William Howe’s “Dixie Farm” on S. Main in Pennington

We have five fascinating historic (and snowy) images of 65 Main Street, known as “Dixie Farm” when it was the home of William P. Howe, Sr. from 1910 to around 1913.

The postcard shows a formal view of the structure from around the 1910s, with a two-story circular colonnaded portico framing the front door and a covered, colonnaded driveway overhang on the left (north) side.

The building has since been converted and extended for office use, as shown in the photo from the 2016 Cultural Resource Survey.

William P. Howe, “Dixie” Farm – 65 South Main Street – c1910s [SC]
65 South Main in Pennington [2016 Cultural Survey]

The new photos below, presumably from around the 1910s, then show views of the building from different angles, also in the snow. Three show the front of the building through the trees, with the portico and colonnaded driveway. The other two show the other sides of the building. These photos are unfortunately undated and unattributed, and only hand-marked with Howe / Dixie Farm identification on the back.

If you have more information, we would love to hear more about the background of these photos.

== View images of 65 South Main Street in the Image Gallery ==

William P. Howe, Sr. and Dixie Farm

William P. Howe [Pennington Profile]

The “Dixie Farm” building was originally built in the first half of the 1800s, and extensively remodeled by Howe in 1910. As discussed in Margaret J. O’Connell’s Pennington Profile book, it had been the home of Dr. Absalom Blatchey, the Fish Farm, the remodeled residence of William P. Howe, the Robeson dwelling, and later the residence of Dr. William J. H. Abey.

Howe  bought the house and 28 acres of what then was known as the Fish Farm in 1910. Only three years later, Howe moved further down South Main Street because he needed more land for plantings and seedlings for his nursery work (see below). “His hundreds of rose bushes made the whole block between Main and Burd Streets on the southside of West Welling Avenue such a sea of beauty that later the property was named ‘Rose Garden Inn.'”

Howe was an important promoter of and benefactor to Pennington for many years. He served two terms as mayor (1912-13 and 1924-25), and donated land for St. Matthews’ Episcopal Church and for the Grammar School on South Main. Among other roles, he served as vice president of the Pennington Fire Co. and trustee of the cemetery association, and was a charter member of the Pennington Board of Trade and an original subscriber of the Building & Loan Association.

The Howe Tract

Sample Howe Tract home [HH Progress 1914]

Howe also was a “real estate operator.” He developed Burd Street in 1910 as part of a 40 acre tract, Welling Avenue, and Curlis Avenue in 1922. In 1912, he developed the Howe Tract along Laning Avenue in the southwest corner of the borough, which then was annexed to the borough in 1915.

As profiled in the 1914 Hopewell Herald Progress Edition and 1958 Pennington 250th booklet, Howe laid out the tract with building lots and streets, and planted trees and shrubs in order to attract people to Pennington to make their homes. By 1914, $50,000 had been spent in development, and the tract had been divided into some 300 lots of 60 x 200 feet. At that time, 140 lots already had been sold averaging $350, or $48,000 worth, and eighteen new houses had been built within less than two years.

The tract included three miles of streets and three miles of sidewalks and curbing, with 2000 shade trees planted on streets and front lawns, and 3000 fruit trees planted in the rear of lots. Public Service Corporation had installed electric lighting and gas mains, Pennington Spring Water Co. had installed about a mile of water main, and the Bell Telephone Co. had installed phone service.

Howe Nurseries

Logo from 1932 Howe Nurseries Evergreens catalog [archive.org]

As described in an extensive article on Howe in the Hopwell Valley Historical Society Newsletter (Fall 2012, p. 673), the Howe Nurseries also was a major part of Pennington, as the largest employer in the town with over 300 acres of growing fields. Howe was said to have planted more than 2500 shade trees in Pennington alone.

In 1932, spurred by the Depression, Howe opened one of the first roadside stands for retail sales in the nation, and later expanded to other sites around the state. The company also pioneered the planting of large trees in full foliage.

William Howe Sr. died in 1964, and the company continued under his son, William Howe Jr. until his death in 1974, when the business was closed down after 64 years. The company also had operated the Howe Plant Market on South Main Street for forty-two years.

== View the Howe Nurseries Spring, 1932 Evergreens wholesale catalog (PDF) ==

Thanks to Tom Taylor for sharing these and other local photos and postcards.

We welcome any further information on Howe and these photos, as well as other historical materials around the Hopewell Valley.

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