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  1. The Joseph Henry House

Joseph Henry's Master Plan of 1836

Joseph Henry's Master Plan of 1836

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Unknown

After the completion of East and West colleges, the College's institutional energy was spent. The next building to appear on the rear campus was more the result of the initiative of one man -- Joseph Henry -- than the product of a coherent building campaign.

In September 1836, Henry submitted to the Trustees a plan of the existing campus structures and indicated areas for future growth. The plan codified the idea of a symmetrical campus and incorporated several structures that were either under construction -- West College -- or as yet unbuilt, including new halls for the Whig and Cliosophic Societies. Also part of Henry's scheme were two new houses for professors, on either side of Nassau Hall; Henry himself would live in the one to the west.

Finishing off the rear campus, between the halls of Whig and Clio, Henry reserved a site for a new chapel. This central location would provide a symbolic religious complement to the secular splendor of Nassau Hall.

When Henry drew up his plan, though, the site served a more prosaic function. It was the College privy.

One would be mistaken to attribute too much significance to the Henry plan, however. Although it certainly represented the first formal attempt to diagram the campus and identify locations for future construction -- and also clarified the idea that the College had two main areas centered on Nassau Hall, the front and rear campuses -- to a large degree Henry was simply codifying the results of decisions that had already been made.


View at present site

View at present site

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Greiff et al, Princeton Architecture, fig.110

Only one of these was built -- Henry's own.

Legend has it that Henry was lured to the College by the offer of both a professorship and the promise to build a house according to Henry's specifications and design. Joseph Henry House revealed Henry's skillful use of space and Greek Revival ornamentation to a small-scale architectural project. The structure itself was built of brick painted red and had wooden porches. It was first authorized in 1836, but because of a lack of funds, construction was delayed until 1837. The total cost came to exactly $5,000.25.


View from southeast in original location, with Geological Hall in background (photo 1863)

View from southeast in original location, with Geological Hall in background (photo 1863)

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Source: Princeton University Archives, Mudd Library, Grounds & Buildings, Box 36

It was to this house that Professor Henry sent telegraphic messages (sometimes to order lunch) from his laboratory in Philosophical Hall, which stood where Chancellor Green Student Center now stands. The Joseph Henry House was made the official residence of the dean of the College soon after that office was created in 1909 and was so used through the incumbencies of Deans Elliott, McClenahan, Gauss, Godolphin, and Finch. In 1961 it became the home of William D'O. Lippincott, dean of students from 1954 to 1968, and executive director of the Alumni Council from 1968 to 1972. In 1973 it became the home of Aaron Lemonick, dean of the faculty and professor of physics.

In a community where well-traveled buildings are no rarity, the Joseph Henry House has made more journeys than any other. Three times since it came into being on the south side of Stanhope Hall it has had to move to make way for other buildings: in 1879 for Reunion Hall (which was razed in 1966), in 1925 for the University Chapel, in 1946 for Firestone Library. It now stands just north of Chancellor Green, across the Front Campus from the John Maclean House.

Source: Leitch