PRINCETON, N.J. (CBS) — A fight to protect the past in Princeton has two sides divided over a piece of land that may have played a major role in shaping American history.

After more than four years of trying to block a housing project, a Revolutionary War preservationist group says they’re losing a precious piece of history.

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On December 9, the Institute for Advanced Study issued a statement saying they are beginning construction of faculty housing on a track of land next to Princeton Battlefield State Park.

The Princeton Battlefield Society has been fighting to preserve the land which they say was the site of a successful counter attack led by General George Washington in the Battle of Princeton.

“Before this battle occurred we had never won against the professional British Army, so it was tremendously important and at the time this occurred, the Americans were beginning to lose heart,” Society Vice President Kip Cherry tells Eyewitness News.

Their attorney, Bruce Afran, says it was premature for the Institute to begin construction while briefs are currently being prepared for appeals court.

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“Now you see that the Institute is trying to get a jump ahead of the courts by building on the site, or starting to build before the court even hears the appeals,” says Afran.

The Institute, which boasts Albert Einstein as a former faculty member, referred all questions to the December 9th statement which said in part:

“The project meets a critical need for the Institute, which has taken great care to address all reasonable concerns relative to preservation issues…”

Afran says in addition to fighting the Institute in court, the Society is challenging their wetlands construction approval under the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.

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They expect a hearing before the NJ Senate Environment and Energy Committee.