On July 8, 1776, Trenton hosted the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence outside of Philadelphia in front of, what was then, the Hunterdon County Courthouse on Warren Street (Trenton was then part of Hunterdon County). The now-immortal words of the Declaration of Independence were proclaimed aloud, and ultimately heard around the world.

Trenton Reenactors posing in front of artist Illia Barger’s Declaration of Independence mural | Photo by Chelsey Johnstoe

Yesterday, exactly 245 years to the day, Trentonians gathered to re-proclaim those words that birthed our nation.

On Thursday, July 8, 2021, members of the current Trenton community gathered outside the historic site of 23 South Warren Street to host a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. In a joint effort, community leaders of all ages and backgrounds recited the declaration word for word.

To kick off the patriotic event, Patricia Hall, Executive Director of the Trenton Downtown Association (TDA) serenaded the crowd with the classic tune America the Beautiful. To follow was an invocation and an inclusive prayer by Pastor Molly Dykstra of First Presbyterian Church of Trenton.

Patricia Hall, Executive Director of Trenton Downtown Association (TDA) singing America the Beautiful | Photo by Chelsey Johnstone

The recitation of the document commenced afterwards. Readers of the Declaration of Independence included:

  • W. Reed Gusciora, Mayor of Trenton
  • Mychal Holloway, Youth of the Year, Boys & Girls Club of Trenton
  • Alex Treece, President of the Kiwanis Club of Trenton (event sponsor)
  • Duran C. Keaton, Jr., Science Mentors/Trenton Central High School (TCHS)
  • Princess Hoagland, President of the 1719 William Trent House
  • Bernard J. McMullan, President of the Trenton Council of Civic Association
  • Louise Ann Salley, Science Mentors/Trenton Central High School (TCHS)
  • George Sowa, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Greater Trenton
  • Sherly Snider, Community Organizer for Urban Promise Trenton
  • David Niescior, Historical Interpreter at The Old Barracks Museum
  • Janice Selinger, Executive Director for Crossroads of the American Revolution
  • Algernon Ward, President of the 6th Regiment U.S. Colored Troops Reenactors
  • Richard Lazarick, Treasurer of the Trenton Rotary Club
  • Patrick Murray, Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute
  • Victor Tejada, Trenton Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps
  • Maria Herwig of the Kiwanis Club of Trenton (event sponsor)
  • Leon Rainbow, local Artist and Trentonian

To close off the event, Hall serenaded the crowd once again with the tune God Bless America. Attendees joined in and sang along, marking the end of the commemorative event.

After the celebration, attendees and readers mingled by the historic mural on Warren Street by artist Illia Barger (2006) that depicts the first ever public reading on the steps of the court house. Children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County posed for photos with Mayor Guciora and various community reenactors.

Children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County pose with Mayor W. Reed Gusciora at the public reading of the Declaration of Independence | Photo by Chelsey Johnstone

As the event came to an end, Alex Treece, President of the Kiwanis Club of Trenton (who sponsored the afternoon’s event) stated, “Let’s not wait another 245 years to celebrate.”

The afternoon program was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Trenton and the City of Trenton Department of Recreation, Natural Resources & Culture. For more information about the Kiwanis Club of Trenton, visit: http://kiwanisoftrentonnj.org/