History of The Peacock Inn
The Peacock Inn dates back to the 1700s, when it was built on the corner of Main Street and Railroad Avenue, now Nassau Street and University Place, respectively. Jonathan Deare, a member of the Continental Congress, purchased the property from Thomas Stockton in 1779. According to “Hageman’s Princeton”, Deare offered members of the Continental Congress rooms with fireplaces, breakfast, tea, and dinner.
The Peacock Inn was moved to its present location on Bayard Lane in 1875, when it was purchased by the Princeton Hotel Company. Mr. Libbey, President of the Princeton Hotel Company, was a very prominent figure in Princeton. Not only was he a Princeton graduate and professor, he was also the person who established orange and black as the University colors. Mr. Libbey was one of the first individuals to own a telephone in the area as well.
The Peacock Inn was opened in 1911 by Joseph and Helen O’Connor, who purchased the property and named it after an inn in Midland England. The peacock, a symbol of royalty, good food, and good luck, was adopted by the couple as the emblem for the hotel. The Inn has been in operation ever since. After opening under its new name, the property became an interesting part of the area’s history. When Albert Einstein moved to Princeton, he stayed at The Peacock Inn for 10 days while construction of his house was being finished. It is believed that the basement area of The Peacock Inn, also known as “Peacock Alley”, was used as a Prohibition-era speakeasy. According to Mrs. Evatt, who purchased The Peacock Inn in 1954, the entire Princeton football team came to the Inn one day and happened to be standing outside on the porch. Due to the weight of the team, the porch collapsed, taking the football team down with it. A quick-thinking photographer snapped a shot of the incident and later that year, the photograph won a prize and was featured in Sports Illustrated Magazine.