TRENTON — The Department of Environmental Protection and Mercer County have agreed to a joint, cost-shared project to preserve and restore the Petty’s Run archeological site in Trenton and to create a historical interpretive center at the site, which is located adjacent to the Statehouse, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin and Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes announced today.
The agreement calls for the state to contribute $800,000 to create and maintain an interpretive site, inclusive of $500,000 for design and construction, plus an estimated $300,000 for maintenance and upkeep over a 10-year period. Mercer County will contribute $800,000 to support design and construction — a contribution soon to be formalized by the Mercer County Freeholders. Any cost overruns for design and construction will be shared equally between the State and Mercer County.
The proposal will be presented to the State Capital Joint Management Commission, which oversees the Statehouse complex, at its meeting this morning, Sept. 16, in Trenton.
“We are pleased to be working with Mercer County to keep open a site that has historical significance for Trenton and the State of New Jersey, one that has yielded valuable insights into more than a century’s worth of industrial development and generated some keen interest from our historical community,” said Martin. “Importantly, we will not just keep the site open but will provide educational interpretation for students and all visitors to the State House complex.”
“Preservation of this dig site, where artifacts of Trenton’s pre-Revolutionary industrial ingenuity have been unearthed, will be achieved because we’ve been able to come up with a creative and cooperative solution,” said Hughes. “Trenton is steeped in history and whenever possible, we should do everything in our power to maintain its historic integrity. The preservation of Petty’s Run is a win for the people of Mercer County and all of New Jersey.”
The Petty’s Run site is unstable and unsafe in its current condition. The DEP had planned to close and properly preserve the site, a proposal that was approved last December by the Joint Management Commission. The original plan to develop and maintain the site was deemed too costly last year for the DEP.
But the DEP and Mercer County have found a way to work together to finance the stabilization of Petty’s Run as an interpretive site for historic preservation. Included would be the following:
- This project would establish an interpreted site, focusing on keeping the remains of the earliest steel and paper mills open. The paper and plating mills, located closer to Thomas Edison State College would need to be covered.
- Interpretation will be handled through six interpretive panels and a walkway around the site at a higher ground level. It does not provide access into the site.
- Fencing appropriate to the historical integrity of the State House grounds will surround the Petty’s Run interpretive site.
“This is a good solution that preserves a significant site from Trenton’s Revolutionary era history at considerably less cost to the State than the original proposal,” said Richard Bagger, Chief of Staff to Governor Christie and Chairman of the eight-member State Capital Joint Management Commission that will vote on the proposed agreement.
The cost to design and construct the interpretive site for Petty’s Run is estimated to be about $1.3 million. The estimated maintenance cost is about $30,000 per year.
Petty’s Run contains features of the early historic period of industrial activities in Trenton and Colonial America, including remnants of a plating mill built in the 1730s, a steel mill built in the mid-1740s, and Trenton’s first cotton mill, built in 1812. Archeological work already done at the site has yielded valuable insights into industrial development, beginning with a pre-Revolutionary War iron mill through the post-Civil War period.
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