How can you begin to investigate the history of your house, or street, or town? When were the buildings built and expanded, and how did the streets develop over time?
The best way to get a quick sense of how our towns changed and developed is to look at the maps. And we are blessed with a variety of county, township, and town maps back to the mid-1800s that not only show the roads and streams and towns, but also the locations and identification of farms and businesses and residences (see below for examples).
And the best example of seeing changes is the 1935 Sanborn fire insurance map of Hopewell Borough – which literally has slips with changes pasted on the original 1927 map, including adding information on new buildings, overlaying changes to old buildings, and covering old buildings that had been demolished. These are particularly visible for St. Michael’s Orphanage and Weart’s Market.
== See the Historic Town Maps pages to explore the available maps ==
Updated Hopewell Sanborn Fire Insurance Map (1935)
The Hopewell and Pennington Sanborn fire insurance maps show the large changes in the boroughs, with the Pennington maps expanding from 1890 to 1902 from 1 to 3 to 4 pages , and the Hopewell maps expanding from 1902 to 1927 from 3 to 6 to 9 pages.
But starting around 1920, the effort and cost of creating new maps caused Sanborn to instead begin updating them by issuing paste-on correction slips. The 1927 map of Hopewell Borough was updated in this way in 1935, by using blank overlays to delete buildings that had been demolished, and redrawn overlays to change or add buildings.
The advantage of this update is that it provides a very clear visualization of the changes between the old and new maps.
One update to the original 1927 Sanborn map was the wing of additional class rooms added by 1935 on the right end (south side) of the St. Michael’s Orphanage Industrial School.
Many familiar historic images of St. Michael’s show only the original building that was opened in 1896, with the four-story central section and two three-story wings. But the maps show the full extent of the buildings, which are visible only in a few photos.
The first major expansion was the three-story rectangular addition on the left (northern) side in 1915, as shown in the 1927 map and photo (and hidden behind the trees in the second photo). The separate chapel building (as shown on the maps) was also built around this time.
The second addition on the right (southern) side of the original building was added c. 1931, as shown in the 1935 map and the second photo.
St. Michael’s was closed in 1973 and demolished. The land is now managed by the D&R Greenway as the St. Michaels Farm Preserve.
Another update to the 1927 map was in the Weart’s Market complex of stores and garages on Broad Street at the corner of Hamilton Avenue, and at the foot of Princeton Avenue. The maps again show what was happening out of view of the camera.
The 1927 map shows a profusion of detached sheds and storage buildings behind the complex. By 1935, these were replaced by an attached warehouse extension on the back. A second building behind the adjacent four-unit dwelling also was removed. (The small hen house between remained.)
Hopewell Fire Insurance Maps (1890 – 1935)
Starting in 1890, third-party companies started creating fire insurance maps of Hopewell, Pennington, and Titusville. Since it was not practical to send an underwriter out on horseback to assess risk for individual properties, insurance companies relied on these detailed town maps to write insurance coverage. Eight of the local Hopewell area fire maps are from the Sanborn Map company, and two from Scarlett & Scarlett.
These maps provide a comprehensive view of the towns, with roads, buildings, and, of course, the location of water sources. Each building is color-coded and annotated to show details including the construction materials, number of floors, porches, and the location of doors and windows.
With four maps of Pennington over 20 years and five maps of Hopewell over 45 years, these maps provide a visual record of the growth and changes to individual buildings and towns from 1890 through into the 1930s.
The maps contain multiple pages for different areas of the town, with an index map on the top of the first page showing the area covered on each page, numbered and colored.
- See the UC Berkeley Library’s Union List of Sanborn & Other Fire Insurance Maps / New Jersey
- See the Library of Congress collection of Sanborn Maps, with over 35,000 entries
Hopewell Fowler Birds-Eye Maps (1887)
Earlier, in 1887, T. M. Fowler came through the Hopewell Valley area and created amazing birds-eye view maps of Hopewell and Pennington. He also created an astounding 1874 map of Trenton.
Fowler started creating these panoramic maps in 1870, and continued for fifty years across numerous states and cities, creating 426 known works including over 248 maps of towns in Pennsylvania.
Hopewell County Maps (c 1850 – 1875)
Early regional and county maps and atlases (up to around 1875) show the major roads and identify and mark the locations of major farms, without showing details of individual buildings.
These area maps and atlases also included town-level detail maps that show the roads and identify and mark the locations of major businesses, buildings, and residences.
See the Princeton University Library site, Nova Cæsarea: A Cartographic Record of the Garden State, 1666-1888 and its Mercer County section for much more on local maps.
We welcome information on additional local maps and aerial imagery, and could also use help in identifying and indexing the information on these maps.
== See the Hopewell Valley Historic Town Maps pages to explore the available maps for Hopewell Township and local communities ==
== See the Hopewell Valley Places pages for links to all the various types of resources for these communities, including images, documents, maps, property reports, pamphlets, and panoramic aerials ==