Lawrenceville Main Street, NJ.
Lawrenceville NJ.
Lawrenceville NJ Main Street, fine living, dining, visiting.
 
.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top.

 

 

The New York Times

 

January 8, 2006
Living In | Lawrence Township, N.J.

Heading Into the Future by Reclaiming the Past

Lawrenceville Main Street
Photo by Dith Pran/The New York Times

Improvements to Lawrenceville's Main Street, financed by the town and private donations, helped to recruit businesses to fill empty storefronts.

By JERRY CHESLOW

The bricks that fringe the sidewalk on the three-block-long Main Street in Lawrenceville, N.J. - part of Route 206 - tell the story of how residents of Lawrence Township are helping to reclaim their 19th-century clapboard downtown, one greeting at a time.

For $50 to $250, their anniversaries, birthdays and political messages are being engraved on red pavers that create a broad apron onto which the district's eight restaurants pull their umbrella tables during warm weather. For example, one anonymous donor had "Viva Che" etched onto one line of a small brick, and a short distance away, on a three-line eight-by-eight-inch surface, Mimi and Scooter created a permanent greeting for their grandson Drew Harold Patrone.

"Ten years ago, there were a lot of boarded up buildings, and the people decided to do something about it," said Ann Garwig, executive director of a civic improvement organization called Lawrenceville Main Street, which was founded to clean up and promote the downtown. Its $90,000 annual budget, financed by the municipality and by donations, has helped to recruit new businesses to fill the empty storefronts and to organize events like street fairs and free concerts in the summer.

From its business district to its schools, open space, affordable housing and bike trails, the 22-square-mile Lawrence Township, which includes Lawrenceville, combines private initiatives with public policy for the good of its citizenry.

Founded in 1697, it is one of the oldest municipalities in New Jersey. Yet about a third of the Mercer County township is still open space, largely because its farmers were willing to sell the development rights to their land to the state's Farmland Preservation Program.

Today, 15 active farms grow apples, peaches, vegetables and organic beef and chicken. The town is in the third year of a development of a $7 million, 20-mile bike trail, financed by the township's two largest corporations: the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and the educational testing company ETS, which have campuses at the northern end of town and provide nearly 4,000 jobs.

Although Lawrence abuts wealthy Princeton and has many houses that sell in the millions of dollars, Mayor Pamela H. Mount, who owns the 200-acre Terhune Orchards, proclaims that Lawrence is one of the few townships in central New Jersey that has exceeded its state mandated quota for affordable housing. "We have 200 more units than we have to, and it makes our community a more interesting place," she said.

Making friends in Lawrence is also easy, according to Jacqueline Giulliano, who moved from a three-bedroom house in Dunellen, N.J., to a five-bedroom colonial in July with her husband, Joe, and their two children, ages 3 and 5.

"We wanted more space, a better school system and closeness to Princeton," Mrs. Giulliano said. Her husband works for GE Healthcare, which is based in Princeton. Mrs. Giulliano says that the local Moms' Club helped her to network and develop her home-based gift business, which prepared 250 Thanksgiving baskets for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"There's a nice cultural and income mix," Mrs. Giulliano said. "And, with two community pools, great parks and the McCarter Theater nearby, it offers a lot."

What You'll Find

Housing options are generally governed by proximity to neighboring towns. Homes at the southern end have a Trenton postal code and are smaller and less expensive than those at the northern end, along the Princeton line.

"The closer you get to Princeton, the more expensive," said Buz Donnelly, a broker associate at Re/Max Premiere Properties. "And those homes within the Princeton ZIP code command more."

Single-family homes range from small one-bedroom bungalows to newer five-bedroom colonials. In general, newer homes tend to have small lots of one-eighth to one-quarter acre, often with less than 20 feet between houses. This reflects the township's successful open space program, which has placed more than one quarter of the buildable land off the market.

Colonials that are 20 to 50 years old tend to have a third of an acre to a half. There are dozens of historic homes on varying lot sizes, many in the historic district of Lawrenceville's Main Street, and more than 2,500 condominiums in a dozen complexes.

What You'll Pay

Housing on the market ranges from a one-bedroom condo in the 30-year-old Meadow Woods complex, off Route 206 near the Trenton line, listed for $129,900, up to $2.65 million for a four-bedroom home on nearly four acres with a swimming pool and tennis court.

The largest of 12 condo complexes is the 820-unit Lawrence Square Village off Lawrence Square Boulevard on the east side of town near the West Windsor line. In that complex, 11 units are listed at prices ranging from $214,900 for a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment, to $273,888 for a two-story, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath town house.

The least expensive single-family units are duplexes, small ranches and bungalows in the Slackwood or Colonial Lake neighborhoods in the southern part of town, near the Trenton line, which can go for as little as $200,000. Newer colonials in newer developments scattered throughout the township sell for varying prices, up to about $950,000 for a five-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot home with a three-car garage along Cold Soil Road, which has a Princeton ZIP code, 08540.

The Schools

Lawrence Township has an abundance of schools. Its 4,200-student public school system consists of three elementary schools for prekindergarten to Grade 3, Lawrence Intermediate School for Grades 4 to 6, Lawrence Middle School and Lawrence High School, which offers 33 advanced placement and honors classes in the sciences, history, German, Spanish, government, music and English literature. The school system also runs four adult education English courses for its many Eastern European immigrants and an after-school tutoring program at Eggerts Crossing Village.

On the 2004 SAT scholastic reasoning tests, Lawrence High School students scored 543 in mathematics and 520 in verbal, compared with state averages of 516 and 500 respectively.

The township's most famous educational institution is the Lawrenceville School, a college preparatory high school on a 700-acre campus that fronts on Main Street. Its alumni include presidents of foreign countries, governors, Saudi princes, Nobel laureates, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalists and captains of industry.

Founded in 1810 and long considered a feeder for nearby Princeton University, it now has 780 boarding and day students from 34 states and 29 countries. Annual tuition is $34,570 for boarding students and $28,180 for day students.

Also in Lawrence are the Princeton Junior School for prekindergarten to Grade 5 and the Chapin School for prekindergarten to Grade 8. The two parochial schools are St. Ann's, an elementary school, and Notre Dame High School.

Rider University, founded in 1865, has a 280-acre campus off Lawrenceville Road on the southwestern edge of the township.

What to Do

The most interesting area for strolling through Lawrence is the two-mile-long Main Street Historic District, which is on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. In all, 56 buildings, many going back to the early 1700's, are designated as "key" structures.

It includes the 19th-century commercial strip and an area of the Lawrenceville School known as "the Circle," with a half-dozen 19th-century dormitories and landscaping designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a designer of Central Park in New York. The Circle has also been designated a National Historic Landmark, the highest national historic designation.

The township has four major parks. The most widely used is the 107-acre Central Park off Eggerts Crossing Road. It has four baseball diamonds, four soccer fields, one football field, five basketball courts and three tennis courts.

The History

Founded in 1697 as the town of Maidenhead - named for a London suburb that was eventually incorporated into that city - Lawrence was the scene of a crucial Revolutionary War engagement on Jan. 2, 1777. General Cornwallis was marching his British troops from New Brunswick to Trenton to crush Gen. George Washington's army. The outmanned Washington ordered Col. Edward Hand to keep the British from entering Trenton before nightfall.

In a clash that began at the Shabakunk Creek, just south of the current campus of the Notre Dame High School along Lawrence Road, Cornwallis was stalled for the night just outside Trenton. Washington sneaked his beleaguered troops out of the city and defeated Cornwallis's rear guard in the Battle of Princeton, which became known as the turning point of the Revolution.

On the closest Saturday to Jan. 2 - this year, Dec. 31, 2005 - township officials wearing Colonial garb lead a march from the municipal building on Lawrence Road to the site of Colonel Hand's attack, where a re-enactment is held.

In 1816, the Rev. Isaac V. Brown, founder of the Lawrenceville School, petitioned the New Jersey Legislature to change the town name because of the association of the name "Maidenhead" with virginity. The township was renamed for Capt. James Lawrence, a naval hero in the War of 1812, whose final order, "Don't give up the ship," became the motto of the Navy. Lawrence died on the deck of his frigate, the Chesapeake, as it was captured by H.M.S. Shannon in 1813.

The Commute

Dannielle E. Pearson, a sales associate with Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors, says that many of the people buying homes in Lawrence Township are transferring business executives who have taken jobs in Manhattan. The New Jersey Transit train ride from nearby Hamilton or Princeton Junction to Pennsylvania Station is 69 minutes or 63 minutes, respectively.

What We Like

Lawrence combines preservation with convenience. Along with its 19th century downtown and farms, it also provides abundant shopping. Options include two regional farm markets; the Lawrence Shopping Center on Princeton Avenue, which is anchored by an Acme supermarket; the Mercer Mall; and the 1.1 million-square-foot Quakerbridge Mall on Route 1.

What We'd Change

Traffic through Lawrence during rush hours is congested, especially along Business Route 1, a section of the highway that was bypassed a generation ago by a beltway to Trenton. Local officials say they have petitioned the New Jersey Department of Transportation to convert the highway into a boulevard by replacing the concrete barriers in the center with a grassy median. Their objective is to calm traffic and to encourage the development of local businesses, much like what happened on nearby Main Street.

 
Top of page.