The historic William Phillips Tavern sits in a hollow on a narrow section of road that was part of the King’s Highway – today’s Route 206 – when the house was built in 1734.
The fieldstone house was one of several taverns in Lawrence Township that served food and drink in the tap room, and was home to the tavern-keeper and his family.
Now, the 18th-century house is poised to become the home of the Princeton Junior School’s head of school, Silvana Nazzaro Clark. The school, which is on seven acres of land next to the house, purchased it from the Morgan family last year.
The Princeton Junior School is a private, co-educational school for students in grades K-6, located at 3270 Lawrenceville Road in Lawrence Township. The school is located on property that was once part of the William Phillips Tavern property.
While the main section of the house will become the home for Clark, a wing that was built in the 1990s will be used as an international center for the research and education of children, said Katie Pottinger, the Princeton Junior School’s director of admissions.
“Mrs. Clark’s dream is to bring together a group of highly esteemed researchers and forward thinking educational leaders to bridge educational theory into practice, through a lab school for early childhood and primary education,” Pottinger said.
The type of topics that may be investigated include honing in on childhood as a fundamental time to engage in the arts and how it impacts children’s abilities to express themselves, she said.
It is all part of the expansion of the Princeton Junior School and its campus, thanks to donor Steve Ginzbarg, Pottinger said. He is a family friend of Clark’s. His contribution is the single largest donation to the school, which was founded by Juliana McIntyre Fenn and Helen Craven in 1983 in a church basement in Princeton.
The Princeton Junior School quickly outgrew its space in the church basement, and expanded to three locations while it searched for a permanent home, Pottinger said. The school identified the former William Phillips Tavern property as the ideal location for a new school campus – except for one detail, she said.
The historic house could not be used as a school, so an arrangement was made to buy the property in conjunction with a family that was interested in buying it for their home, she said. The family bought the 10-acre parcel and sold seven acres to the Princeton Junior School.
The Princeton Junior School, which has frontage on Route 206 and Fackler Road, gained approval from Lawrence Township to build its school on the seven-acre parcel. The schoolhouse resembles a barn, with classroom wings fanning out from it. Each classroom opens to the outside to encourage a connection to the natural surroundings, Pottinger said.
Thanks to contributions from donors, Pottinger said, the Princeton Junior School is expanding its facilities to include a new sports pavilion that will be completed in the spring; a performing arts center; a STEM shop; and possibly a swimming pool, she said.
The Performing Arts Center, which is expected to open in the fall, will include professional theater space and a dance hall, plus a backstage bungalow and lobby, Pottinger said. The theater will be located in a barn on the campus, and named the Hana N. Ginzbarg Playhouse in memory of Ginzbarg’s mother.