I knew about Atlantic City and its gambling casinos, and of course, Newark, which ushers one to Manhattan, but I didn't know anything about Trenton, the state capital. During the American Revolution, it was this city that provided George Washington with his first precious victory. On December 26, 1776, after famously crossing the Delaware River to Trenton, he defeated Hessian troops garrisoned there, employed by the Brits. Trenton became the state capital in 1790.
Upon arrival, one quickly picks up the historical trivia on Trenton. I rapidly discovered these facts:
· In 1896, the first pro basketball game was played here between the Trentons and the Brooklyn YMCA.
· During the War of 1812, the primary hospital facility for the U.S. Army was located on Broad Street.
· It's one of only two state capitals that border another state. The other: Carson City, Nevada which borders California.
· It's famous for a sign on the lower bridge that crosses the Delaware: "Trenton Makes, the World Takes," celebrating a once thriving industrial city with major pottery, ceramics, steel, and other heavy manufacturing interests.
· In 1873, an amazing 18 out of 24 pottery companies in the U.S. were located here making Trenton a ceramics giant.
· Vice-president Dan Quayle mis-spelled the word "potato" at a Trenton spelling bee in 1992.
· In 1968, the Trenton Riots following the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, April 4, resulted in more than 200 mainly downtown businesses ransacked and burned. Historian Charles Webster labelled it: "The riots that killed Trenton."
When you visit Trenton, there are two must-sees.
First: The New Jersey State Museum at 205 and 225 W. State St. in the State House Historic District has three floors of exhibits that focus on archaeology, fine arts, cultural history and natural science. Highlights include American Indian artifacts, mastodon skeletons, a full-size model of a dinosaur and a mine replica with fluorescent minerals. There are rotating art exhibits as well as films, concerts and lectures. The planetarium emphasizes the solar system and the night sky. Phone (609), 292-6464.
Second: The Old Barracks Museum: at 101 Barrack St. near the New Jersey State Capitol Complex, was constructed in 1758 as a winter quarters for British soldiers during the French and Indian War and was occupied at by Hessian and Continental troops and used
during the Battle of Trenton, the barracks serving as a military hospital during the Revolutionary War.
The cultural history museum offers 18th-century furnishings in restored officers' quarters, soldiers' barracks rooms and a hospital room. Also featured are rotating exhibitions as well as costumed interpreters portraying 1777 Trentonians such as nurses, doctors and Continental Army soldiers who describe the Battle of Trenton and medical techniques of the time. Phone (609) 396-1776.
If you have time for more exploration in Trenton, try:
· The 1719 William Trent House: at 15 Market St., Trenton's oldest house, built by William Trent. Phone (609) 989-3027.
· Cadwalader Park: at W. State St. and Park Ave., honours Dr. Thomas Cadwalader, the first chief burgess and pioneer in inoculation. The park was designed in 1891 by Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the country's foremost landscape designers, and it includes a deer paddock, stream, small lake and an arm of the celebrated Delaware-Raritan Canal .
· The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion is in Cadwalader Park, near the Parkside Ave. entrance. The Italianate villa houses art galleries with various displays as well as Trenton ceramics exhibits and a period Victorian room. Phone (609) 989-3632.
· New Jersey State House: at 125 W. State St. exhibits a gold dome crown on the 1792 building. Visitors may view the rotunda, legislative chambers, caucus rooms and the governor's reception room. Collections of art and period rooms also are displayed. Phone (609) 633-2709.
Adam Southwood writes for Canadian, U.S. and European magazines and newspapers. He is a graduate of McMaster University in Hamilton and UWO in London with an interest in culture and history and has produced several educational programs for TV.
Courtesy of Visit New Jersey
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Visit New Jersey: http://www.visitnj.org/
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