Opinion: Princeton should get serious about preserving architectural integrity

The Historic Preservation Commission has declined to endorse Princeton University's plans to tear down three Victorian houses on Prospect Avenue and to relocate the former Court Club building across the street to the land occupied by the three houses.

I was pleased to see the solution Princeton University worked out with the municipality, saving three historic Prospect Avenue homes that had been proposed for demolition.

Ironically, while the fate of those three Victorians was being discussed, a historically and architecturally significant home just down the street, at 164 Prospect, was bulldozed within a few short hours – without a single voice of protest. The home was a unique 1930s-era brick cape with a serpentine brick garden wall, charming outbuilding, dormer windows and handsome wood-paneled study.

Princeton Township’s mix of architectural periods and styles helps make it a special place. Permitting demolition of architecturally significant structures irreversibly erodes our neighborhoods and eradicates our history, home by home and block by block.

How can the township continue to allow this? Homes like the gem at 164 Prospect Ave. are just not built anymore. The lack of stewardship is appalling considering the presence of a long-standing Historic Preservation Commission and a vocal populace that claims to care about preservation and architectural integrity.

It is high time that Princeton get serious about preserving its history and architectural integrity, as have many other New Jersey towns. As residents of a town we love, we ought to be able to summon the collective will to commit once and for all to historic preservation, with all of its benefits – and not just when the university is involved.

Tom Leyden