The History of Plainsboro
Plainsboro did not exist as a municipal government until the community was incorporated on May 6, 1919. Prior to that date, all lands north of Plainsboro Road and Dey Road were part of South Brunswick and all lands south of Plainsboro Road and Dey Road were part of Cranbury Township.
The Unami, a subtribe of the Lenni Lenape native Americans, were the first inhabitants of the Plainsboro area. The Lenape were a part of the larger Delaware tribe. The Plainsboro area offered fertile soil and ample water to suit this tribe’s agricultural interests.
The Dutch, migrating from the original settlement of Peter Minuet in New Amsterdam during the mid 1600’s, became the first European settlers. English settlers soon joined them. Given its climate, good soils, and available water, agriculture became the important economic focus.
In 1897, the Walker-Gordon Laboratory Company selected Plainsboro as the site for its innovative certified dairy farm. Designed to produce clean, high quality milk and milk formulas for infant feeding at a time before pasteurization was a common practice, the farm grew to become the largest certified dairy farm in the world. The farm’s "Rotary Combine Milking System," also known as the "Rotolactor," a 50 stall merry-go-round milking facility, went into operation in 1930. The farm and its Rotolactor became a novel tourist attraction. The dairy operation ceased in 1971, about the same time that the community transformed from a small farm area into a more modern suburban area.
Plainsboro was incorporated on May 6, 1919. Prior to that date, all lands north of Plainsboro Road and Dey Road were part of South Brunswick and all lands south of Plainsboro Road and Dey Road were part of Cranbury Township. Inadequate school facilities became the catalyst for creating the Township. Residents John V.B. Wicoff, a prominent Trenton lawyer and businessman, and Henry W. Jeffers, Sr. led the move to have the New Jersey legislature form the Township of Plainsboro. A new school was built shortly after incorporation. That school was renamed the JVB Wicoff School on October 9, 1975, still serves as the school to many of Plainsboro’s elementary students.
During the 1970’s, the community experienced unprecedented residential development led by Lincoln Properties. Around that same time, Plainsboro’s largest property owner, Princeton University, began developing the prestigious office park, the Princeton Forrestal Center.
In 1979 Plainsboro adopted a new master plan to guide growth and development. For the first time, the plan identified land preservation as a goal. Today, the community is noted for its balance of commercial-office/residential development and the preservation of open space. The end result is a quality suburban community that retains much of its agricultural and open-space heritage.