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A Brief History of Princeton, MN

The following account was gathered and written entirely by the groups co-coordinating the Reconnaissance Survey of Downtown Princeton in December of  2012. To access their complete survey us the link provided. This survey was completed by Smith & Main, LLC and MacDonald & Mack Architects based out of 400 South Forth Street, Suite 712 Minneapolis, MN 55415

Reconnaissance Survey of Downtown Princeton, MN

Historical Overview


This brief sketch of Princeton’s historical development highlights the events, people, geography, and events that shaped the city’s downtown (the subject of this survey) during its first century.


Explorers first came to the Princeton area in 1847 in search of wood to use for construction lumber and found a vast forest of white pine. Timber crews followed and the logging business began, taking advantage of the juncture of the two branches of the Rum River. The arrival of the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad in 1886 enabled Princeton’s economy to diversify by providing a means to ship local products. In 1889 brickyards were established two miles north of Princeton. By 1900 agriculture had become the mainstay of the community with potatoes taking a lead role. As the potato industry dwindled through the 1920s, dairying became the most significant industry for the area for the next 50 years.


The below table illustrates the population growth of Princeton during its first century. The largest periods of growth occurred between 1880 and 1910 with the community growing close to 300%. This period of expansion coincided with the coming of the railroad and the growth of the brick, potato, and dairy industries, and was greater than the post war baby boom period of the 1940s and 50s.





Beautifully located at the juncture of the east and west braches of the Rum River, Princeton is located 50 miles north of Minneapolis/St. Paul and 40 miles south of Mille Lacs Lake. The geography of the Princeton area enticed explorers and lumberman to this area and helped establish a town on the Rum River. Princeton is located on the southern edge of a vast forest of white pine stretching to Mille Lacs Lake. To the south of the village were chiefly deciduous trees. The sought-after white pines were from 100 to 200 feet in height and from 30 inches to five feet in diameter.


The Rum River traverses the length of Mille Lacs County and flows from Mille Lacs Lake through this vast forest of white pine. The river empties into the Mississippi River where Anoka is now located. Both branches of the river and its tributaries provided a means of moving the timber to the mills located at the confluence of the two branches (Princeton) or to the larger mills farther south located at St. Anthony Falls. Most of the logs cut above Princeton went through the village down to the mills at Minneapolis and farther south.


For 35 years, the village was the headquarters of the lumbermen who established their camps along Rum River and its tributaries.




Daniel Stanchfield was the first white man to explore the Rum River for white pine. In 1847, Stanchfield and his two mixed-blood companions, Severre Bottineau and Charles Manock, set out in a canoe from St. Anthony Falls with the intention of canoeing up the Mississippi River and exploring the Rum River all the way to Mille Lacs Lake. For over 75 miles no tracts of pine were found along the Rum River until the exploring party reached a tributary of the Rum River, now called the West branch. From this point (the future location of Princeton) both the Rum River and the West branch were heavily timbered with white pine for miles.


Just a year from the date that Stanchfield discovered the pine forest north of the confluence of the Rum River and its West branch, the first sawmill at St. Anthony Falls began operating, and by 1852, 22 logging firms were operating along the Rum River (Princeton Centennial p. 5).


Nine years after Stanchfield’s discovery, in 1856, William F. Dunham built the first steam sawmill in Princeton. The mill, however, burned four years after it was erected. The next mill was built by Samuel Ross in 1858 and was operated with water power. Eleven years later a third mill in the village was built by Benjamin Soule. It was operated by a 40-horsepower engine (Princeton Union, June 4, 1981).


Saw Mill, Princeton, 1916 (MHS)


Growth of the timber industry and the town of Princeton was greatly influenced by a treaty with the Chippewa signed on July 29, 1837, that ceded to the United States a large tract of land including the Rum River valley. Lumber companies did not need to deal with the Indians in purchasing the pine trees before they were harvested, as they did farther north in the area around Leech Lake.


Lumbering grew to be the most important industry in northern Minnesota. In commenting on the value of the pine timber, Stanchfield stated, “the first gold mine of the Northwest was its pine timber, which was taken from the red man almost without compensation. From the upper Mississippi region above the falls of St. Anthony it has yielded 12 billion feet of lumber, having a value at the places where it was sawn of not less than $75,000,000. This great lumber industry, more than all other resources, built up the cities and towns on the upper Mississippi and its tributaries, at these (St. Anthony) falls and northward” (Princeton Centennial p. 6).


By 1900 much of the forest had been logged and timber became very short in supply. The cleared land was then converted into farming and agricultural purposes.


In those early days Princeton’s economy depended nearly entirely on the lumbering industry. Unlike towns located on the prairie, the availability of lumber and a saw mill enabled the Princeton to grow without the presence of a train. However, it was not until the railroad made its appearance in 1886 that the village became a thriving business center (Princeton Union, December 30, 1926).


Princeton Becomes a Village


The first house was built in this area in 1849. Located under a big elm on the river bank northeast of the present 1st street and 4th avenue, the shanty was used as a stopping place. The village of Princeton was laid out and platted in the winter of 1855 by Samuel Ross, James W. Gillam, Dorilius Morrison, John S. Prince, and Richard Chute. The plat of Princeton was recorded the following year, on April 19, 1856. Princeton is named in honor of John S. Prince, one of the founders of the village.

Religion and education were important to the pioneers as the first church was organized that same year as well as the first school house being erected. Samuel Ross was very busy that first year, as he is credited for establishing the first post office, opening the first hotel made of logs in 1856 and opening the first blacksmith shop. Later in 1869, he built the North Star hotel.


When the village was platted in 1856, Princeton was located in Benton County. The act that created Mille Lacs County in 1857 provided for a temporary county seat at Hanover, an Indian trading post at the source of the Rum River at Mille Lacs Lake. When Mille Lacs County was officially organized in 1860, the county seat was established in Princeton, where it remained until 1920 when it was moved to Milaca (Princeton Centennial p. 3).


By 1870, Princeton had three stores with over $40,000 annual sales, two large hotels, two steam sawmills, one flouring mill, one lawyer, two preachers, one carriage stop, four blacksmith shops, two shoe shops, two carpenter shops, and the only post office in the area. However, the significant growth of the community during the 1890’s and the first decade of the 1900’s did not occur until the arrival of the railroad.




Early travel to and from Princeton consisted of stagecoach, wagon, or foot. It was not until November 24, 1886, that regular railroad service began. In its issue of March 4, 1886, the Union announced that James J. Hill, president of the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad Company, had agreed to build a railroad from Elk River to Milaca through Princeton if the County of Mille Lacs passed bonds to aid in the construction of his railroad. The railroad proposition carried by a vote of 430 to 66 in Mille Lacs County. Princeton village cast 241 votes for the proposition and not a single ballot against it. The last rail was laid at Milaca on November 13, and two weeks later, on November 26, a ball was given at the Palace Rink to celebrate the opening of the railroad (Princeton Union, December 30, 1926).


The first depot constructed was a wood building comparable in design and size to those in villages of similar size to Princeton. By 1900, train service had increased to two trips each day, and the first depot became insufficient. In 1902, the present building was constructed. Separate men’s and women’s waiting rooms, ample storage space and Jacobean styling led it to be referred to as the grandest depot between Duluth and the Twin Cities at that time.


 Great Northern Depot, Princeton, ca. 1905 (MHS)


It was not until the arrival of the railroad that two of Princeton’s most significant industries, bricks and potatoes, were established. The railroad also provided passenger service and supplied the village with products from other parts of the country. Rapid settlement of the county also occurred after the advent of the railroad in Princeton.


With the increase in the number of cars and trucks, travel on the train grew less frequently and the service deteriorated. So much so, that in the summer of 1930, the mail was finally taken off the Great Northern and dispatched from the Princeton post office by trucks.


Brick Industry


A. W. Woodcock established the first brick yard in Brickton, two miles north of Princeton, under the company name of Woodcock & Oakes. Mr. Woodcock came to Princeton 1878 and started a logging business, which he discontinued in 1898. While in the logging business he started making bricks 1889. Three years later, the Princeton Brick Company began production in 1892. A third company, Kuhn Bros., established a brick yard in 1896. Finally, the Cream Brick Co. and Farnham Brick Co. both established brickyards in 1900.


Within 15 years there were a total of five companies making bricks with an annual combined production averaging 20 million bricks. As one of the largest brick manufacturing towns in the state, the brick industry was formable in the growth and prosperity of Princeton. About 150 men were employed during the brick making season and paid good wages. The need for great quantities of wood to fire the kilns also provided income to nearby farmers, who sold wood after clearing their land to the brick yards (Princeton Commercial Club).


In 1926, the brick industry was still producing as many as 4 million bricks a year. As train service diminished, however, the industry faded as the railroad service faded. After making bricks for 40 years, the last yard closed in 1929.

The brick industry also left a physical impression on Princeton and the surrounding country side, as nearly all the business establishments in Princeton and many of the better homes in the village and surrounding farming community were built of Princeton brick.


Potato Industry


In 1890, agriculture began taking the place of lumber as the most important industry of Princeton. Up to that time very few potatoes had been raised in this vicinity as wheat was grown extensively in the Princeton area. Farmers soon discovered that the soil here was well adapted to the cultivation of potatoes, and it was not long before potatoes were being raised on an extensive scale.

Potato Famers near Princeton, ca. 1920 (MHS)


During this time nearly every farmer had quite a few rejected potatoes in his crop for which he could receive only a small price, if anything, on the market. It became apparent that there was a need of a starch factory in this village to use these rejected potatoes. Both Anoka and Elk River had such factories. In its issue of May 16, 1889, the Union commented on the need of a starch factory:


“If we are going to have a starch factory, creamery or anything else here in Princeton, the business men – when we say business men we don’t mean storekeepers only – and property owners must take hold of the matter, Princeton must do the same. If a bonus is to be raised, let a meeting be called, and let each contribute according to his or her means. Something must be done to liven up the town. A man in business can afford to give liberally; by so doing he will help the town and his own private interests as well. A man that owns a dozen lots can afford to give away three of them in order to enhance the value of the remaining nine. We do not believe in giving aid at present, but we do believe in offering some inducement to start new enterprises. Let a meeting be called without delay, and see what can be done” (Princeton Centennial p. 15-17).


The Princeton Starch factory incorporated in 1889 by some of the leading businessmen in Princeton: T. H. Caley, N. E. Jesmer, C. H. Rines, C. H. Pierce, Robert C. Dunn, and Frank Hense. The object was to make potato starch and the farmers were encouraged to raise the potatoes to supply the factory. The owners erected a building east of Rum River Drive and north of First Street. Potatoes came in rapidly and the starch factory ran day and night. Later a second starch factory was erected and operated until the 1920s. The original factory later became the Odegard Garage and Ford Dealership. It was razed when the Riverside Plaza mall was built in 1982 (see Survey Sheet on p. 47).


By 1901, potatoes became the most important crop produced, and Princeton grew to be the largest market in the Midwest. As an example of the amount of potatoes being grown during this period, on November 22, 1901 a trainload of 52 cars of potatoes was shipped from this village.


Later the industry declined as the soil became exhausted, but was reborn under O. J. Odegard who farmed an area called “the bog”. During the 1930s, Odegard was the largest employer at the time and the amount of potatoes produced was so great that two thousand train carloads were shipped annually, not including the rejected potato being processed at the starch factories.

By 1939, the potato industry came to an end, and the last starch factory in Princeton became obsolete. In December of that year it was leveled by Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers.


Dairy Industry


Beginning in 1908, with the creation of the Princeton Co-operative creamery, dairying became an important industry in the Princeton area. By 1920, it was recognized as the most important industry in Princeton and held that position for over a half of a century, until the late 1970s.


A privately-run creamery had been operating in Princeton, but in 1908 local businessmen offered $1,500 to farmers to help build the first cooperative creamery. The new cooperative creamery opened on June 30th of that year. In 1910, 206,124 pounds of butter were made at the creamery, and the amount paid for butterfat to farmers was $49,149.

By 1922, 557,604 pounds of butter were made at the creamery, and the amount paid for butterfat to farmers was $182,002. The dairy business increased so dramatically during the first 14 years of the Princeton Co-operative’s existence that it was decided at the annual meeting in January 1922 to erect a new building. The contract for this building was awarded to A. O. Egge of Princeton (see Survey Sheet on p. 134).

The brick creamery structure was 65’x65’ and two stories high. In 1943, a one-story addition was built on the east side of the creamery for a receiving room. A warehouse was constructed in 1953, north of the creamery (see Survey Sheet on p. 128). By 1955, the Princeton Co-operative creamery paid its patrons a most significant sum of $761,862. The creamery produced butter under the Land O’ Lakes label for many years and then under the Lake Land label until it closed in 1979.


Downtown Businesses


Early business buildings were wood-frame construction and were more functional than fashionable. Merchants and businessmen were more interested in establishing shelter for their products or services than architectural design. However, major fires destroyed many of the frame buildings in the downtown area. But they were quickly rebuilt, better than ever, mostly in brick and some in stone – believed at the time to be fireproof materials.

Early Businesses of Wood-Frame Construction (City of Princeton)


By the late 1880s Princeton was a thriving village of approximately 800 residents. In 1889, the Union listed the following business establishments in the village:


  • Four general merchandise stores with the largest being operated by N. E. Jesmer in a large two- story brick building

  • Dry goods store operated by R. B. Newton

  • Bakery conducted by Douglas and Patchen

  • Confectionery stand operated by Joe and Fred Ross

  • Pioneer Drug store operated by C. A. Jack & Co.

  • City Drug store conducted by J. Hickman

  • Three meat markets operated by Buck and Pratt, Herdliska and Martinek, and Samuel Miller

  • Harness shop

  • Blacksmith and wagon shop

  • Hardware store operated by T. H. Caley

  • Three hotels: Commercial, North Star and Manitoba

  • Livery stable

  • Three doctors: Dr. Gile, Dr. Cooney, and Dr. Tarbox

  • Four saloons and one temperance billiard hall

  • One shoe shop

  • A large saw mill and lumber yard owned by C. H. Rines

  • Two feed mills, one owned by Harry Head, and the other by Mr. Turner

  • Two churches owned by Methodists and Congregationalists

  • One Masonic lodge of forty or fifty members and one G. A. R. Post.

View Looking North on Rum River Dr. from 2nd Street (MHS)


General Merchandise


The Mark family operated one of the longest continuing merchandise businesses in Princeton. A. S. Mark first opened a store in 1899. Three years later, Mr. Mark purchased the stock of Sam Carew shortly after Mr. Carew’s death, and moved his store into the impressive, two-story Carew building that stood on the northeast corner of 1st and Rum River Drive. The store was in operation until the 1960s, and the building stood until the Princeton Mall was built in 1982. Mr. Mark’s son, Aaron, owned a grocery store in Princeton; another son, Bert, owned a clothing store. A third son, Joe, owned an old Dodge truck and would haul supplies up from Minneapolis to Aaron’s and Bert’s stores. Mark Park is named in honor of the many years the Mark's family was in business in Princeton (Papenhausen, p. 7).


The Byers building on the northwest corner of Rum River Drive and 2nd Street North, was originally a general store owned by R. D. Byers, then a hatchery owned and operated by the Lund family. They would buy fertile eggs from the local farmers and hatch thousands of baby chicks. They sold the chicks throughout the five state area. Many of the chicks were delivered by Parcel Post with rural mail carriers delivering them to the farms (Papenhausen, p. 12).




Two of the most influential citizens of Princeton owned hardware stores. E.K. Evens was engaged in the hardware business in Princeton for 35 years in the one-story building located on the southwest corner of Rum River Drive and Second Street North. Mr. Evens gave generously of his time in public service in various capacities. He served for three terms on the village council and for three consecutive terms on the Water, Light and Building Commission. Mr. Evens’ building is now divided into three separate tenant spaces (see Survey Sheets on p. 28-38).


Evens Hardware - 1900 (MN Digital)


Thomas H. Caley came to Princeton in 1869 and started a tin shop with his brother, Daniel, under the firm name of Caley Bros. In 1873, Thomas Caley bought his brother’s share of the business and started selling general hardware and farm machinery. Mr. Caley was known as a public-spirited citizen who participated in nearly every constructive business enterprise in Princeton in its early days. The hardware store was located at the southeast corner of Rum River Drive and 1st Street. At the time of the centennial (1956) it was the oldest commercial building in the city. However, on October 8, 1956, the original building burned, leaving the 1903 brick addition on 1st Street (see Survey Sheet on p. 149).


Community Organizations


People volunteering in community organizations have often made a positive and lasting impact on communities. Princeton had several community organizations in the beginning of the 1900s, including: Masonic, Eastern Star, Odd Fellows, Encampment, Rebekah’s, K. P. Rathbone Sisters, K. O. T. M. (Knights of the Maccabees), L. O. T. M. (Ladies of the Maccabees), Uniform Rank, Good Samaritans, G. A. R. (The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army, US Navy, Marines and Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War.) S. of V. I. O. G. T. and Aid societies.


The building constructed for the Odd Fellows is regarded as the largest building still standing in which Princeton brick was used, and is what was known as the Odd Fellows Block. The Odd Fellows Block contained the offices of C.C. Mitchel, Attorney at Law and was elected as a State Representative, and R. C. Angstman, another long-time attorney and very active citizen in Princeton (see Survey Sheet on p. 44).


A description of the building when it was completed in January 1902 follows: “It is a three-story solid brick structure, imposing in appearance, substantial and enduring, higher than any building between Minneapolis and Duluth. It is made from the famous cream-colored Princeton brick. The foundation is sandstone granite; the basement is ten feet deep” (Princeton Centennial p. 17).




Princeton’s first bank, the Mille Lacs County bank, was established in 1887 by Frank Hense, Charles Erickson, and L. P. Thyberg. The building stood on the present site of the Horstman Meat market and was of brick veneer construction. It was a private bank and not subject to any supervision whatsoever by state or federal officers. A large number of banks in Minnesota at that time were private banks.


The Mille Lacs County bank became a national bank in 1892 and was incorporated as the First National Bank. On August 3, 1893, the bank was caught in the fire that swept the entire block on the west side of Rum River Drive, north of First Street.

First National Bank – 1909 (MN Digital)


About a year before this fire the Citizen’s State Bank had been established. The two banks combined in 1902 in the Citizen’s State Bank Building (see Survey Sheet on p. 56). The bank continued to operate as the Citizen’s State Bank until 1905 when an application was made for a national charter. Through the assistance of influential friends in Washington the bank officials were able to obtain and reinstate the old title of the First National Bank. The Citizen’s State Bank building is the one in which the First National bank is today being conducted (Princeton Union, December 30, 1926).


The Bank of Princeton was founded in 1896, with the building on 1st Street constructed at the turn of the century (see Survey Sheet on p. 161). Private banking was discontinued in Minnesota in 1907. That year the Bank of Princeton was reorganized as the Princeton State Bank. In 1934, Princeton State Bank took over First National Bank and conducted business out of the Citizen’s State Bank building on the southwest corner of Rum River Drive and 1st Street.


The Citizen’s State Bank building has played an important part in the history of Princeton. Upstairs, over the bank, was the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company office and switchboard. The switch board operators were responsible for alerting the fire department of fires in town. They had a list of all the firemen. One long ring at home or place of business notified them of a fire. Also, located on the outside of the building was a red light that the operator would turn on to alert the police to call her for the information (Papenhausen p.18).




Dr. H. C. Cooney is one of the more influential pioneers of Princeton. The existence of a hospital in Princeton is largely credited to Dr. Cooney. He graduated from the college of Physicians and Surgeons of Chicago in 1887 and first came to Princeton in March 1888. After remaining here for 10 years, he returned to Chicago for two years and took postgraduate work in surgery. In 1900 he returned to Princeton and opened a private hospital, which at first had five or six beds. It was the first hospital to be opened in Princeton and, even on that small scale, rendered a great service to this community and the surrounding territory. Six months later the capacity of the hospital was increased to 10 or 12 beds, and it was reorganized under the name of the Northwestern Hospital.


In 1909, the Northwestern Hospital relocated to its present quarters and was enlarged until today it has a capacity of 35 beds, and employed from 10 to 12 nurses (Princeton Union December 30, 1926, p. 7).




Princeton’s first newspaper was the Princeton Appeal, first printed in December 1873 and published by William Quigley. In May 1875 J. S. Brocklehurst purchased it. The Appeal was discontinued the following the spring of 1876.


That year, Robert C. Dunn began publishing the Princeton Union and it has been published continuously since. Besides publishing the Princeton Union for 42 years, Mr. Dunn was very influential with the development of Princeton. Mr. Dunn was born in Ireland, and when he was 15 years old he came to American with an older cousin. Together they went to stay with his uncle, Samuel Dunn, who lived on a farm at Rocky Run, Wisconsin. In 1876 (at age 21) he moved to Princeton to help cure his partial paralysis.


Mr. Dunn was the Mille Lacs County Attorney from 1884-88. In 1889 he was chosen representative to the state legislature. He was returned again in 1893, and became a leader in the lower house. He was chosen State Senator in 1910. His fight for the school lands of the state brought him into prominence, and in the campaign of 1894 he was nominated as the Republican candidate for state auditor. And four years later was renominated unanimously. During the last 25 years of his life Mr. Dunn devoted a large portion of his time and energies to state affairs, including campaigning for good roads and the bridge crossing the West Branch Rum River (Princeton Union, December 30, 1926, p. 1).



Princeton, as practically all other pioneer towns, has had its rash of destructive fires that wiped out the early wood-framed buildings in the business district. Practically all of them were replaced by the brick structures, many of the Princeton cream- colored brick. During the period of 11 months from march 1893 to January 1894 the business section of Princeton was visited by four serious fires which leveled not only the old wooden structures erected early in the 1880’s but also some of the brick business blocks. The first big fire was on March 3, 1893. It destroyed the new brick Townsend building on the northwest corner of Rum River Drive and First Street. It housed A. Rines’ dry goods store, Marshall’s harness-maker shop on the first floors, and Dr. Cooney’s office and the I.O.G.T. Hall on the second floor.


The second fire of that year, which occurred on August 3, has been described as the worst fire in the history of Princeton (Princeton Volunteer Fire Department). It swept the entire block on the east side of Main Street immediately north of First Street. Six buildings were destroyed including the North Star Hotel, First National Bank, and the Brayton building. The fire was so immense that the community was nervous that the fire would jump over Main Street (Rum River Drive) and destroy the western half of downtown. As a good result of the fire, the City prohibited wooden structures from being built in the downtown.


A third fire in 1893 completely destroyed the large store of C. H. Rines on September 19th. On January 3, 1894, a fire destroyed Mr. Jesmer’s fine department store and five other buildings.


Robert C. Dunn (MHS)

In 1894 N. E. Jesmer buildings built the Opera House in the middle of the block on Rum River Drive between 1st Street and 2nd Street N. The building was constructed with heavy fire walls made of brick. On February 2, 1907, a fire destroyed the Jesmer Opera House. Without these fire walls, however, the fire would have spread to the adjacent buildings. The Opera House was located on the second floor of the building, and the Banner Cash store, the most spacious mercantile establishment in town, was located on the first floor (Princeton Volunteer Fire Department). A similar style building was constructed in 1907 to replace the Jesmer Opera House. This building was also ruined by a fire in the 1970s.


Fires continued to reshape Princeton’s downtown into the mid-1900s. The Olson Meat Market was gutted by fire on September 24, 1951; the area is still a vacant lot. On October 9, 1956, a fire destroyed a Princeton landmark: the Our Own Hardware and Red & White Store, which was the T. H. Caley hardware store and, at the time, the oldest business structure in the city. The new building still stands and is occupied by Princeton Insurance Agency (see Survey Sheet on p. 60).


For the third time, a fire destroyed the buildings on the northwest corner of Rum River Drive and 1st Street. On January 16, 1963, seven businesses were lost, including Skogmo’s department store, Peterson’s Barber shop, Harry’s Café, Laura’s Beauty Shop, Boik’s Jewelry, Dr. L. C. Hohl, chiropractor, and Bill Mix’s Mens and Boys Wear. This lot was redeveloped with 101 Le Grande building (see Survey Sheet p. 53).


Princeton Fire Department


On June 2, 1881, Princeton adopted a constitution to organize its first volunteer fire company. In 1888, Princeton constructed a new City Hall and Fire House. The Village Council purchased a hook and ladder truck, Princeton Truck No. 1, in 1895.

Princeton City Hall and Fire Department, ca. 1916 (MHS)


An addition to the Fire House and City Hall was later constructed which also contained the light plant for a number of years. A brick water tower was built to the east in 1895 and later replaced by a steel tower in 1917. In 1968, Princeton built a new fire station on Fourth Avenue (see Survey Sheet p. 221). The Fire House and City Hall building was demolished in 1974 in order to build a new City Hall.





Princeton is a thriving community who’s development pattern has been influenced by a number of factors: geography (Rum River, white pine, fertile soil), coming of the railroad, entrepreneurial leaders (Caley, Jesmer, Odegaard, Woodcock, Dunn, Dr. Cooney, Mark, and Evens to name just a few), important community organizations (IOOF, Masons), and the community strategically supporting essential businesses (creamery and starch factory). The remaining historic buildings reflect the impact these various influences have had on Princeton.


Most of Princeton’s historic gems that have been lost were due to fires (Jesmer’s Opera House, Caley’s hardware store, the First National Bank building, North Star Hotel, and the Commercial Hotel), while a few of the historic buildings have been razed for redevelopment (the 1888 Village Hall and Fire House and A. S. Mark building).


Wanting to preserve the City’s history and the historic resources that remain, the City of Princeton is taking steps to document the historic resources in its downtown and complete a Façade Improvement Study to demonstrate how some of its historic buildings could be improved, returning them back to their original grandeur. The Survey Forms on the following detailing the physical characteristics of all the buildings in Princeton’s downtown is the City’s first step in documenting and preserving its remaining historical resources.


Rum River Drive Looking South from 1st Street, Caley Hardware is First Building on Left (City of Princeton)

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