Hopewell’s Lost Liveries: From Horses to Cars

[Updated 9/3/21 – Additional photos for clearer view across back of Seminary]

The 1910s saw a revolution in the lives of people and towns with the introduction of the automobile, including Henry Ford’s Model T, launched in 1908. We can track this change in Hopewell Borough and other local towns through the decline of the multiple livery stables that were used to board, feed and care for horses.

Even today, you still can find some original hitching posts for tethering horses along the streets of Hopewell Borough, plus some newer decorative versions.

The quick change from horses to motors is demonstrated by the equipment used by the Hopewell Fire Department. In 1911, the new Fire Department proudly took delivery of a horse-drawn four-wheel chemical engine, shown here at the new fire house on Seminary Avenue (the building is still standing).

By 1916, however, the department purchased a motorized Buick chassis to equip with the chemical engine equipment. The company is shown here posing with the new truck on Broad Street at Greenwood Avenue (with the then bank building to the right).

We also can track this change in horsepower through three decades of Sanborn fire maps of Hopewell – 1902, 1912, and 1927 – that show several local liveries phasing out, and converting into auto repair and garage shops. Plus, we even have some historic photographs to show them in their time.


Hopewell House – J. M. Titus Livery

Liveries were needed where people congregate, and the first major such site that drew people to Hopewell was the Old School Baptist Church, which was the anchor of the early growth of the town. The original church building at 46 East Broad was constructed in 1747, and then was replaced by the current building in 1822.

Of course, when people assemble, they also need to eat and drink and rest, which leads to the development of inns, including the Hopewell House, which was built in the second half of the 1700s next to the Old School Baptist Church, at 48 West Broad, on the corner of Mercer Street.

And herds of people then require a livery stable to keep their horses, which then can serve both visitors and locals. The 1902 and 1912 Sanborn maps show the J. M. Titus Livery just up Mercer Street, behind the Hopewell House and Baptist Church.

The livery complex is in three parts, in a roughly C shape – a two-story bottom section next to Mercer Street, a one-story longer vertical section, and a one-story top section (which was used by the Union Fire Department). There are also three long Team Sheds beyond, up in the area of the current cemetery.

The 1916 postcard provides a glimpse of the top of the middle section of the livery buildings in the background, on the left behind the Hopewell House.

Even better, the former livery buildings are still standing today at 1 Mercer Street, albeit for rather different uses. The 1950s Memorial Day Parade photo shows the two-story section in use for auto repair, with the long section open. The current-day photo shows the two-story section as a convenience store, and the other two sections as stores and offices.


Hopewell Inn – A. Cray Livery

Up Broad Street at Seminary Avenue was the second major hotel in Hopewell, originally known as the Central Hotel back to c. 1875, and now the Hopewell Inn and Bistro at 15-17 East Broad Street.

This hotel also lead to an adjacent livery, A. Cray’s Livery, which was later replaced by the current cement block structure that was long used as an auto parts business, now 11-13 Seminary.

As shown in the 1902 and 1912 Sanborn maps, the livery building was behind the Central Hotel, and set back from the street, with an attached section below it (below 15 Seminary, which was the first Fire Department station), with additional sheds running behind the adjacent buildings down Seminary.

Meanwhile, the new Public High School (later Borough Hall, and now the Firehouse at 4-6 Columbia) also was built at the corner of South Greenwood and Columbia in 1910.

We do not have images of Cray’s Livery from Seminary Avenue, but thanks to new discoveries from Bob Gantz, we do now have photos of what the area looked like from behind the properties, when viewed from the Public School grounds.

High School 1903

These photos from around 1916 show a tennis court on the east side of the school building, near the current driveway next to the Emergency Medical Unit addition. To the left is the back of the Livery building, another rectangular shed overlapping the livery building, and then there is a run of additional rectangular frame sheds along the back of the Seminary Avenue properties, ending with a break (and a fence) before the next building on Columbia after the school, 12 Columbia.

The 1903 postcard of Hopewell High School than shows a view of the missing section of sheds in the photos, showing the back of 17 Seminary and the smaller addition behind it.

We do not quite have all the pieces needed to fit together a complete panorama, but the run of sheds behind the Seminary Avenue properties does match well with the 1912 Sanborn map.

Photos of back of Seminary Avenue from Public School, c. 1916 (paste-up panorama)

In trying to date these photos, note that this solid expanse of wooden structures down to the house on Columbia best matches the 1912 Sanborn map – The 1902 and 1927 maps have open areas behind some of the other properties. Note also the buildings seem to have class year graffiti (’16 and ’17) painted on them. As an extra hint, one photo also is annotated as 1916.

For comparison, a current-day panorama from the Firehouse shows a similar layout, albeit with many changes and additions to the structures.

Current back of Seminary from Firehouse (paste-up panorama)

Other Liveries

There were other liveries in Hopewell Borough, although we do not have images or much more information on them:

Car Depot 1983
  • The S. H. Millette Livery at 9 Railroad Place, just down from North Greenwood Avenue and backed up to Cook Place, is shown on the 1902 Sanborn map, and still appears in the 1912 map (with the Fire Department Engine House temporarily lodged next door). Then by the 1927 map it is identified as a Garage. This was later Blackwell’s and Holcombe’s Garage, and more recently was the Car Depot.
  • The J. Pierson Livery Stable at 29 Blackwell Avenue at the corner of Railroad Place is shown in the 1890 Scarlett & Scarlett map. Then by the 1902 Sanborn map, it is identified as a private residence.
  • In Hopewell, a Historic Geography, Hunter and Porter also report that “there survives within the block bounded by Princeton and Columbia avenues and Broad and Maple streets structures that were part of Cray and Pierson’s livery stable during the late-nineteenth century.”

Grain to Gas

The Sanborn maps trace the rapid changes from the adaption of motorized transportation.

For the Hopewell House at West Broad and Mercer – The 1902 Sanborn map shows the J. M. Titus Livery in operation, plus the three additional sheds. The 1912 map no longer labels the buildings as a livery, but still shows the three near-by Team Sheds.

Then by the 1927 Sanborn map, the livery usage was gone. The former livery buildings are marked as in use for automobiles (i.e., as garages), and the three additional sheds were reduced to one storage shed (which is now gone).

And for the Hopewell Inn at East Broad and Seminary – The 1902 Sanborn map shows an extensive A. Cray’s Livery complex with additional adjacent sheds. By 1912, the building is marked as just Livery, and the adjacent building on Seminary was being built as the first Hopewell Fire Department station.

Then by the 1927 Sanborn map, the livery usage was gone. The main livery building is marked as an Auto Repair Shop, with additional garages behind the adjacent firehouse building.


Thanks again to Bob Gantz for the fascinating images of the high school tennis court with the views of the back of the livery area on Seminary Avenue. And thanks to the other contributors to the History Project for the other photos that tell us more because they happen to have these livery buildings in the background.

== See all the new Gantz photos in the Image Gallery ==

We welcome additional information and contributions about these liveries, and more.

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