterdon County and the nearby Delaware River, where they can complete their holiday shopping for unique, handcrafted gifts.

Historical Society of Princeton

The Historical Society of Princeton’s HSP Digital app is available in both the iTunes and Google Play stores. HSP’s extensive collections of archived events, details, and maps means that you can take a tour of Princeton’s most historic sites, anytime and anywhere. The app also keeps users up to date on HSP’s upcoming events and exhibitions. Don’t have a smartphone? Anyone can access the web-based version of the Albert E. Hinds Memorial Walking Tour: African American Life in Princeton at princetonhistory.org/visit/digitaltours.

YMCA football team, champions in 1908. The photograph was taken in front of the Witherspoon School on the corner of Witherspoon and Maclean streets. Collection of the Historical Society of Princeton.

Looking to learn more about the Quaker history of the Stony Brook area? The Stony Brook Walking Tour on December 1 from 1 to 3:30pm will transport visitors back to a “time before there was a Princeton,” when six Quaker families established a vibrant community along the banks of Stony Brook. The 2.5-hour hike covers the lives of early settlers. Stops include the Stony Brook Meeting House and Burial Ground, walking a portion of the “hidden back road into Princeton,” and a view of Battlefield Park. In addition, the tour follows a portion of the trail taken by George Washington on his way to Princeton Battlefield from Trenton.

The tour begins at Updike Farmstead, 354 Quaker Road in Princeton. Tickets are $5 and include farmhouse museum admission. For further questions, call 609.921.6748 ext. 102.

Princeton Tour Company

Ranked a No. 1 activity on TripAdvisor, AAA Magazine, and recommended by The New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Travel + Leisure magazine, and more. Princeton Tour Company has been featured on both CBS Sunday Morning and CNN.

Princeton Tour Company offers tours customized to meet your interests and needs. Private tours are available every day of the year. The most popular of the many tour options is the Shameless Name Dropping Tour of Princeton. Offered Saturday and Sunday from April through November, this guided tour tells visitors all about the famous students and residents that, at one time, called Princeton home.

Princeton’s Toast of the Town Evening Walking Tour is ideally suited to couples or singles seeking to learn about Princeton’s unique Ivy League history while also enjoying a night on the town.

Festive Walking Tours. Photo courtesy of Princeton Tour Company.

Wintertime Holiday Trolley Tours are a familiar site to Princeton residents and signal the start of the unofficial holiday season. Perfect for families and visitors of all ages, the Holiday Trolley Tours last one hour and take visitors past Princeton’s most interesting sites (all bathed in snow if you’re lucky).

Traveling with a large group? Princeton Tour Company offers custom pub crawls, custom scavenger hunts, bike tours, wedding tours, and an inside look at the supper clubs. In addition, Princeton Tour Company will also aid large parties in finding their ideal transportation, hotel, and dining accommodations.

For active seniors and school groups, Princeton Tour Company offers the 5 Star Ivy League Inspired Leadership Student Experience, the 5 Star Shameless Name Dropping Tour, Daytime Cemetery Tour, Albert Einstein Tour, Hollywood Walking Tour, the Paul Robeson Walking Tour, and more.

Probably the most well-known of Princeton Tour Company’s event offerings is Princeton Pi Day, which is celebrated every year around March 14, the numeric equivalent of Pi and Einstein’s birthday. Pi Day events involve the whole town and attract many visitors as well. Activities usually span three days and include pie eating, pie judging, pie throwing, Pi recitation, Pizza Pie, an Einstein Look-Alike Contest, and cupcake decorating contests.

To book your tour with Princeton Tour Company or for upcoming event information, visit princetontourcompany.com.

Princeton University’s (In)Visible Princeton

Thanks in part to the efforts of the Campus Iconography Committee (CIC), Princeton University has launched four new (In)Visible Tours, highlighting the stories and lesser-known histories of Princeton University. These tours include African American Life at Princeton, “Firsts” at Princeton, Traditions at Princeton, and Women at Princeton.

The tours can be accessed on your smartphone device, making them easy and convenient to follow. For people who are not on campus, the tours can be viewed remotely using Firefox or Google Chrome browsers.

Visitors will find colored stickers indicating tour stops around campus. The stickers include a scannable code, which gives users access to accompanying interpretive text, images, audio, and video that explain the significance of the sites, people, and events at each stop. An app is not required to scan the tour codes; rather, each code is activated using the camera on a smartphone.

The African American Life at Princeton tour examines the history of slavery at Princeton University and ends with a detailed account of current inclusion initiatives.

The “Firsts” at Princeton tour gives a historical account of ways that different cultural and identity groups were represented within the campus community, both in the past and present.

The Traditions at Princeton tour is ideally suited to incoming students and other visitors who want an inside look at some of the traditions most important to undergraduate and graduate Princetonians. The tour also offers perspective on how these traditions have changed and evolved over time.

The Women at Princeton Tour gives a revealing account of the role of women throughout Princeton University’s history, from the “enslaved women owned by faculty and administrators in the 1700s to the administrators, students, and faculty of today,” according to the University.

Additionally, the University dedicated two campus spaces this fall in honor of “freed slaves who served in the Princeton community.” The easternmost arch of Pyne Hall was dedicated to James Collins “Jimmy” Johnson, who worked at the campus for more than 60 years until his death in 1902. A new garden in front of Firestone Library has been named for Betsey Stockton, who “lived in Princeton in the mid-1800s and helped found a public school for African American children and the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, after gaining her freedom from the household of University President Abel Green.”

There is some overlap between subject matters and historical figures on some of the tours, demonstrating the often interconnected and overlapping history of Princeton’s minority communities. Lastly, the tours offer multiple accounts of the University’s increasing commitment to diversity.

Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society

There is also a group dedicated to maintaining the history of the once segregated and self-sustaining African American community in Princeton. The Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society (WJHCS) was founded by Shirley Satterfield, president, who is the historian of the Witherspoon-Jackson community and has led tours through the neighborhood and Princeton Cemetery since 1997. The Society’s current project is a self-guided tour to be known as the Heritage Tour, that will mark 29 important sites with engraved stainless steel plaques in the areas bounded by Witherspoon and John streets and by Birch Avenue and Paul Robeson Place (originally Jackson Street). Also noted will be sites beyond the Witherspoon-Jackson community that were contributing African American establishments in Princeton.

The Heritage Tour engraved plaque design.

Covered Bridge Artisans Tours

The annual Covered Bridge Artisans Tour allows visitors the unique experience to step inside six open artists’ studios and view ten artists in the Ginny Napurano Cultural Arts Center, all located in Hunterdon County. Visitors can see the unique and historic places where the local artists have carved out undeniably creative work spaces. From sculptures to tile makers, painters, glass artists, handmade clothing, and knitwear, the art is very much in the handmade arts and crafts category, with the majority of the pieces for purchase being one-of-a-kind and signed by the artists themselves. A PDF version of the self-guided studio tour map is available to download for free at http://coveredbridgeartisans.com/tour-map.html.

Photos courtesy of Covered Bridge Artisans Tours.

This year’s participating studios include Long Lane Farm Studio, Sunflower Glass Studio, Cann & Constance Basset, Teri Nalbone, Swan Street Studio, and Annelies van Dommelen. Many of the studios are located in historic farm houses dotting towns such as Lambertville, New Hope, Stockton, Sergeantsville, Lumberville, and Frenchtown.

In terms of scenery, the entire tour makes for a wonderful day trip, with the gray light of late November reflecting beautifully off of the Delaware River and the rustic, natural landscape. For those looking to accomplish their holiday shopping for friends and family, this is a “can’t miss” event!

Photos courtesy of Covered Bridge Artisans Tours.

The 2018 dates for the Covered Bridge Artisans Tour are Friday and Saturday, November 23 and 24 from 10am to 5pm and Sunday, November 25 from 10am to 4 pm. You are almost guaranteed to walk away with some priceless handmade treasures.

Photos courtesy of Covered Bridge Artisans Tours.