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Nassau Hall

• Two hundred forty-four years ago this month, the first class of students of the College of New Jersey met in Nassau Hall. The College previously held classes in Elizabeth for one year and in Newark for nine years, before meeting in Princeton's Nassau Hall on Nov. 28, 1757.

 

• Designed by architect Robert Smith, the building had three stories and a basement. On each of the three floors, a central corridor ran the length of the building, with all the rooms opening onto the corridor.

• After a fire in 1802, only the exterior walls of Nassau Hall were left standing. Architect Joseph Latrobe was hired for the reconstruction. The changes he made to Smith's design were primarily to reduce the danger of fire: brick and stone replaced wood for the floors and the stairs. In addition, the roof was raised about two feet, allowing room for transom lights over the doors.

• Despite the safeguards, another fire in 1855 again left only the exterior walls. Architect John Notman made more extensive changes than his predecessor. Because a spark from a stove was thought to have caused the fire, he installed nine furnaces to provide central heating. He also built towers on either end of the building to house stairways that were removed from interior halls. The tops of the Italianate towers, which rose above the roof line, were removed in 1905.

• As dormitories and classroom buildings were constructed on campus, students and faculty members moved out of Nassau Hall. John Hibbin (1912-1932) was the first president to have his office there. By 1924, the building was devoted entirely to offices of the central administration.
 

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