The Lots O’ History series traces the first 100 years (1848-1948) of the Water Street business district in Princeton.
The survey included reviewing property deeds, historic maps and newspaper reports for 26 lots and approximately 90 buildings, past and present, in the 400, 500 and 600 blocks of West Water Street.
When I began research for my book on the history of early Princeton in 2018, I found very little information on the Water Street buildings or occupants. After some elementary research I also found that neither the City of Princeton Historical Walking Tour nor the city’s 1973 quas qui centennial booklet was a consistently reliable source for that information. The historical society board, meanwhile, repeatedly dismissed my requests to spend two to four hours reviewing its files.
To solve the problem, I went to the source, or, more accurately, sources: literally thousands and thousands of newspaper articles from that era, thousands of local property deeds, and the Sanborn fire insurance maps (1892, 1898, 1904, 1914 and 1927) – the triumvirate of primary local historical sources.
From that information, I recently created the Lots O’ History series – a documented, searchable, always-available, detailed history of our most important business properties. I have included as many photos as I could find. If you have others, please let me know.
Although the 100-year survey is comprehensive, I do not claim it is complete. There are gaps in the newspapers on microfilm and some deeds are difficult to understand, so I would not be surprised to find additional building tenants or business transfers.
Likewise, while I am confident the iconic building histories and occupants are correct, I also expect there likely are minor errors such as typos, brain freezes and oversights that I will need to clean up as my research continues. It happens. There is no shame in making mistakes. The shame comes from not correcting them.
More recent owners and occupants will be added to the Lots O’ History series as my research begins later this year on the 1950s and beyond.
Meanwhile, as we approach 100 posts on the site, I hope to work on the website’s design to see if I can create an index on the home page to improve the site’s organization, including a search field on individual posts. In the meantime, the Search function on the home page should make it easy to research any topic.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
Thank you for reading and caring about local history.