The first is a rendering of Nassau Hall by Dawkins, from New American Magazine, published in 1760, four years after the building was completed. This building was later seriously damaged during the American Revolution. Paintings by Peale, Polk and Trumbull depicting George Washington and the Battle of Princeton have Nassau Hall in the backdrop, thus reminding the viewer of Princeton's contribution to the Revolutionary cause and its subsequent sufferings.
Nassau Hall was severely damaged by fire several times in the course of the nineteenth century. Latrobe's sketch and floor plan were intended for reconstruction of the building after one such disaster of 1802. This remodeled building lasted and remained a favorite subject of painters' and engravers' until another fire in 1855 required yet another reconstruction. Drawings and engravings from the nineteenth century show the differences of these two designs.
The collection includes paintings and drawings of a few other buildings at Princeton. Stanhope Hall and Philosophical Hall were both built in 1803. While the former has housed the college library, class rooms and various administrative offices over time, the latter, where mathematics and natural philosophy classes were conducted, was razed in 1873 to make room for Chancellor Green Library. East College, an exact duplicate of West College, served exclusively as a dormitory for over ninety years before it was demolished in 1896. The plans of Nassau Hall and all these buildings reflect the nineteenth-century preference for a symmetrical quadrangle.
The folder labeled “Twentieth Century Renderings” contains several original items such as a pen drawing, a water color painting and a few prints, all of Nassau Hall. Also included are a blueprint of the first floor, Nassau Hall, (1936) and its reproductions.
Except for the folder labeled “Twentieth Century Renderings,” most of the items in this collection are listed within chapter seven of Nassau Hall: 1756-1956. This volume was commissioned by the Board of Trustees of Princeton University to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Nassau Hall. The information on the iconography included in Nassau Hall is based on research done by Varnum Lansing Collins. The commentary on each image listed in the book has been included with the respective image.
Built in 1756, Nassau Hall originally housed the entire College of New Jersey, as Princeton University was then named. Designed by Robert Smith and William Shippen, the building was named for King William III, Prince of Orange, of the House of Nassau. Today, Nassau Hall houses the president's and other administrative offices. A fire in 1802 left only the walls standing. Benjamin Henry Latrobe was engaged to rebuild it along its original lines. After an 1855 fire, John Notman, who was also the architect for Prospect House and Walter Lowrie House, made a number of exterior changes to the building, including the staircases at the ends of the building and the arched front doorway. The sturdy stone structure has survived bombardment during the American Revolution (a cannonball scar is visible on the exterior south wall of the west wing), occupation by troops of both sides during the war, and two fires. George Washington drove the British from Nassau Hall in 1777, and during the later half of 1783, it served as the Capitol of the United States. On August 26th of that year, Washington returned to Nassau Hall to receive the thanks of the Continental Congress for his conduct of the war, and on October 31st news arrived there that the Treaty of Paris had been signed, formally ending the American Revolution. The federal government has recognized its momentous early history, being given both national landmark status and acknowledged with a commemorative postage stamp that was issued to celebrate its 1956 bicentennial.
This collection was processed by Sue J. Kim in May 1997, Rachel Ban in June 2001. Additional material incorporated and the finding aid updated by Sue J. Kim, Rachel Ban in May 1997, June 2001. Additions made and finding aid updated by Christie Peterson in August 2011 and May 2012.
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the University Archivist. Under the Copyright Law of 1976, copyright to much of this material will expire on January 1, 2003. Researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright prior to that time.
Nassau Hall Iconography; 1760-1981, Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
Series 1: Nassau Hall Iconongraphy, Chronological, is arranged by the date of the materials; Series 2: Additions, is arranged in the order that the materials were donated or transferred to the library.