Old photos of Princeton are great, and here’s a good one. From Princeton University’s Mudd Library Twitter feed: a black-and-white shot of undergraduates walking down Nassau Street in the 1920s. Looking at the image, I’m struck by how…familiar…the surroundings are. The street appears remarkably similar to how it looks today.
To see just how similar, we can compare photos of Nassau Street today. Shown above is a shot from Bing Maps, of the same area today. The aspect isn’t exactly the same, but we can clearly see that the same buildings that were in the 1920s photograph appear largely unchanged today. In the distance, the 5-story First National Bank Building is visible, which was built in 1903. In the foreground, the names of the stores have changed, but the roofline is essentially unaltered. In fact, several buildings that formerly were two story buildings appear to have been converted into single-level stores.
The biggest change appears to be the sidewalk, which looks to have gotten a lot narrower. If the students from the 1920s were to revisit Nassau Street today, they would find that it looks almost exactly the same as in their undergraduate days. Princeton has grown since then from a town of about 8,000 people to a town of about 30,000 people, with tens of thousands more in surrounding communities that were farmers’ fields in the 1920s. But the main street next to the University has scarcely changed in almost 100 years. The major accomplishment of the last 75 years of planning in Princeton has been to accommodate tens of thousands of extra automobile movements per day.