Palmer Square

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Palmer Square
Public Square
Palmer Square in Princeton.jpg
FeaturesPalmer Square Post Office, Nassau Inn
Opening date1939
AmenitiesShopping, dining, hotel, post office
Area1/2 acre (main green), 10 acres (entire complex)
ManagerPalmer Square Management LLC
LocationPrinceton, New Jersey
Palmer Square is located in Mercer County, New Jersey
Palmer Square
Palmer Square
Coordinates: 40°21′00.4″N 74°39′41.5″W / 40.350111°N 74.661528°W / 40.350111; -74.661528Coordinates: 40°21′00.4″N 74°39′41.5″W / 40.350111°N 74.661528°W / 40.350111; -74.661528

Palmer Square is a public square and planned development in the heart of Princeton, New Jersey across from Nassau Street and Princeton University that today forms a collection of shops, restaurants, offices and residential spaces.


Baker's Alley looking south toward Nassau Street c. 1925, an historic African-American neighborhood displaced by Palmer Square

Originally built from 1936 to 1939 by Edgar Palmer, heir to the New Jersey Zinc fortune, the Square was created by architect Thomas Stapleton in the Colonial Revival style as the town's complement to Princeton University, which sits directly across Nassau Street from the Square.

In order to build the original Square, Baker Street was removed in 1929 and its houses, the center of the original African-American neighborhood of Princeton, were moved to Birch Avenue.[1] Construction of the Square was delayed until 1936 by the depression, and plans to extend the Square past Hulfish Street were put on hold after the initial phase of construction was completed, and were not realized until the 1980s, along with an expansion of the Nassau Inn.[2]

The Nassau Inn, which was formerly located directly on Nassau Street, was the centerpiece of the development. A small park sits in front of the Inn, which includes the Borough's Christmas tree.[3] Between the park and Nassau Street, a smaller square holds a bronze statue of a tiger.[2]

Thomas Stapleton assembled a variety of styles including a bit of old Newport, Philadelphia, Annapolis and Williamstown. The plan of the Square however is a mini-version Rockefeller Center. The early plans for Rockefeller Center contemplated an Opera House at the end while Palmer had the Playhouse Movie Theater.

Edgar Palmer's vision was to provide jobs during the depression and create a fully integrated mixed-use downtown that would act as a commercial complement to Princeton University. The plans included the playhouse, the Princeton Post Office, and even the Borough Hall, though this structure was never built.

Over 75 years the different components of Palmer Square have come together, with a new addition or component being added approximately every decade since the 1930s.

Post Office[edit]

Palmer Square Post Office
Post Office (Princeton, New Jersey).jpg
Location20 Palmer Square E, Princeton, NJ
Built1937 (1937)
Part ofPrinceton Historic District (#75001143[4])
Designated CP27 June 1975
The mural Columbia under the Palm, by Karl Free(1939)

A centerpiece of Palmer Square is the post office, which sits in the square's most prominent position. Built during the New Deal, it is known for its mural, Columbia under the Palm, painted by Karl Free for the Section of Painting and Sculpture. The mural has come under criticism for its depiction of European settlers bringing learning to enlighten the indigenous peoples.[5][6] The caption of the mural reads:

America! with Peace and Freedom blest,
Science invites, urged by the Voice divine,
Pant for true Fame and scorn inglorious rest,
Exert thyself till every Art be thine.

As Princeton expanded, and especially the use of its name as a mailing address for areas of surrounding towns, a new main Princeton post office was opened at 213 Carnegie Center in West Windsor, New Jersey. The Palmer Square post office was first put up for sale in 1997 as the Postal Service sought to downsize from the 11,000 square foot facility. Those efforts intensified in 2011 when employees were informed that the office would relocate to a smaller space, but that sale was blocked by the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office. The building was finally sold in 2013 to LCOR Ventures[7] and plans were announced to open a new post office behind a proposed 7-11 store at 259 Nassau Street.[8]


New Palmer Square residential component

Palmer Square has evolved into the primary dining and shopping destination in downtown Princeton. Seasonal events take place throughout the year on The Green. A collection of residences has been added to Palmer Square, effectively completing Edgar Palmer's original vision.[9] Located on Paul Robeson Place between Chambers and Witherspoon Streets, The Residences at Palmer Square include single-level condominium flats and multi-story townhomes. Minno & Wasko Architects and Planners of Lambertville, NJ mimicked Thomas Stapleton's original Colonial Revival style with new elevations that complement the brick, Federal-style exteriors and Colonial-era structures of the immediate Palmer Square environment. Plans for the Residences came together over a three-year period and the Princeton Regional Planning Board had significant input into the exterior design. The residential component's proximity to the Palmer Square retail and other Princeton attractions resulted in a 95% walkbility score from

One Palmer Square is a major office building, home to J. Crew and PNC Bank (formerly Princeton Bank and Trust). The plaza in front of One Palmer Square is the main downtown bus stop, and includes a sculpture by Seward Johnson.





  1. ^ History of African Americans in Princeton, includes pictures of moved houses
  2. ^ a b Princeton Historical Society
  3. ^ Annual Christmas Tree Lighting
  4. ^ "Princeton Historic District". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  5. ^ "Palmer Square Post Office Mural". The Living New Deal.
  6. ^ "Savage Art". Village Voice. 2000-04-11. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  7. ^ "The plot thickens: An OIG solicitation, the Palmer Square Post Office, and the CBRE-LCOR connection". Save the Post Office.
  8. ^ Zaman, Zaynab (April 14, 2015). "Planning board approves plan to build new post office, 7-Eleven". The Daily Princetonian.
  9. ^ "Aspire Magazine". Archived from the original on 2013-10-08. Retrieved 2013-10-08.

External links[edit]