Petty’s Run Archaeological Site/Capital State Park

New Jersey State House Capitol Complex, City of Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey

From 2008 to 2013 Hunter Research, under contract to Wallace Roberts & Todd for the State of New Jersey, engaged in a major archaeological exploration and historic interpretive design project in a park adjacent to the New Jersey State House along a former stream known as Petty’s Run (now a part of the Trenton storm sewer system). This work was conducted as part of the creation of Capital State Park, an undertaking of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The overall intent of the project is to improve the immediate surroundings of the New Jersey State House, reconnect the downtown through the new park to its principal waterways (the Delaware River and the Assunpink Creek), and capitalize on the underappreciated heritage tourism assets of one of the nation’s most historic cities. Archaeological excavations took place between July 2008 and July 2009.  Design work was completed in 2012 and, following stabilization, the Petty’s Run Archaeological Site was opened to the public in May 2013.

Archaeological explorations revealed the remains of a mid-18th-century plating mill and steel furnace complex on top of which were superimposed the remains of an early 19th-century cotton mill and paper mill. Bisecting the site is the brick and stone-built Petty’s Run culvert, which was channelized in the early 19th century and then capped in the 1870s. Substantial remains of several late 19th-century row houses also line the southern edge of the site along former West Front Street. Key elements of these ruins are now displayed and interpreted as a focus of the new park. The remains of the Trenton Steel Works are judged to be of national significance and represent the first archaeologically documented evidence of an 18th-century steel furnace in the New World. Hunter Research led the design effort behind the stabilization and interpretation of the Petty’s Run ruins, and designed and oversaw the fabrication of the six-panel system of historic interpretive signs.