Reprinted from Hidden New Jersey


"The Colonnade -- a set of Ionic columns topped by a large lintel and supported by brick walls on the sides. It sits on the northern side of the park, atop a hill far opposite the Clarke House, looking very out of place and incomplete. There's no statue of Mercer or Washington or anyone else beside it to give it context, and the casual passer-by is left to wonder what in heck it is. If it were in Greece or Italy, you'd shrug it off as just another classical ruin, but in Princeton?

Long story short, the Colonnade is a ruin -- of not one, but two houses. Originally, it served as part of the facade for a Philadelphia mansion designed by U.S. Capitol architect Thomas U. Walter in 1836 for a merchant named Matthew Newkirk. After the Newkirk home was demolished in 1900, the columns were brought to Princeton and recycled for the entrance of Mercer Manor, a grand home built at the edge of the battlefield.

Mercer Manor stood on the site for over 50 years, until it was severely damaged in a fire. Mostly unsalvageable, the mansion was demolished in 1957, except for the Colonnade that stands today. Its then owners, the Institute for Advanced Study, donated the property to the State for inclusion in the Battlefield Park.

A view of the battlefield from behind the Colonnade.  Since then, the four Ionic columns have become the focal point of a memorial to unidentified soldiers killed in the battle -- 21 British and 15 Americans who are buried somewhere behind the site where Mercer Manor once stood. Nearby, there's a plaque on which is printed a memorial poem written in 1916 by visiting Princeton professor and future Poet Laureate of England, Alfred Noyes.

Unintended as it might have been, the Colonnade could be considered a fitting tribute to the brave Americans who fought at Princeton. These patriots were battling for a new republic and victory that until then appeared unlikely. Their humble contributions helped forge a country that has stood strong for well over two centuries."