J. B. Hill & Sons on Railroad Place

We’ve been exploring down Railroad Place in Hopewell, and today we reach J. B. Hill and Sons – a Hopewell fixture for over a century. The company had its origins as a coal business back to 1890, then added grain & feed, lumber, building supplies, fuel oil, and finally general hardware and paints before closing in 2006.

J. B. Hill and Sons Property (now Morehouse Engineering [2020]

As another tribute to its longevity, J. B. Hill was listed in the 1910 Bell phone directory as phone number “5”, and retained that number until it closed, albeit expanded to 609-466-0005.

See previous posts along Railroad Place –The Hopewell Chocolate Factory, The Hopewell Valley Canning Company, The FCA and Hopewell Railroad Sidings, and Rose & Chubby’s Luncheonette.



== View the full Property Brief: J. B. Hill & Sons – 43 Railroad Place (PDF) ==



1875 – David L. Blackwell and Joseph Bloomfield Hill

The origin of J. B. Hill goes back to David Lafayette Blackwell (1832 – 1936), who by 1890 was running a coal business, plus hay and feed, from a building across Railroad Place near the tracks. By 1891, D. L. Blackwell had partnered with Joseph Bloomfield Hill (1861 – 1945), and a combined “Blackwell & Hill” business was located at the corner of Railroad Place and Hamilton Ave., and was selling grain and feed, coal, and livestock.

In 1904, the business name became “Joseph B. Hill,” then by 1909 just “J. B. Hill.”

We have an 1897 photo and a 1902 map showing the Blackwell & Hill facility, with two long parallel lumber sheds and a small one-story office.

[Sanborn 1902]

[HHH 1897]

In 1918, Joseph B. Hill rebuilt and expanded the sheds and built a two-story office, resulting in the property layout that is the basis of what we still see today, as shown in the 1927 map and 1932 aerial photo.

[Sanborn 1927]
[Aerial 1932]

c1920 – J. B. Hill & Son

The second generation of Hills to run the business were two of the sons of Joseph B. Hill, Hervey Stout Hill (1893 – 1964) and Edward Updike Hill (1904 – 1985).

By 1922 the business was using the name “J. B. Hill & Son,” while focusing on the same businesses, coal, lumber, grain & feed, and building supplies.

J. B. Hill seems to have had a penchant for playful newspaper ads, using catchy phrases including “The Glad Hand always waits you here”, “Lumber to Build and Coal to Burn” and “‘Think twice and build but once’ by getting materials that will endure.”

[HH 1917]
[HH 1922]

c1940 – J. B. Hill & Sons

[HH 1938]

The third generation of Hills to run the business were the son and son-in-law of Hervey Stout Hill, son Joseph Bloomfield Hill II (1927 – 2009), and the husband of daughter Janet Hurd Hill, Arthur Matchett Wright (1920/21 – 1984).

By 1938, the business was using the name “J. B. Hill & Sons” (plural).

Also in 1938, the business took on more of a retail hardware approach, as the office was remodeled, to exhibit hardware and paints, with “a display room added where different types of flooring, ceiling, walls and sidewalk are shown. … showing the customers the appearance of materials after they have been installed.”

1934 – 1970 – Oil Business / Valley Oil

J. B. Hill expanded from coal into the fuel oil business in 1934. However, fuel oil was more of a service business, requiring more customer support than dumping coal into the basement bin. And the coal business also was declining – by early 1960s, only a handful of coal customers remained.

In 1970, J. B. Hill sold the oil business to Valley Oil, founded by David Bregenzer Sr. and Donald Terhune. After initially running its business from the J. B. Hill location for a couple years, Valley Oil moved to its present location at the end of Somerset Street.

[HH 1934]
Oil tanks on Hamilton Ave. [Aerial 1972]

c1970 – 2005 – Hardware Store

J. B. Hill and Sons was converted into a retail hardware store around 1970, using the Sentry brand.

In 2005, the J. B. Hill and Sons hardware store closed for business.

In 2006, Joseph B. Hill II sold the property to Morehouse Engineering, which has renovated the offices and the property.

Hardware Store Closed [S. Morehouse 2006]

J. B. Hill and Sons

Do you have additional pictures, artifacts, or memories of J. B. Hill and Sons or other properties down Railroad Place? We would love to share them!

See the full brief on J. B. Hill & Sons for more on the business and additional images – including the people (D. L. Blackwell lived to age 104, still “hale and hearty” and mowing his lawn each week), and the business (J. B. Hill had two large oil storage tanks on the corner of Hamilton Ave., and took deliveries from railroad tank cars on the coal trestle across Railroad Place using a pipe that hung over the street).



== View the full Property Brief: J. B. Hill & Sons – 43 Railroad Place (PDF) ==


As usual, we welcome comments and more information and materials on our local history.

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