A bit of the Netherlands in Princeton

It is a bit of understatement to say Princeton is a beautiful town. Those of us fortunate enough to live or work here are treated every day to the lush tree-lined streets and spectacular architecture of the town and Princeton University. While Princeton is mostly known for the collegiate Gothic buildings of the University (lots of stonework, pointed arches, and gargoyles), many fine examples of other styles can be found all over town.

One of my favorites buildings is an unusual one at the western end of Nassau Street, the main commercial street in downtown Princeton. I took at bit of time to browse the shelves of the Princeton Room on the second floor of the library and found this building mentioned and pictured in six different books.

I always thought the structure looked like it had been lifted from Amsterdam. It turns out the building was modeled after a 16th century meat market in Haarlem in the Netherlands, not too far from Amsterdam. It was designed by William E. Stone, a New York architect, for the Princeton Bank and Trust Company and completed in 1896. The forerunner of the Bank and Trust was the Princeton Banking Company, founded in 1834 and was the first bank founded in Princeton.  The building sits on the corner of Nassau and Bank Street, and Bank Street was actually named for the bank.

Although the Bank and Trust is no longer at this building, it still houses other financial institutions. Based on the pictures, the building has changed a bit over the last 122 years but its stepped gable and ornate facade remain remarkably well-preserved.

For all the information I could find on this building, some questions remain. For example, are the eight stone decorative faces in the facade based on real people? Sometimes these decorations are based on friends or relatives of the stonemasons but I didn’t find anything about this in my brief research. I didn’t even find anything about why the Princeton Bank And Trust chose Dutch Revival over more popular styles of the day. However, the mystique of this structure just adds to its charm. And please feel free to look up your favorite buildings, parks, schools, or famous Princeton residents in our Princeton Room. The breadth and depth of the collection might surprise you.

Photos courtesy of the author.

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