Group wants Route 206 on ‘historic’ list

Residents agree to help fund $3,000 study

Lea Kahn
   A handful of township residents who want to see Route 206 nominated for inclusion on the state and national Registers of Historic Places have agreed to contribute money to cover Lawrence Township’s share of the cost of a study of the historic road.
   Township Council has been reluctant to allocate $3,000 as its share of the study of the old stagecoach route, because only a portion of Route 206 — from the Princeton Township line to Franklin Corner Road, through the village of Lawrenceville — has been included in the report.
   But Township Councilwoman Pam Mount said several residents who live along the three-and-a-half mile stretch of Route 206 included in the study told her that they will raise money to cover the township’s costs. Lawrence Township will not have to pay for the study.
   “I spoke to some folks who are interested in helping financially. They are residents who live along Route 206 and they are raising money to contribute the township’s $3,000 share. They are very interested in this whole effort. They are committed,” Mrs. Mount said.
   The King’s Highway Ad Hoc Committee has been working for several years to nominate the highway — which consists of portions of Route 206 and Route 27 — to the state and national registers. The committee includes representatives from Lawrence Township, Princeton Borough, Princeton Township, and Franklin and South Brunswick townships.
   State officials awarded a $24,433 grant to the Princeton Township Historic Preservation Commission for the nomination of the King’s Highway. The Princeton Township commission is leading the effort.
   Princeton Township contributed $13,289 in cash and in-kind contributions to the project. Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand wrote to Lawrence Township officials several months ago, asking the township to reimburse Princeton Township for its costs, Mrs. Mount said.
   Township Council discussed the reimbursement request at its March 21 meeting, but there was some disagreement over whether to spend the money because the study does not include the portion of Route 206 south of Franklin Corner Road.
   “Some people in Lawrence said it’s not fair and that the committee should do the whole thing (nominate all of Route 206). I agree, but my feeling is it’s important to support the effort so far. It has taken years to get to this point. I think it is important to be part of this initiative,” Mrs. Mount said.
   A study of the rest of Route 206 — south of Franklin Corner Road — should be undertaken later, Mrs. Mount said. It might be possible to contact the City of Trenton about the study, since Route 206 extends through the city, she said.
   “I am committed to getting a proposal from someone like Connie Greiff (of Heritage Studies Inc. of Rocky Hill) to designate the rest of Route 206. I know people in the southern part of town are very interested in history, as well. It’s a matter of figuring out how to do it,” she said.
   The King’s Highway Ad Hoc Committee met Monday night in Princeton to review the draft version of the nomination prepared by Mrs. Greiff of Heritage Studies Inc. of Rocky Hill, said Princeton Township Historic Preservation Officer Christine Lewandoski.
   Public hearings will be held to gather citizen input. The public hearing in Lawrence Township has been set for 7:30 p.m. June 22 in the lower level conference room at the municipal building, said township Historic Preservation Advisory Committee Chairman Colette Coolbaugh.
   The public hearing for South Brunswick and Franklin townships has been set for May 4, Ms. Coolbaugh said. Princeton Borough will hold its public hearing June 7, and Princeton Township will hold its session in late August, she said.
   If the King’s Highway Ad Hoc Committee’s effort succeeds, it will mark the first time that a road has been nominated as the primary historic resource in New Jersey, according to Princeton Township officials. There are 73 roads in 36 states listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
   The 10-mile stretch of Route 206 and Route 27 that is proposed for nomination starts at Franklin Corner Road in Lawrence Township and ends near Raymond Road in South Brunswick Township. It includes Main Street in the village of Lawrenceville.
   The Lawrence Township Historic Preservation Advisory Committee threw its weight behind the nomination effort, endorsing the proposal in a resolution adopted in 1997.
   The first Colonial road in New Jersey, the King’s Highway/Route 206 was an important stagecoach route through the state, and it was the first postal route across the state. It became part of the Lincoln Highway, which was the first transcontinental road in the United States, the HPAC resolution said.
   In addition to its historic significance, the road maintains much of its historic integrity, according to the HPAC resolution. The 10-mile-long stretch of road links nine national historic districts in five municipalities, and includes national landmarks such as Nassau Hall and The Lawrenceville School.
   Inclusion on the state and national registers would be helpful in maintaining the ambiance of the village of Lawrenceville and Princeton, Township Historian Winona Nash said recently. But as far as Lawrence Township is concerned, Route 206 is very well protected because of its inclusion in the Main Street Historic District, she said.
   The two-mile-long Main Street Historic District, which stretches from Franklin Corner Road to an area north of Fackler Road, has been listed on the state and national registers of historic places since 1972.
   According to Princeton Township officials, the preservation of the King’s Highway and its scenic views has become increasingly important over the last few years — especially since traffic has increased and road improvements have threatened to change its character.