Princeton’s Historic Resources     A Service of the Historic Preservation Commission

Home   2015 Survey   Search   Districts   Styles   Classes

   Witherspoon Street



Witherspoon Street

Laid out


Last Entry Update



Information regarding streetscapes is based a streetscape inventory conducted in 1980 with information placed on the NJ Historical Commission's Streetscape Inventory Forms. Pertinent information - description, history, number of resources, etc. was revised based on the 2015 survey of Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood resulting in the information below. Numbers such as "1109-7-S13" refer to the individual 1980 Streetscape forms.

Witherspoon Street (between Wiggins and Maclean Streets) - 1109-7-S16 (revised 2015)

Witherspoon is the heart and the historical center of the Black community of Princeton. The Cemetery on the east side of the street dating from the 1750s had a “colored burying ground” beginning in 1804 [1807], at its north end across from Maclean Street. This section of Witherspoon Street is tree-lined with oaks and is evenly shaded. The street has a mixture of commercial and residential buildings, as well as religious structures. Most buildings on the west side of the street. Some buildings are immediately adjacent to the sidewalk, but most are set back slightly and roughly 8-12’ from the curb.

The houses along the street date from the early and mid-19th century though many have had their original clapboard obscured by newer surface materials. The majority of the houses are 2 or 2½ stories; their roofs either perpendicular to or parallel to the street. Porches and stoops are frequently used for socializing in the warmer weather. A 1940s, 2-story brick structure at the corner of Green Street is now the Paul Robeson Community Center. The Witherspoon Street Church at the corner of Quarry Street dates from 1837. Mt. Pisgah AME Church at the SW corner of Witherspoon and Maclean Streets dates from 1831. North of there, a number of commercial buildings stand on the west side of the street, including [at the time of the 1980 streetscape survey] a bookbinding shop, drug store, and second hand furniture store. A municipal (gravel-surfaced) parking lot is off from the street between Quarry and Maclean Streets. As a main north-south street, Witherspoon is busy with hospital traffic [hospital has since relocated from this area], but is heavily used also by pedestrians. Much, though not all of it, is well shaded. Vistas are unremarkable. The neighborhood has tended to be home to immigrants arriving in Princeton. In the early 20th century, Italian immigrants were an important group, for whom Dorothea House on John Street operated.

Witherspoon Street was cut through right before the completion of Nassau Hall (1756) called "African Lane" and "Guinea Lane" during the 19th century because of the great number of blacks living on the street.

Approximate number of buildings: 27 in 2015; uncounted in 1980

Witherspoon Street (between Maclean Street and Birch Avenue) - 1109-7- S17 (revised 2015)

This section of Witherspoon is less consistent than its southern half. The street has a mixture of commercial and residential buildings. Most buildings on the west side of the street, a large gap on the east side of Witherspoon, where the hospital once stood, is now being redeveloped into housing. Most buildings slightly set back from the sidewalk and approximately 10-15’ from the curb.

Dwellings here date from the 1850s and afterwards line the street, but some have been converted to commercial uses. Their front porches are well used in the summer. Typically, they are 2 to 2½ stories and their gabled roofs are either perpendicular or parallel to the street, the former being common before 1880, the latter after 1870. Most are stucco surfaced, however, and others have lost much of their original detail. Douglas Hall at the northwest corner of Witherspoon and Maclean Streets was used as a "colored school house" and as YMCA. Today it is divided into eight apartments. A motor parts store at no. 190 [in the 1980 survey] uses the front of its lot as customer parking. Commercial buildings on the east side of the street abut the sidewalk from Shirley Court to the Hospital [now relocated from Witherspoon]. Shade is sparse along these blocks; the vistas [are] green but unremarkable.

Laid out c. 1755, the street has been called ‘African Lane” and “Guinea” Lane during the 19th century because of its numerous black residents.

Approximate number of buildings: 30 in 2015; no count in 1980


See Description.




If you have additional information or corrections to the existing information, send an email to
Submitted information is reviewed by the Princeton HPC prior to updating the database.


2015 Photo
Witherspoon Street, facing north from Lytle Street

2015 Photo
Witherspoon Street, facing south from Lytle Street

2015 Photo
Witherspoon Street, facing south from Clay Street

2015 Photo
Witherspoon Street, facing north from Clay Street


Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street
70-74 Witherspoon Street
Paul Robeson House, 108-110 Witherspoon Street
112 Witherspoon Street
114-118 Witherspoon Street
120 Witherspoon Street
Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, 124 Witherspoon Street
136-142 Witherspoon Street
144-146 Witherspoon Street
Allen's Tavern, 150 Witherspoon Street
156-158 Witherspoon Street
160-62 Witherspoon Street
164-166 Witherspoon Street
165 Witherspoon Street
169 Witherspoon Street
Mt. Pisgah AME Church, 172 Witherspoon Street
173 Witherspoon Street
177 Witherspoon Street
181 Witherspoon Street
Douglass Hall, 184 Witherspoon Street
Gate to Colored Cemetery, 187 Witherspoon Street
188 Witherspoon Street
190 Witherspoon Street
191 Witherspoon Street
192 Witherspoon Street
193 Witherspoon Street
197 Witherspoon Street
201-205 Witherspoon Street
204-206 Witherspoon Street
Tillie & Morris Grocery, 212 Witherspoon Street
214 Witherspoon Street
216 Witherspoon Street
230 Witherspoon Street
232 Witherspoon Street
238 Witherspoon Street
244 Witherspoon Street
246 Witherspoon Street
254 Witherspoon Street
266 Witherspoon Street
272 Witherspoon Street
276 Witherspoon Street
282-284 Witherspoon Street
288 Witherspoon Street
290 Witherspoon Street
292 Witherspoon Street
294 Witherspoon Street

All information on this site is © the Princeton HPC and should not be used without attribution.