Did you know the name “Princeton” is the subject of much debate? Although most historians agree that the community’s name was first called “Princetown” and the name “Princeton” has been in use since 1724, its origin has no official documentation. Some say Princeton is linked to a royal prince, similar to the Queenstown area at Nassau and Harrison Streets, while others believe Princeton is named for Henry Prince, a prominent landowner.

Trenton’s origin is unquestioned. First called “Trent-towne” in 1719 after another prominent landowner, William Trent, the city’s name was later shortened to “Trenton.” Trenton became the capital of New Jersey in 1790 and the New Jersey State House was built in 1792, making it the third-oldest state house in the U.S.

Few areas in the nation are filled with a history as long and storied as the Princeton-Mercer area. Fortunately, much of this history has been preserved for residents and visitors to learn from and celebrate. Here are just a small handful of the many historical landmarks in the Princeton-Mercer region.

Historical Societies

These two organizations are a great place to start when exploring local history! The Historical Society of Princeton, headquartered on the Updike Farmstead, offers guided tours through downtown Princeton and the University, as well as themed history walks throughout the year. The Trenton Historical Society is a tremendous resource of educational materials and events focused on the area’s history.

Morven Museum & Garden

From William Penn to his grandson, Richard Stockton, to Richard’s wife, Annis Boudinot Stockton, one of America’s earliest published female poets, to Robert Wood Johnson and five New Jersey governors, many historic figures called the Morven Museum & Garden home. In addition to the restored physical structure, the property’s landscape has been cultivated as a beautiful garden for more than 150 years, while the Stockton Education Center was opened in 2018.

The Douglass House

Built in 1766 by Alexandar Douglass, Quartermaster in George Washington’s army, the Douglass House in Trenton hosted Washington’s Council of War. Although the home has been moved three times, its historical significance remains. The Douglass House is now available for special events.

The Old Barracks Museum

The Old Barracks were built in Trenton during the French and Indian War in 1958. On Christmas night in 1776, American troops crossed the Delaware River before surprising British and Hessian troops the next morning. This victory, along with a second victory in Trenton and a third in Princeton, all within a 10-day period, changed the tide of the Revolutionary War. The building became the Old Barracks Museum in 1903.

Princeton Battlefield State Park

The date was January 3, 1777. Fresh off their success in Trenton, American troops under George Washington surprised and defeated the British, the first field victory for Washington. The battlefield stretched more than a mile to the campus of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. Princeton Battlefield State Park now features educational programs, nature trails, and bird and wildlife viewing.

Quaker Meeting House

Built in 1726, the Quaker Meeting House near Princeton Battlefield State Park was the first house of worship in Princeton. Richard Stockton is buried in the small graveyard at the church, which still hosts services on Sunday.

The World War II Memorial

The Revolution isn’t the only American war with a presence in the Princeton-Mercer region. The World War II Memorial at Veterans Park on West State Street in Trenton honors the courage and sacrifice of the “Greatest Generation,” featuring the Lady Victory sculpture that captures the greatness of those who served both on the battlefield and at home.

The Trentoniana Room

Our public libraries are a wonderful source of history and education! The Trenton Free Public Library is home to Trentoniana, a collection of history and genealogy that includes photos, films, business records, newspapers, and more, including microfilm that features newspapers dating back to 1778! Internships are available throughout the year as college students continuously develop projects to enhance the Trentoniana Room.

The Princeton-Mercer region is a treasure of local and American history. We encourage you to learn more about historic landmarks in our area!