The Hopewell area has seen two different railroad lines and a trolley line providing service up through Hopewell and Pennington. Two of these tracks are long gone, but some of their footprints remain.
In Hopewell Borough, for example, the train station that we know was built in 1876, conveniently in time for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
The area that we now know along Railroad Place was a busy industrial district for over the next half-century – Instead of the current well-defined Railroad Place road and park, the two blocks were one large open flat area with multiple buildings and work areas (see the 1932 aerial photo below).
Today, there are two buildings on the north side of Railroad Place from the Freight Shed to the Tomato Factory (see current-day aerial): Dance Exposure II in the large warehouse-style building near the Freight House (52 Railroad Place), and Firedance Studio in the newer building near the Tomato Factory (56 Railroad Place), which was built in 2007.
But this area has a more complex story, with multiple buildings, some destroyed by fires, and built and rebuilt in the same locations.
== View the full Property Brief:
Hopewell Borough Railroad Sidings / FCA (PDF) ==
The layout of buildings along this north side of Railroad Place was defined by two diagonal sidings that that connected to the tracks near the train station Freight Shed (see 1927 map – and previous post).
- The eastward siding ran diagonally up to the front corner of the Tomato Factory.
- The westward siding ran diagonally to the front side of the train station.
This explains why the buildings on Railroad Place along the tracks were oriented diagonally to the street – since they sat by these sidings.
Even better, we still have remnants of these sidings. The eastward siding ended in a elevated coal trestle near the front of the Tomato Factory, which was used to deliver coal to the Blackwell and Hill storage area by the Tomato Factory. The end support of this trestle still stands as a display area for Firedance Studio.
The westward siding ended in the open area in front of the train station, presumably for loading and transferring freight. What may be the bumper from the end of the siding sits by the light pole along the side of the train station driveway.
The first use of this area was as original site of the Blackwell and hill coal and feed business that moved across the street in the 1890s to the become the J. B. Hill lumberyard. By 1890, a Hay Press was in operation along the eastward siding before the coal trestle. By 1912, this location was occupied by a J. B. Hill Grain & Feed building (see 1932 aerial), was destroyed by an arson fire in 1977. This site was eventually used by Firedance Studio, which built in a different location on the property.
Along the westward siding, the Farmers Co-op Association (FCA) opened a store in Hopewell in 1948, at the location of the current Dance Exposure II building (see 1955 photo). The FCA store was closed around 1970. From 1973 into the 1990s the building was used for the Creative Classics hobby craft business. In 1991, the building was destroyed by an arson fire, but was later rebuilt in place with a very similar design. Then from 2003 to 2018 it was used for the Decorator’s Consignment Gallery before Dance Exposure II.
The historic nature of the Hopewell area is on display as you drive thorough our towns and experience the variety of the late 1800s / early 1900s architecture. Plus, we have an industrial heritage, driven by the arrival of the railroads, that lives on in larger structures like the Chocolate Factory and the Tomato Factory, and in smaller glimpses including the remnants of railroad right-of-ways, and the ends of the sidings by the Hopewell train station.
See the full History Brief for more detail and more images on this north side of Railroad Place. Thanks to the many contributors to the History Project for many of the documents, maps, aerials, and photos used in this work.
== View the full Property Brief: Hopewell Borough Railroad Sidings / FCA (PDF) ==
As usual, we welcome comments and more information and materials on our local history.