Princeton University’s former Court Club eating club set to move across the street

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Princeton University is in the midst of its house-moving project to preserve three Victorian houses.

A house at 110 Prospect Ave. has successfully been moved to the back yard of the two houses next door at 114 Prospect Ave. and 116 Prospect Ave. making room for the former Court Club eating club building across the street at 91 Prospect Ave. to be moved to that site.

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Crews are set to pick up the Court Club building and move it to the lot formerly occupied by the house at 110 Prospect Ave. All of the affected buildings are owned by Princeton University.

The three Victorian houses had been threatened with demolition to make room for the former Court Club building, which officials said is standing in the way of the university’s planned Environmental Studies and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (ES+SEAS) complex.

About 3% of the ES+SEAS complex will sit on land occupied by the Court Club building. Instead of demolishing the Court Club, which houses the office of the Dean of Research, the university had planned to move it across the street.

But historic preservationists objected to Princeton University’s plan to demolish the Victorian houses at 110-116 Prospect Ave. in an online petition signed by more than 1,700 people. The petition began circulating after the university submitted a minor site plan application to the Princeton Planning Board that would have required the demolition to create space for the Court Club.

Princeton University submitted a revised minor site plan to preserve the three Victorian houses and the former Court Club building three days before the Princeton Planning Board’s Oct. 21, 2021 meeting to act on the minor site plan application.

The revised plan called for moving the house at 110 Prospect Ave. to the rear yards behind 114 Prospect Ave. and 116 Prospect Ave., paving the way for the Court Club building to be moved across the street to the former site of 110 Prospect Ave.

The new plan, which was approved by the Princeton Planning Board, grew out of Princeton University officials’ discussions with historic preservationists who opposed the original site plan. Those discussions also led to the creation of the Prospect Avenue Historic District, approved by the Princeton Council in July 2022.

Princeton University supported the proposed Prospect Avenue Historic District, which became the town’s 22nd historic district earlier this year. It includes the 15 undergraduate eating clubs – 11 of which are still used for that purpose – that line both sides of Prospect Avenue. It also includes the three Victorian houses and the Court Club building.

The eating clubs, which are not part of Princeton University, originated in the 1800s to meet the students’ needs for food and social activities. Their function is similar to the Greek fraternities and sororities on many college campuses.

The Prospect Avenue Historic District starts at the corner of Washington Road and Prospect Avenue and stops at Murray Place. It excludes the academic buildings on the corner of Washington Road and Prospect Avenue, but includes the three-story brick apartment building on the corner of Prospect Avenue and Murray Place.

The district also includes the Ferris Thompson Wall and gateway, which led to the former athletic fields on the same side as the Victorian houses. The fields have been redeveloped for other uses by Princeton University.

The Prospect Avenue Historic District was proposed in 1992 but was never enacted. The Princeton Community Master Plan had recommended creating the Club Row Historic District – the forerunner of the Prospect Avenue Historic District – at that time.

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