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Prospect History

Prospect, once the home of the president and now a social center for University faculty, administration, and staff, was acquired by the College in 1878. At that time it occupied a thirty-acre estate that extended as far east as the present site of Woodrow Wilson School.

The land on which Prospect stands was originally part of a large tract owned by Richard Stockton, one of the first settlers of Princeton and grandfather of Richard Stockton 1748. It was later acquired by Benjamin FitzRandolph, who conveyed it to his son, Nathaniel FitzRandolph. Still later the property was deeded to Colonel George Morgan, western explorer, United States Agent for Indian Affairs, and gentleman farmer. Morgan built a stone farmhouse on the crest of the hill and, observing the superb view of the landscape to the east, called it "Prospect."

Colonel Morgan's estate became famous in Revolutionary times as "Prospect near Princeton." A delegation of ten Delaware Indian chieftains spent a few days in wigwams on its lawns as guests of Colonel Morgan in 1779, preparatory to going to Philadelphia to confer with Continental Congress. Some two thousand mutinous soldiers of the Pennsylvania Line pitched camp there in 1781, also en route to Philadelphia to demand a redress of their grievances. Continental Congress held a number of its sessions at Prospect in 1783 before establishing itself in Nassau Hall.

John Potter, a wealthy merchant from Charleston, South Carolina, acquired Prospect in 1824. In 1849, his son, Thomas F. Potter, replaced Colonel Morgan's stone farmhouse with the present mansion, which was designed by John Notman in the Florentine style, much used at that time for country residences. The grounds were laid by an Englishman named Petrey who, according to Mrs. Allan Marquand, undoubtedly planned the flower garden and brought over the beautiful Cedar of Lebanon, the large hawthorn, and the fine English yew, on the west of the house.

In 1878 Alexander and Robert L. Stuart, wealthy Scottish-American merchants and Presbyterian-minded philanthropists, bought Prospect and presented it to the College for use as the residence of President McCosh and his successors. McCosh thought it the finest college president's house in the world and on leaving it said he felt like Adam leaving Eden. In the 1890s President Patton kept a cow and pastured it where Palmer Hall now stands. Prospect's Eden-like qualities diminished with the passing years. Undergraduates going to their eating clubs took short cuts across the Prospect grounds and one year football crowds trampled on the garden. The following summer (1904) President Wilson had an iron fence built around the Prospect grounds, enclosing five acres of the Campus, to the annoyance of undergraduates who tore part of it down. Mrs. Wilson made over the garden approximately in its present form and planted the background of evergreens.

One spring night in 1925, a caravan of student cars drove through the Prospect grounds to protest an edict of the trustees banning automobiles from the Campus, and during a spring riot in the early sixties undergraduates tore down a section of the fence at the back of the garden.

After the official residence of the president was changed to the Walter Lowrie House in 1968, Prospect was converted for the social use of the faculty and administration, and later of all full-time University employees. The president continued to use its grounds for official receptions at the opening of the University in September and at Commencement.

Source: Source: Leitch p. 393 ff