Mill Hill History - Early 20th Century
In the early 20th Century, Trenton was the economic, social, and political center of west-central New Jersey. Princeton was a small college town. Lawrence, Hamilton, Ewing, and surrounding suburbs were largely agrarian.
The 200 Block of South Broad Street in 1916.
Trenton was an industrial center of international importance. The Roebling Steel works was in full swing, spinning the wire rope used to construct most of the major suspension bridges erected in the US, including the Golden Gate and George Washington Bridges. Trenton was also the principal centre of the pottery and ceramic industry in the United States, turning out products ranging from ceramic insulators, to bathroom fixtures, to fine china.
Waves of immigrants settled in Trenton, and in the Mill Hill. By the 1920 census, 52% of the city's population were foreign born or were born in the US to foreign-born parents. Approximately 12,000 (10%) were Jewish, and and many had settled in Mill Hill. It remained a signficant Jewish neighborhood until well into the 1940s, when many Jews begain moving out to the western wards.
The Labor Lyceum building on Mercer Street was built bythe "Arbeiter Ring", a Jewish fraternal organization that was active in the labor movement, built in 1916. Their "AR" logo is still preserved in the marquee above the entrance and in the facade.
Broad Street was a fashionable shopping strip for Mercer County, with exclusive mens and womens' clothing stores.
After the 1920s, and throughout the great depression, many Trenton manufacturing plants were purchased by out of town owners, as part of a national trend towards consolidation. This began the economic decline of Trenton, which was slowed by WWII and the post-war boom economies. Roebling Steel was one of the last of the great Trenton enterprises to be sold, in 1953, to the Colorado Fuel and Iron Co.
Slowly but surely in the post-WWII economy, American manufacturing in the NE US declined. New investment went out of town, often to low wage, non-unionized states; and most manufacturing ultimately moved overseas. With national policies that favored the development of suburbs over center-cities, Trenton's role as the social and retail center of the area also declined. Nationally, the "shopping mall" replaced "main street" as the predominant setting for retailing and entertainment, and Trenton suffered along with virtually every other center city in the NE US.
The Assunpink Creek in Mill Hill -
published by the
Trenton Historical Society
Read the unabridged
Mill Hill History
written by members of OMHS, from which this account is adapted.
A comprehensive history of Trenton from its founding to 1929, originally published by the Trenton Historical Society is online
What did your house in Mill Hill
look like in the 1930's?
Find out by browsing our collection of Tax Photos from the Trentoniana Room of the Trenton Public Libarary.
Then and Now:
Side by Side Photos of Mill Hill Scenes