Nassau Hall
Nassau Hall, Princeton University
Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Coordinates: 40°20′55.46″N 74°39′33.66″W / 40.3487389°N 74.65935°W / 40.3487389; -74.65935Coordinates: 40°20′55.46″N 74°39′33.66″W / 40.3487389°N 74.65935°W / 40.3487389; -74.65935
Built: 1754
Architect: Notman,John; Et al.
Architectural style: Renaissance
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#: 66000465 [1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966
Designated NHL: October 9, 1960[2]

Nassau Hall (or Old Nassau) is the oldest building at Princeton University in the borough of Princeton, New Jersey (USA). At the time it was built in 1754, Nassau Hall was the largest building in colonial New Jersey. Designed originally by Robert Smith, the building was subsequently remodeled by notable American architects Benjamin Latrobe and John Notman. In the early years of Princeton University (then the College of New Jersey), Nassau Hall accommodated classrooms, a library, a chapel, and residential space for students and faculty. It housed the university's first Department of Psychology, for example.

During the events of the American Revolutionary War, Nassau Hall was possessed by both British and American forces and suffered considerable damage, especially during the Battle of Princeton on 3 January 1777. From July to October 1783, Princeton was the capital of the early United States of America, and Nassau Hall hosted the entire American government. The Congress of the Confederation met in the building's library on the second floor. According to Princeton University, "Here Congress congratulated George Washington on his successful termination of the war, received the news of the signing of the definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain, and welcomed the first foreign minister—from the Netherlands—accredited to the United States."[3]

At present, Nassau Hall houses Princeton University's administrative offices, including that of the university's president. Old Nassau refers affectionately to the building and serves as a metonym for the university as a whole.



Nassau Hall entrance

The New Jersey Legislature met for the first time in Nassau Hall on August 27, 1776.

The British Redcoats seized control of Nassau Hall in 1776, and American soldiers were forced to fire upon their own building in the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777. Three cannonballs were fired, but only two made contact. One glanced off the south side of the building; the damage can still be seen today. Another cannonball flew through a window in the Faculty Room and "decapitated" King George's portrait. The cannonball was said to have come from a gun in the artillery company commanded by Alexander Hamilton, who had been rejected by Princeton when he first came to the colonies. The result of the battle was a decisive Patriot victory, and Nassau Hall was retaken by the Americans.

The Congress of the Confederation convened in Nassau Hall for a bit more than four months (from June 30, 1783, to November 4, 1783). The normal location in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had to be vacated due to a rebellion among American soldiers.

Starting in 1869 each graduation class adds a new sprig of ivy to grow up the walls of the building.[4]

The first U.S. commemorative postage stamp ever printed on colored paper honored Nassau Hall on its bicentennial. It depicted a front view of Nassau Hall. It was denominated at the then first class rate of 3 cents and was on orange paper. It was first issued at Princeton, N.J. on September 22, 1956.

Princeton's alma mater

The song Old Nassau was adopted as Princeton University's alma mater in 1859. The lyrics were written by Harlan Page Peck, a member of Princeton's class of 1862, and first published in the March 1859 issue of Nassau Literary Magazine. The music, originally to be set to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, proved unworkable, and Karl A. Langlotz, a professor of music at Princeton who had studied composition under Franz Liszt[5], wrote a new melody for the song's lyrics. According to Leitch's A Princeton Companion, Langlotz "wrote the music for Old Nassau on the porch of his house at 160 Mercer Street one fine spring afternoon."[6]

Peck's lyrics have been altered significantly over the years, and several verses of Peck's original text have been omitted. Once female students began to attend Princeton after the adoption of a coeducational program in 1969, the song's lyrics were altered to become gender neutral.

The current lyrics of the song's first verse and refrain are as follows:

Tune every heart and every voice,
Bid every care withdraw;
Let all with one accord rejoice,
In praise of Old Nassau.
In praise of Old Nassau we sing,
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Our hearts will give while we shall live,
Three cheers for Old Nassau.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2006-03-15. 
  2. ^ "Nassau Hall". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2008-06-23. 
  3. ^ Princetoniana: Nassau Hall published on Princeton University's website and adapted from Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978). Website accessed 15 January 2007.
  4. ^ "Princeton Class Of '34 Adds Its Ivy Sprig For Nassau Hall". Baltimore Sun. June 19, 1934.,+1934&author=&pub=The+Sun+(1837-1985)&desc=Princeton+Class+Of+'34+Adds+Its+Ivy+Sprig+For+Nassau+Hall&pqatl=google. Retrieved 2011-01-03. "Just as Princeton seniors have done for sixty-five years, the class of 1934 planted a new shoot of ivy to twine its way up the ..." 
  5. ^ The Princeton Cemetery of the Nassau Presbyterian Church. Website accessed 13 October 2009.
  6. ^ Princetoniana: Old Nassau, published on Princeton University's website and adapted from Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978). Website accessed 15 January 2007.

Further reading

  • Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978).

External links

See also

External links

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