The section of the Assunpink Creek under study has an extraordinarily complex
and multi-faceted history that dates back to the period of earliest permanent
European settlement around the Falls of the Delaware. Europeans, like Native
Americans before them, gravitated to this place in the landscape where both
the Assunpink Creek and the Delaware River could be forded at their furthest
points downstream. The spot where present-day South Broad Street crosses the
Assunpink was also a choice location for the development of water power, an
easily accessible place where mills could be built, raw materials brought
in and processed goods transported out. This convergence of overland transportation
routes and industrial opportunity explains the origins, growth and continuing
existence of Trenton as an urban place. Similar geographical explanations
may be seen in the important role that Trenton played during the early years
of the Revolutionary War when this militarily strategic location sat precariously
balanced between American Philadelphia and British New York.
This chapter presents a narrative, for the most part chronologically arranged,
that weaves the detailed history of the river crossing (the bridge) and the
local industry (the mills) into a broader pattern of Trenton and Mill Hill's
past. The research emphasis, and hence this narrative, has focused mostly
on the core of the study area around the South Broad Street bridge, with a
secondary emphasis on the series of mills that extended downstream on the
south bank of the Assunpink. The final three sections of the chapter offer
some broader context material, but these are based on only selective primary
A. THE FIRST SETTLEMENT, THE FIRST MILL AND THE FIRST BRIDGE
In the late 17th century, the area of study lay at the northern limit of the English settled areas in the province of West New Jersey. The lower section of the Assunpink Creek drainage effectively formed the northern and upstream limit of the Yorkshire (or Upper or First) Tenth, a subdivision of West Jersey that extended from the Falls of the Delaware south to the Rancocas Creek. Acquired from the West Jersey Proprietors in 1676 by a group of English Quakers, most of whom hailed from Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire in the Midlands, the Yorkshire Tenth contained approximately 64,000 acres.
In 1678, the first wave of settlers headed for the Yorkshire Tenth arrived
at Burlington aboard the Shield, spurred in part by the economic prospects
of the New World and in part by a desire for a measure of religious toleration
that was less than forthcoming at home. In the spring of 1679, these initial
settlers traveled the short distance upstream from Burlington to the Falls
of the Delaware where they proceeded to set up the first farmsteads on the
bluffs and terraces overlooking the Delaware River and the mouth of the Assunpink.
From 1681, this area fell under the jurisdiction of the court established
at Burlington, the emerging port that in 1694 became the seat of the county
then formally constituted with the same name. In 1688, land within the Yorkshire
Tenth extending between the Assunpink and Crosswicks Creek became the basis
for the municipality named Nottingham Township. In 1700, land extending northward
from the Assunpink became a part of Hopewell Township, newly created within
Burlington County in this year (Snyder 1969).
Incipient settlement at the Falls of the Delaware, on both sides of the
Delaware River, is evident on an early map copied in 1679 by Jasper Danckaerts,
a member of a Labadist sect who was sent to the New World in order to scout
locations for a planned Labadist settlement (Figure
A. 4). The Danckaerts map marks the course of the Assunpink Creek as "Mill
River" and shows a wagon route leading south from the creek to the point of
the bluff at present-day Riverview Cemetery. The point of intersection of
the wagon route and Mill River likely corresponds with the present-day location
of the South Broad Street bridge over the Assunpink and almost certainly was
the site of Mahlon Stacy's gristmill, erected in the same year that Danckaerts
produced his map. Danckaerts himself, accompanied by Peter Sluyter, also traveled
to the Falls of the Delaware at this time. The pair visited the mill and apparently
stayed overnight at Stacy's house, uncomfortably by all accounts (Trenton
Historical Society 1929: 32; James and Jameson 1959: 96-97).
Mahlon Stacy, a native of Handsworth, near Sheffield in Yorkshire, was the
original Quaker settler on the Assunpink Creek at the Falls of the Delaware.
The holder of two full proprietary shares within the province of West Jersey
and a tanner by trade, Stacy laid claim to a large and desirable property
that straddled both sides of the Assunpink. He established the main house
on his plantation (named "Ballifield" after his ancestral home in England)
in the vicinity of the present-day William Trent House and erected his gristmill,
probably a small one or one-and-a-half story frame structure, a short distance
upstream on the south bank of the Assunpink. The creek was variously known
during this period as the Assunpink (often spelled Assanpink), the Sun Pink
or St. Pink, the Derwent (a common river name in northern England), the Darwin
and the Darion.
Danckaerts was unimpressed by Stacy's gristmill, noting that it "could not
stand long, especially if the flow of water was very heavy, because the work
was not well arranged" (James and Jameson 1959: 96-97). Notwithstanding these
observations, the gristmill developed into a successful agricultural processing
operation serving incoming settlers, and Stacy soon broadened the scope of
the enterprise by shipping grain and meal to communities downstream. During
this early settlement period, in the final quarter of the 17th century, Stacy's
mill on the Assunpink and Thomas Olive's mill on the Rancocas Creek were the
only two large gristmills operating in the Middle Delaware Valley in West
Jersey. Stacy, because of his substantial landholdings at the Falls of the
Delaware and position as a mill owner, soon became commercially and politically
prominent within the province. Besides being a leading West Jersey trader,
he also served as a justice, a member of the Burlington City Council and as
a representative in the provincial General Assembly.
While Stacy's gristmill was becoming an increasingly important economic
hub in the landscape, no less critical was the need to maintain a crossing
of the Assunpink at the mill site. This location was the furthest downstream
point on the creek where overland travelers, passing up the east or West Jersey
side of the Delaware Valley, could conveniently cross the stream and continue
north into Hopewell and the Amwells. Quite possibly, the establishment of
a mill seat at this location, with its attendant mill dam, pond and race-ways,
interfered with the creek crossing, especially when floods washed out the
In 1688, the Grand Jury of Burlington County noted that Nottingham Township
had failed to make "a sufficient bridge" over the "River Darwin" (Reed and
Miller 1944: 91). The court determined that it would levy a £20 fine if the
structure was not erected shortly thereafter. A bridge over the Assunpink
was apparently then constructed later in the same year. Most likely, this
bridge would have been a wooden structure, and one may assume that
it underwent periodic repairs in subsequent years. In 1707, for example, Samuel
Oldale complained that he had not received payment for building -or rebuilding
-the wooden bridge. Not long after, in 1712, Hopewell Township resolved to
raise £20 in taxes to put towards the repair of the bridge. At the same time,
William Green presented a bond to continue repairs for 15 years (Podmore,
31 August 1957; Toothman 1977: 159).
B. WILLIAM TRENT AND TRENT'S MILL
In 1714, lands lying to the north of the Assunpink Creek -in both Hopewell Township and communities further to the north -were set off as part of the newly formed Hunterdon County. By 1719, the Hopewell Township portion of the study area lying north of the Assunpink Creek was regarded as being a part of Trenton Township in Hunterdon County. The primary basis for these governmental reassignments lies in the appearance on the local scene of William Trent (see below). Lands to the south of the Assunpink Creek continued to remain a part of Nottingham Township in Burlington County during this period (Snyder 1969).
In the same year that Hunterdon County was created, Mahlon Stacy died, leaving
his considerable estate of Ballifield to his son, Mahlon Stacy, Jr. The younger
Stacy promptly sold 800 acres of his father's property to William Trent, a
prominent merchant from Philadelphia. A resurvey of the Stacy landholdings
was also completed in 1714, presumably to facilitate the transfer of land
to Trent (Figure A. 5). The survey map depicts
the Stacy mill on the southern bank of the Assunpink Creek as well as several
other smaller structures that were likely related to the milling operation
(perhaps mill workers' dwellings or other secondary agricultural processing
The Stacy survey map also identifies the Maidenhead Road heading northward
away from the Assunpink Creek, a route that soon became better known as the
King's Highway or the Brunswick Road and which corresponds to present-day
North Broad Street, Brunswick Avenue and U. S. Route 206. In existence by
at least 1699 (and probably earlier because of the presence of the bridge
over the Assunpink), the North Broad Street segment of the Maidenhead Road
that extended from the creek to its junction with the Hopewell-Pennington
Road (today's Pennington Avenue) was also later known as Queen Street and
then, still later, as Greene Street (Toothman 1977: 119). The road network
on the south bank of the creek bears little relation to the present-day street
pattern, with the route from the mill leading southwest to join a cluster
of three buildings (probably the nucleus of the "Ballifield" plantation) and
then continuing on to the Delaware River end of the "Ferry Road."
William Trent, the "father" of modern Trenton, was an Episcopalian, rather
than a Quaker like most of his neighbors at the Falls. In the early years
of the 18th century he was a leading member of the Philadelphian merchant
elite, active in Pennsylvania politics and trade. He served in Pennsylvania
as a Supreme Court judge, was a member of the Assembly and was elected Speaker
within that body in 1717 and 1719. He enjoyed similar prominence in New Jersey
during this same period, continuing into the 1720s. Among his more notable
achievements was his service as a Burlington County representative in the
New Jersey Assembly, as a county judge and as the first Chief Justice of New
Trent was clearly a man of means and he saw in his purchase of the Stacy
lands at the mouth of the Assunpink in 1714 an opportunity to capitalize on
the burgeoning population and budding agricultural economy of central New
Jersey. This area, formerly divided between the provinces of East and West
New Jersey, was unified under the royal colony in 1702 and by the second decade
of the 18th century was being rapidly settled through in-migration from both
the Raritan and Delaware Valleys. Trent played a pivotal role in setting
up Hunterdon County on the north side of the Assunpink, where he laid the
ground work for
t he newly implanted settlement of "Trent's Town," while he himself established a fine country estate on the south bank focused on the brick mansion today known as the William Trent House. This well-appointed residence was completed in 1719-20 and William Trent took up permanent residence there late in the fall of 1721. From archival, historic map and accumulating archaeological evidence, it appears that Trent established the nucleus of his plantation in roughly the same spot where Stacy had earlier created "Ballifield."
In his relatively brief decade-long period of involvement with development
at the Falls of the Delaware from 1714 until his death in 1724, William Trent
substantially raised the status of the mouth of the Assunpink as a regional
hub in the economy of the Middle Delaware Valley. Besides laying out the streets
for a new town on the north bank of the creek, an action that has underpinned
Trenton's urban development down to the present day, Trent was also extensively
involved in the expansion of water-powered industrial activity on the Assunpink.
Midway through the second decade of the 18th century, it appears that he rebuilt
and greatly enlarged the original Stacy grist-mill, turning it into a three-story
stone structure equipped with three "run" (or sets) of millstones. From this
point on, the gristmill can almost certainly be viewed as a "merchant" rather
than a "custom" mill, and its operation was placed in the hands of one or
more tenant millers, one of whom during this period was a local Trenton resident
named Joseph Peace (Trenton Historical Society 1929; Stone 1990; Susan Maxman
Trent's gristmill figures prominently in an inventory of New Jersey mills
taken in 1717 in conjunction with an act of Parliament passed in support of
"the Government of his Majesties Province of New Jersey in America for three
years." This inventory, evidently a fairly accurate and comprehensive listing
of grist-mills and sawmills in the colony at the time, references a total
of approximately 85 mill sites. It excludes water-powered ironworking sites
and minor mill types, such as fulling mills, which in any event were most
often attached to gristmills. Trent's grist-mill was among a relatively small
number of higher-assessed, presumably larger, mills that were in the hands
of proprietors or wealthy landowners. It was one of roughly 60 to 65 gristmills
colony-wide, a third of which were in West Jersey, and it was far and away
the mill with the highest tax assessment. At four pounds (equivalent to 80
shillings), Trent's gristmill was assessed four times higher than any other
grist-mill in West Jersey, while the closest in assessment value in East Jersey
were the facilities owned by Thomas Kearny in Monmouth County and Dr. States
in Essex County, each rated at 50 shillings. These tax assessment data strongly
underscore the importance of Trent's gristmill – it was absolutely the #1
gristmill in the colony and must have been a very substantial operation, drawing
grain from an extensive hinterland that extended deep into Hunterdon, Burlington
Counties in West Jersey, and probably also Monmouth and perhaps Middlesex
Counties in East Jersey (Bush 1986: 389-393; Hunter 1999: 517-521).
Trent did not solely restrict his water-powered industrial development activities
to agricultural processing. Shortly after upgrading the gristmill, he constructed
a sawmill and fulling mill, and in July of 1723 he partnered with John Porterfield,
Esq. and neighboring plantation owner, Thomas Lambert, in buying two tracts
along the Assunpink, amounting to 30 acres in total, upon which an ironworks
was to be built. The precise location and date when this ironworks came on
line are uncertain, but a forge and related buildings were certainly in existence
by 1729. In addition to his milling ventures on the Assunpink, his laying
out of Trent's Town and the establishment of his own plantation, William Trent
continued to maintain a strong commercial presence in Burlington and
Philadelphia, engaging in river and maritime trade with boats he owned (Nelson
1911: 228-243; Stone 1990; Susan Maxman Architects 1997).
C. THE TRENTON MILLS FROM THE TRENTS TO THE REVOLUTION
When William Trent died intestate on Christmas Day of 1724, his Trent's Town properties passed to his son, James Trent. Considerably less is known of the younger Trent's activities at the Falls of the Delaware and along the Assunpink Creek. Although it has been suggested that he may have inherited an estate that was in a precarious financial situation (Old Mill Hill Society 1991: 5), James Trent certainly continued the milling operations and it was he who received the formal patent for running a ferry across the Delaware from the foot of Ferry Street in 1726 (Susan Maxman Architects 1997).
James Trent maintained ownership of the gristmill on the Assunpink for five
years, before selling the facility along with the main plantation tract of
300 acres in 1729 to William Morris, a merchant of Barbados and the half-brother
of William Trent's second wife, Mary Coddington (West Jersey Deed D-382).
At this time, a portion of the lands to the north of the Assunpink were divided
off and sold into smaller lots. According to surviving deeds, it appears that
the property immediately north of the bridge was conveyed as two parcels,
one on either side of Queen Street, one passing to Enoch Anderson, the other
to Thomas Biles (West Jersey Deed DD-391 and DD-396). These two lots were
later absorbed into a larger tract that spanned both banks of the creek and
was based around main plantation tract sold to Morris. William Morris, like
the Trents before him, was a member of the merchant elite. He was a leader
within the Society of Friends in the Trenton area in the early 1730s and was
appointed a judge of the Hunterdon County Court in 1739.
Morris declined to take up this latter appointment, but soon afterwards
served as one of Trenton's 12 burgesses during the town's brief period as
a royal borough from 1745 until 1750.
The 300-acre tract acquired by William Morris from James Trent in 1729 included
within its limits "ye water grist Mill or Mills being three grist Mills under
one roof commonly called & known by the name of Trent's Mills and ye Mill
stones and other gear". The site also included a fulling mill, a sawmill and
"all boulting Mills sett up & erected in ye mill house of said grist mill
and boulting cloths & appurtenances…" (West Jersey Deed D-382). In March
of 1733, a serious flood destroyed the mills. The torrent broke the dam and
walls, ruining the mill machinery, and also devastating the dying house and
several other structures along the Assunpink. It is unclear, however, whether
the gristmill building itself withstood the flood. The damaging effects of
this flood were possibly a factor in William Morris' sale of the former Trent
estate and the mills to George Thomas of Antigua in October of the same year
(West Jersey Deed DD-333 and DD-336).
Flooding, of course, was damaging not only to the mills along the lower
section of the Assunpink, but also to the bridge that spanned the creek at
this location. The bridge, to the best of our knowledge, seems always to have
been situated just downstream of the mill dam, placing it perhaps at even
greater risk of flood damage whenever the dam burst apart. Due to the frequent
repairs that the earlier wooden bridge near the mill required, a bill calling
for the construction of a stone bridge was presented to the New Jersey House
of Representatives in 1744. However, Nottingham Township objected, claiming
that the project would be too costly and that anyway a new structure was not
truly necessary. Residents on the northern side of the Assunpink responded
that "the large abutment on the Nottingham side is the means of throwing large
quantities of water on the north side after each great rain to the
detriment of the inhabitants of Hunterdon County" and called for the bridge
to be extended on the Trenton side of the Assunpink. Lack of any legislative
action suggests that the act was refused (Podmore, 31 August 1957).
During the later colonial period, the bridge over the Assunpink was also
commonly known as the Trenton Bridge or the Bridge at Trent's Mills. The structure
underwent extensive repairs in the mid-18th century. In 1750, the Hunterdon
County Court of Quarter Sessions and Common Pleas ordered the Sheriff to fine
Trenton Township unless the Trenton Bridge was "putt in good and Sufficient
Repairs by the first day of August next" (New Jersey Court of Oyer and Terminer
and General Gaol Delivery, Records of the Sessions of the Court [1749-1762]).
Around this time, Elijah Bond carried out extensive repairs to the structure.
In 1756, the Trenton Bridge was re-laid with 40 feet of new plank (Trenton
Township Minutes 1756-1818). A year later, the bridge was still considered
dangerous and the Nottingham Town Meeting appointed two men to carry out necessary
repairs. Robert Lettis Hooper, by this time owner of the former Trent estate
and the Trenton Mills (see below), supplied the funds for constructing a stone
pillar at the center of the bridge that could support the timber structure's
long sleepers. The pillar was not to exceed 20 feet in length and four feet
in thickness. Unfortunately, these repairs were carried out inadequately (mainly
due to a faultily cast pillar) and the bridge continued to be the subject
of further evaluation. After an additional tax was raised in 1758, Richard
Howell repaired the structure with new planks, although Nottingham Township
had by now proposed an act for erecting a stone bridge (Hunterdon County Freeholders
Minutes). In 1760, it was decided that Nottingham Township would pay one third
of the bridge expenses and Trenton Township the remaining two-thirds (Toothman
1977: 159). Nevertheless, disputes over the costs of repair and maintenance
By now, both Burlington and Hunterdon County were acknowledging that the
bridge was "an old wooden bridge very much used by heavy carriages and horses
daily passing and repassing to the mills standing at the foot of said bridge
on the Burlington side, the continual repair whereof, falls very heavy on
the two towns" (Cleary, January 23, 1921). In 1762, Nottingham Township raised
monies towards the construction of a new bridge, with the Township Minutes
noting that this was the "heavyest taxe this township has hitherto paid" (Nottingham
Township Minute Book). In 1762, Joseph Yard and George Bright, a baker who
resided near the bridge, carried out necessary bridge repairs (Hunterdon County
Freeholders Minutes). Another residence worthy of mention in close proximity
to the bridge, that was constructed around this time, was the two-story home
of loyalist John Barnes, a distiller who served as Sheriff of Hunterdon County
in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. This property
was situated on the west side of Queen Street between Front Street and the
north bank of the Assunpink Creek (Springsted 1979: 16).
In 1764, the Hunterdon County Board of Justices and Freeholders voted to
erect a new stone bridge and agreed that it was necessary to allocate £300
to undertake this project. In 1765, an act was passed by the colonial legislature
for building a stone bridge over the Assunpink since the Trenton Bridge was
"much out of repair, and dangerous to pass over." This act stated that Thomas
Barnes, Abraham Hunt and Isaac Pearson were chosen managers of the construction,
with Pearson representing Nottingham Township in Burlington County, and Hunt
and Barnes representing Trenton Township in Hunterdon County. At this time,
commissioners were also appointed to hear evidence concerning whether the
bridge was unsound. The act further noted that Nottingham Township had begun
construction of arches and abutment on the Burlington County side of the bridge.
Additionally, the arches and abutment of the bridge were to be maintained
by the owners of the mill (Bush 1982: 350-1). As a consequence of this legislation,
Hunterdon County com missioned Abraham Hunt and Thomas Barnes to complete
the bridge construction project for the Township of Trenton and appropriated
approximately £450 towards this end.
In 1766, the former wooden structure that was the Trenton Bridge was thus
replaced with a span of stone masonry. As detailed in a later account of 1787,
the new structure was "a spacious stone bridge, supported by arches built
with stone and lime with a high wall on each side handsomely laid" (Trenton
Historical Society 1929: 329). It should be noted here that the Trenton historian,
John Raum, erroneously states in a footnote that the stone bridge was constructed
in 1762 (Raum 1871: 169). Also of interest in the context of the new bridge
construction was an account for 17 shillings and sixpence that Charles Oxford,
Jr. presented to the freeholders of Hunterdon County for the erection of a
lime house at the mill bridge (Hunterdon County Freeholders Minutes). Even
with a brand new stone bridge spanning the creek at the Trenton Mills, there
were clearly still ongoing repair and maintenance issues to take care of.
In 1774, for example, the General Assembly passed an act to repair, amend
and rebuild the bridge near "Hooper's Mill" (Trenton Historical Society 1929).
At this time, the splitting of the cost was reaffirmed in the same proportions
as in 1760, with Hunterdon County paying two-thirds of the expense and Burlington
County the remaining one third.
From October 1733, when George Thomas acquired the former Trent estate from
William Morris, through to the end of the colonial era, the Trenton Mills
continued in the hands of wealthy and politically well-connected plantation
owners. During this period, George Thomas (1733-53), Robert Lettis Hooper
II (1753-65) and Robert Waln (1765-84) successively controlled the mill property.
During the tenure of the first two of these owners, the mills remained closely
tied to the main plantation tract centered on the William Trent House; under
the third owner, the mills became a part of the vast network of real estate
and trading activity in the Middle Delaware Valley controlled by the Walns,
an extended family of well-known Philadelphia merchants.
George Thomas, the first of this triad of wealthy later colonial owners,
appears never to have personally occupied his Trenton properties. Born and
raised in Antigua, he was active in the politics of the British West Indies
in the early 18th century. He moved to the Delaware Valley in the mid-1730s,
serving the colonial government as Pennsylvania's Governor from 1738 until
1747, but then returned again to the West Indies to become Governor of the
Leeward Islands in 1753. He retired to England in 1766 and died in 1774. Throughout
the 20-year period of his ownership of the Trenton Mills and the Trent estate
(which became known during his tenure as "Kingsbury"), Thomas appears to have
rented out both the main house and the mill facility. Among the house's occupants
was New Jersey Governor, Lewis Morris, who lived there from 1742 until 1746
(Susan Maxman Architects 1997). The principal tenant miller, at least during
the early years of the Thomas ownership, appears to have still been Joseph
Peace. In 1739, agents for the mill owners advertised for rent "The Grist
Mills at Trenton, with two small tenements adjoining, now in the tenure of
Joseph Peace" (Nelson 1894: 575). If indeed Peace operated the mills from
the time of William Trent through into the late 1730s, he may reasonably be
seen as the day-to-day driving force behind the success of this agricultural
In 1753, George Thomas sold the Kingsbury plantation, along with the mills,
to the merchant, surveyor and local Trenton "squire," Robert Lettis Hooper
II (West Jersey Deed U-335). Hooper was the grandson of Daniel Hooper, a Barbados
plantation owner, and the son of Robert Lettis Hooper I, who had succeeded
William Trent as Chief Justice of New Jersey. The younger Robert Lettis Hooper
moved to Trenton in 1751 from Rocky Hill, where he also owned a sizeable 20
mill complex located on the Millstone River. It was Robert Lettis Hooper II
who laid out the street network in today's Mill Hill and Bloomsbury (the name
that was substituted for Kingsbury once the colonial yoke had been cast off),
and who was instrumental in subdividing and selling off substantial portions
of the area to the south of the Assunpink (Trenton Historical Society 1929:
598-600; Hunter 1999).
In early 1765, Robert Lettis Hooper II advertised the Trenton Mills, still
often referred to as Trent's Mills, as being for sale. The accompanying description
noted that the mills contained "three pair of stones, three bolting boxes,
a country bolt…" and that "the whole buildings and works [were] in as compleat
order as any mills in the province, having been all put in good repair, with
Iron Rounds in the Trunnel Heads, and new shafts, cog-wheels, water-wheels
&c." (Nelson 1902). Another advertisement, published three months later,
noted the mill's substantial business and that the works and dam had recently
been repaired (Nelson 1902).
Later in 1765, presumably as a result of these advertisements, Robert Lettis
Hooper II conveyed the mill and adjacent property as a 29-acre tract to Robert
Waln for £4,000 (West Jersey Deed AV/ 129). The property clearly straddled
the Assunpink, as it was situated in Burlington and Hunterdon Counties, and
extended west towards the Delaware River. The indenture formalizing this sale
referenced all the mills, including the gristmill. A road return for what
appears to be the forerunner of today's South Broad Street to the south of
the Assunpink, dating from 1765 (but probably just post-dating the Hooper-to-Waln
noted a route passing through the lands of Robert Lettis Hooper and Robert Waln, then proceeding along the bank "to and over the fording place lately made by the Commissioners for Building the Stone Bridge over Assanpink" (Burlington County Road
Return A/ 20).
Robert Waln was yet another merchant from Philadelphia, whose family is
perhaps best known in New Jersey for their involvement with the mill-based
plantation and village community at Walnford on Crosswicks Creek. Robert Waln
retained the Trenton Mills until his death in 1784, at which time the property
passed to his daughter, Hannah Waln Wells. In the twilight of the colonial
era with its importing and exporting restrictions, and during the years of
instability when the revolutionary conflict swirled around Trenton, it is
difficult to assess the success of the mills while they were in Waln ownership.
According to Toothman (1977: 245), the Philadelphia and Trenton merchant firm
of Coxe and Furman considered purchasing the mills from Robert Waln in the
mid-1770s. However, this company decided that the asking price of £5,000 was
too steep, especially since the mills were considered to require additional
and extensive repairs (Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Letter, Moore Furman
to William Coxe, April 10, 1775). Perhaps also the requirement imposed by
Hunterdon County in 1765 that the mill owners be responsible for the upkeep
of the bridge served as a deterrent to Coxe and Furman's projected purchase
of the mill complex.
The physical layout of the bridge over the Assunpink, the Trenton Mills complex and the various other near-by features of the colonial cultural landscape is difficult to establish with any great certainty. However, one detailed map of the period survives that is of some assistance in this regard. Sometime around 1750, a Plan of Colonel Thomas's Estate in Kingsbury was surveyed, possibly by Robert Lettis Hooper II in 1753 around the time of his purchase of the Thomas estate (Figure A. 6). In addition to its valuable depiction of Kingsbury House (the William Trent House) and a suggested street grid and subdivision for the area extending south from Ferry Street to Lamberton, this map covers the area to the north toward the Assunpink, here identified as "Samkinck Rivulet."
On the north bank of the creek, sealed from view from Kingsbury House by trees along the riverbank, a line of structures is shown, perhaps the outskirts of Trenton, or possibly other mills downstream from the gristmill. The gristmill itself is visible immediately upstream of the bridge crossing the creek, while a road leads southwest from this spot to a building noted as "Fuller's House" (presumably a reference to the preparation of wool cloth). Interestingly, no road is shown at this time along the present-day alignment of South Broad Street; rather the depicted road seems to hug the rim of the bluff overlooking the Assunpink and heads more directly for Kingsbury House (often-times the mill owner's residence). At "Fuller's House" the road splits: one course heading west along the riverbank; the other – the "New York Road" – circling east around the mansion to connect with the lane leading down to the ferry (present-day Ferry Street). Elements of this road network are also apparent on the earlier map of 1714 depicting the Stacy property, just before it was acquired by William Trent (cf. Figure A. 5).
D. THE FIRST BATTLE OF TRENTON
Roughly a decade after Robert Waln assumed control of the Trenton Mills in the heart of what had hitherto been a rapidly growing market town, Trenton found itself in the eye of the storm that was the American Revolution. In late 1776 Trenton and its companion port of Lamberton, a mile downstream, occupied a key strategic location between American-controlled Philadelphia and British-controlled New York. Here, ingrained in a mature colonial rural agrarian landscape, now being viewed in terms of military strongholds, maneuvers and supply lines, was a community that had thrived at the head of navigation on the Delaware River around a convergence of river navigation, ferries and overland routes. Here also was a town with one of five New Jersey military barracks, an obvious target for military usage as the Revolutionary conflict intensified.
Early on December 26, 1776, General Washington and a small Continental force
entered Trenton from the northwest, surprising the Hessians who were still
marginally engaged in holiday revelry in the barracks and at various residences
in and around the town. Receiving word of imminent attack, the Hessian regiments
under the command of Colonel Johann Rall hurriedly assembled and marched north
along Queen Street toward the intersection of the Pennington and Maidenhead
Roads (in the present-day vicinity of the Battle Monument).
The American troops first attacked Hessian pickets to the northwest of the
town, and soon after this the Hessians opened fire on American forces gathering
in the vicinity of the Hermitage, also located outside the town to the northwest.
Sensing the approach of a sizeable American force, the Hessians retreated
south along Queen Street and back over the Assunpink Creek past the Trenton
Mills that were then being utilized by the Hessians as a commissary storehouse
(Stryker 1898: 381). Although some of the retreating Hessians attempted to
ford the Assunpink at the foot of King Street (present-day Warren Street),
towards the stone bridge at the foot of Queen Street. For example, after sporadic skirmishing, Lieutenant Engelhardt and his detachment, along with several soldiers of Colonel Rall's regiment, hastened south along Queen Street towards the creek. As these troops passed the house of Loyalist Major John Barnes, now commandeered by General Washington for his headquarters, they were fired upon by an advance party under Colonel Glover. The Hessians quickly fled over the bridge on toward Bordentown (Stryker 1898; Smith 1965).
Throughout the morning, the town was in an uproar with gunfire resonating
down the streets on this cold winter day. A portion of the American first
division under Major General Sullivan marched along Front Street toward Queen
Street in an effort to thwart the Hessians escaping over the bridge. William
Stryker, in his recently reprinted The Battles of Trenton and
Princeton (1898: 381), notes that in the middle of the stone bridge
stood a hut which housed a Hessian sentinel, while another guard was stationed
near the mill. Men in Colonel Glover's brigade crossed the Assunpink bridge
and positioned themselves on the high ground to the south of the creek. At
this point, a detachment from Colonel Rall's regiment proceeded towards the
bridge, but many of the Hessians fell back in the face of persistent American
Hessian troops under Major Von Dechow also marched towards the Assunpink
where they were instructed to maintain a clear passage for those retreating
over the bridge. Meanwhile, as fighting continued elsewhere in the town on
the north bank of the creek, Colonel Rall sent brigade adjutant Lieutenant
Jacob Piel to the bridge to determine whether the way was clear. However,
as he made his way to the bridge, Piel mistook the American forces for the
von Knyphausen regiment and erroneously assumed the line of retreat to be
secure. The Hessians then unsuccessfully attempted to escape over the Assunpink,
but instead were forced to retreat out to Third and Fourth Streets. Confusion
also set in after the von Lossberg cannon became stuck in the course of marching
along the Assunpink valley. The von Knyphausen regiment spent valuable time
attempting to retrieve this artillery piece from the swampy ground and consequently
missed their opportunity to take the bridge.
Although, by this time, many Hessians recognized their pending defeat, some
of the troops in the von Knyphausen and von Lossberg regiments made an attempt
to ford the Assunpink at the upstream end of the millpond. These men were
captured and taken prisoners by General St. Clair and Colonel Sargent. Lieutenant
Piel, Rall's brigade adjutant, sketched a map of the engagement that took
place on the 26th of December 1776 in which he showed the swampy ground where
the von Lossberg cannon became stuck (marked "P") and the location where the
von Knyphausen regiment was captured just east of the Trenton bridge (Figure
A. 7). Similar troop movement details are recorded on Lieutenant Wiederhold's
map of the battle, which identifies where the Hessians lost their cannon near
the Assunpink (Figure A. 8). Wiederhold's
map also notes various locations where the American troops were deployed,
including Sullivan's two critical positions, one to the south of the Assunpink
facing the von Lossberg cannon and the other just north of the Trenton Bridge
on Queen Street (marked "P" in both cases). A third map, rendered by Lieutenant
Fischer, identifies the Hessian cannon and the von Lossberg regiment somewhat
further to the east along the north bank of the Assunpink (Figure
A. 9). The position of the American troops who were guarding the bridge
against the fleeing Hessians is noted just north of the Trenton Bridge on
Queen Street (marked "G").
Other Hessians under Major von Dechow surrendered once they approached the
Assunpink and saw the plight of their associates. After approximately two
hours of intermittent and somewhat disorganized fighting, the Americans had
effectively secured their victory. At the conclusion of the conflict, the
American forces had suffered only three or four wounded, one of whom was Lieutenant
James Monroe, future fifth President of the United States. On the opposing
side, of the almost 1,600 troops under the Hessian command, 24 were killed
(including Colonel Rall), more than 900 were taken prisoner and roughly 650
escaped to fight another day. After the American forces escorted their prisoners
to the ferry below the Assunpink, they withdrew across the Delaware River
into Pennsylvania (Stryker 1898; Dwyer 1983: 260; Smith 1965).
E. THE SECOND BATTLE OF TRENTON (THE BATTLE OF THE ASSUNPINK)
A few days later, on January 2, 1777, as Washington moved to build on his initial victory at Trenton with a second surprise attack on the British at Princeton, another engagement took place on the Assunpink. In this Second Battle of Trenton, also known as the Battle of the Assunpink, American forces were seeking to repel a British thrust southward into the town and made a stand on the slope on the south side of the creek. An underlying American concern here was that their forces might become trapped in Pennsylvania and the British would gain easy access downstream along the Delaware to Philadelphia.
After some preliminary skirmishing along the King's Highway (the Maidenhead
Road) to the north of the town, the Americans retreated to the south of the
Assunpink and regrouped as the British began to advance down Queen Street.
A contemporary letter written by a British soldier narrates that the Americans
"returned back to the bridge & form'd in a line— with 3000 men & 2
field p s in the Main Street— and 2 field p's secreted behind Mr. Waln's house
opposite the Mill—& some Rifle men in the Mill, & artillery all along
the creek…" (Stryker 1898: 469). Washington's troops' position across the
bridge on the south side of the creek had the advantage of being on the higher
ground; moreover, in passing the narrow bridge, the advancing British troops
were packed "into a dense and solid mass." Dwyer (1983: 317) notes that the
arched stone bridge was barely wide enough to accommodate a horse and carriage,
while Raum (1871: 169) also noted that the retreating Americans took up the
planks on the bridge after they had crossed. Washington's forces then formed
a three-mile long defense line along the bank and threw up earthwork defenses
below the bridge. The key segment of this defensive line extended from the
Delaware River along the south side of the Assunpink as far as the upstream
end of the millpond (Dwyer 1983; Stryker 1898).
Just before dawn on January 2, 1777, the British advance guard dispatched
by Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis marched into Trenton and took up
position on the north bank of the Assunpink downstream from the bridge. One
Continental soldier from Rhode Island, John Howland, related that General
George Washington "stood with his breast pressed close against the west rail
of the bridge" before he proceeded to the meadow south of the Assunpink (Dwyer
1983: 317). Here, the Americans, numbered at approximately 5,000 strong, assaulted
the British and Hessians who were situated on the lower northern bank of the
waterway. The British, intent on crossing the bridge, were nonetheless forced
back by Washington's troops (Stryker 1898).
According to a later account, produced in 1842, an observer recalled that
"Washington's army was driven up on the east side of the Assunpink, with its
left on the Delaware River, and its right extending a considerable way up
the mill-pond, along the face of the hill where the factories now stand."
Here, the troops covered the slope and were "placed one above the other" (Barber
and Howe 1868: 300). Meanwhile, the British had organized themselves into
two columns. One line marched towards Greene Street to the bridge, and the
other attempted to directly ford the creek. When the British came within 60
yards of the bridge, they charged and continued their advance. Cornwallis's
troops made at least three separate efforts to cross the bridge, but were
driven back on each occasion. Each time the British charged the bridge, they
faced an onslaught of American gunfire that caused them to retrace their steps.
Several of Cornwallis's detachments also attempted without success to cross
the creek and position themselves behind Washington's troops. Before long,
the persistent American firing across the creek slowed down the British advances
and forced them into retreat.
In later years, some observers present at the time recalled that the Assunpink
Creek was almost filled with the British dead (Lossing 1860: 26; Barber and
Howe 1868: 301). Another observer more colorfully recollected that "the bridge
looked red as blood" from the masses of the redcoat victims (Dwyer 1983: 324).
The battle is depicted in two views, which although evocative of the action,
were both created long after the event (Plates B.
2 and B. 3). The second and more recent of
these views, an etching produced in the early 20th century by well-known Trenton
artist, George A. Bradshaw, shows the arched stone bridge of 1766 and the
three-story gristmill, albeit with some rather overemphasized topography.
In this, the British are shown approaching the northern end of the bridge,
while the patriots are firing upon them from the slope in the foreground.
Thus, at the bridge over the Assunpink, Washington's American forces drove
back the British and set the scene for their overnight march and successful
assault on Princeton the next day. An etching of George Washington posed on
the bridge over the Assunpink, reproduced from a famous painting by John Trumbull,
depicts the general at the scene of this important victory (Plate
B. 4). In Washington's own understated words, the head of the British
column "attempted to pass the Sampinck Creek, which runs through Trenton,
at different places, but, finding the fords guarded, they halted…" (Stryker
1898: 266). At the conclusion of this action, the Americans had suffered at
least two dead and about 20 wounded. The Hessians under British command lost
eight killed, 24 wounded and around 30 were taken prisoner. The British Light
Infantry force that was extensively involved in this engagement suffered much
greater losses, possibly upwards of 100, and an unspecified number of wounded
(Stryker 1898; Smith 1967: 16- 17).
F. FROM THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION TO THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
Immediately following the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, the focus of military activity shifted mostly northward during the first half of 1777. Trenton remained essentially under American control, as did Philadelphia, the rest of the Middle Delaware Valley and the hilly hinterlands of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Continental Army established encampments and support facilities in the hills of Morris, Somerset and Middlesex Counties, gathering strength and keeping a watchful eye over British troop movements in the New York City area and the low-lands around New Brunswick. Half-expecting a land assault on Philadelphia across the waist of New Jersey, the Americans played a game of "cat and mouse" with the British in the Stony Brook/ Millstone Valley area of central New Jersey. Ultimately, the British chose to move on Philadelphia from the south, with major naval support on the Delaware, a tactic that finally resulted in the British occupation of Philadelphia on October 19 of 1777 (Smith 1970).
In the ensuing months, the British sought to impose their will over the
rest of the Middle Delaware Valley and there was considerable back and forth
along the river. On November 16, Fort Mifflin, which had held out against
British land and sea attacks after Philadelphia was taken, finally fell, followed
a few days later by Fort Mercer on the opposite New Jersey shore of the Delaware.
Through these difficult weeks and on into the summer of 1778, the Trenton/
Lamberton area continued uneasily under American control, with a wary eye
to British activities downstream. American ships of the Pennsylvania fleet
escaped upriver on at least two occasions. Consideration was given to mooring
them at the "wharfes near Trenton of Mr Richards and Mr Turrnar [sic; probably
meaning "Furman"] and Hunts as safe as any I could recollect" (Pennsylvania
Supreme Executive Council to John Hazlewood, December 20 th 1777, quoted in
Naval Documents of the American Revolution Volume 10 1996: 763).
Most evidence suggests, however, that the great majority of vessels brought
upriver were taken into Crosswicks and Watson's Creeks just north of Bordentown,
where several of them were deliberately sunk with a view to refloating them
later (Hunter Research, Inc. 1998b: 3-14 to 3-18). Some were also moored at
Biles Island, just south of Trenton on the Pennsylvania side of the river.
Several sources indicate, though, that stores and equipment had been unloaded
at Trenton Landing from the larger ships before they were scuttled, and that
small galleys were operated from the Trenton/ Lamberton waterfront during
the winter and early spring of 1778 (Jackson 1974: 292). As the naval forces
were gradually depleted during this period, discharged sailors are likely
to have been present on shore, both in the town of Trenton and the port village
On May 8 and 9, 1778, British forces came up the river in force from Philadelphia
with the express purpose of destroying the American fleet prior to the British
evacuation of the city in the following month. This raid did considerable
damage to ships still afloat in the Bordentown area and at Biles Island. According
to Jackson (1974: 297), American resistance at Biles Island deterred the British
from extending the attack further upriver to Trenton. Although none of this
evidence is very specific, it seems probable that the wharves along the river
south of the Trenton Ferry were the scene of intermittent military activity
throughout the winter and spring of 1777-78.
Finally, in June of 1778, the British abandoned Philadelphia and moved northeastward
through southern New Jersey toward New York City, luring Washington's troops
to the inconclusive pitched battle fought in the summer heat at Monmouth Courthouse
on June 28, 1778. Over the following days, the British retired the rest of
the way to New York via Sandy Hook, and central New Jersey was left in relative
peace and predominantly American control for the balance of the Revolutionary
War era. Several skirmishes occurred in the northeastern part of New Jersey
between 1779 and 1781, mostly as a result of British sorties across the Hudson
from the Loyalist stronghold of New York City. However to all intents and
purposes, New Jersey's participation in the major military events of the Revolution
was now complete, and the main theater of the war shifted to the southern
colonies (Lundin 1972: 336-453).
How the Trenton Mills and the bridge over the Assunpink fared during these
turbulent times is unclear. The mills continued under the ownership of Robert
Waln, who was neither a rabid Loyalist nor an outright patriot. Most likely
they continued in operation, but at a somewhat reduced level of production.
Archival material pertinent to this topic may yet survive in the Waln papers
at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and awaits further study. A Map
of the Area Between Trenton, Bordentown and Quaker Bridge surveyed sometime
around 1780 identifies the Trenton Mills and notes buildings to the north
of the creek as well as a structure opposite the mill on the western side
of Queen Street (Figure A. 10). This latter structure
may well have been a dwelling owned by Robert Waln and was perhaps even occupied
by him when he was visiting his Trenton properties. Although somewhat stylized,
this map also shows the "Road to Crosswicks & Bordentown" following a
straight course south from the bridge and mill, possibly indicating an alignment
that corresponds to that of present-day South Broad Street.
Despite the southward shift of the British-American conflict after the Battle
of Monmouth Courthouse, one final coda of the Revolutionary War remained to
be played out in central New Jersey. This was the march of the French army
commanded by the Comte de Rochambeau southward through New Jersey from Rhode
Island en route to Virginia in the late summer of 1781, returning along much
the same route in the late summer of the following year. In the interim, on
October 19, 1781, the French army and navy assisted the Continental Army in
finally forcing General Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown, effectively concluding
the military phase of the American War of Independence. The French
army kept a detailed account of its itinerary from Newport, Rhode Island to
Yorktown, Virginia and back, and prepared maps of the route and the communities
where encampments were made. This series of extraordinarily accurate and aesthetically
appealing maps and plans provides valuable insights into the cultural landscape
of the eastern seaboard in the later years of the Revolution. The particular
renderings dealing with the Trenton area are no exception.
Specifically, the detailed plan of Trenton, entitled "Camp a Trenton…"
(Figure A. 11), which shows the French forces
encamped in September of 1781 on the higher ground along the southwestern
side of the road to Burlington between present-day Ferry and Cass Streets.
The artillery and wagon park was located along the river on the south side
of the road leading down to the ferry in preparation for the crossing over
into Pennsylvania. The encampment on the return trip in early September of
1782 occupied roughly the same area as in 1781, but extended slightly further
to the south. The crossing of the Assunpink is clearly visible on this map,
as are the built-up area of Trenton and the straight course of the road leading
to Burlington, this latter feature being a strong indication that the present-day
course of South Broad Street was then in existence. The accompanying narrative
accounts by French officers unfortunately add little to the information on
the maps. Trenton is described as "larger than Princeton but less well built
and pretty," while the itinerary notes merely that "[ y] ou go through the
town of Trenton, crossing a stone bridge over the little river [Assunpink]
that divides it in two and flows into the Delaware" (Rice and Brown 1972:
I-78, 163; II-71- 72).
A few years later, in 1787, with the war concluded, an observer noted more
revealingly: "At the foot of the bridge are mills for grinding and bolting
wheat. These mills are contained in a very large stone building and are remarkable
for the prodigious quantity and excellent quality of flour which is ground
in them every twenty-four hours" (Trenton Historical Society 1929: 108). It
was in these immediate post-war years, when Trenton was briefly a serious
contender for assuming the mantle of the nation's capital, that there was
a surge in real estate speculation in the area between the Assunpink and the
port community of Lamberton. Towards the northern end of this area, land around
the William Trent House and the frontages of the road to Bordentown and Burlington
were of particular interest.
Much of this area lay within a large 197-acre tract centered on the former
Trent mansion, which had been acquired by Colonel John Cox in 1778. Cox (not
to be confused with the numerous members of the intensely Loyalist Coxe family
that traced its lineage back to Dr. Daniel Coxe, an early Governor of West
Jersey) was a leading supporter of the American patriot cause, who actually
took part in the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. He owned the Batsto iron
foundry, which supplied ordnance to the Continental Army, and was appointed
a Deputy Quartermaster-General by Congress in 1778, the year in which he assumed
control of what remained of the Trent plantation. Under Cox, the former Trent
property was renamed Bloomsbury in place of the Royalist-sounding Kingsbury.
In 1789 Cox had a survey prepared of his 197-acre holding, probably to support
the ongoing subdivision and sale of his lands, a process that had been started
in earnest by Robert Lettis Hooper II in the early 1750s, and continued by
Dr. William Bryant, the intervening owner of the Kingsbury/ Bloomsbury property
between 1769 and 1778 (Susan Maxman Architects 1997).
The resulting map from the Cox survey of 1789, entitled A plan and survey
of sundry pieces of land adjoining the Delaware River and Assunpink Creek
belonging to Jn. Cox. (Figure A. 12) is valuable
in showing the progress of the subdivision and development on the south side
of the Assunpink. In addition, the map 27depicts the bridge over the Assunpink
Creek, the site of the Trenton Mills, the mill pond, and the paper mill recently
constructed by Stacy Potts further downstream (on the present-day site of
the Marriott Conference Hotel at Lafayette Yard). Even at this relatively
late date, the Assunpink Creek corridor was not subject to intensive subdivision
and was most likely given over to the needs of water-powered industry.
Colonel John Cox was certainly an acquaintance of George Washington of long
standing and frequent speculation has been made, as yet unproven, that Washington
visited Bloomsbury in the 1780s. What is quite clear, however, is that Trenton
and the bridge over the Assunpink filled a special place in Washington's own
heart and in the rapidly blossoming mythopoeia that was beginning to surround
the nation's pre-eminent founding father. In 1789, the residents of Trenton
constructed a triumphal arch for General Washington beneath which he would
pass en route to New York for his inauguration as the first President of the
A roughly contemporary view of the triumphal arch, which was erected at
the north end of the bridge, shows the two arches and buttress of the stone
bridge over the Assunpink, and notes in the accompanying caption that the
structure had been "built," or more likely rebuilt and repaired, in 1780 (Plate
B. 5). The 20-foot-high triumphal arch, comprised of 13 pillars that were
adorned with flowers and laurel leaves, was designed and constructed under
the direction of Benjamin Yard, a well-known Trenton patriot and former owner
of the Trenton Steelworks on Petty's Run. An inscription on the south side
of the arch read: "The defender of the mothers will be the protector of the
daughters." As he passed through the arch, Washington received salutations
from the city's matrons and other residents who praised him and sang in his
honor. Washington subsequently thanked the women for the gracious reception,
noting "the contrast between his former and actual situation at the same spot"
on the Assunpink bridge (Trenton Historical Society 1929: 198-204).
Following the death of Robert Waln in 1784, the Trenton Mills property stayed
within the Waln family through into the early 19th century as a result of
its being inherited by Waln's daughter, Hannah Waln Wells. In actuality, it
appears that it was Hannah's husband, Gideon Wells, and her brother, Robert
Waln, who were most involved in the mill's operations during this period.
The gristmill can be reasonably assumed to have continued in operation through
the last two decades of the 18th century up until late in the first decade
of the 19th century. This assumption is based on the appearance of a gristmill
assessed to Gideon Wells in the Nottingham Township tax ratables for the years
1803, 1805, 1806 , 1807 and 1808. In each of these ratables Wells is assessed
for three "houses & lots" and three gristmills (which in actuality means
a single gristmill with three sets of mill-stones) (Nottingham Township Tax
The gristmill was probably not faring well, however, for by 1803, records
indicate that Gideon Wells was bankrupt. In that year, his life estate was
conveyed to two assignees, Archibald McCall and John Dorsey, who granted the
rights to a portion of the 29-acre mill tract that spanned both sides of the
Assunpink, west of the bridge, to Hannah Wells' brother, Robert Waln (West
Jersey Deed AV/ 151). Significantly, Wells was not assessed as the owner of
any acreage in the tax ratables referenced above – the bankruptcy arrangements
of 1803 are no doubt the explanation for this. At the same time that her husband
signed over his life estate, Hannah Wells agreed to join in a mortgage and
conveyed her interest in the mill and premises to Robert Waln pending repayment
of $10,725 (the amount that Robert Waln had paid for the life estate). The
life estate was then to be conveyed to her trustees, Pattison Hartshorne and
Benjamin Morgan, and the profits from this transaction were to be used towards
the education and support of their children. In 1804, Gideon and Hannah Wells
paid off the mortgage, and the rights to Hannah and Gideon Wells' estate were
transferred to the trustees (Burlington County Deed L/ 564 and I2/ 513).
Around this same time, a plan of lots belonging to Daniel W. Coxe in the
Bloomsbury area was surveyed (Figure A. 13). This
map, again produced as part of the ongoing development south of the Assunpink,
provides some coverage of adjacent lands, including those under Wells/ Waln
ownership around the bridge over the creek. The map depicts with exceptional
clarity the double-arched bridge over the Assunpink and the two-and-a-half
story gristmill immediately upstream. Allowing for a full basement level adjacent
to the creek, the mill structure was in fact likely to have been a three-and-a-half
story building. Raum (1871: 236) notes that during this period, in addition
to the mill hydrosystem, water was drawn through a wooden pipe just below
the bridge from a spring on the north side of the creek down to the Hall and
Ewing distillery in Lamberton.
G. THE GREENE STREET BRIDGE FROM 1800 TO 1870
Throughout the first half of the 19th century, the bridge that carried Greene Street (today's South Broad Street) over the Assunpink Creek was in need of seemingly constant repair. In 1805, for example, the Hunterdon County freeholders minutes record that the bridge was to be fixed, but do not indicate the extent of this particular undertaking. In 1813, Hunterdon County resolved that the bridge over the Assunpink in the "main street" in Trenton, presumably Queen Street, was again in need of repairs. Upon evaluation of the structure, it was decided that the top of the bridge would be laid with oak planks and new sleepers would also be added. However, the freeholders minutes note that these directions were not followed.
Rather, during rehabilitation of the structure in 1814, three bents were
thrown away, and two bents that covered the bed of the creek were repaired
and extended at the wing walls on the Trenton side. Furthermore, "the whole
distance of the bents [was] thrown away" and the wing walls were raised on
the Burlington County side. The freeholder minutes also note that repairs
were necessary for the Assunpink bridge near Wells' mill, and involved fixing
the foot of the pier and covering the top of the wall (Hunterdon County Freeholders
In February of 1822, a flood on the Assunpink swept away much of the stone
bridge that carried Greene Street over the creek and similarly affected the
somewhat newer stone bridge downstream at the South Warren Street crossing.
The former gristmill, now being used by Gideon Wells for picking and carding
cotton (see below), was also partially destroyed and some of its machinery
was carried away by the flood waters. A portion of the road to the north of
the creek was "washed into deep holes and gullies by the over-flowing water"
and damage was estimated at $5,000 or $6,000. Newspaper articles at the time
that James Ewing's gardens near his residence along Greene Street were nearly destroyed. A temporary bridge was evidently put in place at the "upper site" (True American, February 23, 1822; The Emporium, February 23, 1822), but, from the freeholders' minutes around this time, it is clear also that the Greene Street (South Broad Street) bridge was soon after substantially repaired and to a large degree rebuilt. The committee allotted $2,000 towards the repair of the Greene Street/ South Broad Street and South Warren Street bridges, a task that was to be undertaken by William Potts (Burlington County Freeholders Minutes; Hunterdon County Freeholders Minutes).
In 1843, serious flooding occurred on the Assunpink that devastated both the mill and the bridge. A contemporary newspaper account relates the severity of this event most vividly:
"Trenton, Thursday, Mar. 30, 1843
Flood in the Assanpink
The rain and thaw of Monday caused a great freshet in the
Assanpink, which creek increased rapidly during Tuesday and attained on Wednesday
morning a greater height than has been known for many years or perhaps ever.
On Tuesday forenoon the creek rose so that the water ran
across Greene street above the factory, and the stream at night fall had become
rapid and turbulent and threatened to throw down the old Ewing house, round
both sides of which it was cutting deep gullies in its way back to the creek.
The furniture was removed from the lower story of the house, which was flooded
with water, and as the violence of the stream increased the danger to the
house became more imminent, until about 9 o'clock when the water on the south
side of the bridge, cut a channel across the street, and on the north side
consequently subsided it.
For some time before this the water had been forcing its
way on the south side, through an old trunk, unused for years, running from
the creek on the east side of the stone factory, to an old weave shop on the
west side of Greene street; and at 8 o'clock the subterranean channel was
so enlarged that the south east corner of the stone mill fell in. About 9
o'clock, the road fell in and the deep cut of the waters below was exposed,
across it and through the old weave shop, down to the Assanpink.
Just before it fell, people were crossing frequently, and
Mr. Gaddiss of the Prison, drove over but a minute before.
At 10 o'clock, the south eastern part of the stone mill fell.
The channel of the waters was washed wider and wider through the night, and
increased towards the south so far as to carry away a building adjoining the
rear of the Factory store.
As the cut deepened the water passing through it of course
became greater, until the larger part of the creek rushed through, in a very
tumultuous stream which setting across the old channel of the creek, struck
against the northern shore with great violence and swept away the
gardens lying there" (State Gazette, March 30, 1843).
Raum (1871: 169, 171) reported that the waters took a southerly course,
tore away the street, and "left a chasm some sixty feet wide and about twenty
feet deep." He further stated that the bridge was widened this year and a
south arch was also erected, although independent primary confirmation of
this statement has not been found. Podmore (August 31, 1957) does state, however,
that the Mercer County freeholders' minutes record a sum of $2,000 being spent
to erect a stone arch bridge at the site in 1843.
By 1848, local newspapers were remarking that nearly 800 persons passed
over the Greene Street bridge daily, although these accounts also noted that
travelers were desirous of a safer passage (State Gazette, March 4,
1848). In the same year, the freeholders voted down a proposal to widen the
Greene Street bridge by adding footpaths (State Gazette, March 7, 1848).
Yet Podmore (August 31, 1957) notes that the structure was indeed widened
in the following year.
In 1860, noted American antiquarian Benson Lossing published a view of "Trenton
Bridge and Vicinity ," composed during an earlier visit made sometime
between 1848 and 1852 (Plate B. 6). This view,
looking southwest from the north side of the millpond, shows both the arched
stone bridge over the creek and the mill nestled into the opposite riverbank.
Lossing noted that the creek was dammed for the mill pond near the bridge
and he also observed that the bank was being terraced at the time of his visit,
most likely by Andrew Quintin who was establishing a retreat at the south
side of the creek during this period. The old Trenton Mills structure, recently
used as a carding facility by the Eagle Factory, is depicted in dilapidated
condition, the victim of fire and flood damage. On the opposite (downstream)
side of the bridge another three-story building housing the cotton works is
also visible (Lossing 1860: 26). The bridge was supposedly widened in 1849,
although this remains to be confirmed. In 1851, the bridge carrying Greene
Street (by now referenced on maps as Broad Street) over the Assunpink was
paved, a welcome relief for travelers who deemed this spot particularly impassable
in wet weather (Podmore, August 31, 1957).
Another view of the bridge, published by Barber and Howe in 1868 (Plate
B. 7), shows the downstream (west) face of the Greene Street bridge with
its pair of substantial arches echoing the structure shown sketched on the
Coxe map of circa 1804 (Figure A. 13).
The left or northernmost arch essentially corresponds to the arch that is
still visible today, while the right arch spanned the raceway system passing
through the mill. On the right, upstream from the bridge, stands the McCall
Paper Mill, a large three-story stone structure that was built in 1851 by
Harding & Company on the site of the old Trenton Mills (see below). The
large building in the left background is the Temperance Hall, an establishment
situated on the corner of South Broad and East Front Streets.
H. THE 19TH-CENTURY MILLS – FLOUR, COTTON, WOOL, PAPER AND MORE FLOUR
For ease of understanding, because of the multiplicity of mills along the banks of the Assunpink between South Broad and South Warren Streets from the second decade of the 19th century onwards, the history of each mill property is now separately traced through the 19th century and on into the mid-20th century (Tables C. 1-C. 4). These sites are discussed in the order in which they occur from upstream to downstream (east to west) on the south bank of the creek, which also happens to be the chronological sequence in which these mill seats were developed.
Eagle Carding Mill/ McCall Paper Mill (the Original Site of the Trenton
Mills)( Table C. 1)
In 1814, Gideon and Hannah Wells conveyed one half of the seat of the original Trenton Mills property, including a gristmill, plaster house, bake house, mansion house and messuages to Robert Waln for $27,500 (Burlington County Deed K2/ 414). Apparently stemming directly from this ownership change was Robert Waln's establishment of one of the earliest textile mill complexes in the region, known as the Eagle Factory. This complex was based around the reconfiguration of the gristmill as a mill that appears to have been used primarily for picking and carding cotton (termed here the Eagle Carding Mill) and the construction of an entirely new facility (termed here the Eagle Cotton Factory) on the opposite (downstream) side of the Greene Street/ South Broad Street crossing of the Assunpink Creek. The complex also included buildings on the opposite (north) side of the creek, upstream from the bridge.
This textile manufacturing facility, while not quite the first of its kind
in Trenton (a smaller short-lived cotton mill was established in 1812 on Petty's
Run by Joseph Fithian), was one of two large cotton factories founded
by wealthy Philadelphians in Trenton in 1814-15. The other cotton mill, brought
on line by 1815, was set up on the banks of the Delaware River by Daniel W.
Coxe. This mill was a substantial four-or five-story brick structure, 60 by
40 feet in plan, that was powered by a wing dam in the Delaware. The building
occupied a site immediately west of the Trent House, which Coxe at this time
both owned and occupied.
Coxe and Waln, politically well connected and with capital means at their disposal, together may be viewed as the entrepreneurs who first brought the Industrial Revolution into Trenton. Robert Waln, around the time he was setting up his cotton manufacturing facility on the Assunpink, was also an active political figure in Philadelphia, serving both in the State Legislature and as a member of the city council (Raum 1871: 234-235; Mount 1992: 27-29).
While Robert Waln was establishing the new cotton factory on the west side
of Greene Street, his sister, Hannah Wells, retained her portion of the mill
property, which still included the seat of the original Trenton Mills. In
1819, she purchased water rights that would enable her to raise the level
of water in the millpond feeding the mill on this site, an action that was
very likely related to the additional water power needs contingent on the
textile manufacturing operations (Burlington County Deed Y2/ 441). In the
following year, Hannah Wells passed away and willed her portion of the estate
to her three sons, Richard, Robert and Lamar, who later conveyed their inheritance
to their brother, Charles Wells.
At this somewhat confusing and critical juncture in the development of the
Waln/ Wells cotton manufacturing operation, it is fortunate indeed that the
entire Eagle Factory operations (i. e., the facilities on both sides of Greene
Street represented by both the Eagle Carding Mill and the Eagle Cotton Factory)
were inventoried in the federal census of manufactures compiled in 1820. This
information and most of the other land transfer information from the 1820s
and 1830s are presented in the following section of the chapter that traces
the history of the main focus of the cotton factory complex (see below). Of
particular relevance to the Eagle Carding Mill site, however, is a deed of
1829 through which Charles Wells conveyed a portion of the lands that had
belonged to his mother, Hannah Waln Wells, to his cousin Lewis Waln (Burlington
County Deed Y2/ 449). It is likely that this indenture refers to the site
of the carding mill on the east side of Greene Street.
Two maps prepared in the mid-1830s provide a valuable picture of the complicated
sequence of milling along the Assunpink during this period and help to place
the Eagle Carding Mill more clearly within the context of the overall Eagle
Factory complex. A map completed in 1833 that delineates the course of the
main canal of the Trenton Delaware Falls Company (the forerunner of the Trenton
Water Power) through downtown Trenton shows the section of the Assunpink upstream
from the raceway (Figure A. 14). Three mill sites
are depicted along the southern bank of the Assunpink between the present-day
South Warren Street and South Broad Street crossings of the creek. Although
unidentified on this map, the second map permits them to be identified as
the Moore Flouring Mill, the Trenton Cotton Factory (later the Wilson Woolen
Mill) and the Eagle Cotton Factory.
On the opposite (upstream) side of the South Broad Street (then Greene Street) bridge stood the Eagle Carding Mill (on the site of the original Trenton Mills) on the south bank and another unidentified mill site, most likely related to the Eagle Factory cotton works, on the north bank.
Essentially the same cartographic information is recorded on the Gordon
map of Trenton in 1836 (Figure A. 15), and this
map helpfully provides a legend referencing each of the structures. The two
structures on the upstream side of the Greene Street bridge, as well as the
building immediately downstream on the opposite side of the bridge at the
eastern end of Factory Street (all marked "11"), are all identified as part
of the Eagle Cotton Factory. The structure labeled "12" is given as the Trenton
Cotton Factory, while the site furthest downstream at the western end of Factory
Street (marked "13") is occupied by Moore's Flour and Oil Mill.
The damaging flood that occurred in 1843 (see above) spelled the beginning
of the end of the Eagle Carding Mill. An earlier flood had occurred in 1822
in which a portion of the Eagle Carding Mill was partially destroyed (The
Emporium, February 23, 1822), but the facility was evidently repaired
and resumed operation. The flood of 1843, however, was followed soon after
by yet another destructive incident in 1846, when a fire broke out in the
carding mill and its walls were severely burned. This seems to mark the end
of the building's use for textile manufacturing. As a consequence of this
event, the walls were to be partially demolished, but to a point no lower
than the top wall of the bridge (Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Lewis
Waln Letterbooks: 1820-1849).
In 1849, Lewis Waln conveyed the original Trenton Mills (Eagle Cotton Mill)
site and its associated 29- acre property to Henry McCall for $18,000 (Mercer
County Deed P/ 399). After he acquired the land, McCall hired Harding &
Company in 1851 to erect a three-story stone paper mill on the site of the
earlier gristmill and cotton mill. According to Barber and Howe (1868: 288),
there were three date markers inserted into this building: "1756" -noting
a major episode of modification to Trent's Mills; and "1822" and "1850" referencing
respectively the principal later additions of the Eagle Factory period and
the paper mill. Woodward and Hageman (1883: 670), on the other hand, note
that the earliest of these three dates derived from the bakery of George Bright,
a structure that adjoined and shared a common wall with the mill to the south
(Woodward and Hageman 1883: 670).
The mill site is depicted, at a point just prior to its redevelopment for
paper manufacture, on several maps produced in the late 1840s: a United States
Coast Survey map of 1844 (Figure A.
16); a map delineating the properties owned by Henry McCall in 1849 (Figure
A. 17); and the pair of maps showing the entire City of Trenton, both
published in 1849, one by Sidney (Figure
A. 18), the other by Otley and Keily (Figure A.
19). The McCall property map also shows in some detail the millpond, the
raceway system and the stone dam that ran parallel to and east of the bridge
over the Assunpink.
In 1851, the newly-built McCall Paper Mill was insured by the Franklin Fire
Insurance Company of Philadelphia. The description accompanying the insurance
survey indicates that the main three-story mill building had three adjoining
buildings: a one-story stone structure; a brick steam boiler house; and a
wood rag boiler house (this latter building not being insured). The mill basement
was defined by walls that were over two feet thick and the space was divided
into four rooms, two of which housed machinery. To the north side of the mill
was attached the brick steam boiler house, while the rag boiler house adjoined
this structure to the east. The mill machinery was powered by a large water
wheel and a smaller one that McCall termed the machine wheel (Historical Society
of Pennsylvania, Franklin Fire Insurance Records). The establishment was considered
"one of the best and most complete in the country" with admirable machinery
and the "best specimens of printing paper" (State Gazette, June 2,
The Lamborn Map of Trenton, prepared around 1858 (Figure
A. 20), is the earliest available city map that identifies the paper mill.
McCall's association with the site is not referenced on the map; the mill
was probably being leased by him to the firm of W. R. Fetter & Co. (the
partly illegible name shown on the map). McCall is known to have also leased
the paper mill to an E. B. Bingham of Newark, with its actual operation
being supervised at one time or another by both a Mr. Burke and a Henry Lewis.
Henry M. Lewis is listed as the operator of the paper mill in the industrial
schedules of the federal census of 1860. In that year, the paper mill enjoyed
a capital investment of $40,000 and was producing 900 tons of news printing
paper valued at $180,000 from raw materials itemized as 1,200 tons of rags,
25 tons of chemicals and 2,000 tons of fuel (presumably coal). The mill was
supplied with 100 H. P. from a combination of water power and steam. There
were 26 male employees costing Lewis an average of $800 a month and 24 female
employees costing him an average of $200 a month (U. S. Federal Census of
1860, Industrial Schedules).
The Lake and Beers map of the Philadelphia and Trenton vicinity, printed
in 1860 (Figure A. 21), shows
the mill pond and mill site, but was too small scale to allow the names of
owners and operators to be indicated. A decade later, the Beers Map of
Trenton (Figure A. 22) shows
the mill in McCall's tenure, and a large three-story structure is clearly
visible in the bird's eye view of Trenton published in 1872 (Figure
A. 23). Around this time, according to Raum (1871: 177), the mill contained
eight steam engines and two paper machines that produced approximately one-and-a-half
tons of paper daily. The water that was used for bleaching purposes was carried
in pipes that ran along the north side of the Assunpink and then crossed the
creek just above the dam.
A more precise description of the paper mills operations is provided, however,
in the industrial schedules of the federal census of 1870. John B. Burke is
listed in this year as the mill's agent, which was referred to as the "Greene
St. Paper Mill." The mill reported a capital investment of $15,000 and a production
capacity of 1½ tons of paper per day. Three water wheels were in operation,
generating 60 H. P., which ran four different pairs of machines (probably
the eight "engines" referred to by Raum). The mill employed 13 male workers
and five female workers, whose wages totaled $10,500 for the 11 months of
the year that the mill was in use. Rags, "manilla" bagging and other materials
valued at $38,450 were processed into 15,106 rolls of manilla paper (valued
at $53,500) and 13,900 rolls of newspaper ($ 1,737) (U. S. Federal Census
of 1870, Industrial Schedules).
A group of three informative photographs survive from this period and show
the McCall Paper Mill and the Greene Street/ South Broad Street bridge over
the Assunpink (Plates B. 8-B. 10). The attribution of a circa 1870
date to these views is based in part on the appearance of the iron railing,
a feature that also appears in the engraving published by Barber and Howe
in 1868 (cf. Plate B. 7). The railing
visible in the view of the bridge from downstream (Plate
B. 8) appears to match closely the one shown in the Barber and Howe engraving.
This railing was apparently replaced in 1870 and taken to Olden Avenue where
it was reerected over the creek (Cleary 1936). The dating of the two other
photographs (Plates B. 9 and B.
10) to the same period is also based partly on the fact they appear to
show the bridge approaches immediately after a bridge widening and improvement
project that was undertaken in 1870, just before the paper mill was pulled
down and before the development of the Assunpink Block began to take place
on the bridge itself in the mid-to late 1870s (see below). These latter two
views are also valuable in showing the very clear seam in the masonry between
the top of the basement level and the upper stories of the mill building.
This seam is believed to show the break between the pre-and post-1851 mill
structures, the lower and earlier "build" relating certainly to the early
19th-century cotton mill and probably also to the colonial grist-milling phase
of the Trenton Mills.
In May of 1872, newspaper accounts report on a fire that began on the northwest
corner of the third story of the McCall Paper Mill. The fire spread quickly
and was further fueled by bales of rags and waste paper that were kept throughout
the building. Consequently, the third floor of the mill was quickly
gutted, approximately one third of the roof was burned, and the two lower
floors suffered damage to their joists and interior woodwork. The value of
the stock and machinery destroyed, which included a rag-cutter and duster,
totaled $25,000 (Daily True American, May 9, 1872; Cleary 1922). By
1875, the mill building had evidently been dismantled, since it is conspicuously
absent from the Everts and Stewart maps produced in this year (Figure
B. 24b). By 1881, as shown on the Robinson and Pidgeon maps prepared in
that year (Figure B. 25b), the row of storefronts
referred to as the Assunpink Block had been erected on the mill site along
the east side of Greene Street (present-day South Broad Street) (see below).
Eagle Cotton Factory (Table C. 2)
Robert Waln, along with his brother-in-law, Gideon H. Wells, was the principal force behind the founding of the Eagle Cotton Factory on present-day Factory Street on the south bank of the Assunpink Creek, just downstream from the Greene Street bridge, sometime around 1815. The main factory building on this site measured approximately 60 feet in length by 40 feet in width, and was five stories high. At the time this factory was brought into being, Waln was corresponding with cotton mill owners in Paterson and in New England, where textile manufacturing technology was under intensive development. From the owners of mills in Paterson, for example, Waln gleaned much useful information that he applied in his newly established factory in Trenton. Waln and Wells also leased extra floor space in their factory to the textile machine builders, Wilkenson and Howe, and hired John Longstroth as the superintendent (Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Lewis Waln Letterbooks: 1820-1849; Mount 1992: 28).
From his correspondence with relatives and business associates, Robert Waln
also anticipated that his son, Lewis, would continue the family involvement
in the textile manufacturing and merchant professions. By 1819, Lewis Waln
was fully engaged in these activities and had conducted business in the Delaware
Valley aboard the family's ship, the Eagle. Thus, father and son, Robert
and Lewis Waln, along with Robert's brother-in-law, Gideon Wells, were the
three individuals largely responsible for establishing the first water-powered
textile manufactories along the Assunpink in the second decade of the 19th
In September of 1819, Robert Waln assigned half of the mill premises at
the Eagle Factory, excepting machines and implements in the mill or manufactory,
to his trustees, Benjamin Morgan et al. (who were also acting as the
assignees of Gideon Wells). It appears that the rights to the machinery were
held at this time by Gideon Wells. Indeed, it appears that it was Wells, rather
than Robert or Lewis Waln, who was most involved in the day-to-day operation
of the Eagle Factory. This is eminently clear from the federal census of manufactures
taken in 1820, where Gideon Wells himself penned the answers to the various
questions submitted by the census takers and added at the bottom of the page:
"The Establishment is doing pretty well considering the general depression
of the Times, and does not appear to require any additional protection from
the … Government. The quantities of Cotton Cloth manufactured during the year
will not fall short of 480,000 yards – Gideon H. Wells Trenton Dec 13, 1820."
Also itemized in the census return were: raw materials employed (120,000
pounds of cotton valued at $24,000); number of persons employed (120 men;
60 women; 250 boys and girls); machinery (2,500 spindles [all in operation]);
expenditures ($ 50,000 capital invested; $26,000 paid annually in wages; $10,000
in contingent expenses); and production (cotton fabric whose market value
Wells stated "can not be known with any degree of accuracy"). Even allowing
for the uncertain economy and Wells' probable tendency to present
an optimistic prospect, it is clear that the factory was a very sizeable operation
at the time (Federal Census of Manufactures 1820).
The census data of 1820 is presumed to reflect the entire Eagle Factory
operations (i. e., including the carding mill and other facilities on the
opposite (eastern) side of Greene Street. The greater part of the production,
however, most likely took place in the Eagle Cotton Factory on the west side
of Greene Street. A vast body of potentially enlightening information about
the Eagle Factory operations during this period resides at the Historical
Society of Pennsylvania and still awaits a thorough examination (a task shortly
to be undertaken under the auspices of the Old Mill Hill Society with New
Jersey Historical Commission funding
assistance). From a preliminary inspection of these records, a few basic details can be assembled about the types of products and their markets and about the mill complex. Among the fabrics being produced around this time were muslin, gingham, chambrays, Wilmington stripes and Assunpink ticks. The coarsest cottons were shipped to Alabama and sold as fabric for clothing slaves. The mill complex, in addition to the main five-story cotton factory, included a stone building where cotton was cleaned (i. e., the carding mill), a three-story power loom building fronting on to Greene Street and the Assunpink, a dye house, a stone building for boiling yarn, a sizing house, a drying house and an office. In 1824, the machinery alone was valued at nearly $44,000 and "the number of weavers at the factory employed [was] so great as to prevent any considerable accumulation of yarn." The building housed 20 throstles (equipped with 1,824 spindles), 44 carding machines and three mules. By 1829, the factory contained eight additional carding machines (Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Lewis Waln Letterbooks: 1820-1849; Mount 1992: 28).
In 1821, deeds indicate that Robert Waln's trustees advertised the entire
Eagle Factory property and sold it in the following year to Lewis Waln for
$15,000 (Burlington County Deed R2/ 107). This indenture notes that many improvements
had been carried out at the factory, including the installation of new machinery.
While this conveyance pertains to the Eagle Factory facilities, Robert Waln
and Gideon Wells also retained an interest at this time in the Trenton Cotton
Factory, located to the west of the Eagle premises (see below).
In 1824, Lewis Waln and his cousin, Charles Wells, joined in a mortgage
with Benjamin Morgan et al., assignees of Robert Waln's estate, concerning
the mill properties. Ten years later, in 1834, the trustees of Robert Waln
and Gideon Wells conveyed several small lots to Lewis Waln, including a parcel
on the corner of Factory and South Warren Streets, the Trenton Manufactory
lot, and a lot on the north side of the Assunpink (Burlington County Deeds
K3/ 538, K3/ 537, K3/ 232, I3/ 402). Through these and other transactions
it would appear that ownership control of the Eagle Factory was finally and
fully passing to
Lewis Waln, Robert Waln's son and Gideon Wells' nephew.
Without further research, it is difficult to reconstruct the precise layout
of the Eagle Cotton Factory complex and the number and types of industrial
buildings on the site. As shown earlier, maps from the 1830s and 1840s, however,
are of some help in tracing the broad evolution of milling along the Assunpink
on either side of Greene Street/ South Broad Street. The Trenton Delaware
Falls Company map of 1833 (Figure A. 14) and the Gordon Map of Trenton
of 1836 (Figure A. 15) – the latter possibly copied, expanded and updated
from the former -both depict a series of four structures (almost certainly
all mills) ranged along the south bank of the Assunpink on land belonging
to Robert Waln, while a fifth structure is also shown on the opposite north
bank of the creek, upstream of the Greene Street bridge. From the legend accompanying
the map of 1836, it is apparent that the three buildings clustered
around this bridge were all part of the Eagle Factory operations.
The United States Coast Survey map of the Delaware River from Bordentown
to Trenton, prepared in 1844 (Figure A. 16), depicts two mills, one on either
side of the Greene Street bridge on the south bank, and one other building
in the immediate vicinity. These buildings were probably all a part of the
Eagle Factory complex, which by this time had just experienced the damaging
flood of 1843, causing the Walns to try, unsuccessfully, to sell the factory
in 1845. In 1849, Lewis Waln succeeded in selling the property containing
the Eagle Factory facilities to Henry McCall, Jr. (Mercer County Deed P/ 399).
A map prepared of McCall's land holdings in 1849 (Figure A. 17) shows one
large factory building and a smaller structure on the cotton factory site,
but the two other maps of the City of Trenton published in the same year (Figures
A. 18 and A. 19) both show the site as having been cleared.
In 1852, McCall sold a portion of the site of the Eagle Cotton Factory lying
to the west of Greene Street and south of the Assunpink to William Stetler
and William Hancock (Mercer County Deed Z/ 18). Stetler and Hancock erected
a soap and candle factory on the site, retaining the property until 1865,
when they sold it to William and Thomas Taylor (Mercer County Deed 60/ 212).
The soap and candle factory facility is clearly identified on the Lamborn
map of Trenton produced circa 1858 (Figure A. 20), and appears to be
shown on the Lake and Beers map of the Philadelphia and Trenton vicinity in
1860 (Figure A. 21).
The property changed hands again in 1870, being acquired by Levi Furman
and Peter Kite (Mercer County Deed 79/ 209). Furman and Kite set up a carpentry
shop on the site, and their business is listed in the industrial schedules
of the federal census of 1870. Identified as "Carpenters & Builders,"
their operations reported a capital investment of $10,600 and a production
valued at $50,000. The materials kept on site comprised 350,000 feet of lumber
(worth $15,000) and 30 tons of coal (worth $150). No water power was being
used, but the business used an eight H. P. steam engine to run several items
of sawing, planning and other carpentering machinery (U. S. Federal Census
of 1870, Industrial Schedules).
The substantial two-section frame building in which Furman and Kite conducted
their business is shown in a photograph from around 1870 (Plate B. 11). This
is probably the structure depicted on the Beers map of the City of Trenton
in 1870 (Figure A. 22) and in the bird's eye view of 1872 (Figure A. 23).
By the mid-1870s, however, the Everts and Stewart maps show that this factory
had been joined by a series of buildings on the eastern end of the property
fronting on to the west side of Greene Street (Figure A. 24b). These latter
structures represent the beginnings of the so-called Assunpink Block (see
below). Later maps
show the continuing survival of the carpentry shop structure into first decade of the 20th century, even as it becomes increasingly hemmed in by the Wilson Woolen Mill facility to the west and the Assunpink Block to the east (Figures A. 25a, 26, 27b, 28a, 29a, 31b and 33a). By 1924, an aerial photograph of the downtown area (Plate B. 25) shows that the site had been redeveloped and contained row housing. The Sanborn fire insurance maps of 1927 and the Franklin survey maps of 1930 both indicate this line of row houses filling five lots (Figures A. 34a, A. 35a and A. 35c). These buildings remained standing into the
second half of the 20th century as indicated on the Sanborn fire insurance maps of 1927, updated to 1950 (Figure A. 38c).
Trenton Cotton Factory/ Wilson Woolen Mill (Table C. 3)
Roughly midway along the south bank of the Assunpink between the Greene Street/ South Broad Street bridge and the South Warren Street bridge, north of present day Factory Street, was the site of another textile milling operation whose history followed a trajectory that ran largely parallel to and independently of the development of the Waln and Wells Eagle Factory complex. In 1814, Gideon Wells leased property on the south bank of the creek to Hugh Christy, Lawrence Huron and others for a term of 15 years. The indenture stipulated that the lessees were responsible for furnishing the works that were then being erected there (Burlington County Deed C2/ 185). This structure was evidently the brick cotton mill that Raum (1871: 236) reports was erected here in 1814 by Lawrence Huron & Company. In 1824, this property, referred to as the "certain lot of land where-on the Trenton Factory now stands," was sold to James Hoy in 1824 (Burlington County Deed Book 13/ 399).
The Trenton Cotton Factory is presumed to be the centrally placed of the
three structures shown on the south bank of the Assunpink between Greene Street/
South Broad Street and South Warren Street on the map prepared by the Trenton
Delaware Falls Company in 1833 (Figure A. 14). This building corresponds with
the structure labeled "12" and identified as the Trenton Cotton Factory on
the Gordon map of Trenton published in 1836 (Figure A. 15). In The New
Jersey Register, compiled by Joseph C. Potts in 1837, James Hoy's cotton
mill is one of several downtown Trenton mills that had been hooked into the
main canal of the Trenton Delaware Falls Company, the waterway that later
became better known as the Trenton Water Power. Hoy's mill, valued at $75,000,
drew a 250 square-inch head of water from the canal and was producing 300,000
yards of cotton goods annually (Potts 1837). Interestingly, the mill is noted
by Potts as drawing water power from the Trenton Delaware
Falls Company's canal north of the Assunpink, meaning that a flume must have led off the canal's left bank and crossed over the creek to reach the mill.
Hoy's Trenton Cotton Factory quite possibly suffered a contraction in its
business as a result of the Panic of 1837 and the national economy's subsequent
lean years. More certain is the devastating effect of the Great Flood of January,
1841, which took a heavy toll on many Trenton homes and businesses. A contemporary
newspaper account reports that "[ t] he dye house
and lower story of Mr. Hoy's Cotton Factory were flooded for several days" (Emporium and True American, January 15, 1841).
The United States Coast Survey map of 1844 (Figure A. 16) does not identify
a mill on the Trenton Cotton Factory site evidently a sin of cartographic
omission), but the map prepared four years later showing the property of Henry
McCall, Jr. (Figure A. 17) shows a substantial building Labeled "Cotton Factory"
with a long tail race leading downstream into the creek. The head race to
the factory is not indicated, but in addition to the flume from the Trenton
Water Power there was probably a culvert that ran underground from the main
dam upstream from the Greene Street/ South Broad Street bridge, passing south
of the Eagle Cotton Mill on the original Trenton Mills site. The factory building
is also shown on the other two maps of the City of Trenton published in 1849
(Figures A. 18 and A. 19).
James Hoy retained ownership of the Trenton Manufactory until 1852, when
he sold the property to Samuel K. Wilson for $8,000 Mercer County Deed W/
461). The mill had evidently been damaged by fire in the preceding year (Raum
1871: 236), an event that may have prompted its sale. Specifically referenced
in the deed transferring the mill property from Hoy to Wilson are "the Trenton
Manufactory of Cotton Good, dyehouse, blacksmith shop and land". Also noted
are shafting and carding equipment, throstles, mules, looms and other machinery
located inside the factory. Following his purchase of the property, Wilson
repaired the mill building and put it back into operation. Unfortunately,
the site is only roughly depicted on the two smaller scale maps of
Trenton prepared circa 1858 by Lamborn (Figure A. 20) and Lake and Beers in
1860 (Figure A. 21), but a much expanded or entirely rebuilt facility is more
clearly visible on the Beers map of the city produced in 1870 (Figure A. 22),
in the bird's eye view of 1872 (Figure A. 23) and on the Everts and Stewart
maps of 1875 (Figure A. 24b). Although requiring more in-depth research, quite
possibly there was a substantial rebuilding phase on the site in the mid-to
late 1860s, during or just after the Civil War.
The hypothesized rebuilding in the 1860s may be borne out in the industrial
census data for 1860 and 1870, years for which Samuel K. Wilson provides a
detailed accounting and which saw an increase in capital investment at the
mill from $125,000 in 1860 to $200,000 in 1870. In the former year, the woolen
mill processed 50,000 pounds of wool (valued at $25,000), 60,000 pounds of
cotton ($ 7,200), 104,000 pounds of cotton yarn ($ 24,960), "drugs" ($ 6,000),
400 gallons of oil ($ 550) and other materials ($ 10,000) to produce 150,000
yards of "cottonades" (a thick cotton fabric) and 375,000 yards of "cassinettes"
(a finer wool or cotton cloth) (value illegible in both cases). A combination
of water and steam power were used to generate 60 H. P., which drove 110 looms,
6 cards and 4 mules. There were 65 male employees costing Wilson an average
of $1,400 a month and 75 female employees costing him an average of $800 a
month (U. S. Federal Census of 1860, Industrial Schedules).
Ten years later, Samuel K. Wilson's "Woolen & Cotton factory" was entirely
steam-powered with an engine generating 100 H. P. in support of 176 looms
and numerous other devices. For a full 12-month period reported in that year,
the mill processed 290,000 pounds of wool ($ 130,500), 200,000 pounds of cotton
($ 50,000), "drugs" ($ 8,214), 1,350 tons of coal ($ 6,777) and "sundries"
($ 13,925) to make 430,000 yards of flannel (worth $163,514), 399,046 yards
of two varieties of "cass" (cassinettes, worth $85,277) and 5,926 yards of
"jean" ($ 1,777). By this time, there were 120 male employees, 112 female
employees and 20 youth workers costing Wilson $73,986 in wages for the year
(U. S. Federal Census of 1870, Industrial Schedules). Clearly, over the intervening
years, Wilson's textile operations had expanded considerably in terms of its
production, workforce and profitability.
Wilson continued running the mill and retained the mill property throughout
the final quarter of the 19th century. Known chiefly as the Wilson Woolen
Mill, it was also referred to as the "Upper Mill," to distinguish it from
a second Wilson textile mill, commonly called the Lower Mill, on Fair Street.
Throughout this period Wilson's woolen mills were one of the city's single
largest employers (Trenton Historical Society 1929: 543). From the sequence
of late 19th century historic maps and views (Figures A. 25a, A. 26, A. 27b,
A. 28a, A. 29a and A. 30), the Wilson Woolen Mill facility on Factory Street
appears to have experienced
further upgrading and expansion. Eventually the mill complex expanded to the point where its buildings physically abutted the Moore's Mill property directly to the west, while Wilson also maintained a cotton warehouse on the opposite side of the Assunpink. The main complex at its peak included a machine shop, weaving room, picker house, cloth drying rooms, and a boiler room and dying room, both fronting on to the creek.
In 1877, Samuel K. Wilson purchased additional property along the McCall
Paper Mill's tailrace from the Assunpink Improvement Association, presumably
to facilitate the mill's continuing growth (Mercer County Deed 260/ 403).
However, the creek and the mills along its banks continued to be subject to
periodic flooding throughout the later 19th century. One particularly large
flood occurred in 1882. In addition to breaching the aqueduct of the Trenton
Water Power just downstream, this event placed all of Factory Street under
water, inundating the Wilson Woolen Mill and its neighbors (Plate
B. 12). The Wilson mill soon resumed full operation and was listed in the
statewide inventory of water powers compiled in 1891 (Vermeule 1894) at which
time the site was reported as a woolen and worsted facility powered both by
the Trenton Water Power and the Assunpink Creek. The former water power source
provided a 12-foot fall; the latter a 17-foot fall. Together, they generated
135 gross H. P. (100 net H. P.).
In 1903, following Samuel K. Wilson's death, his executor, Isabelle Wilson,
conveyed the property to Alfred H. Ryan for $69,000 (Mercer County Deed 260/
403). The deed references a "messuage, tenement, factory, buildings, woolen
and worsted goods." In the same year, Ryan sold the property to Alryan Woolen
Mills for $340,000 (Mercer County Deed 262/ 278). The Lathrop Atlas of
Trenton, published in 1905 (Figure A. 31b), identifies the Alryan Woolen
Mills on the site of the former Wilson Woolen Mill, and by this date the dying
room had been removed. However, the previous year the property had been
purchased by the Manor Real Estate and Trust Company who sold it to Harry Haveson, a real estate speculator who purchased many properties along the Assunpink Block (Mercer County Deed 274/ 61; 289/ 529; 286/ 255). Other early 20th-century maps produced in 1908 and 1927 by the Sanborn fire insurance firm (Figures A. 33a and A. 34a) and aerial photographic
views from the mid-1920s (see below, Plate B. 25) show the continued existence of the mill buildings.
By 1930, the Franklin Survey Real Estate Plat-Book of the City of Trenton
identifies the former Wilson Woolen Mill complex as being in the hands
of the Sampson Clothing Company (Figures A. 35a and 35c). The Sanborn fire
insurance map of 1927, updated to 1950 (Figure A. 38c), indicates that the
main building had been adapted for different uses and that, by this time,
its western end had been removed. By this time, the main building was serving
as a furniture storage area on the first floor, supported a roller skating
rink on the second floor, and housed a dress manufacturer on the third floor.
The property was deeded to the City of Trenton in 1963 (Mercer County Deed
Moore Flour Mill/ Trenton Roller Mills (Table C. 4)
The third and furthest downstream of the mill sites along the south bank of the Assunpink Creek between Greene Street/ South Broad Street and South Warren Street appears to originate slightly later than those sites further upstream. Its genesis also appears to be closely tied to the construction by the Trenton Delaware Falls Company of the canal that later became known as the Trenton Water Power. This waterway, designed to bring water power for mill development into the heart of Trenton, was constructed between 1831 and 1834. The Moore Flour Mill evidently drew power both from this canal and from the Assunpink Creek.
The first clear indication of a mill in this location – in the southeast
quadrant of the South Warren Street/ Assunpink Creek intersection -occurs
on the Trenton Delaware Falls Company map of 1833 (Figure A. 14). A single,
unidentified structure is
shown on this map slightly upstream from the bridge. The Gordon map of Trenton, published a few years later in 1836 (Figure A. 15), shows a broadly similar arrangement of mills along this stretch of the creek and seems to depict a closely connected pair of buildings on the site which is marked "13" and identified as Moore's Flour and Oil Mill. Quite possibly, flour milling was taking place in one of the two buildings; oil milling in the other. The United States Coast Survey map of 1844 (Figure A. 16) also notes a mill at this location.
The historic map evidence for this mill site originating in the early 1830s
is supported by published secondary sources and by contemporary land records.
According to Raum (1871: 240), a stone mill was constructed here in
1834 by Joseph Moore and was initially operated by a David Brister who leased
it for ten years. In 1835, Lewis Waln conveyed an eighth of an acre along
this section of the Assunpink to Joseph Moore (Burlington County Deed Book
L3/ 112). Joseph Moore, in turn, sold this parcel to Imlah Moore and Charles
Moore in 1843 for $18,000 (Mercer County Deed F/ 132). The tract included
mills and was noted as being situated west of the Trenton Cotton Factory lot
near the dye house.
Like Hoy's cotton mill immediately upstream, Joseph Moore's flour mill and
cotton mill are both referenced in Joseph C. Potts' The New Jersey Register,
compiled in 1837, and are described as being powered in part by the canal
of the Trenton Delaware Falls Company. The oil mill, valued at $20,000 drew
water power via 117 square-inch head and produced 24,000 gallons of
linseed oil annually. The flour mill (referred to as a gristmill) was valued at $40,000, drew water power via a 150 square-inch head and was processing 60,000 bushels of grain each year. Again, like Hoy's cotton mill, the water power is noted as being drawn off north of the Assunpink, implying use of a flume that crossed over the creek (Potts 1837).
How the Moore mills fared during the Great Panic of 1837 is unclear, but
Raum (1871: 240) notes that the Moore Flour Mill was damaged by fire in 1839.
The property also suffered at the hands of the Great Flood that occurred in
early January of 1841. Contemporary newspaper accounts note that the "lower
story of Mr. Moore's oil mill …. was inundated" (Emporium &
True American, January 12, 1841) and that "a large quantity of oil in cisterns [was] in danger of being spoiled" (State Gazette, January 8, 1841).
After David Brister relinquished the mill lease in the mid-1840s, Imlah
Moore entered into a partnership with Peter Crozer until 1854 (Raum 1871:
240). In 1845, Imlah and Charles Moore also made an agreement with Peter Cooper
for the sum of $10,000 (Mercer County Deed I/ 13). This document concerned
two square feet of water that the Moores would be permitted
to draw from the main raceway belonging to the Trenton Water Power (located a short distance west of the mill). In the following year, the factory still required additional water power and an agreement was reached between the Trenton Water Power Company and Charles and Imlah Moore whereby this would be supplied to the mill via an iron tunnel (Mercer County Deed M/ 1). These latter arrangements concerning water usage were necessitated by the reorganization of the moribund Trenton Delaware Falls Company by the Trenton Water Power Company, an entity established by Peter Cooper in 1844-45 and soon controlled by the Trenton Iron Company.
A map of property belonging to Henry McCall, Jr. in 1849 (Figure A. 17)
and the two maps of the City of Trenton in the same year (Figures A. 18 and
A. 19) all show the location of the Moore Flour Mill in relation to other
mills along the Assunpink and the Trenton Water Power. The mill complex still
included an oil mill and a flour mill in the late 1850s as indicated by the
Lamborn Map of Trenton (Figure A. 20). Around 1860, however, the oil
mill adjoining the flour mill was converted into a machine shop, although
this is not apparent on the Lake and Beers map of 1860 (Figure A. 21).
Both the flour mill and the machine shop are reported in the industrial
census of 1860. The former facility, owned by Imlah and Charles Moore, disclosed
a capital investment of $30,000 and water power was used to run five sets
of grinding stones. The mill employed six male workers, whose average monthly
wages totaled $180. In the year of record, the mill processed 31,000 bushels
of wheat (valued at $43,400), 4,000 bushels of rye ($ 3,500), 10,000 bushels
of corn ($ 8,000) and 3,000 bushels of buckwheat ($ 1,800). The ensuing product
comprised 6,900 barrels of wheat flour (valued at $48,300), 400 barrels
of rye flour
($ 3,000), 56,000 pounds of corn ($ 9,500), 8,500 pounds of buckwheat flour ($ 3,000 [illegible]) and a quantity of bran (value illegible). These figures indicate low profit margins, a common situation during this period when Midwestern flour production and rail transportation were beginning to spell the end for most East Coast flour mills (U. S. Federal Census of 1860, Industrial Schedules).
The machine shop in 1860 was owned by Barnet G. De Unger, "Machinist," who
reported doing custom work making hydraulic presses. The operation was relatively
small scale with a capital investment of $800, a single worker (most likely
De Unger himself) earning $50 a month, with production being valued at $600
for the year (i. e., accounting for all of the monthly wage). The facility
was entirely water powered (U. S. Federal Census of 1860, Industrial Schedules).
The flour mill is shown again on the Beers map of Trenton published in 1870
(Figure A. 22) and on the Everts and Stewarts maps of 1875 (Figure A. 24b).
The flour mill and machine shop both appear again the industrial census taken
in 1870, although both were now reported as being owned by the Moore brothers,
Imlah and Charles. The flour mill showed a capital investment of $40,000,
still employed six male hands (paid a total of $4,688 in wages for the year)
and was still equipped with five sets of millstones, turned with the help
of 40 H. P. generated from a single a water wheel. The mill was processing
500 bushels a day.
For the year of record, in which the mill operated for 11 months, 48,000 bushels of grain valued at $70,000 were processed into 7,000 barrels of wheat flour, 1,000 barrels of rye flour, 11,000 pounds of corn meal, 100 pounds of oatmeal and 9,000 hundredweight of offal, amounting to a total value of $79,900 (U. S. Federal Census of 1870, Industrial Schedules).
The Moores' machine shop, a slightly expanded operation from that reported
ten years earlier, enjoyed a capital investment of $20,000, employed three
male workers and was still powered by a single water wheel. Iron and other
raw materials valued at $1,290 were used in doing shafting work which was
expressed as 12 tons of product valued at $4,700. The machine shop was in
operation eight months of the year and the annual labor cost was $2,050 (U.
S. Federal Census of 1870, Industrial Schedules).
The flour mill is represented as a four-story structure in the Bird's
Eye View of Trenton published in 1872 (Figure A. 23). This building, possibly
comprising all or part of the original mill erected by Joseph Moore in the
mid-1830s, resembles closely the large structure that is visible in an aerial
photograph of this section of downtown Trenton in 1924 (Plate B. 25). Imlah,
Charles, Lydia and Eckford Moore leased the flour mill to Amos Sickles in
1877 (Mercer County Special Deed C/ 565). An accompanying description of the
property indicates that the main four-story brick structure had a cellar and
that there was also another structure that housed an office and additional
rooms in an upper story. The lease agreement also included all water rights
necessary to run the mill.
In 1881, the Robinson and Pidgeon Map of Trenton indicates that the
flour mill building was occupied by G. B. Danger & Son, machinists (Figure
A. 25a), yet the Haven New Real Estate and Insurance Map of Trenton of
the subsequent year continues to reference the structure as Moore's Mill (Figure
A. 26). More specific information is given on the Sanborn fire insurance maps
of 1874, corrected to 1886 (Figure A. 27b). From this map, it is clear that
the four-story flour mill of "I. Moore", also referred to as "Trenton Mills,"
took up most of the site, with the office structure projecting at an angle
northward along the east side of
South Warren Street. The machine shop was attached to the east end of the flour mill, also rose four stories, and extended back from Factory Street almost the same distance as the flour mill.
Essentially the same buildings are depicted on the fire insurance maps produced by Scarlett and Scarlett (Figure A. 28a) and the Sanborn-Perris Map Company (Figure A. 29a) in 1890, with both maps referring to the flour mill as the Trenton Roller Mills. The first of these maps also notes that the flour mill was being operated by S. Zigenfuss & Co., who presumably leased the mill from the Moores. A Zigenfuss flour milling operation was listed in the statewide gazetteer of water powers compiled in 1891 (Vermeule 1894). At this time, water power was supplied by the Trenton Water Power via a 12-foot fall that generated 88 gross H. P. (70 net H. P.). No mention is made of water power being derived from the Assunpink at this time.
In 1899, Charles Moore sold the flour mill complex, identified as the Trenton
Roller Mills, to Frederick L. Hulme (Mercer County Deed 236/ 400). The mill
buildings continue to be depicted in late 19th-and early 20th-century maps
and views through into the late 1920s (Figures A. 30, A. 31b, A. 32, A. 33a
and A. 34s; Plate B. 25). By 1930, however, it appears that the property had
been redeveloped to support an automotive garage, a facility that is depicted
on the Franklin Real Estate Plat-Book of the City of Trenton (Figure A. 35c).
By 1955, the site had been reconfigured yet again and contained a filling
station, laundry and restaurant (Figure A. 38c).
I. THE ASSUNPINK BLOCK: A BRIDGE OF COMMERCE
Returning upstream to the South Broad Street crossing of the Assunpink Creek, this chapter section will trace the continuing history of the bridge and its immediate environs from the immediate post-Civil War era through into the second half of the 20th century. In 1870, the South Broad Street bridge over the Assunpink was widened, the structure with its iron railings on either side at that time being deemed too narrow. There has been a misconception among some local historians (notably, Cleary 1936) that the entire bridge was replaced to facilitate this widening. However, Harry Podmore (August 31, 1957) notes more correctly that this improvement was carried out around the earlier bridge in a way that preserved the structure erected in the early 1840s. The guardrail of the earlier structure – removed as part of the widening project -reportedly incorporated a line of cannon that
were placed there in memory of the Second Battle of Trenton. Unfortunately, these elements are not obviously apparent in the Barber and Howe engraving of 1868 (Plate B. 7), nor in photographs of the bridge taken around 1870 (Plates B. 8-B. 10).
The bridge widening contract was awarded to William Johnson in early 1870
and a separate agreement for ironwork was executed with Charles Carr. Work
was accomplished quickly, with new construction being superimposed over and
preserving the bulk of the earlier structure. The bridge was reopened for
travel in December of the same year in which construction was begun (Podmore
1938). The two later photographs referenced above (Plates B. 9 and B. 10),
both taken circa 1870, apparently show the bridge and its new iron
railing, shortly after completion of the improvements. These views also show
the McCall Paper Mill, just prior to its destruction by fire in 1872 and subsequent
demolition in 1874, and before the construction
of the Assunpink Block.
In conjunction with the bridge improvements of 1870, the grade of Greene
Street/ South Broad Street extending south from State Street was raised and
preliminary plans were circulated regarding the possibility of erecting buildings
with stores actually over the Assunpink crossing. These suggestions most likely
surfaced following the destruction of the McCall Paper Mill by fire in 1872.
After examining the site, some observers pressed for the mill to be taken
down in order to "straighten the awkward bend at the junction of Greene and
Broad Street." Local newspapers also noted that if the dam was to be removed,
site could be used for a row of structures. Some disapproved of the idea, however, since recreational activities on the pond would be threatened by the removal of the dam. Furthermore, opponents of building atop the bridge believed that the stores would prevent the natural flow of air currents, thus breeding "disease all along the creek." After some considerable debate, the forces in favor of building on the bridge prevailed, and the mill was dismantled in 1874 along with the dam (Cleary 1922).
Also in 1870, improvements along Greene Street/ South Broad Street required
the removal of the Washington Market at the corner of Greene/ South Broad
and Washington Streets (present day East Lafayette Street). At this time,
the building materials from which the markets were constructed were sold off
and the structures were removed. In early 1874, workers began clearing the
street frontages in order to lay down the building foundations for the Assunpink
Block (Daily State Gazette, February 28, 1874). In March of the same
year, the brick factory store on the McCall mill property, where cloth was
measured, marked, and prepared for packing, was torn down (Daily State
Gazette, 3 March 1874). A paper bag manufactory was then erected on the
mill site, along with other commercial premises. After several more stores
were erected atop the Assunpink, Greene Street
was formally renamed North and South Broad Street, with the junction between "north" and "south" occurring at the intersection with East and West State Street (Woodward and Hageman 1883). To all intents and purposes, the initial build-out of the Assunpink Block was complete by the end of the 1870s, as is clearly evident in the historic map sequence for the period, and specifically in the Robinson and Pidgeon maps of 1881 (Figures A. 25a-c).
As part of the research undertaken for this study, the chains of ownership
for most of the storefront properties within the Assunpink Block were established.
This information is tabulated in Tables C. 5-C. 18 and forms the basis for
the summary history of the block that follows. Several historic photographs
are also in existence that show the Assunpink Block as an architecturally
cohesive "main street" strip filled with late 19th-and early 20th-century
buildings, below part of which lay the South Broad Street span over the Assunpink
Creek (Plates B. 13-B. 17).
Prior to the development of the Assunpink Block in the 1870s, the iron works of Joseph Yard occupied most of the area on the north side of the creek to the east of Greene Street/ South Broad Street and south of East Front Street. The Lamborn map of Trenton, prepared circa 1858 (Figure A. 20), shows the works opposite Washington Street (current day East Lafayette Street) and south of Temperance Hall. On the edge of the mill pond, just below Yard's works, Captain Caspar Martino, owner of a tract on the eastern side of Greene Street/ South Broad Street, was actively promoting the creek's recreational opportunities.
He kept boats above the dam that could be rented, and contemporary accounts note that "quite a number of small boats are seen daily on the pond" (Podmore 1942). The pond retained by the dam also provided an area that could be utilized by ice skaters in the winters (Plate B. 22). The Martino property and the area around the bridge were also favored spots for fishermen. One resident reminisced that the catfish would gather at the foot of the dam and were so plentiful that they could be collected in a bucket.
An ice cream garden was also active at this location during the Civil War
era. The Beers Map of Trenton of 1870 notes the Martino lot southeast
of the Washington Market on the opposite side of Broad Street (Figure A. 22),
and the property soon after passed to Annie Martino who likely erected a building
here during the creation of the Assunpink Block. The Everts and Stewart Map
of Trenton in the Combination Atlas Map of Mercer County (Figure
A. 24a) indicates that subdivision and probably construction of a portion
of the Assunpink Block was under way in the vicinity of the Martino lot on
the northern side of the Assunpink. A business directory of 1887 notes that
120 South Broad Street, as this location became designated, was then occupied
by Woolworth & Woodworth, the popular "ten-cent" store (Quarter-Century's
Progress of New Jersey's Leading Manufacturing Centres 1887).
The property immediately south of the Martino lot at 122 South Broad Street
had previously belonged to Henry McCall, who sold a large portion of his property
to the Assunpink Improvement Association in 1873 (Table C. 6). Shortly afterwards,
Lewis Hillman erected a three-story brick building on this property. The lot
changed hands several times with the store finally being occupied by Hamilton
Jewelers, just prior to when the parcel was deeded to the City of Trenton
in 1969 (Plate B. 18). The lot adjoining to the south, at 124 South Broad
Street, was acquired by Joseph Rice and Robert Galagher, who conducted business
here for many years as the firm of Rice & Galagher (Table C. 7). According
to tax assessment records, this building was razed around 1950.
South of the Rice & Galagher lot, 126 South Broad Street was occupied
by numerous owners before it was acquired by the state in 1949. This property
was situated directly on the bridge above the creek and deeds make reference
to the property needing to allow for the "uninterrupted flow of the creek"
(Table C. 8). To the south, 128 South Broad Street was initially acquired
by Robert Sloan in 1875. The building erected on this lot later housed the
D. Wolff Furniture Company from 1920-1941 (Table C. 9). Tax assessment records
note that the building was demolished prior to 1948 after a fire damaged several
of the properties overlying the creek. The adjacent property on the south,
130 South Broad Street, was sold to Daniel Forst in 1878 (Table C. 10). Deeds
indicate that in 1901 the lower floor of the four-story brick building located
here served as a saloon, while the upper floors were utilized as apartments.
A tax assessor's photograph taken in the late 1930s shows that the building
was for sale and that the first floor was tenanted by Mercer Wine & Liquor (Plate B. 19). By 1948, the liquor shop had been replaced by "The Empress Shop," a women's fashion store.
Another store, located at 132 South Broad Street (Table C. 11), was "Jay's
Babyland" in the 1940s, as shown on the Nirenstein retail atlas map of 1947
(Figure A. 37b). The Nirenstein maps are valuable since they identify both
property owners and lessees,
and further specify the wide variety of goods that could be purchased on the Assunpink Block. In the late 1930s the store located at 132 South Broad Street sold floor coverings, as indicated on a tax assessor's photograph from this period (Plate B. 20). In 1878, the Assunpink Improvement Association sold 134 South Broad Street to Daniel Forst, who erected a four story
brick building on the site (Table C. 12). The property was housing a cinema around 1908 (Figure A. 33b). The Sanborn fire insurance maps of 1950 still show a building at this location on the Assunpink Block, directly above the creek, immediately east of the bridge (Figure A. 38c). A tax assessor's photograph taken in the late 1950s shows this structure housing the Curtain Paradise Shop (Plate B. 21).
In the early 20th century, on the north bank of the Assunpink, at the corner of South Broad and Lafayette Streets, stood the S. E. Kaufman Department Store, a building that was erected around the turn of the century, on the site of what appear to have been earlier commercial buildings (Plates B. 13-B. 15). This building was later acquired by Hoenig-Swern & Company who
enlarged the business. South of this building, towards the northern end of the bridge, was 127-131 South Broad Street, purchased by John Winter in 1874 from the Assunpink Improvement Association. By the first decade of the 20th century, the Sanborn fire insurance maps and historic photographs indicate that this property was leased to the Lehman & Company Grocers
(Figure A. 33a; Plate B. 14; Table C. 13).
Adjacent to the south was 133 South Broad Street, which originated as a
property sold to Thomas Foulds in 1876 (Table C. 14). A few years earlier
in 1870, a portion of this property had been deeded to the Board of Chosen
Freeholders as an easement (Mercer County Deed 80/ 218). The easement concerned
a narrow piece of land, 16 feet wide and extending from the line of the old
bridge to "the outer face of the wall of new bridge now being built." From
this description it is clear that the bridge was enlarged by 16 feet along
its downstream side. During this period, Henry McCall, the owner of the former
mill property, permitted Foulds to build over his raceway. This property extended
to the northern corner of the buttress built against the southern abutment
of the stone bridge.
The next property adjacent to the south, at 135 South Broad Street, was
retained by Peter Kite until it was conveyed to August Hammer in 1885 (Table
C. 15). Further to the south, 137 South Broad Street, was owned by Levi Furman
until 1881 (Table C. 16). In 1919, an indenture stipulates that these premises
were not to be used for hardware storage for a period of ten years. 139 South
Broad Street, was purchased by Harry Haveson, a real estate speculator, in
1901 (Table C. 17). A portion of Furman and Kite's carpenter shop became 141
South Broad Street (Table C. 18). Circa 1874, a brick storehouse was
erected on the
property while a portion served as a driveway for the carpenter shop located west of the structure.
J. MILL HILL ALONG THE ASSUNPINK CREEK IN THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES
The neighborhood today known as Mill Hill began to take shape in the period immediately before and immediately following the Revolutionary War as the major landowners in the area south of the Assunpink Creek -principally the owners of the Trent House property -began to subdivide and sell off land for residential, commercial and industrial development (Figures A. 10-A. 13). Both Mill Hill and Bloomsbury began to emerge as distinct communities on the edge of Trenton during this period, divided by the swale known as Douglass Gut which drained southeast into the Delaware between Lamberton Street and the Trent House. Present-day South Broad and Market Streets provided the main axes for development within Mill Hill. The Assunpink Creek effectively served as the northern border of the neighborhood, but also functioned as an extremely important corridor for water-powered industrial development.
As the industrial facilities emerged along the Assunpink in the first half
of the 19th century, so also did the residential growth gradually begin to
envelop the high ground centered on the crossroads of South Broad and Market
Streets. The construction in the early 1830s of the Trenton Delaware Falls
Company's canal, later known as the Trenton Water Power, drew most of the
industrial development to its banks, making the area around the intersection
of the canal and the Assunpink one of three prime nodes where manufacturing
facilities could be implanted (Figure A. 14). The other two foci of industrial
development lay further downstream along the canal on the banks of the Delaware:
in Bloomsbury along a branch raceway that was added to the canal as a new
design element in the mid-1830s; and around the canal's terminus, just above
the mouth of Douglass Gut on the former John B. Sartori property. In large
part because of the influence of the canal, the development of Bloomsbury
proceeded at somewhat more of a rapid pace than in Mill Hill in the
second quarter of the 19th century (Figure A. 15).
In 1838, the City of Trenton (which had in the preceding year absorbed what
still remained of Trenton Township) and Nottingham Township, contained respectively
within the Counties of Hunterdon and Burlington, were set off as part of the
newly created Mercer County. The need both for this new county entity and
for an end to the bi-county status of Trenton became inevitable as the full
force of the Industrial Revolution now began to be felt in the greater Trenton
area. In 1840, the Mill Hill area was placed within the newly constituted
Borough of South Trenton, a short-lived municipality that was formed from
Township; eleven years later the Borough of South Trenton was annexed by the City of Trenton (Snyder 1969).
The intensifying flow of traffic along South Broad Street and the construction
of the new Mercer County Courthouse in 1839 at the corner of South Broad and
Market Streets, helped to redress the balance of development between Bloomsbury
and Mill Hill, and by the mid-19th century the latter community was expanding
rapidly as a residential community. During this period, new homes were being
built especially in the Jackson Street/ Mercer Street area to the east of
South Broad Street, and the new residents began to view the mill pond on the
Assunpink upstream from the South Broad Street crossing as a recreational
opportunity for boating, fishing and ice skating (Plate B. 22). It was this
same phenomenon that led to the creation of Washington's Retreat on the south
shore of the mill pond in the mid-1840s (see below).
Gradually, the northward expansion of Mill Hill coalesced with the outward
growth of Trenton's downtown. Additional streets were laid out, residential
sub-division accelerated and more industrial and commercial enterprises were
established, both along the major thoroughfares and the Assunpink corridor
(Figures A. 17-A. 21). In the late 1840s, a frame bridge was constructed across
the mill pond to carry Montgomery Street southward into Mill Hill, although
flooding continued to be a hazard along the Assunpink Valley. A freshet in
1866 raised the waters of the Assunpink by six feet, washing away this bridge
as well as a platform bridge at the Wilson Woolen Mill on Factory Street (Trenton
Sunday Times-Advertiser, 12 February 1866). A new double span stone bridge,
designed by Trenton architect Henry E. Finch, was erected at the South Montgomery
Street crossing in 1873, a structure that has withstood subsequent floods
and remains in use today (Plate B. 23).
The destruction and demolition of the McCall Paper Mill in the early 1870s
not only opened the door to enlarging the South Broad Street bridge over the
Assunpink and the creation of the Assunpink Block, but also led to the filling
and development of the mill pond (Figures A. 22-A. 27). Floods continued,
however, culminating in a particularly devastating torrent that poured down
the Assunpink in late September of 1882. The riverbank on either side of the
South Montgomery Street bridge was swept away, while the cellars in buildings
on the Assunpink Block were flooded. A large barn on the south bank of the
creek within the block was also destroyed and the floodwaters weakened the
piers supporting the Assunpink Block, especially under "Prior's Row" on the
western side of the bridge. While the dam for the Wilson Woolen Mill prevented
debris from smashing into the block, it still caused a tremendous volume of
water to crash against the foundations. Indeed, local newspapers blamed the
high dam for exacerbating the overflow and heavy damage (Daily True American,
September 26, 1882).
The filling of the mill pond eventually permitted the construction of yet
another bridge across the Assunpink at Jackson Street, where a Pratt truss
structure fabricated in wrought and cast iron by the South Trenton-based New
Jersey Steel and Iron Company, was erected in 1888 in place of a privately-owned
footbridge that occupied the former site of Washington's Retreat (Plate B.
24) (Podmore, September 14, 1957). The installation of this bridge may have
resulted in a modification of the problematic Wilson dam, which fire insurance
maps of 1890 (Figures A. 28b and 29d) appear to show as being integrated with
the bridge support system. The dam fed a raceway that ran parallel to the
south bank of the creek beneath the Assunpink Block to the woolen mill located
on Factory Street.
Increasing traffic and population density in Trenton necessitated other
transportation improvements beyond new streets and bridges. In 1876, the City
Railway Company, incorporated a year before, was authorized to construct a
horse-car line running from the city limits to Perry Street, proceeding along
North and South Broad Streets and continuing to the Chambersburg borough line.
The double track was completed in August of 1876 (Trenton Historical Society
1929: 292). This line is visible on several late 19th-and early 20th-century
maps of the area (Figures A. 28-A. 31). As the cars heading north approached
hill at North and South Broad and East Lafayette Streets, an additional horse or mule usually needed to be attached to the car in order to tow it up the incline.
Lewis Perrine later acquired the City Railway Company and the Trenton Horse
Railroad Company and incorporated the lines as the Trenton Passenger Railway.
In 1892, the network was electrified and branched off to surrounding towns.
Many residents, however, did not want the horse cars replaced and claimed
that the cars would be unable to climb the Broad Street hill. The new electrified
cars initially ran only along North and South Broad, Perry and Centre Streets.
By 1894, many of the remaining street railway lines had been updated. The
lines were in a steady decline by the 1920s as a result of the widespread
adoption of the automobile and the impact of the Great Depression (Trenton
Public Library, Trentoniana Collection, vertical files).
Mill Hill had by this time already peaked in terms of its residential development.
While the area was still welcoming new businesses and industrial enterprise
well into the 1930s, it became less residential, both as a result of a decline
in the amount of available space for new homes and the flight of inner city
residents to the suburbs. In place of Mill Hill, areas such as Chambersburg
and Hamilton were now drawing the bulk of the area's new inhabitants and homebuilding
(Old Mill Hill Society 1991). The built-out character of the downstream section
of the study area is clearly apparent in an early aerial photograph of downtown
Trenton taken in the 1924 (Plate B. 25). This view shows both banks of the
Assunpink between South Broad and South Warren Streets lined with buildings,
mostly large industrial structures. Three-and four-story buildings line the
South Broad Street frontages of the Assunpink Block, the lower stories of
most of these structures used for commercial purposes, the upper stories occupied
by offices and residents.
The Assunpink Creek stream corridor, however, was still beset by flooding
problems, a situation not helped by the declining use and maintenance of the
water-powered industries along its course. A flood in 1903, for example, carried
away the approaches to the South Broad Street bridge (Trenton Sunday Times
Advertiser 1903). In 1906, the only active mill along this stretch of
the creek, the Alryan Woolen Mill on Factory Street, was sold and the building
was put to other commercial enterprises that no longer required the use of
The changing character of the creek margins and ongoing threat from floods
caused the city to think in terms of turning the valley itself into a park.
Also in 1906, the Olmsted brothers were commissioned to plan a park along
the Assunpink Creek (Figure A. 32), although the plan was not implemented.
Around this time, the flume channel that supplied water to the woolen
mill on Factory Street became partially filled in. In 1936, the Mercer County
Engineer's Office, considering the condition of the South Broad Street bridge,
produced plans of the old flume under the South Broad Street Bridge (Figure
A. 36). These drawings
show that at least part of the old flume channel survived beneath the Assunpink Block. Additionally, these plans document the two arches and the stone piers extending upstream and downstream from the bridge to weight of the rows of buildings above.
In the late 1940s, the Assunpink Block was still largely intact as a commercial
streetscape, as shown by the Nirenstein realty maps (Figure A. 37a and 37b).
Two major department stores – Swern's (in the southwest angle of the South
Broad Street/ East Lafayette Street intersection) and Goldberg's (in the southeast
angle of the South Broad Street/ East Front Street intersection)
– effectively served as anchor stores for the block for most of the first half of the 20th century. By 1947, however, these two stores had swapped locations and the first gaps in the Assunpink Block had begun to appear. Between 1947 and 1950, buildings set directly over the creek on the upstream side of the South Broad Street bridge were pulled down, following a fire (Figure A. 38a and 38c).
The commercial viability of the Assunpink Block and surrounding section
of Mill Hill waned rapidly through the 1950s and 1960s, and led to the periodic
demolition of buildings. Buildings on the downstream side of the Assunpink
block were mostly
demolished in the 1960s and in 1972 the now defunct Goldberg's/ Swern's department store at the corner of South Broad and East Front Streets was razed (Plate B. 26). This latter event occurred as a prelude to the creation of Mill Hill Park, which was created in the early 1970s to stem the tide of urban decay and celebrate the site of the Second Battle of Trenton (Quigley
and Collier 1984: 108). The park project included extensive filling and landscaping, the repair of masonry along the creek, the construction of a small outdoor amphitheater close to the site of Washington's Retreat and the refurbishment (and taking out of active service) of the Jackson Street bridge. The park was officially dedicated in June of 1973. Along with the creation
of the relatively formal park area upstream from the South Broad Street crossing, the section of the valley floor downstream has also been extensively reconfigured down to the mouth of the creek. The stream has been placed underground in a culvert, the surrounding area has been filled and landscaped, and several large New Jersey State office buildings have been subsequently erected.
K. SOME MILL HILL LANDMARKS ALONG THE ASSUNPINK CREEK
The focus of this study has been largely on the South Broad Street crossing of the Assunpink Creek and on properties and historic features ranged along the sides of the creek, especially the industrial facilities extending downstream toward South Warren Street. In and around the edges of the area of study area (some within the defined limits; some just outside) are several
properties of historic interest. A selection of these properties is outlined in this final section of the chapter. Deliberately excluded from this selection are the Douglass House and the statue of George Washington in Douglas Place, both of which have been moved relatively recently to Mill Hill Park and whose histories are well documented (e. g., Greiff and Ashton 1976).
Jonathan Richmond's Tavern (the True American Inn)
A prominent early 19th-century landmark in the Mill Hill vicinity, located just outside the area of study on the east side of South Broad Street, was the True American Inn. These premises, originally constructed in 1760 and known for many years as Jonathan Richmond's tavern, stood to the south of the old mill next to the bakery of George Bright (Plate B. 27). On the morning of January 2, 1777, the day of the Second Battle of Trenton, General Washington briefly used the tavern for his headquarters. Although he also intended to hold a council of war there later the same day, he instead convened this meeting at the Douglass
House due to the proximity of British cannon to Jonathan Richmond's premises. The two-story frame building was enlarged into a three-story dwelling when the sidewalks along Greene Street were cut down in 1839, but four years later the entire property
was destroyed by fire. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the site of the True American Inn was redeveloped as part of the Assunpink Block, and supported part of the row of storefronts that extended north over the Assunpink Creek and adjoining land (Trenton Historical Society 1929: 169, 178, 329).
In the 1840s, Andrew Quintin, a former railroad passenger conductor, purchased property between South Montgomery and South Broad Streets on the south bank of the Assunpink Creek. In 1846, Quintin terraced the riverbank, which here comprised the edge of the mill pond serving the complex of mills around the Greene Street/ South Broad Street crossing, and set about creating a resort which he named "Washington's Retreat" in honor of Washington's maneuvers in this area following the Second Battle of Trenton. During the landscaping, it was reported that many Revolutionary War relics were uncovered, including bullets, cannon balls and the body of a man who had possibly been a soldier. Furthermore, when a chestnut tree was cut down, a number of bullets were discovered in the wood. At this time, the garden could be entered from South Broad Street south of the bridge, at the foot of Jackson Street and at Livingston Street. The main entrance on South Broad Street across from Factory Street had an elaborate wooden archway (Trenton Historical Society 1929: 821-822).
A contemporary newspaper commentary noted that Quintin transformed the "bleak
and rugged margin of the Assanpink" into a beautiful garden (State Gazette,
June 2, 1855). The retreat was evidently a pleasant locale with spacious
grounds, lush greenery, winding gravel paths and a fountain. There was a saloon
on the terraced grounds, along with several brown and green pavilions, that
provided refreshments. The saloon, referred to as the mansion, was set back
from the riverbank, and surrounded with antique chairs and benches. The retreat
also contained a rifle gallery, public baths, a bowling alley and an ice cream
On the riverbank, across from Captain Casper Martino's, visitors could board one of the many pleasure boats which plied the millpond during the summer. In winter, the frozen pond surface made Washington's Retreat an enjoyable venue for ice skating (Trenton Historical Society 1929: 821-822).
Several maps and views show Washington's Retreat during its heyday, which
extended from the late 1840s into the early 1870s. The map of Henry McCall's
property, prepared in 1849 (Figure A. 17), shows the facility at an early
stage of its development. The "Washington Baths" were situated on the edge
of the mill pond at the end of Jackson Street, while a long thin rectangular
structure was ranged along bank just to the east, immediately downstream from
the foot-bridge that linked Livingston and South Montgomery Streets. This
latter structure, fronted by a boardwalk, and the footbridge are both visible
in a photograph taken around 1850 (Plate B. 28) and the detailed view engraved
by Edwin Whitefield in 1856 (Plate B. 29). Washington's Retreat is also depicted
in a somewhat more developed form on maps of the City of Trenton prepared
in 1849 (Figures A. 18 and A. 19) and circa 1858 (Figure A. 20). Another,
slightly later photograph, taken around 1860, shows the resort as seen from
the South Broad Street crossing of the Assunpink with the mill dam in the
foreground (Plate B. 30), while an advertisement published by proprietor Andrew
Quentin around 1870 focuses primarily on the ice cream garden and the bowling
saloon (Plate B. 31). The photograph included in the advertisement
may have been taken around the time that the South Broad Street span was remodeled,
since there appears to be a temporary railing on the bridge and a heap of
rubble on the bridge towards its southern end.
The popular pleasure garden proved costly to maintain, however, and the
land surrounding the mill pond was open to extreme development pressure from
local business interests. The resort catered to the public at least through
1870, but the destruction of the mill by fire in 1872, subsequent removal
of the mill dam and filling of the millpond most likely spelled the end of
the enterprise. By 1878, the site of the retreat and most of the mill pond
periphery were covered with new buildings (Trenton Historical Society 1929:
821- 822; Brower 1911).
Temperance Hall, one of Trenton's first show houses, was erected in 1851. It stood in the southeast angle of the intersection of Greene/ South Broad and Front Streets. The hall offered wholesome family entertainment that was intended as an alternative to the widespread patronage of local saloons. Consumption of alcoholic beverages was prohibited on the premises. The three-story brick building contained a large meeting room and three stores. The auditorium, located on the second floor, hosted lectures, dances and bazaars. Shows at Temperance Hall were first comprised of minstrel song-and-dance routines and small-scale dramas, but the facility later offered more elaborate and impressive productions. A school operated on the first floor in one of the stores (Trenton Historical Society 1929: 763, 822-823 and 872).
A late 19th-century view depicts the front of the three-story building (Plate
B. 32) and the first detailed cartographic depiction is given by the Beers
Map of the City of Trenton in 1870 (Figure A. 22). The hall was purchased
in 1889 and then remodeled and converted into a printing plant by Albert Brandt.
In 1906, the property was acquired by Isaac Goldberg who established
Goldberg's department store on the site. This store is shown under Goldberg ownership on many subsequent maps of the city up until the late 1940s, when the building then became occupied by Swern's department store (e. g., Figures A. 33b, A. 37b and
A. 38a). The store was demolished in the early 1970s during the construction of Mill Hill Park (Plate B. 26).
Turner Hall/ Van Sciver's Furniture Store
Turner Hall, a well-known meeting place for German-Americans in the late 19th century, was situated just outside the study area on the east side of South Broad Street, south of the Assunpink crossing. The Socialer Turnverein of Trenton was organized in 1855 and, up until 1872, made use of various premises throughout the city for their meetings. In this year, the Socialer Turnverein purchased the property in question on South Broad Street, which at that time already contained a brick dwelling house.
The Robinson and Pidgeon map of Trenton in 1881 (Figure A. 25b) apparently
shows this structure, but marks as "Turners Hall" a much larger building set
further to the rear of the property. The same building continued to be identified
as Turner Hall on later 19th-century fire insurance maps (Figures A. 27a,
A. 28b and A. 29c). The Sanborn fire insurance map of 1890, for example, depicts
a large saloon and a beer garden on the property, overseen by Captain Michael
Gaiser. Several structures are shown on the property at this time, among them
perhaps all or part of the original brick dwelling. It appears that the site
underwent a major redevelopment right around this time, since a new hall was
dedicated in 1891. Early 20th-century maps (Figures A. 31b, A. 33b and A.
34a) depict an entirely different structure on the property, which would tend
to support this rebuilding phase (Trenton
Historical Society 1929: 892).
Throughout the late 19th century, there was a strong German-American contingent in Mill Hill and rallies and other events were frequently held at Turner Hall. The Socialer Turnverein hosted numerous masquerade balls, parties and gymnastic exhibitions. Among some of the other more specific events were a reception held for Civil War veteran, Major General Franz Sigel, and a large bicentennial celebration held in the 1880s to mark the beginning of German immigration into the United States (Cleary, 29 October 1933).
The Socialer Turnverein maintained ownership of the property until 1911,
and the hall continues to be shown on city maps up until 1930 (e. g., Figure
A. 35c). In 1931, the Van Sciver Company purchased the property with the intention
of expanding their large furniture store operation using local Trenton labor
(Cleary, October 29, 1933). Turner Hall was demolished and in its place was
erected the large granite three-story Norman Revival building that still stands
on the site today (Plate B. 33) (Zink 1989). The Van Sciver Company maintained
their furniture business at 160- 168 South Broad Street up until 1975, specializing
in manufacture and sale of reproduction colonial furniture (Parker 1982).
Washington Market was located on the west side of South Broad Street between East Lafayette and East Front Streets. The market was opened in 1870 on the site of what was known as "Barton's Row," a series of small buildings, constructed by Henry Barton, that included a sash and blind factory and a cigar factory. Among the incorporators of the market were the Moore brothers, Charles and Imlah, who maintained the flour mill and oil on Factory Street (see above). At the time of its opening, East Lafayette Street was known as Washington Street, hence the market's name. A statue of George Washington was presented to the Washington Market and was placed on the Greene Street/ South Broad Street frontage. Washington Street was renamed Lafayette Street in 1889 (Woodward and Hageman 1883: 673; Trenton Historical Society 1929).
Beginning with the Beers map of 1870 (Figure A. 22), the market is depicted
on the full sequence of late 19th-and early 20th-century maps covering the
downtown (e. g., Figures A. 24a, A. 25a, A. 27c, A. 29b, A. 31a, A. 33a and
A. 34a). On many of the earlier maps and in the bird's eye view of 1872 (Figure
A. 23), it appears as a distinctive four-sided enclosed structure with an
interior courtyard where stalls could be assembled and disassembled. Later,
the entire area is shown as being enclosed. The first floor of the market
contained 209 stalls and a restaurant, while the second housed a spacious
auditorium, dubbed "Washington Hall," that was opened by the local Temperance
Society. The cost of the market's construction was considerable, amounting
to more than $100,000 (Lee 1895). The building was also periodically used
as a drilling headquarters by the local militia. It was finally demolished
in 1928 and replaced with another commercial premises (Trenton Courier,
May 10, 1928).
The Trenton Atheneum, a theater that was used for the presentation of dramas and farces in the second half of the 19th century, was situated on the south side of East Front Street, roughly midway between South Montgomery Street and the short-lived northward extension of Jackson Street across the Assunpink Creek to East Front Street. The building, apparently erected in the early to mid-1850s, is first shown on the Lamborn map of Trenton, prepared circa 1858 (Figure A. 20). It was reportedly erected on the site of David Quintin's equestrian academy. In 1864, the facility was purchased by Valentine, John and George Bechtel, who established the Bechtel Hall playhouse at this location. Bechtel Hall is depicted on the Beers map of 1870 (Figure A. 22) and is visible in the bird's eye view of 1872 (Figure A. 23). A bar was located on the premises and the theater continued as a prominent attraction. The noted hall hosted a gubernatorial convention around this time as well as several receptions that welcomed home returning Civil War soldiers. In the late 1860s the hall was also rented for meetings by members of the Potters Union (Trenton Historical Society 1929: 823).
By 1881, as shown on the Robinson and Pidgeon map of that year, the property
was home to Cole & Taylor wholesale grocers, who may have conducted their
business from the original theater/ hall building (Figure A. 25c). This use
continued until at least 1890, as evidenced by fire insurance maps of that
year (Figures A. 28b and A. 29d). By 1908, the well-known sign printing firm
of R. C. Maxwell & Co. occupied this property – again, judging by the
building footprint shown on the Sanborn fire insurance map of that year (Figure
A. 33b), still possibly using the building that had served as the hall and
theater. By 1927, an entirely new structure was present on the site (Figure
A. 34b), which, in 1930, was occupied by Martin C. Ribsam & Sons garden
shop (Figure A. 35b). This structure survived into the second half of the
20th century, but was demolished in advance of the creation of Mill Park in
the early 1970s.