Transform the Princeton Battlefield, Honor Revolutionary Heroes
It's time to transform Princeton Battlefield State Park into a national destination where students, families, and history lovers of all sorts can gather to learn about the site that concluded George Washington’s Ten Crucial Days Campaign!
Protecting a Legacy
The American Battlefield Trust, with the help of the Princeton Battlefield Society and New Jersey State Historic Sites and Parks, is on a mission to reimagine the Princeton Battlefield — scene of the climactic victory in General George Washington’s Ten Crucial Days Campaign in January 1777. Through the “Washington’s Legacy” plan, we will restore and rehabilitate protected battlefield lands, expand interpretive experiences and prepare the site for the upcoming 250th anniversary of the battle. But to succeed, we need troops to support this effort!
Just a mile southwest of Princeton University, the Princeton Battlefield State Park maintains and interprets an inspiring and authentic story of how Washington and the Continental Army saved the cause of American independence as they were on the brink of defeat.
The Park’s beginning goes back to 1946, when Princeton landowners gifted roughly 40 acres to the State of New Jersey for the creation of a battlefield park. Over time, the site has grown to include approximately 80 acres, not including the adjacent Institute Woods — owned by and named for the neighboring Institute for Advanced Study (IAS).
As a neighbor, IAS peacefully coexisted with the park for many years, even brokering a land deal to expand the state park in 1973. However, in 2003, the school proposed a plan to build new faculty housing on battlefield land eyed by preservationists — where it was said that Washington rode into the midst of battle, rallied his troops and personally led a counterattack that drove the British from the field. Subsequent academic and archaeological studies proved the tract’s significance and the National Park Service recognized it in its 2007 report to Congress detailing the condition of the country’s Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites. Further, in 2012, the battlefield appeared on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” list.
Answering the call to preserve this land that witnessed the turn of the 1777 battle, the American Battlefield Trust joined in the efforts of the local Princeton Battlefield Society. By 2016, IAS agreed to sell two-thirds of its targeted land (nearly 15 acres) to the Trust for $4 million, ending a multi-year threat to a location directly adjacent to the state park’s current holdings. It is expected to soon be incorporated into the state park.
Raising the Stakes
Moving toward the commemorative celebration of the nation’s founding in 2026, the Trust saw an opportunity to build on a hard-fought preservation success at the site of Washington’s game-changing charge and take this National Historic Landmark to new heights — from an underutilized park packed with potential to a bustling historic site that would attract and strategically engage diverse visitors from not only across the state, but also the country. Thus, a detailed plan for innovative interpretation and restoration was created, providing a springboard to unite recently preserved parcels with existing park lands in the last great growth this battlefield will ever experience.
Using a grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, the Trust worked with experts in public history and landscape architecture to create a detailed and innovative plan to reimagine the Park. Numerous partners and stakeholders, including the New Jersey State Historic Sites and Parks, the Princeton Battlefield Society, the New Jersey Sons of the American Revolution and the Princeton community, helped create the final vision for "Washington’s Legacy."
Upon the plan’s completion, the Trust eagerly socialized its concepts and was empowered by positive feedback and community enthusiasm to find pathways to bring the vision to life.
A Revolutionary Undertaking
We want to lift a curtain on today’s battlefield and transport visitors to the 1777 wartime landscape. To achieve this, we — the Trust, along with New Jersey State Historic Sites and Parks and the Princeton Battlefield Society — are pursuing impactful enhancements outlined in the "Washington's Legacy" plan, including the installation of a walking path, replanting of an orchard near where the William Clarke House once stood, the restoration of historic tree lines and the removal of 20th-century intrusions, among other restorative activities. The project also aims to relocate visitor services to outside core battlefield land, which not only helps turn back the clock but creates the potential for a new education center and expanded parking and bus access. The Trust’s phased approach to accomplishing this vision will transform Princeton Battlefield State Park into a model for cultural heritage landscapes ahead of 2026.
Visitors will get to walk the same pathways that Washington and his men took 250 years ago. They'll get to survey the grounds and see in their mind’s eye what it would have been like to witness hundreds of British troops on the hill opposite them. They'll march over the same ground, stand on battle lines, charge through the recreated apple orchard — it's going to be an amazing experience.
Will Krakower, Resource Interpretive Specialist at Princeton Battlefield State Park
As we approach the semiquincentennial period, we anticipate increased public interest in the concluding battle of the “Ten Crucial Days,” which means the time to act is now.
A Place to Engage with History
As heritage tourists and casual visitors alike explore the new Princeton Battlefield State Park, they will encounter themes that contextualize the battle within the Ten Crucial Days Campaign, the Revolutionary Era and 18th-century, and advocate for the preservation of historic sites. Planned interpretation will also incorporate the broad scope of the land’s history, including information about the Lenni Lenape people who lived in Northern New Jersey prior to European contact.
A new entrance to the park will immediately give visitors a dose of the battlefield’s history, as they walk upon lands adjacent to the Princeton Friends Meeting House — a place of worship for the Quaker community dating back to 1726. The Quaker perspective provides an opportunity for visitors to contemplate the game-changing battle being fought upon lands that were home to those who wished for a peaceful resolution of differences.
New signage and historical content, developed to foster a sense of historical inquiry, will line interpretive pathways throughout the battlefield. By installing signage that encourages visitors to interact with the battlefield, "Washington’s Legacy” aims to create opportunities for critical thinking.
The strategic inclusion of digital technology enables all visitors — particularly young participants — to be guided by an expert historian as they walk where the founding generation fought. Users of the new Princeton Battlefield App will be immersed in the battle’s action and the lives of its participants through a combination of augmented reality, audio, video and imagery.
Moving Forward with Fervor
Since sharing “Washington’s Legacy” with stakeholders in the region, the project team is excited to charge ahead with a phased plan for implementation. Working with passionate and knowledgeable partners has been key to this forward trajectory, and the American Battlefield Trust remains entirely grateful for their support.
Further enabled by an interpretation grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program, the Trust selected Philadelphia-based master planning agency Crafted Action to bring Phase I interpretive efforts to life. They’ll 1) update, develop, and produce four new and six revised interpretive waysides; 2) develop two “battle window” interpretive signs; and 3) design brochures, or handouts, for the park.
As activities continue, preparatory archaeological and arboreal surveys are anticipated before restorative/rehabilitative actions are taken. Little by little, we will tackle projects that make this space a commemorative reminder of the hard-fought battle that made such a large impact on Patriot morale and the fate of the nation.
Note: A battle window is a unique piece of interpretive signage that allows one to see action depicted within a painted battle scene against the modern landscape by peering through a window with elements of the painting affixed to its surface.