Saturday in Princeton {A Photo Diary of modern day Princeton and my family history in the town}

April 25, 2009

I'm back! The art show was a moderate success (it was good, but when I compare it to last year, not so much... the economy has definitely hit my profession!)

This was year #5 at the Communiversity fair in Princeton. And whether the day had been a wipeout or a smash hit, I would have been happy anyway just being in Princeton. (By the way - the picture above is me and my brother, Kyle -- my dad wanted a solo shot of me but Kyle, as usual, would not cooperate... and if Kyle looks familiar to you, it's because he's becoming quite a star on youtube. You can view his funny videos here.)

Before I conduct my little photo-diary tour of Princeton, here are a few shots from my booth at the show--

(yes, I totally changed the layout anyway!)


Me, my brother and my dad's entire branch of the family were all born in Princeton. My dad grew up there, and I spent many weekends as a kid walking around the campus, visiting the art museum and harboring dreams of going to Princeton University after high school. I didn't actually end up doing that -- (a little biographical background info here: I was very bored my senior year in high school because I had finished every required class except for health, so my parents let me quit high school to go jump into college ahead of schedule. Turns out, Princeton does not accept transfer students-- so I'm going to wait until I have my Bachelors & Masters under my belt before I apply to get my PhD there.. whew!)

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite parts of Princeton, and a little background on why I love it so much. To put this in the context of film, since that is what the blog is about -- just picture Jimmy Stewart and F. Scott Fitzgerald visiting the same spots I show you. I'm sure they did while they were students at Princeton!

These are the gates to the University. It's a really grand entrance, but because all of the architecture in Princeton is very grand and gothic, the gates are not intimidating; they are welcoming. The whole campus is covered in ivy, and you can almost hear the echoes of history as you walk around. The campus has been there since 1756.

Nassau Hall is steeped in history-- for several months in 1783, Princeton was the capitol of the United States, and Nassau Hall was the 1783 equivalent of Capitol Hill -- our entire government was in this building. According to university history, "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."

This is me in front of one of the famed Princeton Tigers at Nassau Hall. I've always wanted to have my picture taken here, but the only one I have is from when I was a wee little lass, when I was actually sitting ON the tiger. I'm pretty sure we have a picture somewhere of my dad as a kid doing the same thing.

PJ's Pancake House has been around for ages. It's a really quaint restaurant where they let people carve their names into the wooden tables. I didn't eat there today, so I didn't get any pictures of the tables (sorry!) but the carvings have been there for a really long time-- every time we go my mom tries looking through the hundreds of names on our table to see if she can find my grandmother or my grandfather's names. We're not sure that they ever did carve their names into a table, but we do know that they carved their names into a tree (is that too sweet or what?!) near a lake in Princeton.

Okay, if you are ever, ever within 100 miles of Princeton - drop what you are doing and visit Old World Pizza. They have THE best pizza on the planet! Even the New York Times reviewed them, and said pretty much the same thing! They use a brick oven, have crispy thin crust and they have tons of toppings to choose from. I don't eat cheese, which usually makes ordering Pizza a chore-- but not at Old World Pizza! They have a marinara pie that comes with delicious homemade marinara sauce, garlic and fresh basil. I always get half of my pie with spinach, too. (You're probably learning more about me in this post than you ever wanted to know! I do have very strange eating habits, but I'm a vegetarian/semi-vegan so I guess that's to be expected!)

This is the street my dad grew up on. My great grandfather owned a building block on Witherspoon St. where he had a furniture store in the early 1900's. They also owned, I think, two other storefronts that they rented out, and had an apartment complex on the second & third floors. My grandmother and her siblings owned the building until the 1970's when they decided to sell -- just before the Princeton renaissance, when prices shot through the roof. We all have that one family decision ("if we had only done THIS we could have been millionaires"-- this one is mine!) My dad moved out of Princeton before I was born, and my grandmother died when I was three, but my dad has relayed a lot of my grandmother's stories of Princeton to me -- she said she used to see Albert Einstein in town all of the time, and he always had on mismatched socks. Isn't that neat?! I wish my dad had "interviewed" her like I just did for my great aunt, because she had so many stories to tell. She and my grandfather kept up a very lengthy correspondence during World War II, when he used to send her poems! Unfortunately, we only have my grandfather's letters, but my mom has been transcribing them little by little for my dad.

About a month or two ago, we found a bunch of items mixed in with her bag of letters from my grandfather. This included, among other things, a ticket to a Tommy Dorsey concert when Frank Sinatra was singing with him (OMG!) some photos of my grandparents, a letter that seems to arrange for the marriage of my great grandmother to my great grandfather before she came to America, and a commencement book from 1932 -- the year that Jimmy Stewart graduated! Here are a few photos of the book-

Jose Ferrer

Jimmy Stewart

Here are a few more pictures of items from my grandmother's collection--

This is a Valentines Day card that my Grandfather sent to my Grandmother during WWII. They were courting at the time, not married yet, and you can tell from his letters & poems how much he loved her. I won't publish the letters or poems here because they are private, but my mom thinks that someday their love story would make a great movie.

This is the inside of one of the cards (not the one pictured above)
I loved the verse inside; it's so 1940's-ish, isn't it?

These are my grandparents, Eve and Gordon. Aren't they a sweet couple? They got married and had my dad a lot later than most people at the time; I think they were almost 40 when he was born. So I never got to meet my grandfather, and I only knew my grandmother for three years before she passed away. My grandfather was reportedly the king of corny jokes (a trait my dad has inherited) and my grandmother was a sweetheart who didn't know how to cook. My mom said they were deeply in love for their whole lives-- when my grandfather died, my grandmother did not stop mourning him. It was over a year before my parents could get her out of the house to a restaurant. I wish so badly I could have met them.

I don't have many pictures of my dad's parents, but I have tons from my mom's side of the family-- and I have a lot posted on my flickr account-- I've been scanning and adding a lot of them lately. It's only visible to friends and family, though, so if you want to see them, just go to, and mark me as a friend.

I hope you enjoyed my little tour through Princeton & my family history in the town. I was in a very genealogical mood today, and I had lots of fun doing this post. I'll be back to the normal routine tonight (remember-- song of the week returns!) but I hope you didn't mind this little diversion.


Elizabeth said...

The bit about your grandparents was very touching. They look so happy together. I'm glad your family has such a happy history.

Mykal Banta said...

You seem to favor your grandmother a little. Nice post. - Mykal

Anonymous said...

Wow, Kate! The booth looks amazing! So much color! It's stunning. :)

The photo tour of Princeton was such fun. I didn't know that little tidbit about it being the capital for a short time. I'm totally envying you that yearbook. You must have been so excited when it turned up!

If you don't mind me asking, what is your ultimate career goal? Bachelors, Masters and PhD sounds terribly serious! Professor of Classic Film History, maybe? ;)

I adore the Valentine! The dress looks like the one I'm making now. :)

Sarah Mann said...

Your booth looks great! I'd love to go to Princeton now that I know a little more about it. Your grandparents sound adorable. I'm a bit inspired now to scan in some things!

Unknown said...

Very enjoyable tour & look into your family history. Always love looking at old photos & photos of old objects; really enjoyed this.

Meredith said...

this is such a lovely post, i thoroughly enjoyed reading it! the history of princeton was fascinating (i've never been/JIMMY) and the story about your grandparents touching. i love finding old mementos of relatives past, makes me feel closer to them.

Raquel Stecher said...

You need to do more personal posts like this, it was truly a pleasure to read. :-)

Like the other commenters, I especially liked the story about your grandparents.

Your nose looked fine in that picture! If you point it out to people like that, then they will notice something that's not even really there. ;-)

Unknown said...

Elizabeth- thanks. they really were happy together :)

Mykal- thanks

casey- thanks-- I'm glad you like it! I actually just learned about it being the capitol not too long ago. Oh! When we found that commencement book, and saw "James Maitland Stewart" I was like - hurry up! look on IMDB! Was that his middle name?! It was like the find of the century!! My ultimate career goal is to be an artist-- I'm just going to school for the heck of learning.

Sarah- Thanks! It is a really nice town if you're ever nearby you should stop there. Please scan some things! I love seeing old mementos!

John- Thanks!

Meredith- Thanks! It is nice that my grandmother left so many mementos behind, I do feel like I've gotten to know her and my grandfather by looking through them.

Raquelle- aww, thanks! About the nose-- I just thought with the sun coming down on it like that, I looked like Jimmy Durante! I don't know why but I feel like if I'm going to post a picture of myself online, I need to critique it? :)

Anonymous said...

Kate, you are so cute!

I loved this post! Your grandparents really were sweet; I wish I had met my grandmothers from both sides of my family. My grandfather passed away when I was ten, but I didn't see him often. My grandparents didn't live in the States however, so I have no idea if any cool Vinatge stuff is floating around.

Ah well. But, if you've ever seen Stromboli, Ingrid Bergman's character says her birthday is May 8th, 1920, and that was my grandmother's exact birthdate! (i know, who cares? But Ingrd is my 2nd fav. actress, so I thought it was cool. ;-D

Unknown said...

Thanks graciebird! I'm so sorry you didn't get to know your grandparents. At some point you should try to track down your family outside the states and see if there are any mementoes you could have. It would be nice just to see something, you know?

I think that's neat about Ingrid Bergman's character's b-day! I love things like that -- in The Parent Trap, Hayley Mills' birthday is November 12, which is my birthday. I LOVED that fact so much when I was little! (okay.. I still do! lol)

Robby Cress said...

Wonderful post and great photos. I want to go visit Princeton now! I can picture Stewart and Fitzgerald walking around campus. It looks beautiful. And for that pizza - well now I'm plain hungry :)

Terence Towles Canote said...

I really appreciated this personal post. The booth turned out really well I think. You did a very fine job with it! And I did not realise Princeton was such a beautiful town.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention how AWESOME it was that you were there at Princeton, where Fitzgerald went! LOVE him. And also equally awesome, Jimmy Stewart! You're so lucky!

Keith said...

Hey there. These photos are all great. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post with us. Take care. Have a fantastic week. Cheers!

Raquel Stecher said...

Kate - I do the same thing, I just make sure to edit it out before I post. It's just a defensive thing us girls do. We'd rather point it out first than have someone point it out to us later.

Caitlin said...

I grew up about an hour from Princeton, so I found this post really interesting. I actually went to a doctor in the area a few times last year, and it's an absolutely beautiful place. And the part about your grandparents was so sweet.