Today members of the public and the LHT Saturday Morning Walking Club stepped back in time at the official unveiling of “History Along the LHT,” an interpretive signage program developed for the Lawrence Hopewell Trail.
“The Lawrence Hopewell Trail passes through many locations that reflect centuries of the rich history of this corner of Mercer County,” said former Lawrence Township historian and current LHT board member Dennis P. Waters at the event. He led a walk to three new signs along the LHT: the Brearley Oak, a tree between 255 and 410 years old, Lewisville Road, Lawrence Township’s oldest African American community, and Princeton Pike, one of New Jersey’s oldest toll roads.
“From ancient trees to colonial thoroughfares to abandoned grist mills to remnants of the trolley era, local history sprouts from the trail at every turn,” Waters said. “With this project, we bring this history to life through interpretive signs at 31 locations that are significant in local history along the LHT’s 22 miles.”
The signs, covering different sites and topics from Lawrence and Hopewell history, are distributed throughout the trail route, offering users opportunities to learn more about the local heritage and culture.
Other sites the project highlights include Reed’s Mill, a gristmill that operated continuously for nearly two centuries; King’s Highway, an important route for Revolutionary War soldiers; Maidenhead Meadows, a marshland with Native American heritage; Chamberlain Farm, a Hopewell Valley community landmark; Mount Rose, a crossroads village and hard “trap rock” formation; the colonial-era Province Line dividing East and West Jersey; and a country home of Grover Cleveland, the only American president elected to two non-consecutive terms. Learn more about the markers already installed along the LHT by visiting www.lhtrail.org/history.
History Along the LHT has been years in the making, part of a broader strategy to enhance the trail’s user experience. In 2016, the LHT’s Board of Trustees contracted with Hunter Research, Inc. to prepare an interpretive plan with recommendations for sign locations, design and content. The project was funded by grants from the Mercer County Cultural and Heritage Commission, the New Jersey Historical Commission, the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and an anonymous foundation.
With seven signs now installed, production continues for another five to be installed by the end of May, said Waters, who plans to host further walks and talks along with his colleague, Richard W. Hunter, a former president of the Hopewell Valley Historical Society and the president/principal archaeologist of Hunter Research, one of New Jersey’s premier historical resource consulting firms.
Saturday’s event started at Bristol Myers Squibb’s Princeton Pike campus and continued on to a 1.4 mile walk to the signs. Those interested in a longer walk, including members of the LHT Saturday Morning Walking Club, walked still farther, to the 1761 Brearley House and back, for a total walk of 2.9 miles.