Friday, March 31, 2017

JOIN US! -- Hazelnut and Pawpaw Planting This Sunday, April 2

Join us this Sunday, April 2, to help plant some rescued local native hazelnuts and pawpaws in areas recently cleared of invasive brush near Veblen House. As with the pawpaws planted last year, we'll stake and protect the new plantings with wire fencing. The plantings are part of the envisioned "ecological campus" on the grounds surrounding the Veblen House and Cottage, on the east side of Herrontown Woods.

We'll also do some cleanup, including mending recent damage to the lawn, where trucks made deep ruts and spilled some road salt. The ruts may prove a good place to plant rescued daffodils. 

Elizabeth Veblen, who generously left the house for public use after she died in 1974, grew up in York, England, and loved daffodils. These photos from 1953 show daffodils in the field where the trucks recently left deep ruts. Sunday, we may begin restoring the field to its historic look.

If you'd like to come but can't do the physical work, you can always lend moral support and hear the latest news. We'll have refreshments. Kids welcome. Park down the driveway across the street from 443 Herrontown Rd, or walk up from the Herrontown Woods main parking lot.

Ground will likely be moist, so dress accordingly.

UPDATE ON OUR PROPOSAL TO ACQUIRE AND REPAIR THE VEBLEN HOUSE AND COTTAGE: Two months ago, the Friends of Herrontown Woods submitted an official proposal to Mercer County to acquire and restore the Veblen House and cottage, to create a Veblen Center and ecological campus on the surrounding grounds. In particular, the house is of sound structure with wonderful custom interior. Though we have made great progress restoring the grounds of Veblen House, the county has not as yet given us permission to begin repairs of the buildings. We have submitted the insurance we believe sufficient to handle any liability concerns, so that we can begin repairing the buildings as soon as possible. Having demonstrated our skill and dedication by caring for the 140 acre county-owned Herrontown Woods over the past four years, we are awaiting a county response to our proposal so that we can negotiate a means to put these historic structures on a positive trajectory.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

FOHW Submits Proposal to Repair Veblen Buildings

The Friends of Herrontown Woods (FOHW) has been busy over the winter. On February 3rd, we proudly submitted to Mercer County a proposal to acquire and put to a public purpose the Veblen House, cottage, and farmstead at Herrontown Woods. The document envisions, and details the projected costs of, what will be called the Veblen Center.

FOHW volunteers have long wanted to build on their success in restoring trails and habitat on the 140 acre preserve, by directing similar energy and skill to repairing the buildings. Research has revealed the uniqueness of the Veblen House's architecture, the extraordinary lives of those who lived there, and the importance of the buildings for enhancing Princeton's open space and preserving the historic integrity of Herrontown Woods.

Proposed first steps are improved weatherization and appearance of the structures, restoration of the grounds, interpretive signage, and events to take advantage of the lovely setting. FOHW is seeking permission from Mercer County to begin repairs prior to acquisition, to demonstrate that the buildings can be saved and put on a positive trajectory after many years of neglect.

The proposal describes the importance of this initiative:
Oswald Veblen was an internationally renowned mathematician whose vision, passion and drive greatly influenced the development of Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study. He can also be viewed as the founder of Princeton’s open space movement, not only by donating Princeton’s first dedicated nature preserve, Herrontown Woods, but also through his work to acquire 610 acres for the Institute that later became preserved as the Institute Woods.
The Veblens’ donation of the house and cottage to the public trust should not be viewed as an afterthought. As described in books like Turing’s Cathedral, Oswald’s love of buildings was as strong as his love of land, and can be seen in the opulence of Princeton University’s “utopia for mathematicians”, Old Fine Hall (now called Jones Hall), which he largely designed. When the Institute for Advanced Study was first being formed, Veblen argued strongly, and effectively, for giving the dispersed Institute scholars a permanent physical setting where they could better interact. The Veblen House and cottage can now serve in a similar way, as much needed infrastructure to complement the extraordinary corridor of preserved open space in eastern Princeton.