Victory Parade

Chapter 1

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 Street bridge.

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 and B).

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.

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 bridge.

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).

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.

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