The historic Marquand Park and Arboretum spans 17 acres in Princeton’s downtown and serves as a recreational and educational hub for the community. The park, which was once the grounds of an estate built in the 19th century, is home to a diverse flora that includes both native and alien species. The parks are home to some of the largest examples of their species in the state of New Jersey.
Once a part of the Woodlawn estate, which was purchased in 1842 by Richard S. Field, a renowned lawyer and professor at Princeton University, Marquand Park is a prime example of a 19th century planted garden. Field was the inaugural president of the NJ Horticultural Society and a dedicated gardener. He hired Philadelphia architect John Notman in 1846 to create a beautiful landscape and a home for him.
The garden was the first to be constructed. It is unclear how fully the 1846 Notman plan was followed, although both Field and Notman were familiar with A. J. Downing’s gardening principles, and the park’s current form reflects Downing’s gorgeous vision.
Fortunately, Field hired a seasoned gardener named Edward Noice to oversee the project. Beeches, native oaks, white pines, a Cedar of Lebanon, a Japanese Arbor Vitae, and rhododendrons were among the earliest trees to be planted. While the majority of the property was planned as a planted garden, the forested portion along Mercer Street was left mostly undisturbed and is now home to many of the park’s oldest trees (some of which are 200 years old or more). Around 1855, an Italianate-style home was built on the grounds.
In 1871, Susan Dod Brown purchased the property. She and her son Albert made their home in Woodlawn. In addition to his passion for flora, Albert had a stormy love affair with one of Edward Noice’s daughters. In 1887, Allan Marquand, a professor of art history at Princeton University, purchased the property and renamed the mansion Guernsey Hall to honor his Huguenot ancestors’ island of origin. The Marquand family used to own the property until 1953, when they donated seventeen acres to the city of Princeton so that it may be used as a park, playground, and recreational space for the residents of Princeton, NJ area and the surrounding areas.
The park expanded with the addition of new attractions over time. Eleanor Forsyth, a Marquand family member, conceived of and constructed the playground’s stone and sand components. Where once there must have been an orchard, a baseball field now stands. However, the park’s unique characteristics, such as its winding roads, tree groves, expansive views, and undeveloped forest, remain. The park is not only an outstanding example of landscape architecture from the 19th century, but it also contains a beautiful historic collection of trees and shrubs.
Over 140 species of trees are represented at Marquand Park, including some rare evergreens and a Dawn Redwood, which was thought to be extinct until it was discovered in 1944 in China. Huge native beech, hickory, black, and white oak trees stand tall in the forest. The park will always have access to new trees thanks to the tree planting initiative.