Trenton in 1775 Mapping Project

City of Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey

The purpose of this project was to develop a detailed map of property ownership and land use for downtown Trenton north of the Assunpink Creek centered around the year of 1775. Such a map is viewed as a means of providing a cartographic and historical geographic context for understanding the urban character of Trenton Town on the eve of the American Revolution and the Battles of Trenton. While many scholars have striven to characterize Trenton during the late colonial and Revolutionary War periods, no systematic attempt has been made prior to this project to relate the historic to the present-day landscape in a detailed or town-wide fashion.

At the outset it was understood that this ambitious goal would likely prove to be an open-ended exercise in historical and archival research. A vast body of property-specific primary documentation exists land records, surrogates records, tax records, newspaper advertisements, and more spread among numerous repositories, all of which ideally requires systematic and painstaking study before it can be translated into a cartographic domain. When looking at the history and geography of an entire town, archival research opportunities are literally limitless. As a result, efforts were made to contain the scope of the project, both by limiting the area of geographic coverage and by concentrating research on certain classes of archival documents.

From the standpoint of geographic coverage, the project focused on the historic core of the downtown on the north side of the Assunpink Creek, an area bounded approximately by Petty Run on the west, the Trenton Battle Monument to the north and Montgomery Street on the east. As described in greater detail below, the archival research concentrated on the systematic analysis of land records prior to 1775, selective use of other primary source materials (both before and after 1775) and careful reference to key secondary sources.

The resulting map is most emphatically a work in progress. While much new (and old) information has been compiled and organized in tabular and cartographic form, there are many gaps in the research, many leads that can still be pursued, and these are clearly reflected in the final map product. An especially valuable outcome of the project at this stage, however, is that the map in its current form clearly points the way for future research.

Client:  Trenton Historical Society