The New Jersey History
and Historic Preservation Conference
Uncover the history of Princeton’s early settlement to the 21st-cenutry at Updike Farmstead, headquarters of the Historical Society of Princeton. The farmstead sits in the Princeton Battlefield/Stony Brook Village Historic District and is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Benjamin Clarke, an early inhabitant of the Stony Brook settlement, which would later become Princeton, first owned the land as part of a 1200-acre parcel he purchased in 1696. The Farmstead is along the route followed by Continental troops on their way to engage British soldiers at the neighboring Thomas Clarke farm at Princeton Battlefield.
The original Benjamin Clarke property, which was divided up over time, remained in the hands of his descendants for over 150 years. In 1892, George Furman Updike, Sr. acquired approximately 190 acres of the original farmland and added buildings to the site, including a large barn. In 1969, the Updike family sold 184 acres of the property to the Institute for Advanced Study. Brother and sister, Stanley and Sarah Updike, continued to live on the remaining six acres until their deaths in 2002. The property was purchased by the Historical Society in 2004. Today, its six acres, surrounded by preserved farmland, consists of a late 18th/early 19th-century farmhouse, an 1892 barn, outbuildings, a restored windmill, and an organic garden. The property is one of the last surviving farms in Princeton.
At the heart of the Historical Society’s service to the community are its museum and archival collections which paint a vivid picture of daily life and notable events from early settlement to the 21st-century. The archives are available to scholars, students, genealogists, architects, local businesspeople, and the general public.
While you’re in the area: Updike Farmstead is a quick 5-minute drive from Morven Museum and Gardens. The Museum was built in 1757 for Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, on land granted to his grandfather by William Penn in 1701. Morven was home to five New Jersey governors as the state of New Jersey’s first Governor’s Mansion. After undergoing extensive restoration, the house re-opened as a museum and garden in 2004. Today, the mansion contains two floors of galleries that showcase the stories of the people who lived and worked at Morven through the centuries including free and enslaved African Americans, immigrant servants, and government employees. Located down the street at the center of town is Princeton University, a battleground during the American Revolution. Located on the University campus is Nassau Hall, built in 1756 it was the largest stone building in the American Colonies and the site where British troops surrendered to General George Washington, concluding the Battle of Princeton.
If you’re in the mood to stretch your legs, the Historical Society of Princeton offers a 2-mile guided walking tour every Sunday. If you would like to explore the area at your own pace, you may also download the historical society’s app and select from the list of digital walking tours.