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1951: Forrestal Campus

Aerial View showing Princeton Pennsylvania Accelerator and Long Track (photo 1960's?)

Aerial View showing Princeton Pennsylvania Accelerator and Long Track (photo 1960's?)

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.


Forrestal Campus, a major University facility for research and instruction, was established in 1951 on a 825-acre tract on U.S. Route 1, about three miles from the central campus. It was named for the first United States Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal '15, who, while secretary of the navy, had initiated government support of fundamental research in science and engineering.

The University purchased the land, with sixteen laboratory buildings, for $1,500,000 from the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, which relocated its Princeton activities in New York as part of what became Rockefeller University. It was at the Institute that Nobel laureates Wendell M. Stanley and John H. Northrup made their discoveries about the essential nature of viruses.

At first, Forrestal was devoted principally to research activities in aerospace and mechanical sciences. Added subsequently were three major research facilities: Project Matterhorn later called the Plasma Physics Laboratory; the federal government's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory for theoretical research in meteorology and oceanography, moved to Princeton from Washington, D.C., in 1968, and the $40 million Princeton-Pennsylvania Accelerator, which provided unique research facilities for the study of elementary particles from 1957 until 1972 when, supporting funds being no longer available, it was closed and placed in stand-by condition.

In 1973 the University announced a long-range plan to influence the quality of development in the area surrounding the Forrestal Campus and at the same time to generate long-term income for its own educational objectives. Called the Princeton Forrestal Center, the project involved adding enough acreage to the original Forrestal Campus (both by purchase and the acquisition of developmental control) to bring the total area to 1,600 acres. Almost half of this land was to be retained for the Forrestal Campus and for open space, leaving the rest to be developed for office, research, and light industrial use, and for town houses, apartments, a hotel, and a shopping area.

Source: Leitch p. 197

Forrestal Campus in Evolution of the Campus

Curator's note: The Forrestal Campus was equipped with an airstrip and a unique "reverse wind tunnel" known as the Long Track. Further information on aerodyanmics research at Princeton, including a description of the Long Track, may be found in this obituary of Professor Howard Curtiss