Preserving History in Trenton

December 14, 2018 Historic Preservation, News, Projects Brian Nowakowski

Listed in both the State of New Jersey and the National Registers of Historic Places, the Douglass House is a Revolutionary War era landmark in Trenton. It was Continual Quartermaster Alexander Douglass’s home during the time of the Second Battle of Trenton. It served as the headquarters for General George Washington’s Council of War where on January 2, 1777 the strategy was formulated to outflank the British at Trenton and thus allow the Colonial Army to escape Trenton and defeat the British at Princeton the following day. This maneuver assured the survival of the fledgling Continental Army and led to our eventual victory in the war for our independence.

As testament to its importance to the city, the house has been saved from destruction and moved three times (1876, 1926 and 1972) through the patriotic spirt of Trentonians. It was restored this year to ensure the house’s future is secure. At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the project, Mayor W. Reed Gusciora welcomed New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver. Lt. Governor Oliver remarked that, “Preserving New Jersey’s centuries old history is not only important for saving historic relics and documenting our past, but it also serves as a catalyst for future neighborhood revitalization.” We couldn’t agree more.

Historic Preservation aids community development in several key ways:

  • Offers an opportunity for stakeholders to express their values and local character
  • Retains the irreplaceable
  • Creates a community bond to place and history
  • Complements place-based economic development plans
  • Can be effective regardless of the size or location of a community
  • Effectively target areas appropriate for public attention
  • Encourages heritage tourism
  • Often increases local property values
  • Creates eligibility for new funding sources – such as federal tax incentives and private grants
  • Contributes to thriving neighborhoods and downtowns as older buildings typically offer commercial spaces that are more accessible to small businesses than alternatives such as strip malls or big-box stores

Situated in downtown Trenton, adjacent to Mill Hill Park with year around programming and community events, the restoration of the Douglass House was done with respect to history as well as present community needs. This project included the restoration of several of the property’s historic rooms and the installation of modern ADA compliant restroom facilities. These barrier free restrooms will serve not only the Douglass House visitors but also patrons to events held in Mill Hill Park. Mechanical work included the upgrades to the electrical, fire detection and alarm systems. Interpretive signs detailing the history of the house, Mill Hill Park and the Battles of Trenton were also unveiled.

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