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The use of the word campus (Latin for "field") to mean the grounds of a college originated at Princeton. Its earliest recorded use is found in a letter Charles C. Beatty 1775 wrote to his brother-in-law Enoch Green 1760 on January 31, 1774: "Last week to show our patriotism, we gathered all the steward's winter store of tea, and having made a fire in the Campus, we there burnt near a dozen pounds, tolled the bell and made many spirited resolves."

Previously yard was the word used at Princeton, as it was at Harvard (where it was first used in 1639) and other colleges. An example of this usage occurs in a letter James Madison 1771 wrote to his father on July 23, 1770. Referring to the interception by Princeton students of a letter a group of New York merchants had addressed to the merchants of Philadelphia, asking them to break the agreement not to import British goods, he said: "Their Letter . . . was . . . burnt by the Students of this place in the college Yard, all of them appearing in their black Gowns and the bell Tolling."

In a monograph on the use of the word campus in the Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts (Volume III, 1897), an etymologist, Albert Matthews (Harvard 1882), suggests that the word may have been introduced by President John Witherspoon who came to Princeton from Scotland in 1768. Matthews reasons that Witherspoon, accustomed to the city universities of Scotland, must have been struck by the different aspect at Princeton where the college grounds consisted of a perfectly flat field with no enclosures, and was therefore moved to apply to the grounds "a classical term which fitly described their character."

The word yard remained in use at Princeton after the introduction of campus and for some time the two terms were used interchangeably. Thus, while the faculty in 1787 spoke of "the back campus of the College," the trustees referred in 1802 to "the west side of the College yard," and then in 1807 to "the front Campus."

Gradually campus won out over yard. In 1833 it appeared in print for the first time in a book by an Englishman, James Finch, Travels in the United States and Canada, in which he writes of Princeton: "In front of the College is a fine campus ornamented with trees." In 1851, Benjamin H. Hall (Harvard 1851) in his College Words and Customs, noted that at Princeton "the college yard is denominated the Campus." After the Civil War the word spread to other colleges and was finally given lexicographical recognition by inclusion in the Century Dictionary of 1889. Samuel Eliot Morison in Three Centuries of Harvard (1936), referring to Princeton's adoption of campus in 1774, wrote, "One by one every other American college has followed suit, until Harvard alone has kept her Yard."


The College possessed no grounds for the first six years after its founding in 1746. Classes were held at Elizabethtown in the parsonage of President Dickinson and later at Newark in the parsonage of President Burr and, when numbers grew, in the county courthouse, in a room above the jail. The trustees sought another location, "more sequestered from the various temptations attending a promiscuous converse with the world, that theatre of folly and dissipation" -- and one nearer to the center of the Province. Then, in the winter of 1752-1753, the village of Princeton won from the town of New Brunswick the right to become the permanent home of the College by securing for it, as stipulated by the trustees, 1,000 pounds proclamation money, ten acres of cleared land, and 200 acres of woodland to provide fuel.

The citizens of Princeton primarily responsible for this achievement were John Stockton (father of Richard Stockton 1748), Thomas Leonard (a trustee of the College), John Hornor, and Nathaniel FitzRandolph, all large landowners. All four contributed to the 1,000 pound fund and secured subscriptions from others. In December 1752 Stockton and Leonard gave 200 acres of woodland a mile or so north of the village (about where Witherspoon Street now meets Route 206), and Hornor gave seven acres of cleared land in the same vicinity.

At their winter meeting on January 24, 1753, the trustees voted to accept Princeton as the place of the College "when Mr. [Fitz] Randolph has given a Deed for a certain tract of land four hundred feet Front and thirty poles [495 feet] depth, in lines at right angles with the broad street where it is proposed that the College shall be built." The day after this meeting Nathaniel FitzRandolph and his wife Rebeckah gave the trustees a deed for "a certain plot of land bounded Northward by the King's Highway, and containing about four acres and a half." In his private journal FitzRandolph noted that although the deed mentioned a consideration of 150 pounds, he "never did receive one penny of it," since "that was only to confirm the title."

After the Revolution, when the College was in financial straits, the trustees sold the 200 acres given by Stockton and Leonard and the seven acres given by Hornor.


FitzRandolph's four and one-half acres provided the site of Nassau Hall (and what came to be called the Front Campus), to which President Burr and his pupils moved in 1756. At a sheriff's sale four years later the trustees bought land surrounding three sides of the College. These five or six acres widened the Front Campus and added what came to be known as the Back Campus, ending at a line just behind what was to be the site of Whig and Clio Halls.

For eighty-five years the Campus remained unchanged. Then, through small accretions by purchase and gift over a period of thirty years, it gradually increased in size to about twenty acres.

In 1878 Robert L. and Alexander Stuart of New York bought a house and thirty-five-acre estate called "Prospect," adjacent to the Campus, and gave it to the College for use as the residence of President McCosh. Their gift more than doubled the acreage of the Campus, providing precious space for the growth of the College and later of the University.

In 1889 the grounds were quadrupled when the residuary legatees of the estate of John C. Green (who was a generous supporter of the College during President McCosh's administration) purchased and presented the Potter Farm, consisting of 155 acres of meadow and woodland extending from the Campus to the canal between Washington Road and the railroad. "This magnificent gift," M. Taylor Pyne, chairman of the committee on grounds and buildings, told the trustees, "preserves forever our beautiful view, and leaves ample room for the growth of the University for many years to come." It made it possible to say, Pyne added, that Princeton now possessed "the finest Campus of any College in America."

About this time alumni took great interest in securing land for the University. Among their leaders were the South East Club, a group who had lived in the south entry of East College in the 1870s: Howard Russell Butler, William Allen Butler, and Bayard Henry of the Class of 1876; M. Taylor Pyne and Henry B. Thompson, 1877; Percy R. Pyne, Jr. 1878; C. C. Cuyler, Cleveland Dodge, and William Earl Dodge, 1879. For many years they met annually at a dinner at which M. Taylor Pyne, the first of their number to be elected a trustee, spoke of the College's needs.

Their efforts began to bring results in 1905. At the commencement meeting of the trustees that year, Pyne, as president of the Springfield Association whose twenty members had contributed to the cause, presented a deed for a 230-acre tract lying between the Theological Seminary and Stony Brook, on which a golf course had recently been laid, and where the Graduate College was later to be built. That same day, James Laughlin, Jr. 1868, as president of the Olden Association, presented a deed for the ninety-three-acre Olden Farm, extending from the ridge of Prospect Avenue to Stony Brook on the east side of Washington Road. This farm became the site of athletic facilities and playing fields, faculty housing, and a center for mathematics, physics, and astrophysics.

A year later, the creation of a lake, which Howard Russell Butler prevailed upon Andrew Carnegie to finance, resulted in the University's acquisition of some 400 acres -- the lake itself and land fronting it for over a mile and a half (Lake Carnegie).

Howard Butler, acting as Carnegie's attorney in acquiring thirty-three parcels of land needed for the Lake, struck a snag in his negotiations for a small strip of about three acres just east of Harrison Street. This the Gray family refused to sell unless their entire farm of 107 acres was purchased; and Carnegie, for his part, was unwilling to buy upland. Howard Butler's brother, William Allen Butler, organized a syndicate of South East Club members and others to purchase the farm, which they were able to do through a down payment, a bank loan, and a mortgage. After the loan was paid off, Butler induced his mother to satisfy the mortgage, enabling the syndicate in 1912 to present the deed for the property to the trustees. The major part of this gift, named the Butler Tract, was used for graduate student housing, a smaller part, retaining the name Gray Farm, for faculty housing.

In 1917 Bayard Henry obtained gifts from alumni and friends that permitted the University to negotiate, under his guidance, with the Pennsylvania Railroad to move the Princeton station from the foot of Blair Tower to its present location, thus releasing about seven acres of land, which the University used for six dormitories south of Blair Hall along University Place.

At the spring meeting of the trustees in 1922, Henry informed the board that he and several other alumni would donate the Mather farm, extending south from Lake Carnegie along Washington Road, if the University would purchase the Schenck farm, adjoining it on the west, which had just come on the market. The board accepted the donation and made the additional purchase, thereby adding 216 acres to its holdings and giving the University ownership of all the land that lies between Washington Road and the line of University Place from Nassau Street to U.S. Route 1. That same year M. Taylor Pyne bequeathed twenty-five houses and lots and twenty-seven and a half undeveloped acres in the Broadmead section, east of the Olden Farm.

In 1951 the University acquired 825 acres -- the largest land acquisition in its history -- by its purchase of the grounds and buildings of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research a few miles northeast of the central Campus. This area, used for advanced Research in science and engineering, was named the James Forrestal Campus.

The Major farm of one hundred acres, adjoining the Forrestal Campus to the east, was acquired in 1967.

By 1970 the University's grounds comprised 2,325 acres.


In the College's early years the Georgian style of Nassau Hall prevailed, with two minor but conspicuous exceptions. The style was followed in twin buildings, a library and a refectory (later Stanhope Hall and Philosophical Hall) erected in the early 1800s on either side of Nassau Hall, and in twin dormitories, East College and West College, constructed in the 1830s on either side of the Back Campus. The two exceptions came a few years later when Whig and Clio were built in the style of classical Greek temples.

A more permanent break with the Georgian tradition came after the Civil War, in the administration of President McCosh, with the erection of Ruskinian Gothic buildings such as the Chancellor Green Library (now the Student Center). Chancellor Green's replacement of Philosophical Hall altered the formal symmetry of the Campus, by foreshadowing the more extensive alteration that was to come with the razing of East College to make way for Chancellor Green's companion, Pyne Library.

The McCosh administration brought an advance in landscaping, which had had modest beginnings with the planting of sycamore trees in front of the president's house in 1765 and of elm trees on the Front Campus in the 1830s.

President McCosh, who brought a Britisher's love of gardens with him when he arrived in 1868, took pleasure in laying out the grounds and locating the buildings, and under his care and planning the Campus began to take on a park-like appearance.

The Ruskinian Gothic of the McCosh era was followed, after a few divergences such as Alexander Hall (Romanesque) and Brown and Dod dormitories (Italian Renaissance) by the Tudor Gothic of Oxford and Cambridge, adopted at the time of the Sesquicentennial through the influence of Professor Andrew Fleming West, the organizing genius of that celebration, and M. Taylor Pyne, chairman of the trustees' committee on grounds and buildings. From the completion of Pyne Library and Blair Hall in 1897 to the building of Firestone Library fifty years later, collegiate Gothic was the prevailing architectural style at Princeton, achieving its highest expression in McCosh Hall, Holder Hall, the Graduate College, and the University Chapel.

The long-range development of the Campus was facilitated by the creation of the office of supervising architect and the appointment of Ralph Adams Cram as first incumbent in 1907. Henry B. Thompson, who succeeded his classmate, Pyne, as chairman of the committee on grounds and buildings, was influential in this appointment as he was in that of Beatrix Farrand as first consulting landscape gardener in 1915.

Cram made the first master plan for the Campus. He visualized two main axes, one extending south from the rear of Nassau Hall, the other east and west from the tiger gateway between Blair and Little along McCosh Walk to Washington Road. The north-south axis he conceived was later accented by the construction in 1969 of the plaza and steps, guarded by tigers, between Whig and Clio Halls.

Stephen F. Voorhees '00 was supervising architect from 1930 to 1949, Robert B. O'Connor from 1949 to 1954. When he died in 1965, Voorhees left a fund for the beautification of the Campus. Douglas Orr was consulting architect (a title adopted in 1954) from 1954 to 1966. Pietro Belluschi was appointed to this office in 1966 and was succeeded by Charles H. Warner, Jr., in 1975.

Orr devised a new master plan that added another east-west axis farther south, extending from the tennis courts to Palmer Stadium. After 1948 collegiate Gothic gave way to a variety of modern architectural styles in buildings such as the Engineering Quadrangle, the Woodrow Wilson School, the Art Museum, Fine and Jadwin Halls, and the newer dormitories.

Most of the beautiful planting on the Campus was the work of Mrs. Farrand. She began with the Graduate College and by the time she retired she had overseen the planting of trees and shrubs around some seventy-five buildings. Her successors as consulting landscape architect (the slightly altered title was adopted in 1946) have been Alfred Geiffert, Jr., from 1943 to 1958, Markley Stevenson from 1958 to 1961, Michael Rapuano from 1961 to 1974, and since 1974, Robert L. Zion.

Successors of Henry B. Thompson as chairman of the trustees' committee on grounds and buildings have been Franklin D'Olier 1898 from 1928 to 1942, Dean Mathey '12 from 1942 to 1949, Sanford G. Etherington '06 from 1949 to 1951, Henderson Supplee, Jr. '26 from 1951 to 1974, and since 1974, Richard R. Hough '39.

Source: Leitch p. 74 ff