Institute for Advanced Study rejects offers to preserve historic battlefield| Jan 5, 2016
The Institute for Advanced Studies is moving forward with its plans to build housing on historic Maxwell's Field after rejecting recent attempts of The Civil War Trust to halt construction by purchasing the property, according to Kip Cherry, vice president of the Princeton Battlefield Society.
The Civil War Trust is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America’s battlegrounds.
Alexandra Altman, communications associate for IAS, noted that IAS currently has all necessary approvals and permissions for the project and is moving forward with its Faculty Housing project on the Institute’s campus on Maxwell's Field.
Jim Campi, policy and communications director for the Civil War Trust, explained that the Trust first requested to meet with IAS to discuss acquisitions in June 2015.
According to Campi, IAS rejected this request as well as the Trust's subsequent attempts to arrange a meeting through third parties.
“In November, to further demonstrate our seriousness about acquiring the property, we offered to buy the 22-acre Maxwell’s Field tract for $3.3 million, based on the appraised value of property,” he explained, noting that IAS rejected this offer.
Campi said that last December, IAS also rejected the Trust's second offer of $4.5 million, a price nearly 40% higher than the land's appraised value.
He added that the Trust supports a stay on construction in order to give the state of New Jersey and IAS more time to explore alternatives.
The Trust's offers are the most recent additions to an ongoing effort to stop this construction project.
Altman explained that the housing project meets a critical need for the IAS. She said that IAS has already situated site plans as far away as possible from the Princeton Battlefield State Park and conducted archaeological surveys to recover remaining artifacts. In addition, Altman stated that IAS will preserve 14 acres on the field for conservation.
Campi noted that though the IAS has offered this plan as a compromise, the 14 acres in question are not suited for construction and would not have been built upon regardless.
“This [parcel] might be sufficient for a site of marginal historic significance, but [Maxwell's Field] is where the charge that decided the Battle of Princeton occurred,” he said.
Campi added that this charge was one of the rare instances in which George Washington personally led a charge against the British. He noted that the development proposed by IAS will be built where Washington’s charge first struck British lines.
“The Civil War Trust first learned about the threat to Maxwell’s Field through conversations with the National Park Service and the Princeton Battlefield Society,” Campi noted.
According to Cherry, the Society’s temporary restraining order to prevent IAS from beginning construction on Maxwell's Field expired on Nov. 6, 2015. In an attempt to halt the construction, the Society is proceeding with appeal processes with the Princeton Planning Board and the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission, she added.
Cherry explained that the Civil War Trust and the Battlefield Society began working together in 2014, when the Trust announced its decision to contribute to the acquisition of the D’Ambrisi property, land which was then added to the Princeton Battlefield State Park as part of its Campaign 1776 initiative.
Campaign 1776 is a subsidiary project and national initiative to preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
In addition, Cherry noted that there have been concerns about wetlands that had not been reported to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
She added that the New Jersey Senate’s Environment and Energy Committee held a hearing on Dec. 21 in response to assertions that the DEP might not have received full disclosure from the IAS about wetlands. Several witnesses, including Trust president James Lighthizer and State Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, urged the DEP to review the situation.
Lighthizer and Gusciora did not respond to requests for comments.
According to Cherry, after the hearing, the Society met with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin and presented a case for halting the IAS from continuing construction.
Martin did not respond to requests for comment.
“For us, it is astonishing that an institution for higher learning would intentionally destroy a historical and educational resource of such extraordinary significance,” Campi said.