West Front Street

West Front Street (HM1I5E)

Location: Trenton, NJ 08608 Mercer County
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Country: United States of America
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N 40° 13.209', W 74° 46.16'

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Thruway to the State House

Surprising as it may seem, you are standing on the line of a historic street that as various times was bordered by mills, row homes and businesses. For more than a hundred years, from the early 1790s until Mahlon Stacy Park was established in the 1910s, West Front Street extended west through the Old Barracks, across Petty's Run, to Delaware Street, another street that has vanished and which ran along the east side of the State House between West State Street and the river bank. The Old Barracks, split in two throughout this period, was made whole again in 1915 when the park was created. The passage of West Front Street, coursing through the former British military facility can be seen in the telltale vertical seams in the masonry on the rear of the building.

Extending Front StreetPrior to the American Revolution, Petty's Run served as a barrier to the westward expansion of the town of Trenton. Front Street, also known in the colonial era as Water, Lower and High Street, terminated at West Street (later known as South Willow Street; today's Barrack Street).The creation of the segment of West Front Street between Barrack Street and the State House is a story of republican triumph over colonial dominion. In 1792-93, in a symbolic burst of New Jerseyan spirit, the street was carried through the Old Barracks and across a recently constructed stone bridge to the State House lot where a new seat of state government was being installed. The bridge is still there today, buried deep beneath the landscaping fill of Mahlon Stacy Park.

New Mills AriseFrom 1814 until the mid-1870s, the section of West Front Street between the Old Barracks and the State House was dominated by water-powered industry. A short-lived cotton mill operated on the north side of the street on the eastern bank of Petty's Run, but had failed by 1820. This was succeeded by the West Front Street Paper Mill, established in 1827 by Garrett D. Wall and in business for almost a half century.

On the south side of the street, the main activity centered on the processing of lumber brought into town along the Trenton Water Power. The Water Power, completed in the mid-1830s, provided energy first to a sawmill, then to a carpenter's shop and finally to a bow factory (where the sawing, planing and bending of wood products took place).

Residential RedevelopmentIn 1857, the Old Barracks became a home for the poor widows and single women of Trenton. Women had to be over the age of 50 and pay a $40 lifetime admission fee to move into one of the rooms once occupied by soldiers. In the late 1870s and 1880s, West Front Street underwent a residential make-over, which must have made the environment more comfortable for the widows. Except for the bow factory and a couple of well-placed stores, the blocks lying north oand south of West Front became entirely residential with nearby West State Street boasting several well-appointed homes, mostly occupied by professionals.

The Front Street Paper Mill was pulled down in 1876-77 and replaced by a series of brick row homes, transforming the block into working-class neighborhood with families of English, Irish, German and Russian extraction supported by a variety of livelihoods. Among the residents in 1900 were father a son blacksmiths, two janitors, a painter, a teamster and a tailor. Between 1911 and 1913, after barely a generation of existence, the neighborhood vanished without a trace, making way for Mahlon Stacy Park.

Photo at top rightWest Front Street looking northwest from South Willow Street (Barrack Street); the stone building is the officers' quarters of the Old Barracks, prior to being made whole again in 1915; behind it is the Kelsey Building, now part of Thomas Edison State College. Circa 1911 (Old Barracks Association).

Center PhotoNorth side of West Front Street looking east; the home in the left foreground is 124 West Front Street; the three-story building in the middle distance is the western end of the north section of the Old Barracks. Circa 1910 (Trentoniana Collection, Trenton Public Library).

Photo bottom rightWest Front Street looking west from South Willow Street (Barrack Street); the building in the right foreground is the officers' quarters of the Old Barracks; the New Jersey State House is in the distance. Circa 1911-13 (Old Barracks Association).

HM NumberHM1I5E
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 at 1:01pm PST -08:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18T E 519626 N 4452217
Decimal Degrees40.22015000, -74.76933333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 40° 13.209', W 74° 46.16'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds40° 13' 12.54" N, 74° 46' 9.6" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)609
Closest Postal AddressAt or near Wilson St, Trenton NJ 08608, US
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