The Princeton Nurseries Kingston Site was established by William Flemer Sr. shortly before World War I, and grew to become the largest commercial nursery in the United States by the time it left Kingston in 1995.
In 1911, after a thorough search of sites on the East Coast, Flemer chose Kingston as the site for his wholesale nursery. The soil-rich loam created during the last ice age is virtually free of rocks and stones. Furthermore, the Kingston location was halfway between New York and Philadelphia, on a branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad and along the D&R Canal, offering great logistical advantages for commercial transportation.
In 1913, Flemer purchased his first property for $9,000 – the sixty-five acre Myrick farm. The adjoining sixty-five acre Higgins farm was purchased in 1914, followed by the 85-acre Van Dyke farm and the 70-acre Archibald Gulick farm. These four connected purchases totaled 265 acres. Wherever possible, Flemer and his son, William Flemer Jr, bought both land and houses in order to provide housing for nursery employees. Today, nearly 25 historic structures remain.
Flemer, Jr. (pictured above) was industrious and inventive. He built a system of greenhouses, installed a vast irrigation network, and built a water system that not only provided water for the nursery and nursery houses, but also for the village of Kingston. Flemer’s grandsons William Flemer III and John Flemer (pictured below) continued to nurture the business, bringing the nursery to national, even international prominence. The nurseries were granted dozens of patents on trees including the ‘Shademaster’ locust and ‘Village Green Zelkova’ elm.
As development increased in the Kingston area, Princeton Nurseries started purchasing land in Allentown, NJ in 1962 and moved its entire operation there in 1995. The company closed operations in Spring of 2010; fortunately, its land in Allentown has now been preserved as farmland and open space.
At its peak, Princeton Nurseries farmed considerable land (1,200 acres total) in South Brunswick, Plainsboro, West Windsor, and Franklin Township. Today, more than 240 acres of the former nursery lands have been preserved.