Roebling’s Shaky Bridge

View of the Shaky Bridge from the Delaware River. Undated. Source: Photograph, collection of David Denenberg. bridgemaster.com
Shaky Bridge in 2019, Trenton, NJ. Source: TCM
Source: TCM

This little suspension bridge, which spans the attractively named Waste Weir, was built by the Roebling Company. While some internet sources say it is a miniature replica of one of Roebling’s more famous projects, either the Brooklyn Bridge or the Niagara Bridge. Although it uses the same suspension technology, the design is not identical. Other sources say it was built to demonstrate suspension technology, and then given to the city of Trenton. I haven’t seen a firm date for when it was built.

The Shaky Bridge sits between the Delaware River and Route 29 in Stacy Park. Route 29 runs over the alignment of the Trenton Water Power, a seven mile long canal completed in 1834  – the same year as the 65 mile long D&R Canal.

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Cadwalader Park Natural Area

Cadwalader Park Natural Area, Trenton, NJ. Source: TCM

Cadwalader Park was created by the city of Trenton in 1888 from land previously owned by Dr.Thomas Cadwalader. In 1890, Frederick Law Olmstead (best known for designing New York City’s Central Park) was hired to create a design for Trenton’s new park.

Prior to Olmstead’s involvement, the city had already started displaying animals in a “zoological garden.” After Trenton dropped Olmstead’s firm for financial reasons, the city added a deer paddock–which Olmstead opposed–on the west side of the park. Olmstead had other plans for that area, called the Western Ravine:

In the broader wooded valley at the west end of the park, Olmsted planned a series of pools that was reminiscent of the Pool and Loch of upper Central Park…The Preliminary Plan of 1891 shows most of the Ravine taken up by five naturalistic pools…with a connecting stream. The three lower pools are shown surrounded with dense vegetation, while the borders of the two upper pools are somewhat more open and more visible from the adjoining meadow areas. These upper pools have four beach areas where the nearby path expands to form a shallow wading area.

Cadwalader Park Master Plan, 1998

Much of Olmstead’s plan was not constructed, and many modifications to the design were made the city. A deer paddock was built in 1895, and a sheep house and elk house were also added. By 1906, the park zoo included not only nine fallow deer, but over a dozen other types of animals, including coyotes, alligators, bears, monkeys, and a kangaroo. Two animal barns were added in the western ravine, which are still standing.

Animal barn at Cadwalader Park. Source: TCM
Homes in the Hiltonia neighborhood overlooking the Cadwalader Park Natural Area. Source: TCM

The park declined in the 1970s (although the city’s museum, Ellarslie, was created in 1978 in the former monkey house). Deer were kept in the paddock until about ten years ago. As part of a master plan to restore Cadwalader Park, The D&R Greenway Land Trust, the City of Trenton, and several other partners united to restore the paddock area to a more natural meadow and wetland environment. Where once captive deer lived behind a fence, white-tailed deer now run wild.

White-tailed deer at Cadwalader Park. Source: TCM

Mercer Cemetery

The Mercer Cemetery in Trenton, NJ, was created in the 1840s. There were few new internments after the 1930s. Unlike the Riverview Cemetery, which is still active, no one has been buried in Mercer since 1973. In the 1990s, the city spruced up the cemetery, but it became neglected, landscaping and maintenance was deferred, and conditions within the cemetery deteriorated. Fortunately, Trenton is now looking to rehabilitate the Mercer cemetery, beginning with a recent volunteer cleanup effort.

Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM

Canal Bridgetender’s Houses

These three small houses are located along the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Trenton, where movable bridges formerly crossed the canal. Houses were provided so the bridgetenders were always available to swing the bridge out of the way as a canal barge passed through.

The Hanover Street house was renovated when Thomas Edison State College built the large building that partially surrounds it. The Calhoun Street house appears to be stabilized, while the Prospect Street house looks occupied.

Hanover Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM
Hanover Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM

Hanover Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM

Calhoun Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM


Calhoun Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM
Prospect Street Bridgetender’s House. Source: TCM

Lee Union-Alls : Union-Made in Trenton

Lee Union-Alls Building, E. State Street, Trenton, NJ. Source: TCM

The H.D. Lee Mercantile company was founded in Salinas, Kansas, in 1889, but by the early twentieth century, it was focused on making clothes and had factories in several cities, including Trenton, New Jersey. Lee Union-Alls, a jumpsuit for mechanics and other blue-collar workers, were created in 1913 and became their signature product. The name touted the fact that they were union-made.

H.D. Lee Mercantile Company Factories, 1920s. Source: H.D. Lee/www.union-made.blogspot.com
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Assunpink Firewalk

Scenes from the first Assunpink Firewalk, part of the City of Trenton’s Patriots Week, which celebrates George Washington’s revolutionary victories at the Battles of Trenton.

Assunpink Firewalk, Trenton, NJ. Source: TCM


THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1776

The Firewalk was held along Assunpink Creek, near where American soldiers repulsed three British attacks at the second battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777.

Source: TCM

After night fell, Washington left a rearguard to light campfires and fool the British into believing the Americans were holding their positions. In actuality, the American troops were marching away. The next day, Washington would win another victory at the Battle of Princeton.

The Firewalk included the lighting of 13 torches, symbolizing both the 13 colonies and the fires lit by the Americans to cover their retreat, and a reading of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, written on December 23, 1776, and read to American troops before the first battle of Trenton.

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General Philemon Dickinson’s Hermitage and Washington’s Crossing

The Hermitage, Trenton, in 2018. Source: TCM

Philemon Dickinson,  called “one of the truest patriots of the revolution” by historian William Stryker, was from a wealthy family that owned land in several states, but he chose to establish a country estate, which he called the Hermitage, at a site outside the town of Trenton, New Jersey.  He bought the property, which included a house and barns, in July of 1776.

Not long after he bought the property, Hessian troops seized the building and established a picket there, which guarded the approach to Trenton from the north. Dickinson, who was a general in the New Jersey militia, was stationed across the river in Yardley, where he could observe the Hessians occupying his home. After crossing the Delaware on Christmas night, American troops marched past the Hermitage on their way to Trenton, driving the Hessians before them. General Dickinson, still stationed in Yardley, contributed to the effort by ordering the artillery to shell his own home; fortunately for his real estate, the effect was mostly symbolic.

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The c. 1721 Trent House, Trenton, New Jersey

Trent House. View of South elevation. Source: TCM

The Trent House was built around 1721 (although a plaque on its wall puts the date at 1719) by William Trent, after whom New Jersey’s state capital is named.  It replaced an earlier house built by Mahlon Stacy.

The house was modified and expanded over the next 200 years. In the 1930s, a WPA project removed the later additions, uncovering the brick well and  restoring the house to its original appearance.

The Trent House prior to the removal of the eastern wing and greenhouse. The well was located beneath this addition. Source: Library of Congress/Historic American Buildings Survey

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The Kaleva Incident and the Death of Henry Antheil, Jr.


Antheil Family Tombstone, Riverview Cemetery, Trenton, NJ

The name Henry Antheil, Jr, is on a tombstone in Riverview Cemetery, but he is not buried there. Henry, the younger brother of avant-garde composer George Antheil, was a Trenton, New Jersey native who joined the U.S. Foreign service as a cipher clerk and was posted in Helsinki, Finland, at the beginning of World War II. Henry Antheil, Jr., could be considered an early American casualty of both World War II and the Cold War.

Henry Antheil, Jr. Source: Killed in Finland. Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2006680357/

As the Nazis advanced on Paris, the Soviet Union moved towards taking over the Baltic country of Estonia. On June 14, 1940, the 27 year old Antheil was sent to pick up several diplomatic pouches from the American legation in Estonia’s capital. He then boarded a Finnish commercial airplane, the Kaleva, to return to Finland. Less than ten minutes after the Kaleva took off from Estonia, two Soviet bombers intercepted it and shot it out of the sky. Almost immediately, a Soviet submarine arrived at the crash location and seized the diplomatic pouches. There were no survivors. The plane has never been recovered. Continue reading “The Kaleva Incident and the Death of Henry Antheil, Jr.”