Sunday, September 25, 2011

Morven and Princeton Cemetery

I’ve been to Morven a few times over the past few years, but have not written about it because none of those visits were typical experiences. It was always for some special event or another. However, I really shouldn’t neglect this site. It is one of the premier house museums in the state (Revolutionary War era or otherwise).

For our purposes, its significance comes from its first owner, Richard Stockton, one of New Jersey’s signatories to the Declaration of Independence. It was deeded to the State of New Jersey in 1954 and served as the official Governor’s Residence until 1981. Morven was then renovated and opened to the public in 2004. There are plenty of displays about the Stockton family that owned and occupied the house. When I last visited there was an interesting display of parade flags. They also host a number of interesting special events.

There is little outside the house that directly pertains to the Revolutionary War era. (The recently renovated Bauhaus style pool house is very cool, though.) There are a number of informative signs around the property and a restored garden based on what one of the later owners imagined the 18th century garden looked like. However, just north of the property is the Princeton Battle Monument – a hulking structure with a relief of Washington on horseback and plenty of intriguing scavenger hunt-type details.

Princeton is overflowing with Revolutionary War heritage. I covered the battleground in an earlier post. There’s also Nassau Hall, where, legend has it, an American cannonball entered the building and “decapitated” a portrait of King George III. The original frame now holds the famous Charles Willson Peale painting of “Washington at the Battle of Princeton.” Take a Princeton University tour to catch a glimpse.

And speaking of the university, I decided to head over to Princeton Cemetery, which is located just a few blocks west of Nassau Street. It is known as “America’s Westminster Abbey” because of the number of notables who are buried here, many of them former Princeton University presidents.

I was a bit perplexed, though, that Declaration signer Rev. John Witherspoon had a much smaller and less detailed marker than Aaron Burr. There are also many Stocktons buried here, but the signer himself is in an unmarked grave at the Quaker Meeting House. This is a pleasant diversion if you like wandering through graveyards (the cemetery provides a map with the approximate location of notable graves).

Bottom line: Put Morven - and the whole of Princeton - on your New Jersey American Revolution must-see list.

1 comment:

Michael Goldstein said...

Thought you might be interested in a resource we've recently made available on the web: It's a 60-page self-guided tour to the battles of Trenton and Princeton, plus a bunch of supporting resources (e.g. KMZ files of battle maps).

All available for free download:

Michael Goldstein

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