A. PROJECT BACKGROUND AND SCOPE-OF-WORK
This report presents the results of a cultural resource study carried out for a section of the Assunpink Creek stream corridor in the Mill Hill neighborhood of the City of Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey (Figures A. 1 and A. 2). The work was performed for the Old Mill Hill Society with the assistance of a grant provided by the New Jersey Historical Commission. This study is intended as an important first step in the compilation of a comprehensive body of historical and archaeological information that can inform future historic landscape analysis and historically sensitive development of the Assunpink Creek stream corridor within Trenton's revitalizing urban core.
The area of study straddles both sides of the Assunpink Creek and extends
eastward and upstream from South Warren Street to South Montgomery Street
(Figure A. 3; Plate
B. 1). South Broad Street divides the area into two roughly equal portions.
In the western portion the Assunpink Creek flows in an underground culvert
below modern fill materials, while to the east and upstream of South Broad
Street the creek still runs energetically over a rocky river bed. Described
more specifically, the limits of the study area are as follows: beginning
at the South Montgomery Street bridge; south along South Montgomery Street
to Livingston Street; west along Livingston Street to Jackson Street; continuing
west along the bluff rim from the Livingston Street/ Jackson Street intersection
to the South Broad Street/ Factory Street intersection; southwest along Factory
Street to South Warren Street; north along South Warren Street to East Lafayette
Street; east along East Lafayette Street to South Broad Street; north along
South Broad Street to East Front Street; east along East Front Street to South
Montgomery Street; south along South Montgomery Street to the South Montgomery
The South Broad Street crossing of the Assunpink Creek has been a pivotal
point in the landscape throughout the prehistory and history of the Middle
Delaware Valley. This location served as an important fording point on the
Assunpink within the regional Native American trail network. Trenton's origins
as a colonial settlement and market town also derive from this critical river
crossing point, and the first large industrial structure in the embryonic
Quaker settlement at the Falls of the Delaware -Mahlon Stacy's gristmill –
was erected here in the late 1670s. Throughout the colonial period, the gristmill
at this location drove the growth of Trenton as market town.
The area of study also includes substantial portions of the site of the
Second Battle of Trenton, fought on January 2, 1777. Overshadowed both by
the more famous first battle a few days earlier, and by the Battle of Princeton
on the day following, this engagement was nevertheless an important one from
a short-term strategic standpoint. British forces approaching the bridge over
the Assunpink from the north were unable to reach and dislodge the American
forces drawn up on the rising ground of Mill Hill on the south side of the
creek. British frontal assaults across the bridge and at other points on the
Creek were repulsed by Washington's troops, who inflicted heavy casualties
on the British. Washington extricated the American army the following night,
inflicted further losses on the British on the next day, and soon after reached
secure winter quarters in Morristown.
The mill and the battle site are the best-known features of the study area, but this section of the city has an extremely complex and continuous land use history extending from circa 1680 to the present day. Trenton's first true steps toward embracing the Industrial Revolution were taken along this stretch of the Assunpink, where its water power supported the growth of an early textile industry in the first half of the 19th century. Land here has since been developed and redeveloped many times over for industrial purposes, and the immediately surrounding area has experienced an equally complicated sequence of residential,
commercial and public recreational usage.
The scope-of-work for this study focused primarily on background and archival
research and the production of this report. Initially, all relevant existing
historical information was assembled from past work in this portion of the
city (see below, Section D of this chapter, for further detail). Another important
component of the initial research was to coordinate with key individuals knowledgeable
about the history of the Mill Hill area, while standard secondary sources
on the history of Trenton were also consulted early on during the background
research phase of the study. In addition to the lengthy second chapter in
this report, which provides a synthetic historical narrative, another useful
outcome of this work has been the compilation of a comprehensive sequence
of historic maps and images for the study area, which provides a valuable
graphic overview of the development of the area through time (Appendices A
The main thrust of the background research, however, involved carefully
targeted primary archival research into land records and other documents in
order to establish the chain of title for properties immediately surrounding
the South Broad Street crossing of the Assunpink Creek. This research was
expanded as needed to provide a full understanding of the relationship between
the various water-powered industrial sites and the creek. Chains of title
for the principal properties along the creek are tabulated in Appendix C.
To interpret and better understand the archival information being generated
through this study, some limited fieldwork was performed as part of this study.
This work involved careful surface inspection of the study area with particular
reference to visible surface evidence of historic land use, such as foundations,
remains in the creek bed, historic property lines, etc.
B. THE BROADER CONTEXT FOR THE STUDY
There are several recent and ongoing historic preservation and planning initiatives, conducted variously at the federal, state, county and local levels, that are relevant both to the study reported on here and to the long-term management and preservation of historic resources in the Mill Hill area.
At the federal level, the National Park Service, with ample state and local
input, is coordinating studies for the proposed Crossroads of the American
Revolution National Heritage Area (National Park Service, Northeast Region,
Philadelphia Support Office 2002). Trenton falls within the boundaries of
both alternatives for this National Heritage Area, and Mill Hill Park should
benefit from envisaged programs and financial resources stemming from this
proposed designation. In addition, the National Park Service's American Battlefield
Protection Program, which provides technical assistance and grants for the
planning and preservation of battlefield sites, is potentially relevant to
the current study.
Also significant at the federal level are several ongoing initiatives being undertaken under the auspices of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of its efforts to revitalize the nation's brownfields. This agency is coordinating closely with the City of Trenton's Department of Economic Development in the course of these activities, which include the provision of planning and support for Trenton's Assunpink Creek Park project and funding for studies at other locations within the Assunpink Corridor in Trenton.
Considerable planning activity has also been invested by a number of state, county and local organizations in a proposed Assunpink Creek Greenway that would extend through Monmouth and Mercer Counties to the confluence of the Assunpink and the Delaware River on the Trenton waterfront. Among the most significant of these interrelated programs are the Central Delaware Tributaries Watershed Management Area project of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, an Army Corps of Engineers Flood Control and Environmental Restoration Study of the Assunpink Creek within the City of Trenton and a Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and Delaware and Raritan Canal Greenway joint planning study.
The proposed Assunpink Creek Greenway is but a single element in a larger
network of greenways and open space set-asides envisioned for the region.
A short distance to the west of Mill Hill Park, the proposed Assunpink Creek
Greenway will tie into a state (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
[NJDEP], Green Acres Program and New Jersey Department of Transportation)
and federally (National Park Service and Federal Highway Administration) sponsored
project which would create a riverfront bikeway and greenway extending from
above the village of Stockton, in Hunterdon County, New Jersey
into southern Burlington County. Much of this route makes use of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park corridor.
The City of Trenton in coordination with the U. S. Environmental Protection
Agency is currently in the process of developing plans for an Assunpink Creek
Park of 100+ acres to be located within the bounds of the City of Trenton,
just upstream from the current study area. Preparation of a park Master Plan
document is ongoing. The city has also issued a request for proposal for renovations
to Mill Hill Park early in 2002. Other local initiatives possibly affecting
the park and study area are a preservation plan for the Douglass House, proposals
for new development in the area of the Stacy Mill site by the Economic Development
Corporation for Trenton (EDCT), and current studies by the New Jersey Department
of Transportation and Mercer County on the future of the South Broad Street
C. CURRENT HISTORIC DESIGNATION STATUS
Most of the eastern half of the study area lies within the Mill Hill Historic District, which was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in December 1977 (Figure A. 3; Greiff and Ashton 1976).
Four bridges cross the Assunpink Creek within the study area, two of which
lie entirely within the limits of the Mill Hill Historic District. These two
structures are: the Jackson Street bridge, a Pratt truss structure erected
in 1888; and the South Montgomery Street bridge, erected in 1873. Both were
briefly addressed in 1978 in the survey entitled An Inventory of Historic
Engineering & Industrial Sites, Trenton, N. J. (Abramson and Karschner
1978). The Jackson Street Bridge is itemized in the National Register of Historic
Places nomination documentation for the Mill Hill Historic District and is
considered a contributing element to this formally designated entity. The
South Montgomery Street bridge is also considered a contributing resource
within the Mill Hill National Register Historic District and was evaluated
as being individually eligible by New Jersey Bridge Survey in 1994 (A. G.
Lichtenstein & Associates 1994). The South Montgomery Street bridge was
also formally determined to be individually eligible for listing on the National
Register in a follow-up New Jersey Historic Preservation Office (NJHPO) opinion
of March 12, 2001.
The South Broad Street bridge lies partly within but mostly outside the
Mill Hill Historic District. The district boundary is drawn to follow the
eastern curb line of the roadway on the bridge, thus placing the eastern facade
of the bridge structures within the district. However, this bridge has also
been separately determined eligible for listing in the National Register of
Historic Places as a result of an NJHPO opinion given on May 31, 1980. This
opinion stemmed from a cultural resource study performed for the South Broad
Street bridge in connection with a rehabilitation project that was subject
to NJHPO review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act
(Springsted 1979). Its eligibility was reaffirmed by the New Jersey Historic
Bridge Survey (A. G. Lichtenstein & Associates 1994). The fourth bridge,
the span that carries South Warren Street over the Assunpink, has not been
the subject of a historic designation or evaluation and is of relatively modern
date (i. e., less than 50 years old).
D. PREVIOUS RESEARCH AND PRINCIPAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION
In addition to the National Register nomination and historic site survey research referenced in the preceding section, two other relevant historical and archaeological studies have also focused on portions of the park. In 1983, limited archaeological investigations were undertaken within the park boundaries in connection with a relatively minimal program of rehabilitation implemented with NJDEP Office of Green Acres assistance at that time (Fittipaldi 1983). A discussion of the history and significance of the South Broad Street bridge and the Stacy mill site, including a proposal for restoration of the area as a gateway to Trenton's "capital district," was prepared in 1990 (Stone 1990). Currently, Hunter Research is nearing completion of a study being performed in connection with structural and engineering analyses of the South Broad Street bridge being undertaken by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and Mercer County.
Several other broader-based cultural resource and historical surveys in
the study area vicinity provide useful background data. These include the
historic sites survey of the South Ward (Zink 1989) and the historical documentation
and planning study prepared for the William Trent House (Susan Maxman Architects
1997). Investigations for the recently completed Marriott Conference Hotel
at Lafayette Yard also generated research pertinent to this study (Hunter
Research, Inc. 1998a). The history of the City of Trenton has been the subject
of numerous publications and dissertations of varying age and quality (e.
g., Raum 1871; Trenton Historical Society 1929; Toothman 1977; Quigley and
Collier 1984; Burrow and Hunter 1996), all of which have been used during
the current work. Likewise, there are several standard texts dealing with
the Battles of Trenton and the Revolutionary War (e. g., Stryker 1898; Smith
1965, 1967; Lundin 1972; Rice and Brown 1972) that have been consulted.
This study has made extensive use of primary sources (many of them unpublished), in particular land records, census and tax data, newspaper accounts, historic maps and historic photographs. The numerous historic maps and images of Trenton that exist from the late 18th century onwards provide an invaluable source for tracing the development of the project area. The main repositories of historical information that have been visited are the New Jersey State Archives, the New Jersey State Library, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Burlington County Historical Society, the Mercer County Courthouse and, last but not least, the Trenton Free Public Library (Trentoniana Collection)., whose staff – most notably, Wendy Nardi – have assisted our research at every twist and turn.