The several day move of the former Court Club building deemed a success

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Moving day for the former Court Club building – from the east side of Prospect Avenue to the west side – has been successfully completed.

The massive brick building, which was hoisted from its foundation and placed onto a platform, rolled across Prospect Avenue over several days during the week of Feb. 13. The move also entailed rotating the building 180 degrees to face in the right direction.

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The building was relocated to make way for part of Princeton University’s new Environmental Studies and School of Engineering and Applied Science (ES+SEAS) complex. Work on the project is under way.

All week long, spectators gathered outside the chain link fence surrounding the work area, while others climbed the stairwell in the Prospect Avenue parking garage to stand on the landings. All watched in awe as the building was slowly moved across the street.

Preparations for the former Court Club building’s move occurred over several months. The building was lifted onto steel beams. The house movers placed dollies below the steel beams. The building was rolled across the street on the dollies.

Now that it is in place, the former Court Club building will be renovated to include new office and conference spaces, Princeton University officials said. It houses the Office of the Dean of Research.

The Court Club building was constructed in 1928. It was one of several eating clubs for Princeton University students until it was disbanded in 1964. The eating clubs serve as a social hub for students, similar to the Greek fraternities and sororities on many college campuses.

The Court Club building now sits on the former site of a Victorian house at 110 Prospect Ave. The Victorian house was moved in November 2022 to the rear yards of two Victorian houses at 114 Prospect Ave. and 116 Prospect Ave.

The three Victorian houses had been threatened with demolition to make room for the former Court Club building, which officials said was standing in the way of the planned ES+SEAS complex.

About 3% of the ES+SEAS complex will sit on land occupied by the former Court Club building at 91 Prospect Ave. Instead of demolishing the building, Princeton University had planned to move it across the street to the site of the three Victorian houses which would have been demolished.

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 building.

Princeton University submitted a revised 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. The plan paved the way for the Court Club building to be moved across the street to 110 Prospect Ave.

The 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 led to the creation of the Prospect Avenue Historic District, which was 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. 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 includes the Ferris Thompson Wall and gateway, which led to the former athletic fields on the same side as the three Victorian houses. The fields have been redeveloped for other uses by Princeton University.

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