Seminary Avenue History

One way to understand our local history is to look at our towns house by house, street by street. We’ve been collecting this kind of information on the History Project site, including the Historic House Tour booklets in the Pamphlets Collection, and the 1985 Cultural Resource Surveys of historic structures in the Valley.

And we’ve been organizing materials on the site by street address, including in the Image Gallery, and then presenting it interactively with the Hopewell History Map.

The next step has been to take advantage of this material to tell the stories of local buildings, in briefs exploring themes including the locations in the History of the Hopewell Public Library, and the church buildings at Broad and Louellen Streets.

Buildings – and Barbers – of Seminary Avenue

And then there are entire streets. As the first such experiment, here is the story of the buildings on Seminary Avenue, from East Broad Street to Columbia Avenue. Seminary is a fascinating street, with idiosyncratic architecture and many sub-divisions among its 14 buildings. And it has been home to a wide variety of businesses since c. 1880, including a hotel, theater, restaurants, groceries, bake shops, auto repair, clothing stores, and barbers.

== Read the full brief on Seminary Ave. History in Hopewell Borough (PDF) ==

This brief on Seminary Avenue History starts with a two-page visual summary of the buildings arranged left to right as along the sides of the street, followed by extracts of maps showing the development of the street from 1890 to 1927, and then individual pages on each of the properties. It also includes multiple appendixes with detailed references, including a chronology of newspaper articles / ads, property block/lot data, and other sources.

This is not intended as definitive ancestry or house lineage studies, following the chain of owners in deeds and residents in censuses. Instead it reflects how these buildings have been known in the town, in terms of the businesses and people that occupied them. This work is rooted in the historic maps and images of the street, and builds on oral histories, especially provided by Robert Witkowski and the members of American Legion Post 339. Other details and dates have been filled in from an extensive survey of the local papers, the Hopewell Herald (1881-1954), and the Trenton Evening Times (1883-1993).

As a bonus, this research lead to a companion brief on the well-known barbers of Hopewell, who occupied multiple buildings on the north east side of Seminary from 1906.

== Read the full brief on Hopewell Boro Barbers on Seminary Ave. (PDF) ==

Of course, there’s still more to discover about this topic. In particular, does anyone have ideas on some of these open questions:

  • What and where was Mechanic’s Hall on Seminary?
  • When and why was #6 Seminary demolished? (The Harry L. Cox barber shop, now the alley behind the restaurants.)
  • When and why was 8-10 Seminary rebuilt? (It was one story in 1902, two stories by 1962, then rebuilt with the second floor balcony?)
  • When and for what was 11-13 Seminary rebuilt? (It was Livery / Auto Parts in 1902, expanded toward the street c1965, to current block building?)
  • What and when is the story of the Hope Theater at 16 Seminary?
  • When did Raymond Cox open his barber shop at 21 East Broad, and how long was he was there?
  • When was George Cronce at 8-10 Seminary, and with what other barbers?

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