Mercer Street – Legion Hall and Stonecutting

Mercer Street in Hopewell is a fascinating example of how familiar – and also how different – our streetscapes appear compared to the early 1900s.

Current 9 Mercer

For example, today’s Mercer Street has businesses in the commercial area the West Broad Street end, and is residential at the Model Avenue end.

But at the northeast end, before the corner property on Model Avenue, is a somewhat different building set back beyond the adjacent lots. This is 9-11 Mercer Street, which in recent memory has been both a single and double house.

But back in the 1950s and 60s, this was the home of Hopewell Valley American Legion Post 339, which is still remembered today especially because of the annual Legion Carnival on the property, and because the building was an integral part of the route of the Hopewell Memorial Day parades.

But the story of this property and building actually goes back further to the 1890s, when this was the site of a marble and granite stonecutting business that operated in the area until the 1950s.

== View the full property brief on 9 Mercer Street – Legion and Stonecutters (PDF) ==

== Read the full brief on Hopewell Borough Veterans Organizations – American Legion and G.A.R. (PDF) for more on the national organizations and the local chapters ==

American Legion Post

The Hopewell Valley American Legion Post 339 was chartered in 1945 in the wake of World War II. (See earlier post on the Hopewell Borough Veterans Organizations.)

In that same year, the Legion purchased a vacant building on Mercer Street for its new post home. The existing structure was basically a two-story rectangular frame storage building. The Legion remodeled the building into meeting areas, and added a brick front entrance and a concrete block addition on the side to for a kitchen, bathroom, and utilities.

The building, #9 Mercer Street, was in use by 1948 for the Legion and other local groups including the scouts. The Legion later sold the building when it relocated to its new building on Van Dyke Road in 1966.

In addition, the #9 Mercer lot is larger than its neighbors, double the depth of the adjacent properties. And the Legion also owned the two lots to the south, #7 and #5 Mercer (toward West Broad Street), which were vacant until the Klett family purchased them and then built and sold the existing homes on them around 1986. As a result, the Legion used the full area of all three lots for its carnivals during the 1950s.

Marble and Granite Monuments

But where did the original building at #9 Mercer come from? It turns out that the Seville & Reid marble and granite business, makers of “monuments, headstones, markers, etc.,” was at that corner of Mercer and Model back to at least 1894. Their partnership was dissolved in 1895.

E. E. (Edward) Seville then established his own business in Trenton by the Greenwood Cemetery, which operated at least into 1929. He also kept some business in Hopewell around 1897 to 1899, with a marble yard at 5 Railroad Place, adjoining the Herald office (see 1897 photo with headstones next to the newspaper building).

Edward Seville also was the designer and sculptor of the granite monument that was installed by the earlier American Legion Post 273 in the middle of the intersection of Broad Street and Greenwood Avenue in 1925, and then was moved to the Elementary School on Princeton Avenue around 1930.

The other partner, William I. Reid, took over the yard at Mercer and Model and significantly expanded it, although the former Legion building is the only portion that still remains today.

Through 1902, the stonecutting business was based in the corner building on Model (then one story), which was converted into a two-story dwelling by 1912. During the same period, the #9 Mercer property was expanded with additional buildings and equipment, including the core of the building that remains today.

The W. I. Reid business expanded from granite and marble monuments and headstones, to automatic sealing burial vaults, concrete, and septic tanks. By 1929, Reid also added two additional locations, on both sides of the railroad tracks, north beyond the end of Mercer Street:

  • Concrete burial vault work south of the tracks behind #46 and #48 Model, west of the former location of the Creamery (where the stream crosses under Model).
  • Septic tank work north of the tracks, roughly at the end of the current Newell Place off Hart Avenue. At the time, the area between Pierson Place and Newell Place south of Hart Avenue was a baseball field.

William Reid died in 1950, and the last advertisement for the business appeared in the newspapers in 1951. Reid’s daughter, Ethel A. Reid, ran the business after his death.

But before Reid’s death, in 1945, the American Legion bought the vacant building that became #9 Mercer, and occupied the renovated building by 1948. This was while the Reid company was still in operation (presumably at the other sites north of Mercer Street).

Past and Present

This annotated aerial image from 1932 shows the way our landscape has changed (and remained the same) over the past century.

Some major landmarks remain, including the Presbyterian Church at West Broad and Louellen Streets, the Hopewell House at West Broad and Mercer Streets (now a liquor store), and the lumber yard and school house building up Model Avenue.

But other major landmarks of the first half of the 1900s are gone, including the sawmill at Model and Louellen (now a Borough pump house), the Creamery on Model at Mercer (now Boro Collision), and the baseball field off Hart Avenue (between the current Pierson Place and Newell Place).

Plus all three Reid sites are visible in the aerial – by the baseball field, between the tracks and Model Avenue, and the multiple buildings at #9 Mercer.

1932 Aerial showing Mercer Street area

== View the full property brief on 9 Mercer Street – Legion and Stonecutters (PDF) ==

Thanks to the many contributors to the Hopewell Valley History Project who provided images and information for this work, including documents, photos, aerials, and Memorial Day snapshots. Please do check your own files for historic material like this – before it is lost – and because each addition can help us learn more (for example, one of these images was donated only last month).

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