Several years ago I led “lunch and learn” presentations downtown at the New Jersey State Library (call or register online for current classes. See the contact information below). Traffic and parking challenges notwithstanding, the hour-long sessions were attended and well-received primarily by staff and employees from other nearby State departments.
There is clearly an interest in learning more about the city we live or work in, as long as the timing and location of the sessions are convenient and fit into our busy schedules. But what if you can’t even spare thirty minutes to indulge your curiosity? Fortunately, downtown Trenton has several landmarks that we can learn about in the five or ten minutes it takes to turn the corner as we leave a deli or restaurant after picking up our broadcast or lunch to go.
2-8 North Broad Street at East State Street is the historic site of Trenton’s first City Hall. After picking up your chicken and fries platter, read the small plaque affixed to the corner of the building. Built in 1837, the mixed-use property also provided rental space on the ground floor for meetings and conventions (http://www.destinationtrenton.com).
Take that Dunkin Donuts blueberry muffin and coffee across the street with you to the mini park dedicated to military veterans from New Jersey. Keep in mind that the people whom you often see gathered there under the trees may indeed be veterans themselves.
Treating yourself and your coworker to a mouth-watering Checkers Burger at Checkers Restaurant on Warren Street? Call ahead to pick it up then cross the street to the former Wells Fargo Bank building (the bank moved a block up East State Street several months ago) where “…the ratification of the U.S. Constitution was signed on December 18, 1787.” After reading the plaque, step back and look up. The top of the building reads, “The Corner Historic City Tavern 1789-1837.” Formerly The French Arms Tavern, the building served as the Capitol of the United States and meeting place of the Congress of the Confederation from November 1, 1784 to December 24, 1784” (https://en.wikipedia.org).
If you like, instead of walking back to the office, you can catch any bus directly across the street in front of The Mary G. Roebling Building. In 1937, she became the first woman to head up a major U.S. bank (Trenton Trust). Under the life-size plaster replicas of construction workers who built our bridges and many Roebling family buildings all over Trenton (I live on the former site of a Roebling family mansion), you’ll find two placards affixed to the iron fence. One marks the location of Trenton’s first synagogue and the Mount Sinai Cemetery Association formed on November 9, 1857 (http://trentonjewishhistsoc.blogspot.com). The other plaque commemorates the “Government House, home of Moore Furman, Trenton’s first Mayor from 1792 to 1794, and, between 1798 and 1845, the residence of the Governor of New Jersey (https://www.104westfront.com).
Look around you when you leave the office tomorrow to grab a bite to eat. Learn about and enjoy the wealth of history right in front of you!
CORRECTION: In reference to a previous article, The New Jersey State Library at 185 West State Street is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. To use computers at the State Library, you must be a registered New Jersey State Library cardholder. New Jersey residents 17 years old and older may register for a library card. For more information, call (609) 278-2640, or go to their website at www.njstatelib.org.