Mill Hill History

Mill Hill Historic District History
The Stacy's and The Trents
Assunpink Mill & Bridge at Trent's Mill
Douglass House
The Battle of the Assunpink
Industrial Development
Commercial Development
Residential Development 
Mill Hill Historic District

Historic Significance

Although Mill Hill presently survives as a middle-class mid-nineteenth century residential district, its historical significance reaches back to the late seventeenth century. Indeed, its name refers to its importance as the area's first industrial site, a grist mill, erected in 1679. During the American Revolution, the ground adjacent to the mill was, on January 2, 1777, the site of the Second Battle of Trenton.

Mill Hill was among the holdings of the first settler in the vicinity of Trenton, Mahlon Stacy, who arrived at Burlington, New Jersey on the SHIELD in 1678. By November 1679, when he was visited by the Dutch missionaries, Sluyter and Danckers, Stacy had erected a wooden grist mill on the Assunpink, at the southeast corner of the present Broad Street crossing of the creek.

In 1714 this property, along with much of the rest of Stacy's holdings and adjacent lands, was purchased by William Trent of Philadelphia. In the same year, the County of Hunterdon was formed, the Assunpink Creek serving as the boundary between the new county and Burlington to the south. The major eighteenth century development of the town named for Trent took place north of the creek at the head or navigation just below the Falls of the Delaware. Trent himself, however, built his own house south of the creek and replaced Stacy's wooden mill with a more substantial one of stone.

Mill Hill was thus still relatively open ground when Washington chose it as a defensive position. Following the successful American raid on Trenton on Christmas night 1776, Washington withdrew to Pennsylvania. During the following week British troops from New York were sent to Central New Jersey under the command of Lord Cornwallis. Washington, fearful of being trapped in Pennsylvania, crossed again to the New Jersey side of the Delaware. On the night of January 1, he met with his generals at the Douglass House. Already on the National Register as an individual site, this building, after three moves, now stands within the district at the southwest corner of Montgomery and Front Streets. With the British approaching from the north, Washington decided to establish a position on the high ground on the south bank of the Assunpink, in a line stretching from the Delaware approximately a mile up the creek. The objective was to prevent the British from crossing the only bridge, at what is now Broad Street or from fording the creek at other points. On January 2, the Americans repulsed a series of British assaults. When the British encamped for the night on high ground to the north, Washington ordered campfires built up and maintained throughout the night by a rear guard. Meanwhile, Washington, with the main body of the American Army, slipped away by a back road towards Princeton. In a confrontation there with the British rear guard on the morning of January 3, the Americans were victorious. Having managed to elude the British, Washington encamped his army in the mountains around Middlebrook, from which position he was able to control British movements across central New Jersey. The northern perimeter of Mill Hill was thus the site of one of the three major encounters of the ten-day Trenton-Princeton Campaign. A significant portion of this battlefield, between Front and Livingston Streets, and Broad and Montgomery Streets, has been developed by the City of Trenton as a public park (Mill Hill Park).

The commemorative nature of this battle site was recognized by the citizens of Trenton at an early date. On April 21, 1789, when Washington passed through on the way to New York City for his inauguration1 he was greeted at a triumphal arch erected on the bridge over the Assunpink, by a bevy of little girls and young ladies bearing baskets of flowers. Portions of the arch are presently preserved in the Old Barracks and the Trenton Free Public Library.

During the eighteenth century and first decades of the nineteenth, Mill Hill remained relatively undeveloped. At this time, it was not yet a part of the City of Trenton. Variously known as Littleworth, Kingsbury, and Kensington Hill, it was generally thought of as part of a section called Bloomsbury. In 1840, the entire area was incorporated as South Trenton. It was annexed to the City of Trenton in l85l.

The name Mill Hill was applied to the area at least as early as 1821, although as yet relatively little beyond the original mill appears to have been built between Broad Street and the Delaware and Raritan Canal. However, a few streets had been laid out, notably Market Street, Livingston Street, Jackson Street from Market to the Assunpink Creek, and what is now Davis Alley behind the properties on Broad Street.

In the late 1830s and 1840s, the opening of the Delaware and Raritan Canal and the Camden and Arnboy and Philadelphia Raliroads, providing transportation to both New York and Philadelphia evidently served as the impetus for industrial development on the periphery of the district.

By 1849 there were a rope walk, a lime kiln, and factories manufacturing fire brick and candles. By this time the original Stacy grist mill had been rebuilt as a paper mill, and an amusement park called Washington Retreat had been opened north of the mill along the Assunpink. Owned by Andrew Quintin or Quinton, it featured a bowling alley, rifle gallery, soda fountain and baths.

Within this ring of industrial and commercial development, residential construction commenced in the 1840s and 1850s. The Dripps map of 1849 shows several buildings along Broad Street and Market Street up to Jackson, as well as one on Livingston between Mercer and Jackson. By mid-century there were strong feelings about keeping the inner core of Mill Hill residential. On September 20, 1851, the State Gazette reported that a party of men had attacked the rope mill of Rickey and Whittaker on Mercer Street. The newspaper noted that "This street has never been opened except for a short distance south of Market." However, there were a few adjacent property owners who wanted the rope walk removed, maintaining that they had purchased property in 1850 with assurances that this would be done. The rope walk was in fact demolished shortly thereafter.9

Mill Hill grew rapidly as a residential area through the second half of the nineteenth century, with some decline towards the end of the century. City directories for the period list the following number of households: 1854, 128; 1865, 267; 1875, 194; 1885, 259; 1895, 181. The directories also reveal a good deal about the social composition of Mill Hill. Quite clearly, it was a middle class neighborhood. The population was predominantly made up of small tradesmen and skilled industrial workers, with a smattering of professionals. The numbers are fleshed out by information about the activities of some of the men who lived in Mill Hill.

As early as 1849, a millwright and carpenter named John Shield, Sr. lived on Mercer Street.

Along Broad Street between Livingston and Market, in an area now almost totally altered, lived Robert Aitken, a carpenter, who worked on the building of St. Paul's, the New Jersey Steel and Iron Company rolling mill, and the Fisher and Norris Anvil Works. Two contractors, William Johnson and James Hammell, the latter also an architect, also lived in Mill Hill. Aaron Carlisle a Scottish emigrant, built two brick houses, for himself and his son, one of which is 231 Jackson Street. A mason, he worked on the Trenton Gas Works, Trenton Iron Works, the Arms and Ordnance Works (Trenton Iron Company), the first Roebling wire rope works, and the Delaware and Raritan Canal.

Also on Jackson Street, but north of Market, was the home of George Fitzgeorge, a newsdealer. A stone carriage block incised "Fitzgeorge" still stands in front of 122 Jackson Street. Another Jackson Street resident was Howell Quigley, printer and publisher.

Most of the buildings on Mercer Street, with the exception of the Friends Meeting House, were erected in the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Judge George W. Mcpherson recalled, "My father moved with his family from Front Street to Mercer Street in the winter of 1864. Mercer Street at that time was not fully built up. The only house from the Creek to Market Street on the east side was a row of four or five houses in one of which lived Joseph B. Yard. These were probably the buildings at 138-144 Mercer Street. Later the potters James Taylor, Henry Speeler, and William Bloor all lived on Mercer Street.

Market and Broad Streets were then, as now, combined commercial and residential blocks. A market house was erected in Market Street in 1854 and removed in 1874. On Broad Street, the small brick house at 314, where the historian John 0. Raum was born in 1800, became a store later in the nineteenth century. The undertaking establishment at 334 Broad Street was erected for that purpose by James Taylor.

The growth of Mill Hill required an improved road system. New bridges were erected over the Assunpink. A stone bridge, built between 1836 and 1849, connected Montgomery and Mercer Streets. This was surmounted by ornamental cast-iron railings in 1873. The Jackson Street crossing was spanned by a Pratt truss bridge, constructed by the New Jersey Steel and Iron Co. in 1888. In the 1850s sidewalks were required on Jackson, Mercer and Livingston Streets, and a vitrified brick pavement was laid on Jackson Street in the 1890s.

The industrial growth on the periphery of the area also continued. East of Clay Street between the creek and Lewis Street, Bottom and Tiffany had erected an iron works in the 1850s. Later this became Thropp's Machine Works. The buildings of the Trenton Pottery Works, also opened in the 1850s, ran along Taylor Street (present day Greenwood Avenue) from Jackson to Clay.

The last of these plants vanished when the Trenton Freeway was constructed after World War II. What remains, with a few notable exceptions, is a tight-knit group of homogeneous residential structures. Largely built between 1850 and 1895 they are representative of a vernacular interpretation of the popular styles of the second half of the nineteenth century. The prevailing form is the two or three-story, three-bay wide brick row house. To these are applied, depending on the time of construction, simplified late Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, or Eastlake decoration. Their significance is this high degree of cohesiveness, rather than any individual distinction. However, there are buildings and structures within the Mill Hill district that are them-selves worthy of note.

Among them is the Pratt truss bridge over the Assunpink at Jackson Street. This example of a typical late nineteenth century form was manufactured at one of Trenton's most important industrial sites, the rolling mill built by Cooper and Hewitt in 1845. Subsequent to its sale to the United States Steel Company, it continued, as the American Bridge Division, to manufacture and assemble bridge components until 1976. 


The Stacy's & The Trents

by John McCalus

The Stacys

In the winter of 1678, a ship named the Shield sailed up the Delaware River and ended its journey from Hull, England, in Burlington, New Jersey. The Shield's passengers waited out winter in Burlington until spring thaw when they traveled up river to their new home in West Jersey, at the Falls of the Delaware.

These Friends of Yorkshire had purchased land from William Penn in 1676, in what was then known as the "upper tenth" of West Jersey. Among the 234 who sailed from Hull were Thomas Potts, William Emley, Thomas and John Lambert, and Mahlon Stacy Many of them brought their families on the perilous sixteen-week voyage.

In 1679, Yorkshire Quaker Mahlon Stacy started the Fall's first permanent settlement for Quakers wishing to avoid religious persecution in their English homeland. One of Stacy's first actions, after constructing a wooden home, was to build a grist-mill on the southern bank of the Assunpink Creek, which he completed in 1780. The creek was also known throughout that colonial period as the "River Derwent," "St. Pink" and "Assanpink."

The Stacy Family lived in the clapboard house adjoining the mill for some time before he built Dorehouse, near what is now the site of the Trent House. At Dorehouse, his more lavish home, Stacy ran the affairs of his eight-hundred-acre estate, tended to the needs of the settlers, and expanded his business to include shipping grain and meal from the Falls.

Stacy's mill helped make him an important trading partner among the Proprietors of West Jersey. He soon had a ketch providing transit between the Barbados and Burlington, the capital city and major port in the Province of West Jersey. And, because his land was situated partly in Burlington County extending north to the Assunpink Creek, Stacy became the Falls' representative to the governing Assembly at Burlington under the "Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors."

Stacy's political power continued to grow as the population of the county increased. He represented West New Jersey in the General Assembly in 1682, 1684, and again in 1685. By 1688, the area was incorporated as part of Nottingham Township in Burlington County. He became a member of the County Council and served as a justice until in 1692 when he became one of the prestigious Proprietors of West Jersey.

When the prosperous Stacy died in 1704, he left his large estate and holdings to his four daughters and to his son, known as Mahlon Stacy the Younger. Ten years after his father's death, Mahlon the Younger sold the 500-acre Stacy Plantation, Ballifreld, the mill and 300 additional acres to a wealthy Philadelphian named William Trent.

The Trents

William Trent, a wealthy merchant and politically-savvy court administrator from Pennsylvania, purchased the Stacy lands in 1714 and continued to make investments in the area. Within three years, Trent served as a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Council, assisted in the organization of the Pennsylvania court system, and became one of five Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices. After serving three times as a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, he became Speaker of the House.

To enhance the summers on his plantation, he built Bloomsbury Court, or what is now the Trent House, below the mill. He employed James Porteus, the first professional architect to practice in British North America, who began work in 1716 and completed the house in 1719.

Trent House

Once Trent became a resident of West Jersey in 1721, he continued his political involvement. Colonial Governor William Burnett commissioned Trent a Colonel in the Hunterdon County Militia, appointed him Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and, in 1721, appointed him Chief Justice. As judge, Trent further developed the land across the creek to the north: building a courthouse, subdividing the land and selling lots to workers for his expanding mills

Despite the development of the mill and mill pond, Mill Hill remained primarily forest until after William Trent's death on Christmas Day 1724. Then, his eldest son, James, became administrator of the financially-strapped estate and began selling the lands and other assets in an effort to pay debts. James continued mill operations until 1729 when the courts decided that the estate could not maintain the debt and began to sell the properties. 


The Assunpink Mills &

The Bridge at Trent's Mill
by John McCalus 

The mill's land along the creek played a formidable part in the history of Trenton when it became a battlefield at the turning point of the Revolutionary War.

Mahlon Stacy's first mill along the creek, where Broad Street now crosses, was probably a small wooden structure designed to handle the grain grinding needs of settlers As the population increased, so did the output of grain-soon becoming an export product for the community.

Assunpink

Mahlon Stacy the Younger took over the mill operations left to him by his father in 1704. He continued expanding and, in 1707, completed the first bridge over the Assunpink Creek. The bridge opened the mill to farmers farther to the north and created a critical pathway to commerce and development in what is now the northeast corridor.

When William Trent took over the Stacy Plantation in 1714, he expanded the mill into a three-story brick and stone factory building. The factory continued operations, and additional mills for manufacturing lumber, iron and woolen goods were added along the creek.

When James Trent, who operated the mills between 1714 and 1729, was forced to sell land to keep them financially sound, he sold the mills, Trent House, and 300 acres to William Morris, a merchant and half-brother to his father's second wife. Morris kept the mills operating in the black until the Spring of1733.

The devastating flood of that Spring destroyed the mills and ended their prosperity. The waters of the Assunpink broke through the dams and walls, smashed the machinery and carried off anything that would float. Unable to capitalize the cost of repairs, Morris sold his properties to the Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania and Delaware, George Thomas.

Eventually the mill would operate and Thomas would handle the affairs of the plantation until 1753, when he sold it to an entrepreneur and developer named Robert Lettis Hooper IT. Hooper financed the construction of a stone pillar to support the center of the "Bridge at Trent's Mill," required by 1757 because of the increased traffic. In 1758, Hooper began subdividing his land and creating the New Town of Kingsbury, south of the Assunpink Creek.

In 1766, the old Stacy Mill was replaced by a two-story stone structure, and the county built a new stone arch bridge spanning the creek. Hooper sold lots throughout the area, and homes and businesses sprang up around the mill.

Assunpink

During the Second Battle of Trenton, the bridge and mill became a strategic location for General George Washington's troops. In celebration of this event, and in honor of Washington en route to his inauguration in 1789, the community built an arch on the bridge at the mill and the women laid flowers at the feet of Washington as he crossed the bridge.

Ill-fated fire and flood again would beset the mill, until the structure had to be taken down in the 1860's. The mill race (the section of the stream channeled to fall upon the mill's water wheel) remains today at Broad Street as a reminder of this intersection's important past. 


The Douglass House

by Louis Sancinito

The Douglass House, also known as the "House of Decision," is now located at the corner of Front and Montgomery Streets near the edge of Mill Hill Park. It has had a much-traveled past, only finally coming to rest at its present location in 1972 in time for our nation's bicentennial celebration.

The story of the Douglass House began in 1766 when George Bright constructed a two-story wood house in the New Town of Kingsbury, now the site of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church on South Broad Street, across from Livingston Street. The house was sold to Alexander Douglass on May 12, 1769 and remained in his possession until his death in 1836. Alexander Douglass was the Quartermaster for George Washington during the war for independence, and, following the First Battle of Trenton, Douglass offered the house to Brig. General Arthur St. Clair for use as his headquarters.

At Alexander Douglass' death, the house passed to his nephew, Joseph Douglass. Joseph owned the house until his death in 1847, when it was conveyed to Ann Douglass, who lived in it until 1852. It is believed that Ann Douglass, who died at an age of 90 in 1893, was the last of the Douglass family.

Dounglas House

Thus, in 1852, the Douglass House passed out of the family's hands and into the possession of the German Evangelical Trinity Lutheran Church, which used it as a parsonage. In 1876, to make room for church expansion, the house was sold to John J. Strasser for $200. Strasser moved the building to 478 Centre Street where it was remodeled and used as an apartment house. Although moving buildings was a common practice, the many witnesses to this move disagree whether the house was moved intact, in sections or in pieces. The physical evidence of saw marks, however, suggest that the house was cut into sections, and those sections together with a new attic-third story were reassembled on Centre Street.

Douglas House

The property remained on Centre Street, slowly deteriorating from abuse, misuse and neglect, until 1912. At that time, William Backer, a prominent local attorney, conducted on his own an involved research project which identified the house as the Douglass House of Revolutionary War fame. Following the publicity of Backer's work, the Trenton Catholic Club began a project to purchase the house to save it from ruin. Delayed during World War I, the project resumed in 1923 when the house was moved, this time intact, to what was supposed to be its permanent location in Mahlon Stacy Park, currently the parking lots behind the New Jersey State House. The house remained at that location for nine years when it again was moved a short distance to Willow Street (now Barracks Street), nearer to the Old Barracks. Here, it first became a family residence for the Chief of the State Capitol Police. In 1956, it was turned over to the Boy Scouts of America for use as the George Washington Council Headquarters. In 1967, it was turned over to the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, and in 1971, to the New Jersey Council of the Arts. Finally, when Stacy Park was being developed in 1972, the Douglass House was moved to its present and (we hope!) final location in Mill Hill Park, near the scene of an important moment in history.

Douglas House


The Battle of the Assunpink

by Louis Sancinito

1777 Map of Trenton showing the American and British Forces for the first and second battle of Trenton

General Washington's bold attack across the Delaware River on Christmas Night in 1776 assured Trenton's place in the founding of our nation. In the attack on the Trenton Barracks just three blocks from what is now Mill Hill Park, Washington surprised the Hessians garrisoned there and seized precious munitions and other stores for his troops.

Yet for all the success of that mission, Washington could not remain in Trenton because of threat from a large number of regular British and Hessian troops located in Mt Holly and Princeton, as well as much larger and more dangerous forces in the Hillsborough and New Brunswick areas. Facing such formidable fire power, Washington left Trenton immediately and returned to Pennsylvania with his captured munitions and stores. On December 27, Col. Cadwalader, believing Washington was still in New Jersey, crossed the Delaware near Bristol, Pennsylvania, and moved into Burlington, New Jersey. With the British and Hessian forces moving northward towards Trenton, the revolutionary forces were able to move unopposed as far north as Bordentown. Receiving word of this advance, Washington saw an opportunity to drive the British north Out of New Jersey. He once again crossed the river into Trenton where he was joined by Col. Cadwalader's troops on January 1, 1777.

Meanwhile the British, under the command of General Cornwallis, had gathered in Princeton and set out on January 2 to crush Washington in Trenton before he could flee again into Pennsylvania. Washington, aware of the advance, deployed militia along the road from Princeton through Maidenhead (now Lawrenceville) to the outskirts of Trenton. These militia somewhat slowed the advance of Cornwallis and his army, until at dark, the American troops fell back and fled across the bridge to the high ground behind the Assunpink. Here, Washington gathered his whole force in a strong, defensive position.

Etching of the Battle of the Assunpink by George Bradshaw

The British made a few half-hearted attempts to cross the Assunpink but were repulsed. While the British rested that evening, Washington and his generals met for a council-of-war at the Douglass House.

Here, it was decided that only a skeleton group would remain in the Mill Hill area tending fires, making noise, and firing occasional cannon shots to deceive the British into believing that they were still there. Washington would then lead the bulk of the army down what is now Hamilton Avenue, to what is now Quakerbridge Road, and finally into Princeton where they would attack the British forces remaining there. When Cornwallis awoke he found not only that his plans to crush Washington were failed, but that he had been outflanked and that another battle had been lost, this time in Princeton. Washington, his troops weary, broke off further attacks and retired to the area that is now Somerville.


Industrial Development

by John MaCalus

Pottery in Mill Hill

Taylor and Speeler

James Taylor (1810-1887), and his partner; Henry Speeler, began construction of their pottery for the manufacture of "yellow ware" and "white ware" in 1852 on Jackson Street. Taylor, a native of Staffordshire, England, was the earliest of the English Potters and the first manufacturer of porcelain to work in Trenton. By 185(~, they were attempting to work in white granite ware. Taylor continued the business with several partners, and is credited with being the first to fire a kiln with anthracite coal. In about 1873, Taylor started to work on the manufacture of sanitary earthenware. He finally sold out his business in 1875 to Isaac Davis, who was later involved with Greenwood Pottery. In that same year, Henry Speeler and his sons, began the Assunpink Pottery Works. 

Iron and Steel in Mill Hill

John F. Thropp & Sons' Co

In about 1880, John E. Thropp withdrew from the firm of Thropp, Mackenzie & Wilkes to establish his own machine works on Lewis Street. By 1894, it had become a first-class corporation. By 1900, Thropp had developed a fine reputation in the foundry business for his light and heavy castings of brass, bronze, iron and steel. The company catered to the needs of other industry in the area by manufacturing equipment used in pottery and rubber manufacturing, aside from cement and rock pulverizing. In addition, the Thropp Mill manufactured its own line of marine and stationary engines and boilers. The plant consisted of the foundries, a boiler works and a blacksmith shop.

The Thropp "Iron House"

In his later years, Thropp would live in what was known as the "Iron House" on Lewis Street: a house with a great sloping roof painted red, white and blue. Despite predictions of it being destroyed by lightning, the house remained until, during the second decade of the twentieth century. Then it was cleared for a plant expansion.

Industrial Supplies

Warren, Balderston Company

27 Greenwood Avenue

The Warren, Balderston Company was established in Mill Hill in 1887 by George Warren and W 0. Balderston, and operated on the old Taylor and Speeler Pottery site until 1926. A major wholesaler to the building trades, the company specialized in plumbing products and mill supplies. It continues supplying tools for other manufacturers in the Trenton area from its present location on Princeton Avenue. 


Commercial Development

by John McCalus 

Banking in Mill Hill


The Broad Street National Bank

188 South Broad Street, later 201 -203 South Broad Street

Organized on May 5th, 1887, The Broad Street National Bank of Trenton was granted authority to begin operations on June 1st, under the guidance of Oliver 0. Bowman. The bank occupied the small store at 188 South Broad Street while awaiting construction of its new facility at 201-203 South Broad Street.

On November 19, 1888, the bank relocated to the new Romanesque structure where it remained until March 29,1900. The bank then moved into Trenton's first "skyscraper" (eight stories) at State and Montgomery Streets. Even though relocated, the bank retained the original name.


The Mercer Trust Company

201 South Broad Street, (226) South Broad and Market Streets

The Mercer Trust Company was organized in 1905 by interests associated with both the Broad Street Bank and the Trenton Trust and Safe Deposit Company. Under the direction of Howard F Thomlinson, its first president was William G. Howell (Vice President of Broad Street), who served until 1925. Its first Treasurer was H. Arthur Smith (President of Trenton Trust in 1914). The bank first occupied 201 South Broad Street, formerly the site of the Broad Street Bank.

In 1915, Mercer Trust purchased the former Mercer Hotel site at 226 South Broad, and began construction at that location. On August 1,1918, the new bank was opened to the public. Additional alterations and enlargements to the facility were completed in 1925.

To expand operations, Mercer Trust, and interests of the Trenton Trust and Safe Deposit Company, formed in 1919 a new bank in Chambersburg, called the Colonial Trust Company. Bank laws did not permit branch banking until 1927.

In March of 1928, The Mercer Trust Company, The Colonial Trust Company, and the Trenton Trust and Safe Deposit Company merged, becoming The Trenton Trust Company. As a result of this merger, the Colonial Trust site became the Colonial Branch; and the Broad and Market site became the Mercer Branch.

In 1972, the now 10 offices of the Trenton Trust Company were acquired by the National State Bank of Elizabeth, before ultimately closing its doors. The building was then acquired by the National Community Bank and has been restored to correct detail. 


Hotels, Taverns and Merchants


W Scott Taylor Pharmacy

300 South Broad Street

In 1875, W Scott Taylor established the family's first pharmacy at the corner of Broad and Market Streets, across from the market. This ideal location flourished rapidly, with clientele chasing such products as "Horehound Balsam" and "Sarsaparilla Root Beer." In 1879, Taylor's had installed the first private telephone in Trenton then called a "talking toy." It also was the first store in Trenton to own the new National Cash Register machine. The pharmacy continued to operate at that location until 1886 when it moved to the Old Masonic Temple Building at State and Warren. The pharmacy continues operations today as Trenton's oldest pharmacy at 940 Brunswick Avenue. 


John Whittaker's Markets

214-222 South Broad Street opposite the Courthouse

John Whittaker was a long-time civic supporter of Mill Hill, a resident at 214 Broad Street, a businessman, and the "Merchant Prince of Mill Hill." As early as 1821, he was an organizer of the Eagle Fire Company, to whom he sold, at a reduced price, a lot of land on Market Street east of Broad to house their engine. A major landowner in this conspicuous location, his stores were famous at the time for the variety of goods sold. They included groceries, vegetables, meats, provisions, dry goods, coal, lumber, charcoal and jewelry. The original 214 Broad was a gray stone building, later brick-faced, and augmented as the business grew. John Whittaker's greatest claim to fame was during the creation of Mercer County and the subsequent haggling among townships for the Courthouse site, when he made a present of the property across from his stores for the site, which still serves as the county courthouse. 


The National Hotel

Corner of Livingston and Broad Street

One of Mill Hill's many hotel and tavern establishments, the National Hotel was probably built before the revolution. Its first known operator was Margaret Gordon, recorded in the Nottingham Township records of the 183Os as tavern keeper during the town meetings that were held there. She was followed by John McGuire who would carry on the National's traditions until it was taken over in about 1860 by Robert Dowling. During this period, the National was a meeting house for farmers who came to sell their goods at the Market Street Market. In 1869, Dowling removed the earlier structure and rebuilt it with a larger, more modern building, which would become a meeting place of the Democratic Party in Trenton. The Dowling family purchased more land on Mill Hill and built several buildings over time. Among them, still standing, are 135 and 137 Mercer Street: one built as the Dowling residence, the other as an investment property. The Hotel building was taken over by the Knights of Labor in the 1890s, prior to the construction of the Labor Lyceum Building at 159-161 Mercer Street. The Dowling family would keep a grocery store for many years on their original Broad Street parcel.


Residential Development

by John MacCalus & Peter Paige

By 1776, Mill Hill consisted of about 30 homes and several mills clustered along the creek and Broad Street. During the first decades of the nineteenth century; the area remained fairly undeveloped.

In 1838 the nearby Delaware and Raritan Canal (now the Route 1 Freeway) was completed, the same year the Camden and Amboy Railroad connection was finished and Mercer County was formed. These factors sparked industrial, commercial and residential development in the area.

Washington Retreat, a park and amusement center, was built about this time along the edge of the pond behind the mill. It housed a bowling alley, a rifle gallery, a soda fountain and baths. It operated until 1860 when it was razed, and the land was converted to residential and commercial uses.

From the 1860s, Mill Hill residences filled in the vacant lots now encircled by industrial and commercial endeavors. Most of the structures were built between 1860 and 1920. Residents were mostly working and middle class: industrial workers, clerks, shopkeepers, teachers and government workers.

Mill Hill grew rapidly in the second half of the nineteenth century, with some decline toward the end of the century. An analysis of households based on city directories of this period charts the composition of the neighborhood.

Number of Househoulds
Clerks, artisans, 
tradesmen and 
industrial workers
Retail merchants 
and wholesalers
Professionals, 
teachers, 
government workers
1854 110 13 5
1865 138 18 11
1875 155 18 21
1885 224 26 26
1895 153 20 8

As industrial expansion continued in the 1920s and 30s, residential development on the outskirts of the Trenton area (first Chambersburg, then Ewing and Hamilton) continued and eventually became more appealing than Mill Hill, which was tightly built and bordered by numerous factories. During World War II and afterward through the 60s, Mill Hill and the inner city residential areas were avoided by homebuyers, who preferred newer; suburban dwellings.