Trenton 10 Most Endangered – 2007 Update
For Preservation Month in 2003, the Preservation Committee of the Trenton Historical Society released its first Ten Most Endangered building list. Now for 2007 we have an updated list to release! We are proud to report that three buildings have been removed: the Broad Street Bank Building, the Golden Swan and the Ferdinand W. Roebling Mansion! These three buildings are currently undergoing active rehabilitation.
The 2007 Ten Most Endangered:
1. Trenton Central High School, Chambers Street (new)
Upon its dedication on January 18, 1932, Trenton Central High School (TCHS) was hailed as “an ornament to the city” and 74 years later this is still true. Designed by Ernest K. Sibley, the architect of Dunn Middle School and Holland Middle School, TCHS is a grand, monumental, Georgian Revival school. The Chambers Street façade is nearly as long as the Empire State building is tall and wisely, the building was constructed to be easily added to as enrollment grew. Adding to the sturdy construction and fine design, local firms were involved in the construction and decoration of the school. John A. Roebling & Sons provided wire lath for fireproofing and light fixtures in the auditorium included Lenox china. This grand building is still functioning as a high school but is in needs updating to meet today’s educational standards.
Current Status: while there is a plan to rehab the building, because of the delay in starting and planning of the project, the costs keep rising so there is still looming threat that the building could be demolished. Also, the School Construction Corporation appears hesitant to fund the rehabilitation of the school. Bad press for the School still exists and the threat of a drastic change of plans looms. The good news is the school is in good to fair condition; more importantly it is functional. The THS hopes to work with all involved to balance the needs of the students with the continued use of this great building.
2. Mercer County Courthouse, South Broad Street
Soon after the formation of Mercer County in 1838, steps were taken for the erection of a courthouse. Built at the corner of Broad and Market Streets, the original Greek Revival structure served the public until 1903. Trenton and Mercer County had grown enormously since its founding, and the current grand, classical Beaux Arts structure was built to accommodate this growth. This impressive sandstone building, with its pediments, columns and arches, occupies an important downtown gateway. Not only a Trenton Landmark, the Courthouse is perhaps one of the best known buildings in Mercer County. Still in daily use, the building is in dire need of restoration. Talk of renovation coupled with whispers of demolition have won this building a high ranking on the Top 10 Endangered List.
Current status: Still suffering from lack of regular maintenance, this grand building is in need of rehabilitation. As to the fate of the building, differing opinions abound, however, recently the County indicated its desire for rehabilitation.
3. Higbee Street School, 20 Bellvue Avenue (new)
The Higbee Street School is a brick Greek Revival building constructed in 1857. This building was the first school built specifically for the free public education of African American children in the City of Trenton. The building itself was a departure from previous schools. It followed design concepts of 19th century education reformers and is probably one of the first African American schools to embody those innovations. By 1872 the student population had already outgrown the Higbee Street building and the students were moved to a temporary building while a new one was constructed. This building is an important representative of African-American history in Trenton. It is also listed in the NJ and National Registers of Historic Places.
Current Status: The building is currently vacant and while it is currently boarded up, years of neglect are taking a toll on the building.
4. Horsman Doll Factory
The Horsman Doll factory complex was the main manufacturing location of the very popular Horsman family of dolls. Built in the early 1930s, it was once considered the largest doll factory in the United States. The one-block square complex, which at its peak had more than 800 employees, consists of two connected, three-story, brick mill buildings, plus several one-story brick additions. Because this site is the dominant feature in an otherwise residential neighborhood, it provides an important reminder of a time when workers still walked to work from homes clustered around places of employment. Doll manufacturing at the site ceased in the 1960s, though sections of the complex housed various enterprises for some time thereafter. The complex has been completely vacant for approximately 10 years, leaving a substantial vacuum in the neighborhood. But these handsome buildings are structurally sound and offer enormous market-rate redevelopment potential. Unlike many other cities, preservation minded builders in Trenton have not put loft-style condominiums and apartments in former factories. Since there are at least a dozen other buildings in the Trenton vicinity with similar prospects, the Horsman Doll Factory could exemplify for the entire region the way new housing can be provided in sensitively converted industrial buildings.
Current status: The building is still vacant and quickly losing its windows to neglect and vandalism. Although there are no current plans to demolish the building, there are no current development plans.
5. Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, 7717 Stuyvesant Avenue
The Trenton Psychiatric Hospital Historic District occupies much of the Hospital’s approximately 100acre campus in Trenton and Ewing Township. The hospital was founded in 1848 at the urging of Dorthea Dix and was first know as the New Jersey Lunatic Asylum. It was the first institution established in New Jersey for the mentally ill. The hospital today includes an extensive campus with large, primarily stone buildings constructed from the mid-19th throughout the 20th centuries amid beautifully landscaped grounds. Noted Philadelphia architect John Notman and nationally significant landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing were responsible for the property’s original plan. The historic district buildings include the main hospital, a cafeteria, a laundry, a firehouse, a shop, a laboratory, a powerhouse, the gatehouse and several residences for the Superintendent, the Commissioner, 12 doctors and a nurse’s dormitory. The New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office has determined that the site is eligible for inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The primary threat to the complex is demolition, although neglect is also taking its toll on the district.
Current status: The hospital complex is still an unacknowledged and underused resource of incredible value; many buildings suffer from lack of maintenance and neglect Between the open space and historic buildings, this property is a valuable asset.
6. Trenton Saving Fund Society, East State Street
The Trenton Saving Fund Society was incorporated in 1844 and began business on July 20, 1847, in an office in the original Trenton City Hall. After moving several times, the managers decided to build a new banking house at the current location on East State Street, which was completed in April 1901. The white granite, steel structure building, designed by New York architects Moweray and Affinger in the Beaux Arts style, is one of Trenton’s most beautiful buildings. An equally distinguished classical vocabulary was used on the building’s interior, intended to give all who did business there a sense of pride and security. The central banking room’s stained glass ceiling was covered over with acoustic tiles as part of an ill-advised modernization. Now vacant for several years, the building shows definite signs of deterioration, neglect and vandalism.
Current status: The building is still vacant and continues to rapidly deteriorate from neglect.
7. Douglass House, Front Street adjacent to Mill Hill Park (new)
Listed in the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places, the Douglass house is a significant piece of Trenton’s history. It is representative of late 18th -early 19th century rowhomes found in Trenton. The long history of the Douglass house is interwoven with the Revolutionary War, the development of Trenton and the resurgence of interest in US history that occurred in the early 20th century. While the Douglass house has been moved three times, the significance of the house has not diminished. Unfortunately this vital piece Trenton’s history is vacant. While it is located in downtown Trenton adjacent to the Mill Hill park it is unused and under-appreciated. The Douglass house could be an active an important part in the telling of Trenton’s history.
Current Status: Building is owned by the City, but is currently vacant. It Needs regular and ongoing maintenance and repairs.
8. General Philemon Dickenson house, 46 Colonial Avenue
General Philemon Dickinson House / The Hermitage This stone house was originally built and occupied by the Rutherford family. It was purchased in 1776, shortly before the Battle of Trenton, by General Philemon Dickinson, commander in chief of the New Jersey Militia during the Revolutionary War. The house was occupied for many years by the Dickinson family, which entertained many famous people within its walls including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Witherspoon, Generals Greene and Knox and Joseph Bonaparte. The exterior of the house was considerably remodeled in the mid-19th century and its interior was altered for use as an apartment house in 1905. Listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places, this important piece of Trenton’s history is a prime candidate for rehabilitation.
Current status: The house is used for apartments but suffers from a lack of regular maintenance and is slowly deteriorating.
9. The Delaware Inn/Champale Office, Lamberton Street
Eligible to be listed in the NJ and National Registers of Historic places, the Delaware Inn was built during the late 1700s and early 1800s when it was common for timber to be moved by raft down the Delaware River from upstate New York to Philadelphia. The raftmen invariably made an over-night stop in Lamberton (now part of Trenton’s South Ward), where several inns were established to accommodate this traffic. Of these, the Red Tavern, later know as the Delaware Inn, was among the most popular. With deforestation and the increased popularity of railroad transportation, the river was used less for transporting logs and the inns suffered. In 1891, the Trenton Brewing Company, owned by the Kuser family, was built on the adjacent property and the Delaware Inn was taken over for the brewery offices. During World War II, Champale was manufactured at the plant and the site prospered until December 31, 1986, when it closed. The brewery was demolished in 1998 but the Delaware Inn was spared. Vacant and neglected, this riverfront structure is an ideal candidate for re-use.
Current status: A housing development near the building is proposed, but a community group has proposed adaptively reusing the building.
10. D&R Canal Houses
The Delaware and Raritan Canal opened for business on June 25, 1834. Trenton, at 56 feet above sea level, was the summit with seven locks lifting boats between Bordentown and Trenton and seven more locks lowering them from Trenton to New Brunswick. Trenton was the hub of a transportation network that connected the city to major markets in Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore, and to raw materials (primarily coal) from Pennsylvania. At the blast of a coal boat or the whistle of a yacht, bridge tenders swung Trenton’s bridges aside to make way for canal traffic. Each lock tender and bridge tender was provided with a home as a condition of his employment. In December 1932, the canal closed to commercial traffic. The D&R Canal, along with the houses, was entered on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1973 and the following year Gov. Brendan Byrne signed a bill creating the D&R Canal State Park. The three canal houses in Trenton have had tenants over the years, but both the Calhoun Street and Hanover Street houses are now vacant and in disrepair.
Current status: Progress! Funding has been secured for the Hanover Street canal house and plans have been submitted for permits. An architect/preservation firm has been hired to prepare plans for the restoration of the Calhoun Street canal house.