The Hopewell Creamery (c. 1887 – 1925)

Hernig & Northrup’s Creamery [Hw 1909] – View from Model Ave., pond drained

The Hopewell Creamery is a lost part of Hopewell Borough, joining the Finney & Fetter Saw & Feed Mill that also was down the road on Model Avenue. We have only a couple photos and maps, and no remaining local artifacts.

The Creamery supported farmers by taking in raw goods (i.e., milk), aggregating and processing the milk into saleable products, and delivering them to ready markets. As farming grew from supporting the immediate needs of families to the business of producing larger quantities goods for sale, the need for these intermediaries drove the growth of dedicated centralized services throughout the Hopewell Valley, New Jersey, and the larger region. This happened, for example, with mills for grain, hay presses, canneries for tomatoes, and creameries for milk.

In Pennington, for example, a creamery operated from 1898 through 1911.

The story in Hopewell Borough, however, is a bit more convoluted, and can only be partially reconstructed from available records: After a failed attempt to fund a Creamery Association in 1881, a creamery was established in Hopewell c. 1887 by William Naughright and Daniel Northrup. This Hopewell creamery was reportedly “of little importance” until it was revitalized by Peter Hernig and Daniel Northrup c.1893. The creamery then was regularly upgraded until c. 1920, when it was acquired by the Castanea Dairy Company of Trenton, which then shifted operations and sold the property in 1925. The property then was almost abandoned, although the creamery pond was used intermittently for public recreation in Hopewell through the 1940s, and the building was then demolished some time thereafter.

== View the full Hopewell Creamery History Brief (PDF) ==

Creamery Photos

We only have two known photos of the Hopewell creamery building, and two more of later activity at the pond. The property was at what is now 56 and 58 Model Avenue, just west of Mercer Street, at the site of Boro Collision and a stone bridge over the stream that then flows along Mercer Street.

The Creamery [HHH 1897] – View from Model Ave. across the pond
Hernig & Northrup’s Creamery [Hw 1909] – View from Model Ave., pond drained

The 1897 photo above shows the creamery building from Model Avenue, with the two windows on the right above the loading platform, the distinctive cupola in the center, and the dormer window on the left. The pond is in front, with a small structure to the left of the pond, and the railroad tracks behind.

The 1939 fishing photo below shows the creamery pond from the reverse angle, with the view from the driveway of the adjacent house, facing southwest to the Model Avenue bridge. Several years around 1940, the Sourland Mountain Sport Club sponsored a fishing contest for children under 14, with the pond stocked with “a large supply of trout.”

The Creamery Property

Creamery & pond [Sanborn 1902] – Train tracks along the left (north) side, Model Ave. along the right side

The Hopewell creamery was located on Model Avenue in Hopewell, just west of the intersection with Mercer Street. The stream still cuts through the property, flowing down under Model, and then along Mercer, under the former pizza store, and then under Broad Street. The stone sides of the underpass bridge still stand along the sidewalk.

The creamery building was set back from the road close to the train tracks, on the west side of the stream and behind the pond. The majority of the property was taken up by the creamery pond, which extended from the dam at the Model Avenue bridge up along both sides of the streambed. The creamery pond was used to gather ice in the winter to keep the milk cool in the creamery.

The former creamery property is now divided into two separate lots in the borough. The west side, where the creamery building stood (left from the road), is now 58 Mercer, currently an empty lot owned by the Borough. The east (right) side, including the stream and the former location of much of the pond, is now 56 Mercer, currently the site of Boro Collision.

Fishing contest at the creamery pond, 1939 [HVHS]
St. Michael’s kids fishing at Creamery pond, 1941 [Klevze]

Creamery Operations

Hernig Milk Bottles [Atlantic City Bottles on Flickr]

So what does a creamery do? At a minimum, it is an aggregator, collecting milk from multiple farms, keeping it pure and cold and fresh, and transporting it to the end market – the distributor.

The Hopewell creamery seems to have processed around 5,000 pounds of milk per day through much of its existence, received in from farmers and shipped out to Philadelphia. The milk was received from nearly 100 farms in the Hopewell Valley.

In order to aggregate and sell milk, the creamery needed transportation of the raw milk from the farms to the creamery, and then from the creamery to the end market.

Apparently farmers originally delivered their milk to the creamery (as with tomatoes to the Canning Factory). The creamery then evolved to running its own trucks for pick-ups, and later the farmers cooperated to put out bids for milk hauling routes.

Then to transport the milk products to the Hernig distribution center in Philadelphia, the milk was shipped by train in refrigerated cars to the Front and Burks street station, with midnight or early morning deliveries.

The timing for farm-to-door milk processing and delivery was described in 1922: “Milk delivered today by Castanea is the fruit of two milkings, the first the night before last; the second yesterday morning. Pasteurization and bottling was done yesterday and delivery made between midnight and 6 a.m. today.”

Creamery Processing

[Hopewell Herald 7/1/1903]

Creameries also do processing on the milk. First, they separate the fatty raw milk into cream and skim milk. This can be done as at home by waiting for the cream to rise in a bottle and then skimming it out, or can be automated, i.e., through a spinning process using a centrifugal milk separator.

Once the cream is separated, it can be used to make butter. This is done using a butter churn to agitate the cream for an extended period in order to cause the fat to clump and solidify. The cream then separates into butter and buttermilk (the remaining liquid), which is drained off. Milk also can be used to make cheese, which is a more involved process requiring storage and time for aging that does not fit well into a daily creamery workflow.

Another milk processing step is pasteurization, heating milk to destroy potentially disease-causing bacteria and increase its shelf life. Developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864, pasteurization was originally used to prevent wine and beer from souring. It was extended to milk in the 1880s in the United States as milk became more regulated.

The Hernig & Northrup creamery separated milk and cream before shipment, and also made butter, which was sold locally.

Around 1910, the creamery upgraded with a cold storage and artificial refrigerating system. And in 1914, the creamery installed a new pasteurizing plant at a cost of $1,000.  

The processing and pasteurization process in the creamery was detailed in 1919:

A new 12-ton ice machine which makes cold air for cooling has just been installed, also a very large direct expansion cooler and a 80-horsepower boiler are about to be put in place. Nowadays the farmer sets his milk cans properly marked in front of his house and two trucks belonging to the belonging to this creamery call for them and also return the cans. Once in every month a sample of each farmers milk is put into a small bottle with his individual number on it and tested for butter fats.
First the cans are emptied into a large boiler and weighed, then the milk passes through two strainers, heated in a pasteurizer, then onto the holder, where room where it remains for 30 minutes to kill all germs, then through another strainer and into the cooler where the temperature of the milk is changed from 145 degrees to 40 degrees, then into cans.

[Trenton Evening Times 3/2/1919]

Early Creamery, c. 1887

Creamery building(?) [Fowler 1887] – Top left, with cupola

An initial creamery operation was established in Hopewell around 1887-88. Not much is known about it – the Hopewell Herald reports that it was “of little importance” until taken over by Hernig and Northrup in 1893.
The owner of the original creamery appears to have been William S. Naughright, and the operator was Daniel A. Northrup, who later partnered with Peter Hernig to run the business as Hernig & Northrup.

There are no known contemporaneous discussions of the early creamery in the newspapers, but Naughright is mentioned in two articles 15 and 20 years later, albeit with different spellings of his name. There is no direct connection between Naughright and Hopewell, but he was indeed deeply involved in creamery operations along the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad (the parent of the line that passed through Hopewell), including innovating the use of refrigerator cars for overnight delivery of milk by train.

The 1887 Fowler map of Hopewell shows a building apparently at the creamery location off Model Avenue, next to the stream, across from a diagonal railroad siding, and with the distinctive cupola on the roof. However, in the drawing, the building is unidentified, is positioned loosely on the street, and does not have a pond in front.

Hernig & Northrup, c. 1892

Hernig ad from 1930 Wanamaker Diary [Susan Babbitt on Flickr]

In 1892-93 the Hopewell creamery business was acquired by Peter Hernig and Daniel Northrup. Hernig was one of the most prominent wholesale milk dealers in Philadelphia, and Hopewell was just one some six creameries that he operated. (In 1898, the company also started a new creamery in Wertsville.)

Peter Hernig (c. 1853 – 1922) was born in Germany and came to America in 1870. When he died in 1922 at age 69, Hernig left an estate valued at $627,152, of which $224,646 was his interest in the milk business.

Hernig came to this country alone from Germany at the age of fourteen, penniless.  His only trade was that of cabinet maker.  He began the selling of milk here when it was customary to carry one’s wares in buckets and announce it to the neighbors by means of a tin horn.
His success started after his marriage, for which ceremony he had to dye in a dark color the one pair of breaches that he possessed.  His first step towards big business was a loan to purchase a horse and delivery wagon. 

[Phila. Evening Public Ledger 5/25/1922]

The Hopewell creamery was regularly improved and upgraded after 1900, including a “new churn and butter worker,” “new shafting, machinery, etc.,” an improved delivery platform, a cold storage plant with larger boiler and engine, the pasteurizing plant, and a direct expansion cooler.

Castanea Dairy Co., c. 1920

Castanea Dairy Co. ad [TET 10/9/1930]

In 1920, Northrup left the Hernig & Northrup creamery business, and the business was acquired by 1921 by the Castanea Dairy Company of Trenton.

As of 1922, Castanea was selling some 25,000 quarts of milk and cream daily, which required buying some 30,000 quarts of milk a day. Castanea had some 138 employees handling the gathering and distribution of the milk.

The company bought the entire milk crop of about 500 selected farmers of Mercer, Bucks and Hunterdon Counties.  It owned 56 horses and several motor trucks, and operated 48 routes.

By 1924, the Hopewell creamery was apparently no longer in operation, with the processing shifted to Castanea plants.

Recreational Use, 1930s & 40s

Fishing contest at the creamery pond, 1939 [HVHS]

In 1925 creamery property was sold to Dr. Theodore A. Pierson and John R. Race.

By 1927, the creamery building was shown on maps as “not in operation” and “old & dilapidated,” with the former pond then a “swamp.” But the pond still was attractive for public recreation, including swimming, fishing, and ice skating.

There were some temporary uses of the building, including A. Castoro selling ice and also oyster shells and loose lime there. And 1932, the borough remodeled the building to keep stray dogs.

In early 1936, the Borough took a five-year lease for use of the pond from the owner, Dr. Pierson, originally for use as a ice skating rink. The pond had been used as a dump “for many years.” The pond was cleaned and deepened to a depth of 3 to 4 feet. The construction was done as a WPA project (the New Deal Work Projects Administration during the Great Depression).

That summer, the Borough opened the creamery pond as a community swimming pool. The dam gates were closed, and the pond was fed from several nearby springs.

By early 1945, the Borough had drained the pond because of misbehavior. In 1947, the Borough Council discussed conditioning the pond for skating.

But in 1949 the creamery pond was reported in bad shape, and was filled in. The pond was “odorous and unhealthy.”  The Borough was still controlling the pond under lease, but “all types of refuse and disease-breeding articles are flowing through brooks from the pond on to and through private properties where children are at play daily.”

Unfortunately, there is no known record of when the creamery building was demolished.

== View the full Hopewell Creamery History Brief (PDF) ==

We have only a handful of images of the now-lost Hopewell Creamery, and limited information from newspapers and other documents. Please do contact us if you have – or know of – more information or materials about the Hopewell or Pennington creameries – or other parts of our local history.

More on Industrial Sites on Model Avenue

Model Avenue was the first site of industrial development in Hopewell Borough after the arrival of train service in the 1870s, followed by Railroad Place.

Hopewell with the Arrival of the Railroad

Finney & Fetter Saw & Feed Mill (1874)

Golden & Van Doren Lumber Yard (1892)

The Hopewell Creamery (c. 1887)

1 thought on “The Hopewell Creamery (c. 1887 – 1925)

  1. Rob Davis

    One note… milk was rarely shipped in refrigerated cars.

    Many milk cars were heated to avoid freezing. The Reading Railroad had “can cars” which were much like baggage cars. If any cooling was needed, ice would be thrown on the cans.

    The Reading did handle some milk tank cars (from the exterior they looked like boxcars) that were dairy-owned.

    I’d be interested in any photographs of this creamery with milk cars visible.

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