Thank you for your interest in learning more about Mercer County, which has the distinction of being New Jersey’s capital county—meaning it is home to the state’s capital city, Trenton. The New Jersey Statehouse, where the Governor and the State Assemblymen and Senators have their offices, is in Trenton, and it is the second oldest statehouse in the nation to be in continuous use.
Around the corner from the Statehouse is the Old Barracks Museum, where the Battle of Trenton took place. The Old Barracks is open to visitors every day of the year and is one of the County’s significant Revolutionary War sites. Though Mercer County is integral to American history, it actually did not exist until 1838 when it was created from portions of Burlington, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Somerset Counties and named in honor of General Hugh Mercer, who died during the January 1777 Battle of Princeton.
Four signers of the Declaration of Independence lived in what would become Mercer County: John Hart of Hopewell; Richard Stockton and the Reverend John Witherspoon, both of Princeton, and Joseph Hewes, who had moved from Princeton to North Carolina by then. Richard Stockton’s home, Morven, later became home to five of New Jersey’s governors, including my father, the late Governor Richard Hughes. I am fortunate to be able to say that I lived in Morven, which is in Princeton Borough, when I was in elementary school, and I am happy to note that Morven has been renovated and was reopened as a museum and garden last year.
The current governor’s mansion, Drumthwacket, is in Mercer County too—in Princeton Township. Like Princeton, Hopewell is the name of both a borough and a township in Mercer County; Hopewell Township is where General George Washington’s troops landed when they crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania in December 1776.
In all, Mercer County has 13 municipalities. Trenton is the only municipality with a city form of government. The other municipalities are Hightstown, Hopewell, Pennington and Princeton boroughs, and East Windsor, Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, Lawrence, Princeton, Washington and West Windsor townships.
More than 350,000 people reside here. Among Mercer County’s homegrown celebrities are Bebe Neuwirth, whom you may have seen as “Lilith” on television reruns of Cheers, and the late Christopher Reeve, the movie Superman who became an advocate for research to heal spinal cord injuries. The U.S. Rowing Team, whose Men’s Eight took the Gold and whose Women’s Eight took the Silver at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, trains on Mercer Lake in Mercer County Park in West Windsor and on Lake Carnegie in Princeton Township.
Mercer County also is home to one of America’s oldest universities, Princeton, and to Mercer County Community College, Thomas Edison State College, Rider University and The College of New Jersey (which had been known for decades as Trenton State College). Many County residents have jobs at those colleges and universities and in area school districts. While federal, state, county and municipal governments provide jobs for many, the county also has state-of-the-art industries such as the Sarnoff Corporation, the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Mercer County has the oldest farmer’s market in the state, and farms dot our landscape.
The Delaware River is the County’s best-known waterway. The Delaware and Raritan Canal, no longer a venue for trade or travel, is used for recreation. The Assunpink Creek runs 25 miles from Monmouth County into Hamilton, Trenton and Lawrence, covering a 91-square-mile watershed. Mercer County also lies within the 285-square mile watershed drained by the Stony Brook and Millstone River.
You can find a lot of recreational activities here, many operated by the County. The 2005 ECHL Kelly Cup Champion Trenton Titans, an AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders, play in the Sun Center. The Arena, which is owned by the Mercer County Improvement Authority, also serves as a venue for popular performance acts such as Disney on Ice and the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus. Waterfront Park on the Delaware River is home to the Trenton Thunder, a New York Yankees AA affiliate. Mercer County Park has fields for cricket, football, lacrosse, softball, soccer and volleyball, an ice rink for skaters and hockey leagues, and Mercer Lake for paddle boating.
The County Park abuts the wooded campus of Mercer County Community College. The campus has been the home base for the New Jersey Wildcats professional women’s soccer team for five years now. In early August, the Fox Soccer network broadcast the final game of the W-League soccer championships from the campus soccer stadium. We are proud to say that this County is a fertile ground for women’s athletics.
You might like to step back into the past at the Howell Living History Farm, where household and farmyard chores are done as they were in the 1890s; ride a horse at the Equestrian Center, and or visit the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. All three are County facilities in Hopewell Township, and I am proud to note that Howell Living History Farm recently received a Save Our History educational grant from the History Channel and that staff from the Wildlife Center spent weeks traveling to Delaware to help clean birds and animals hurt in the oil spill that happened at the end of 2004.
In Mercer County, you will find many museums dedicated to local history and to art and science, as well as a variety of shopping districts and malls. You can drive here or take a train to one of the New Jersey Transit train stations in Princeton, Hamilton, Trenton and the Princeton Junction section of West Windsor or on the Riverline, which runs from Camden and stops at many towns along the Delaware before it gets to Trenton.
For any other information you may need, contact us again or log on to www.nj.gov/counties/mercer. If you visit the Our Towns link, you will be able to find answers to your questions such as the number of elementary schools in the County and how many Parks the City of Trenton has. I hope you can visit Mercer County someday soon.
Brian M. Hughes
Mercer County Executive