In Response to: Across Nassau Street

I was working in town in the summer of '62, and used to go across Witherspoon Street to a local lunch place. The restaurant made a specialty of serving what the owner caught the night before, especially blue fish. One day, he told me in passing that he would be closing shortly for good. I expressed surprise and disappointment, and asked him why. He was a middle aged Black man, and I think he knew I was a Princeton undergrad. He gave me a sharp look, and explained that he was going to open a gas station. I repeated my disappointment, and he said "I'm going to open a gas station. Because I am 'improving' the location, and got bank financing for it, the town is blocked from using eminent domain to condemn not only this place, but the neighborhood down Witherspoon Street to the township line.

I grew up in town, but had not realized that "Palmer Square" was an urban renewed neighborhood formerly part of the Black community in Princeton. I had never thought to wonder how a collection of unrelated stores around Palmer Square came to be situated in a single stone building that would not have been out of place in the English Cotswolds. I am embarrassed to confess I had grown up in Princeton thinking of it as a refuge from the racial conflicts then starting to convulse the North. I had also gone to Andover, and did not think it strange that there were three Black students in my class of 200 (and roughly the same proportion in my class at Princeton).

Edward Benson ’63
West Kingston, R.I.