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East Trenton

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East Trenton

East Trenton, New Jersey
Unincorporated community
East Trenton, New Jersey is located in Mercer County, New Jersey
East Trenton, New Jersey
East Trenton, New Jersey
Location of East Trenton in Mercer County Inset: Location of county within the state of New Jersey
Country  United States
State  New Jersey
County Mercer
City Trenton

East Trenton is an unincorporated community and neighborhood located within the city of Trenton in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States.[1][2][3] It borders Hamilton Township and is home to a sizable African-American community, besides having small pockets of Latinos (mainly from Puerto Rico) and Italians.


When the city of Trenton first incorporated in 1792, its boundaries included the neighborhood known as East Trenton. In 1844, Lawrence Township annexed the area, and it remained part of Lawrence Township until 1882, when East Trenton became an independent jurisdiction known as Millham Township. On May 1, 1888, Millham once again became part of the City of Trenton.

In the mid-eighteenth century, Thomas Cadwalader owned much of Millham Township, but it was Samuel Henry who first improved the area, building a grist mill and planting a 260 tree apple orchard. Henry sold his country estate during the late 18th century to General Philemon Dickinson. The estate's eastern portion sold in 1797, and included only the grist and sawmills, two houses, a dry goods shop, a smithy, a kiln, barn, stables, and approximately 1,500 fruit trees.

Dickinson's son Samuel retained part of the East Trenton property as a country estate, constructing a stone house in 1792 known as "The Grove". (#414) The estate remains today and is the oldest standing building in East Trenton.

Located at North Clinton and Girard Avenues, The Dickinson House is described in 1809 as an "excellent stone dwelling house... in which there are two large parlors." The house retains its original character today despite its change in use, first as a YMCA, and later as a branch library. It no longer commands a sizable estate, but its large lot retains enough foliage to justify its historic name, "The Grove."

Upon his father's death in 1809, Samuel Dickinson moved his permanent residence to "The Grove." Samuel's son John attempted to initiate an industry by cultivating silkworms and planting many mulberry trees along the roads, especially along what is now Mulberry Street. His efforts to produce a cash crop met with little success.

Despite John Dickinson's difficulty in establishing a successful commercial venture, the industry arrived on the scene. By the early 19th century, the industrial revolution began to have an impact on the area. Millham's industrial development depended upon and was molded by its transportation routes. Many mills were built along the Assunpink Creek. Industrial buildings were constructed along these routes by the 1840s and during the 1850s the area's pottery industry began to emerge.

The 1860s and 1870s witnessed the incorporation of many pottery and rubber companies. The potteries, manufacturers of products ranging from fine china to sanitary porcelain, tended to locate near the canal while the rubber companies scattered along Millham Road and the Assunpink. The Delaware & Raritan Canal, which opened in 1838, defined the area's western edge, creating a new industrial corridor. The canal, the neighboring Camden & Amboy Railroad line, and Millham Road (North Clinton Avenue) to the east established a developmental framework. By the 1880s, a visitor to this section of Trenton reported for Harper's New Monthly Magazine:

East Trenton's physical character explains why this area is known as "the child of industry." Numerous two and three story brick industrial buildings, dating largely from 1880-1920, border the area. These include the structures and complexes of the Lenox Co., (#417) the Star Porcelain Co., (#371) the Circle F Manufacturing Co., (#415, #416) and the John Taylor Co. (#372) (meat products). The oldest buildings of the Lenox complex (originally built for the Ceramic Art Co.), were designed to allow for conversion to housing should the pottery venture fail. The complex has been expanded to include an elegant structure with an exposed concrete frame. The Hamilton Rubber Co. buildings, (#415, #416) presently occupied by Circle F Manufacturing Co., are a rhythmic architectural composition of gabled 1870's structures united by a gracefully curvilinear wing with an Art Deco character. The John Taylor Co. buildings (#372) are surmounted by ornate brick and terra cotta cornices. All of these factories have gone out of business.

The area's growing industry led to a breakup of large estates such as the Dickinson's, offering an opportunity for land subdivision and providing housing for factory employees. As early as 1850, land developers subdivided the property into building lots, running three streets from the Millham Road to the Assunpink Creek (Hart Avenue and Poplar and Oak Streets). These lots became known as Homestead Place. In 1851, 55 lots were laid out on a portion of the former Dickinson estate and were sold for twelve to twenty-five dollars. Six Real estate activity eventually culminated in the formation of land associations.

The Enterprise Land Co. of New Jersey, organized in 1873, also developed land on both sides of the canal.

Such associations promoted development through the subdivision and sale of lots. Occasionally the associations constructed speculative housing. In a distinctive instance, "three double frame dwelling houses were erected on Klagg Avenue as an inducement to the buyers of lots, for whoever drew a lucky number found a home already built on the lot."

Although residential and industrial construction continued, many years passed before the community's dense physical character emerged on a patchwork of separately developed non-coinciding grids. While the view along "residential" Eastburn Avenue (#390) epitomizes the overshadowing presence of industrial buildings and smokestacks, many residential streets are far removed from industrial properties.

Practical reasons required many families to live near industrial sites. One area resident recalled her childhood in the neighborhood during the 1870s. Her father, a chemist, worked in one of the potteries, mixing chemicals for glazing. Since he had to be present when the glaze kilns were "run off" at night, the family lived near the factory "in the heart of the potter's community." Life among the pottery workers, was rough. "Our surroundings were anything but pleasant . . . Gambling, fighting, drinking were done to excess..."

Corner taverns and saloons were often focal points of community life. Homestead House (#378), at the corner of North Clinton Avenue and Poplar Street, opened in 1860 as Millham's first "public house." Nearby at North Clinton Avenue and Meade Street stood "The Princess"; one of Trenton's few neighborhood theaters (#392). Featuring decorative tilework and monumental metal cornice, the building has served as both The Princess Theater and The Holy Cross Church. The neighboring wood and metal "Holy Cross Diner" (#391) luncheonette is a very early type of roadside diner.

Despite the increased number of area factories, the neighborhood retained recreational space. The grounds of the larger brewery, known as Locust Hill and later Hetzel's Grove, were just across the Assunpink Creek above Olden Avenue (#388). These grounds were the scene of picnics and shooting matches as well as grand balls. A swampy meadow between Courtland Avenue and the railroad saw much activity. In the summer, residents raised geese and ducks and pastured horses, mules, cows, goats and swine. In the fall, they gathered hazel nuts and chestnuts, and in the winter, the swamp was partially ice-covered creating a grand skating park.

Millham's settlers followed the national pattern of immigration and settlement in the northeast. The first groups included the English, Irish, Germans, and Scottish. Later, during the 1880s and 1890s when American industry expanded, many Italians and Polish people joined the community. In more recent years, Black and Puerto Rican workers found employment in area factories. 11 Throughout these years, the community's fortunes have depended upon area industry.

Community institutions also contributed to the neighborhood's development. A Black cemetery was established at an early date along the Assunpink Creek between Hart and Oak Avenues. The first church in East Trenton, Methodist (#377), was organized in 1852 at Hart and Clinton Avenues. The first school opened in 1866 on Dickinson Street. Other churches and schools followed. Today, St. Joseph's Catholic Church (#421, #422), the East Trenton Presbyterian Church (#407), and the Methodist, now the First Born Church of the Living God (#377) are the most physically prominent existing neighborhood churches.

By the 1880s, Millham was a thriving community with growing industry, expanding population, increasing housing, and the beginning of a commercial district along North Clinton Avenue. The opening of a street railway in 1876, which connected the area to downtown Trenton, especially assisted the neighborhood's growth. The developing commercial area, along a one-and-a-half mile stretch of North Clinton Avenue, eventually accommodated over one hundred businesses including grocers, restaurants, shoe repair shops, furniture companies, and two "department stores."

A number of distinctive building types and patterns emerged along commercial North Clinton Avenue. The intersections of North Clinton Avenue with Girard and North Olden Avenues, boast picturesque Queen Anne structures with corner entrances and turrets. Number 699 North Clinton Avenue (#413) is frame, while the later 577 (#402) is brick with terra cotta panels. More common commercial structures are blockish Italianate buildings. Often featuring drip molds, these buildings rise above their neighbors anchoring corners.

Other parts of North Clinton Avenue are enlivened by an extraordinary variety of rounded, rectangular and three-sided projecting upper story oriels.

The city's Wilbur section sub-neighborhood is also in East Trenton.

The Martin House is located in the Wilbur section also and provides many much-needed services to the neighborhood and city's residents from after school programs to food and clothing drives whose intake is then distributed.


Trenton Central High School, Trenton's primary public high school, is located in the neighborhood as well as the Trenton Train Station with Amtrak, SEPTA, and NJ Transit service.

Notable residents


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External links

  • Love Thy Neighbor Community Development Corporation
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