One of our favorite daily visits, the historic Hopewell Borough is located within the larger Hopewell Township in northern Mercer County, New Jersey. Hopewell is a part of the Raritan Valley region of the state with the woodsy Sourland Mountains to the north; Lambertville to the west; South Brunswick to the east; and Princeton to the south. Visually, Hopewell boasts a sleepy, calming small town aesthetic that has attracted young artists and off-beat small business owners. While all of Hopewell Township provides opportunity for nature preservation and historical investigation, Hopewell Borough has its own unique small town legacy of pre Revolutionary American History.
Like most early New Jersey settlements, the territory that became Hopewell was inhabited by Lenape Native Americans. A substantial land deal in the latter 17th century introduced the Colonial influence into the area. Over the following decades, Hopewell would be inhabited by settlers who were enticed to move to the area for its space and fertile soil, only to be misled by the real estate company, as the area at the time was vastly rural, forested land. The settlers who stuck around after this ordeal would become core components to what would eventually become Hopewell, and their contributions still stand in town to this day. The Baptist influence of mid-18th century reflects today with the Baptist Meetinghouse and the Hopewell Academy – the latter was a Baptist school which taught Latin, laying the conceptual framework as the forerunner institution for what would become Brown University. If you’ve been to Brown, visited Brown, or have friends or family as Brown alum, you all can thank the Hopewell Academy for laying the groundwork! Over time, the people began to utilize the resourcefulness of the land to develop industry and production. Lumber mills began to operate in the area to clear out much of the forest to make space for farmland; not to mention, also curate the stock for the important asset of lumber, benefitting the growing community; which was eventually incorporated as Hopewell in 1891.
We decided to visit Hopewell because we were on the road thinking of a destination for a quick visit to take some pictures. We say Quick, because we were within a 4 hour window of clear Spring sunshine, sandwiched in between hours of rain earlier in the morning, and what would become a tornado warning and hail storm later that night. To that end, time was a factor. We pulled up on a residential street across from the fire station, right by the Borough park. The park has a gazebo, small playground, and then a short but serene nature trail covering the perimeter of the site. We walked along the main stretch of Hopewell Borough, Broad St.(County rd 518) and took in a few sites, including the aforementioned Hopewell Academy. The antique shops and curious outdoor decorations are a trademark along the stretch of Broad Street by Greenwood, and on the other side is the Brick Farm Tavern (several Farm to Table options in the area, BTW), and the historic Hopewell Library. Hopewell Theater is a unique performing arts and dine-in theater right in town and offers an eclectic showcasing of music, plays, film screenings, and spoken word performances. The Highland Cemetery along the Baptist Meetinghouse is walkable along the town.
As you drive through Hopewell Borough without context, you may not realize that you are driving by structures that have existed within the community for over 250 years. That’s why whenever we drive through a small town in New Jersey, we always make it a point to visit and explore. Hopewell has always been a popular midday trip for us on a weekend, and when you take the time to learn about its historical significance, you learn to appreciate it even more.
For more information, please consider visiting
Hopewell Borough – Mercer County, New Jersey (hopewellboro-nj.us)
Hopewell Theater | Performing Arts & Dine-in Theater in Central NJ