In the recent post about Hopewell School Mascots, we discussed the interesting names of some of our local schools, including Toll Gate (named for the gatekeeper of the toll road) and Bear Tavern (named for a revolutionary-era drinking establishment).
But where did the “Timberlane” name came from?
Nicole Gianfredi, principal of Timberlane Middle School, kindly relayed the story of the founding of the adjacent Timberlane Drive development, and Jack Davis then researched further and connected us with Jim and Nancy Pierson, who explained their family connections to the area and the name.
Updated 2/11/23 – Correct spelling of Moorhead
Timberlane on the Map
On the map below, the current Timberlane Drive roads are to the left of Route 31, extending both above and below Pennington-Harbourton Road (Route 623) – which is the extension across Route 206 from West Franklin Avenue in Pennington. The road underneath is Pennington-Titusville Road, the extension of West Delaware Avenue after it crosses Route 206 from Pennington.
- [North] Timberlane Drive circles up above Route 623, with about 19 houses on the loop.
- South Timberlane Drive extends down below Route 623, to Pennington-Titusville Road.
The two school properties fill most of the area along South Timberlane Drive, with Timberlane Middle School to the left of the road, and Hopewell Valley Central High School to the right (before the Hopewell branch of the Mercer County Library).
The Timberlane Development
Jim and Nancy Pierson report that the Timberlane area was developed around 1954 by Ted Pierson, Jim’s father, in partnership with George Moorhead. At the time, the Timberlane name was used for this property, as separate from Pennington, which then grew into our [North] Timberlane Drive and South Timberlane Drive.
Pierson and Moorhead bought the land from Charles McGuire, Jim’s maternal grandfather, who lived on Pennington-Harbourton Road and owned the land that is now Timberlane Drive.
The photo shows Ted Pierson and George Morehead with a Timberland Development sign around 1954. The sign has two phone numbers, 560 and 86J (a party line).
Newspaper ads from 1954 in the Trenton Evening Times offered building lots in the “Timberlane” or “Timber Lane” tract – described as choice homesites near the Pennington Circle -“dogwoods, oaks, etc., afford ample old shade.” Two such lots were 100 x 400 ft. for $1750, and 125 x 230 ft. for $2100.
By October 1954, Mr. and Mrs. T. A. (Ted) Pierson had moved to their recently completed home “in Timberlane.” They lived in their house at 13 Timberlane Drive for many years. Ted later served on the township committee and was mayor of Pennington in the 1960’s.
The Timberlane development was clearly of interest to home buyers, as reports in the Trenton Evening Times showed that at least seven additional families built homes and moved into Timberlane through 1955 and early 1956. During this period, the road was variously called Timberlane Avenue or Drive.
The new houses included a “1-story frame split-level dwelling” built for $21,000 and a “1-story dwelling” built for $14,000.
A real estate ad from 1957 selling a home glowed – “Trees, trees, trees, flaming with Autumn beauty surrounded this lovely rancher, 6 rooms, 1 1/2 baths, fireplace, porch, 2 car garage. $21,500.”
The Timberlane Name
So where did the Timberlane name come from? Was it one word or two?
The Pierson family reports that the name was selected by Ginny (Virginia) Pierson, Jim’s mother. She said that it was supposed to be “Timber Lane” (in two words), but there was a mix-up in the process and it was changed to Timberlane Drive. She picked the name because the land was wooded and she liked the sound of the name.
The Timberlane name was not common in the newspapers of the day, although there was a “Timber Lane” in Levittown, Pennsylvania, that was mentioned repeatedly in the Trenton Times around 1953.
But the combined “Timberlane” name did have a stronger presence in the culture of the time, thanks to the 1945 novel by Sinclair Lewis, Cass Timberlane: A Novel of Husbands and Wives.
The name then was reinforced when the novel was used for a 1947 romantic drama film, also called Cass Timberlane, starring Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, and Zachary Scott.
So it may be that our Timberlane name in Hopewell has an unconscious influence from literature and the cinema.
Thanks to Morris Fabian on Facebook who corrected the spelling of George Moorhead.
Thanks to the folks who contributed to these explorations of school mascots and names. Please contact us if you have more information – or other Hopewell area history materials.