LHT Historic Site – Mount Rose Distillery
Mount Rose Distillery
This brick building and its associated archaeological site were entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. The township acquired the property in 1998 through a land gift from Toll Brothers, the developer of nearby Hopewell Hunt. It subsequently became the first local landmark designated by Hopewell Township under its 2000 historic preservation ordinance. The age and identity of the brick building are uncertain. It is thought most likely to date from the late 19th or early 20th century and to have been used for storage and office space.
Above: A view of the so-called “Whiskey House,” the only surviving building at the distillery, prior to its restoration by local craftsmen in 2004
[Hopewell Township Historic Preservation Commission]
An excerpt from the inventory of distillery owner Randal Drake’s estate in 1852 which
lists the contents of the “cider and still house”
[New Jersey State Archives]
The distillery site was part of a 166-acre farm which included the farmhouse standing across Pennington-Rocky Hill Road. Randal Drake acquired the property from his brother Andrew B. Drake, also a distiller, in 1840. The distillery had been previously owned by the Drakes’ uncles, Benjamin, Andrew, and Jacob Blackwell, who owned taverns in Trenton and Hopewell. Nathaniel H. Drake, a nephew of Randal, purchased the property in 1876 and operated the distillery until his death in 1908. Thereafter, George Savidge was the proprietor until 1920, when Prohibition closed the operation down.
A newspaper account of the sale of Nathaniel Drake’s two adjoining farms following
his death in 1908; the more valuable property bought by George Savidge included the distillery
[Hopewell Herald, February 5, 1908]
Apples & Distilling
From the earliest settlement of New Jersey, orchards of grafted apple trees were an important component of most farms. Because apples did not keep very long, farmers converted most of the crop to cider, also distilling much of it into apple whisky or brandy. Farmers would typically bring their apples to a local distiller each fall and exchange the crop for cider or spirits already made at the site. A popular drink of the colonial period was “syder royale,” which was a mixture of cider and rum. Jersey cider, particularly from Newark, enjoyed widespread notoriety and was exported overseas. Other orchard fruits, such as peaches, were also distilled into brandy.
An advertisement for a common type of cider press in use around the time Nathaniel Drake took over the Mount Rose Distillery in 1876
[Weiss, Harry B., The History of Applejack, 1954]
An advertisement for a copper still of simple design similar to what may have been in use at the Mount Rose Distillery:
“Catharine Faussett respectfully informs her friends and the public generally, that she continues to carry on the above business at the old stand, for many years in the occupancy of her late husband, opposite the Episcopal Church, Warren Street, Trenton, where anything in the above line will be furnished at the shortest notice and upon the most reasonable terms. The public may be assured that she will employ none but experienced workmen in her establishment.
-A quantity of ready made ware always kept on hand.”
[Daily True American, October 21, 1833]