Background on the Hopewell Valley History Project – its beginnings, chronology of major developments, and the people involved.
The idea of the Hopewell Valley History Project began in June 2019, when a group of us were inspired by architecture and garden tours in Hopewell Borough and wanted to find out more about local places.
However, getting started digging into local history was surprisingly messy – Where do you go? What do you need to know? What are the key references – books and maps – that you should be familiar with? And where do you find them?
As we spun up on local history, visiting local organizations and searching online, we started collecting materials, preferably in digital formats for easier referencing and searching, and for sharing with each other.
Clearly, the next logical step was to share all this information publicly on a website, free and accessible to all. So the Hopewell Valley History Project site was launched in July 2019.
The site has grown significantly since then. adding new elements and new collections of materials. Much of the material is focused on Hopewell Borough, due to the proximity of the Hopewell Library and Museum (and local contributors), but we are also continuing to add material from across the Hopewell Valley as it becomes available.
The History Project site began with the Document and Map Archives, building up to a database of over 100 files by the end of September 2019.
In November, the site added the Image Gallery, starting with 285 photos and postcards, many scanned through the kindness of local photographers and postcard collectors.
December saw the beginning of the History Project page on Facebook.
We also had some exciting successes in discovering and sharing long-neglected references. These included Hopewell’s Past by Betty Gantz (1987, 209 pages), which was languishing on the library shelf, and Hopewell Academy by Dean Ashton (1960, 539 pages), which was previously unknown to local historians. Both were scanned and added to the site with the support of family members of the authors. Plus, working with the N. J. Historic Preservation Office, the site added five Hopewell Valley Cultural Resource (Historic Site) Surveys (from 1985), with over 2700 pages of information on over 1000 local historic sites. Similarly, with the help of the authors, the site added The Struggle for Woman Suffrage in New Jersey by Neale McGoldrick & Margaret Crocco (1994, 120 pages).
By the end of January 2020 the site hosted over 140 documents and maps in the Archives and 570 images in the Image Gallery.
In February the site added the Hopewell History Map, to interactively explore information and images on over 100 historic sites and some 775 address in Hopewell Borough.
In March and April, the Image Gallery grew to some 1490 files, with several more collections of postcards, plus current-day photos covering the Hopewell Borough historic district. The site also added the first Panoramic Aerials, to pan and zoom in 180-degree views.
Starting in April, the site also started to add History Project Briefs, which used the site resources to research and document historic information on local organizations and streets, including Broad & Louellen (the Hopewell Presbyterian Church), Hopewell Public Library, Hopewell Borough Fire Companies, Seminary Avenue, Hopewell Veterans Organizations, and a Hopewell Borough History Timeline.
In May the Image Gallery added a Hopewell Borough Memorial Day parades album, now with almost 80 contributed photos showing the people, streets, and buildings of the times.
In June the site became the new host of the Pennington Borough History and Walking Tour site, which was originally developed and maintained by local resident Joe Sinniger.
In July the site added the Pamphlet Collection, with over 100 leaflets and pamphlets, including house tours, town anniversaries, and Harvest Fair.
In September the Image Gallery added a new Hopewell Artwork album, now with over 55 examples of local art, particularly views of the Hopewell and Pennington train stations.
In November the Image Gallery added a new Hopewell Mementos album, for fun keepsakes that also are of cultural or historical interest as relics of their times, and that provide information on local organizations and businesses.
As of the end of November 2020, the History Project site had 182 files in the Archives, including 79 documents and 103 maps and aerials. The Image Gallery had 1692 files, and the Pamphlet Collection had 138 files in 7 categories. There have been 85 blog posts with site updates, and over 65 Facebook posts.
The Hopewell Valley History Project is a totally volunteer effort, created and managed by Douglas Dixon, who does all the website updating and development. See the Acknowledgements page for the many organizations and individuals that have kindly contributed materials, information, and support to this effort, so that all of these materials can be shared on the site.
Doug Dixon is an independent technology consultant and writer, specializing in Web technology, databases, and digital media. Previously, he consulted to the Aberdeen Test Center doing large data testing and visualization, and earlier was a product manager and software developer at Intel and at Sarnoff / RCA Laboratories focused on digital media.
Doug was focused on digital and portable media over the past two decades, recorded on his Manifest Technology website, which now stands as an archive chronicling development of consumer digital media, from early video editing 1999, through DVD and streaming and portable devices, to full adoption of portable and web media by 2019. During this time, he authored four books on digital media, published hundreds of feature articles, and presented over a hundred seminars and talks.
Doug currently manages the Hopewell Valley History Project, is a board member of the Hopewell Valley Historical Society and the Hopewell Museum, and is managing the HVHS and Hopewell Public Library websites.