TRENTON — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Department of Treasury and Mercer County today unveiled the Petty’s Run interpretive archaeological site located between the State House and the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton.
The project to preserve and restore Petty’s Run was jointly funded by the state and county. The site was one of five places in 1750s America where steel was fabricated, and it continued to be a vital industrial site well into the 19th century. Six interpretive panels and a walkway around the site offer visitors a window into these layers of history.
DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, State Treasurer Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff and Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes announced the opening at a ceremony at the site today.
“This site is historically significant to Trenton and New Jersey, offering valuable insights into more than a century’s worth of industrial development in our state,’’ said Martin. “It has generated great interest from our historical community and will provide educational interpretation for students and all visitors to the State House. It is especially fitting to unveil this new interpretive display during Historic Preservation Month here in New Jersey.’’
“Great outcomes can be expected when people pull together, and thanks to the collaborative spirit of Commissioner Martin and the efforts of so many, visitors will have the opportunity to experience the landmark Petty’s Run archeological dig site,’’ said Hughes. “Preserving the historic jewels of Mercer County has been a priority during my tenure as county executive. For generations to come, this important exhibit will bring history to life for the thousands of school children who visit our state Capitol.”
Petty’s Run contains features of the early historic period of industrial activities in Trenton and Colonial America, including remnants of a plating mill building in the 1730s, a steel furnace built in the mid-1740s, and Trenton’s first cotton mill, built in 1812. Archaeological work yielded valuable insights into industrial development, beginning with a pre-Revolutionary War steel furnace through the post-Civil War period.
The completed project includes stabilization of the site and public access through walkways and interpretive wayside exhibits. The stabilization work included the cleaning and repointing of masonry foundation walls and the placement of a glass canopy over the archaeological remains of the steel furnace in an effort to protect it from deterioration that could be caused by weather.
The cost of design and construction of the Petty’s Run site is $1.8 million, which will be split by the state and county. The agreement also calls for the state, through the State Capitol Joint Management Commission, to contribute an estimated $300,000 for maintenance and upkeep over a 10-year period.
“We are preserving a significant site from Trenton’s Revolutionary era history that will offer students and other visitors to our State House complex a better understanding of the significant role our state played in our nation’s history,’’ said James A. Harkness, chairman of the eight-member State Capitol Joint Management Commission that oversees the capitol complex and will maintain the Petty’s Run site.
The State Department of Treasury oversaw construction of the Petty’s Run project. Archeologists for the project are Richard Hunter and Ian Burrow. The design consultant is Wallace, Roberts and Todd. The contractor is Merrell and Garaguso Inc.
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