Walking Tour of Hopewell
Hopewell is a borough in Mercer County, New Jersey with a population of 1,922 (2010 US Census) that was incorporated in 1891 from portions of Hopewell Township.
The area was first settled in 1699 after Thomas Tindall purchased 300 acres from the West Jersey Society of England. Another early settler, Jonathan Stout, settled in 1706 and in 1715 helped to establish a Baptist congregation which for the time met in people’s houses. Declaration of Independence signer John Hart purchased 193 acres in the area in 1740 and donated a plot of this land to the Baptists who in 1748 erected the Old School Baptist Church meeting house on West Broad Street. Reverend Isaac Eaton became its first minister and the church became the largest Baptist Church between New York City and Philadelphia. Eaton also helped to found an influential secondary school, the Hopewell Baptist Academy, and the church and school helped to encourage Hopewell’s early growth. In fact during this time the town was identified as “Baptist Meeting House” and wouldn’t become known as Hopewell until 1825.
During the Revolutionary War after the winter of 1777/78 in Valley Forge, Washington marched his troops to Hopewell, crossing the Delaware River at Coryell’s Ferry (now Lambertville). The men setup their tents on John Hart’s farmstead overlooking Hopewell Borough. Washington and his Generals held a council of war at the John Stout / Hunt House just outside of town to decide if and how to engage the British on their path from Philadelphia to New York City. The battle to ensue would be called the Battle of Monmouth.
After the war and until the late 1800’s Hopewell remained a small farming community. The completion of the Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad in 1876 (absorbed by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad in 1879) created a station in Hopewell (and in nearby Pennington) connecting Hopewell to Trenton and helped to increase the suburban population as well as some commercial/industrial expansion along the rail lines. As the needs of the Borough changed from the Township, in 1891 Hopewell separated from the township and became an independent borough.
Stop 1. Hopewell House
48 West Broad St.
Around 1820 a turnpike was established between Lambertville and Hopewell (during this time Hopewell was referred to as Columbia) that terminated along Louellen Street into Broad Street which helped to facilitate traffic from town towards the Delaware River.
The Hopewell House was established around this time as the town’s second tavern. The lot and building were purchased by Ira Stout who with his son Simpson opened the Hopewell Tavern. Eventually a hotel was also established and the building became known as the Hopewell House which continued its operations into the mid 20th century.
Stop 2. Hopewell Baptist Church
46 West Broad St
The Baptist Church was organized in 1715 with the Stout family being one of the key organizers. The community met in people’s houses until 1748 when Declaration of Independence signer John Hart donated the land to build its first church. The original building was a small stone structure that was built on the same site as the current brick structure today. Reverend Isaac Eaton was appointed as the church’s first pastor.
Stop 3. Hopewell Baptist Academy
The Hopewell Baptist Church’s 1st pastor, Reverend Isaac Eaton, in 1756 helped to found the Hopewell Baptist Academy. This was the first Baptist secondary school in the USA which operated until 1767. Alumni James Manning and Hezekiah Smith help to found the College of Rhode Island (later known as Brown University) in 1765.
Stop 4. Blackwell Farm House
Blackwell/Riley/Drake Farm House / Blackwell Tavern
19 West Broad St (private residence)
This farmhouse became the town’s first tavern around 1794 when the property was purchased by Benjamin Blackwell. It was run as a tavern by his son Daniel until 1840 when it was turned back again into a residential property.
Stop 5. First General Store
2 West Broad St. (private residence)
In 1765 Peter Gordon, the owner of the large farmstead located on the east side of Greenwood Ave, is supposed to have established the town’s first general store and which was its first major commercial entity at this location. In 1781, the then owner of the store, Timothy Brush Jr, is supposed to have added a still which would have made it the first industrial operation within the village.
In 1840 the commercial use of this property ended and it is now known as the Blackwell/Dalrymple House.
Stop 6. Public library
Public library / Hopewell National Bank
13 East Broad St.
The Hopewell Public Library was founded in 1914 and was originally located at Broad and Mercer Streets in an old harness shop. It moved to this location, the former Hopewell National Bank building, in 1965. The building was erected in 1890 and housed the Hopewell National Bank, the Hopewell Post Office in 1915 and then the library in 1965.
Stop 7. Hopewell Museum
Hopewell Museum / Randolph Stout House
28 East Broad St, https://thehopewellmuseum.org
This 2½ story, 3 bay masonry Second Empire structure was built in 1877 by Randolph Stout. The building was associated with a lumber yard that was located on the lot to the west of the building but was removed during the 1890s. In 1922 the former Stout house became the home of the Hopewell Museum and the borough's public library (the library moved to the Hopewell National Bank building 1965). The nucleus of the collection are antiques that were donated by Sarah Stout.
Stop 8. Tomato Cannery
Tomato Cannery (now Tomato Factory Antiques Center)
2 Somerset St, https://www.tomatofactoryantiques.com
Established in 1892, the factory only operated when there were fresh tomatoes being harvested, so the factory only ran for around six weeks a year, from early August through September, or until the first frost. The factory could pack 10,000 quart cans a day, and since each can required 5 or more tomatoes, it needed 50,000 tomatoes delivered each day, arriving from some 100 acres of local farms under contract for its business. Keeping the business running at full speed required some 50 to 75 employees, the majority “women and girls,” especially skilled at quickly manually peeling the skins off the tomatoes, and hand-packing the cans to fill them to the top. The factory closed around 1950.
Stop 9. Hopewell Chocolate Factory
This brick building was built for the Hopewell Shirt Factory in 1892 designed to run 100 sewing machines to sew shirts and night robes but closed in 1903. Then followed a candy manufacturer (Belle Mead Sweets) and an electrical massage and automobile motor manufacturer (Electric Thermo Vibra Company). In 1909 the Hopewell Chocolate Company started production of bon bons and chocolates under the Hopewell Dainties brand which stayed in operation until 1930 and then for a brief time in 1931 another chocolate company the General Chocolate and Candy Company operated in this location. The building has been converted to a residential space.
Stop 10. Hopewell Station
Hopewell Station / Hopewell Frog War
In 1876 the Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad crossed New Jersey opening a station in Hopewell on the railroad’s way to Trenton. Soon after the Mercer and Somerset Railway (a railroad company backed by the Pennsylvania Railroad which was trying to protect the monopoly it had in NJ) laid the tracks for a competing line that also crossed through Hopewell and had to cross over the Delaware and Bound Brook’s tracks. The junction where the 2 tracks cross is called a “Frog”.
These 2 railroads had a dispute about this crossing and eventually both sides parked locomotives over this point to keep the other side from being able to drive their trains forward. Eventually the militia was ordered to keep the sides apart to allow for transportation to continue and soon after the Mercer and Somerset was liquidated.
Some of the abandoned right of way for the Mercer and Somerset in Hopewell became Model Avenue.
Hopewell Elementary School’s mascot is “Freddy the Frog” in honor of the Hopewell Frog War.
Stop 11. Hart Farmstead
John Hart established a large farmstead north of Broad Street in the mid 18th century. He donated a part of the land directly on Broad Street to the Baptist Church to build its first church. Hart was elected to the Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1750 and then served in various political positions. He represented NJ at the Second Continental Congress at which he was a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. In 1776 the British raided his farm, due to his political status, and he was forced to hide in the Sourland Mountains but returned to his home after Washington defeated the Hessians in Trenton. When Washington was marching his men in 1778 to meet the British in what would become the Battle of Monmouth, Hart provided his land as a place for the soldiers to sleep as they camped in Hopewell. In 1779 he died from kidney stones and is buried at the Old Baptist Church burial grounds.
Stop 12. John Stout / Hunt House
595 Province Line Road (private residence)
During the winter of 1777/1778, the British soldiers stayed in the city of Philadelphia while Washington and his men had a difficult time at Valley Forge. In the Spring/Summer the British decided to leave Philadelphia to consolidate their forces in New York City. The British planned a long march across New Jersey to Sandy Hook where they would meet troop transports to sail to New York.
Washington left Valley Force with his men and marched to Coryell’s Ferry (now Lambertville) where they crossed the Delaware and marched to Hopewell. John Hart allowed the troops to setup their tents on his farmstead overlooking Hopewell Borough.
Washington and his Generals held a council of war at the Stout/Hunt House to decide if and how they should engage the British in what would become the Battle of Monmouth.