SO MANY VARIETIES: Marquand Park is home to more than 140 specimens of trees, the focus of an upcoming walking tour presented by the Historical Society of Princeton and the Marquand Park Foundation.
By Anne Levin
When 19th century architect John Notman designed the Italianate villa and grounds at a corner of Princeton in what is now known as Marquand Park, he planted trees such as beech, oak, cedar of Lebanon, and Norway spruce. Many of those original plantings still thrive today, sharing space with more than 140 different tree specimens on the lush property.
The trees are the stars of “The Magic and History of Marquand Park,” a walking tour taking place Saturday, May 20 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., starting at the Lover’s Lane parking lot. The Historical Society of Princeton is presenting the event, which will be led by members of the Marquand Park Foundation. The property’s history will also be explored on the tour.
“Everybody knows the sandbox in Marquand Park, but many people don’t know that there are so many unique trees here,” said Evie Timberlake, co-chair of the Foundation since longtime president Annette Merle-Smith died last month. Merle-Smith had recently donated a new information sign, for which a ribbon-cutting will be held before the tour begins.
Timberlake continued, “We have some of New Jersey’s champion trees, such as a cucumber magnolia. We have a unique cedar of Lebanon, a dawn redwood, and a dove tree that’s blooming right now. It has huge, white flowers that look like doves. We have all different types of species, and we want people to know about them.”
Marquand Park was once part of a 30-acre farm established in 1842 by Judge Richard Stockton Field. According to the website of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Field was a founding member of both the New Jersey Historical Society and the New Jersey Horticultural Society. When he commissioned Notman — the Philadelphia-based architect of Princeton University’s Prospect House and Lowrie House, as well as several area residences — the landscape was a key element of his design. Notman’s original drawings are in Princeton University Library’s Special Collections.
The estate was sold to Susan Dod Brown in 1871. Allan Marquand, founder of the University’s Department of Art and Archaeology, purchased the property in 1887. He changed the name of the villa from Fieldwood to Guernsey Hall. When the Marquand family donated 17 acres to the municipality in 1953, landscape architects Clarke & Rapuano developed a planning report for the park, according to the Cultural Landscape Foundation. Guernsey Hall was divided into apartments.
In addition to the popular sandbox, added in the 1970s, the park also includes a Children’s Arboretum. The Foundation sponsors a Storywalk and other activities throughout the year.
With its wide variety of species, there is always something in bloom in the park during the warmer months.
“We have a whole grouping of magnolias that bloomed last month,” said Timberlake. “On the day of the tour, the Pawlownia tree, also called an empress tree, will be blooming. We have so many different types, which makes it a great place to see lots of species.”
“The Magic and History of Marquand Park” is free, but advance registration is required. Visit princetonhistory.org.
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