When The Railroad Came to Hopewell

Tomatoes and milk, chocolates and lumber – just some of the products that helped Hopewell grow after the arrival of the railroads in the 1870s.

Hopewell Valley Canning Co. label (1892-1937) [Mary Ann Browning]
Antique Milk Cans [Chuck Anderson]
Hopewell Dainties Box – Hopewell Chocolate Co. (1909-1930) [Doug Robbins]
Hopewell Station 1905

This Thursday, October 27, Doug Dixon will present Life in 1900s Hopewell with the Arrival of the Railroad, exploring how the arrival of the railroad drove the development of Hopewell into the town that we know today.

This Sourland Conservancy talk will be at the Hopewell Train Station, so there is limited space and advance registration is required – Click Here to Register

See the presentation Video and References for Hopewell with the Arrival of the Railroad.

Map of Mercer County (1849) – Otley & Keily

We will first visualize the growth of the town of Hopewell through historical town maps, expanding from its origins along the Old School Baptist Church on West Broad Street – along east Broad and then north and south.

The maps also show the development of industrial sites along Model Avenue and Railroad Place that helped provide jobs for the town, and a path to market for local farmers through the Saw Mill, Creamery, and Tomato Canning Factory.

Healthful, Historic Hopewell booklet (1897)

Then we will dig deeper into the feel of the time through the words of the people of Hopewell, and from seeing their actions – as they continually invested their time and money to create the kind of town where they wanted to live.

They volunteered and raised funds for community organizations including the library and the museum. They worked and invested to build services including banks, fire companies, and the water company. And they continued to promote the town by funding associations to encourage new business through land grants and financial support.

This work and these investments by our forbearers in the late 1800s and early 1900s created the Hopewell that we know today. They founded our town institutions including the Hopewell Fire Department, Public Library, and Museum. And they built our charming historical streetscape, with the many local buildings that were their residences, businesses, and industrial sites.

Please contact us if you have – or know of – historical Hopewell materials that we can save and share before they are lost – from photos and documents to mementos and memories.

2 thoughts on “When The Railroad Came to Hopewell

  1. Steve Levine

    Thanks for a great talk tonight. I unfortunately had to leave immediately at the conclusion. I had one question for you: Why was there relatively so little development on the north side of the tracks compared to the south side?

  2. ddixon


    The short answer may be simply that the south side is the town side of the tracks, and also the railroad station side, so the business and industrial development reached critical mass there, closer to businesses and residences, and closer to town services. The south side also had been cleared for the M&S line, and then was ready to go after the tracks were removed.

    In the early years, there were freight sidings along the tracks both on the south side (by the train station and freight house), and also on the north side (by the passenger shed). Plus there were the storage buildings for Ruben Savidge, seen in the 1881 photo, the 1889 photo showing the storage building with the Listers ad and Savidge name, and even the 1912 Sanborn map.

    But the north side across from the station was filling in as residential property. Front street started filling in by 1887, and by 1912 Front and Burton were almost completely developed with housing. And across from the first block of Model, Hart was partially developed beyond Shaftsbury, where there was a baseball ground between our Pierson and Newell.

    The first industrial development (the Saw Mill) was on the south side of Model, on the town side and down from the M&S train station. The two lumberyard sites on Model (Golden/Van Doren) and Railroad (Blackwell/J. B. Hill) were also on the south side, starting out with smaller operations connected to the town, and with dedicated sidings by 1890 and 1887 respectively. The siding in to the open space by the train station was in place by 1890, also delivering product closer to the town.

    So the result was a critical mass of infrastructure and services along the south side of the tracks, from Model and then Railroad, and then continuing to Somerset.

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