Mountainville Historic District
The Mountainville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 0000. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013.
Mountainville Historic District possesses significance in the areas of community development, architecture, commerce, and industry. The village exemplifies the small agglomerate settlements that proliferated throughout the region in the 18th and 19th centuries to serve its dispersed agricultural population, but whose growth was arrested when by-passed by 19th-century transportation innovations. The Mountainville Historic District has architectural significance as an assemblage of mostly 19th century buildings whose construction, form, detailing, and spatial organization are representative of the rural region's vernacular architecture in that era. The village possesses commercial significance because of its surviving general store and tavern, physical documents of the important economic and social roles of such establishments in an isolated agricultural neighborhood. The industrial significance of Mountainville stems from its carriage factory, a rare survivor of the small-scaled shop manufactories once characteristic of the region. Furthermore, although its mills and distillery have not survived except for foundation fragments and hydrosystem remnants, their sites may have the potential to yield archaeological information about the region's 19th century water-powered industries. Archaeological resources relating to the area's 19th century material culture may also exist in the environs of other district buildings.
While settlement occurred in the neighborhood around what became Mountainville in the 18th century and a saw mill was built there in the early 1800s, it was not until the middle decades of the 19th century that a village began to develop, and with the establishment of a school, tavern, general store and several industrial enterprises around that time the settlement emerged as a place of some local importance. Favored by its location on a stream providing water power and surrounded by an agricultural district, the community flourished in the middle decades of the 19th century. At a time when the movement of people and goods was largely limited to horse-drawn conveyances, such small communities provided the region's isolated rural population with almost its only centers for commercial and social activity. Bypassed in the 19th century's turnpike, canal, and railroad building, Mountainville experienced almost no development after the 1870s, overshadowed by other communities in the region more favored by transportation connections, and continued as a small, stable service center for the surrounding rural neighborhood into the first decades of this century. While modern residential development has occurred in its environs in recent years, the village has grown little since that time.
As a result Mountainville has managed to preserve much of its 19th century character. The vast majority of the Mountainville Historic District's buildings were built c.1840-73, although a few pre-date that period by a few years and several more date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The distinctive historical character of the village results from the survival of these buildings, their linear organization with varied spacing and setback, and their juxtaposition with the surrounding open countryside. These resources — mostly dwellings with attendant outbuildings, but including a number of industrial, commercial and institutional structures — are in general well-preserved and exhibit relatively few modern alterations. Collectively they possess architectural significance. Their form, construction, detailing, and siting provide a representative illustration of the rural region's essentially vernacular architecture in the middle decades of the 19th century. The carriage factory, typical of the area's early industrial buildings, is a small-scaled structure of unadorned utilitarian design, and the general store, a gable-fronted building with central entry and large flanking windows sheltered by a porch, epitomizes the region's 19th century rural commercial structures. Many houses exemplify the traditional house types and construction practices found in the region. In particular, the Mountainville Historic District contains several good illustrations of the region's traditional stone construction including two single-arch stone bridges and two barns. The influence of popular architectural styles is readily apparent in the design and/or detailing of a number of district buildings. Some houses and the Mountainville Hotel are essentially vernacular structures of traditional or popular type embellished with Greek Revival, Italianate, and/or other of the styles current between the mid 19th and early 20th centuries.
European settlement of the western New Jersey Highlands began in the second quarter of the 18th century, initiated largely by pioneer agriculturalists of English, Scotch-Irish, Dutch, and German stock. In northeastern Hunterdon County the German element of the population was particularly strong, and around what became Mountainville most of the early settlers appear to have been of German stock. As was the case throughout much of northwestern New Jersey, the pioneers were tenants or squatters on property acquired by absentee owners through New Jersey's system of proprietary landholding. In the second half of the 18th century, freeholders who purchased the land on which they settled and improved became more common as absentee owners sought to divest themselves of their often unprofitable holdings; in the Mountainville neighborhood, however, tenancy appears to have continued into the early 19th century.
The site of Mountainville lies near the eastern end of one of northwestern New Jersey's largest single proprietary holdings, the 92,513-acre "Great Tract," which, stretching across northern Hunterdon County from the Delaware River to the Lamington River, was surveyed for the West Jersey Society in 1711. The West Jersey Society, a London-based joint stock company, had trouble with the management of its landholdings and sold them in 1752 to an American company which proceeded to subdivide and sell the "Great Tract." The portion of the "Great Tract" in northern Tewksbury Township was subdivided into lots of up to several hundred acres by the 1780s. Two of these lots encompassed most of what became Mountainville. One lot at the southern edge of the district along Rockaway Road, was tenanted by Adam Teets in 1788. It evidently remained in the hands of absentee owners until 1802 when Eve Teets, a widow and presumably the widow of Adam Teets, purchased a 145-acre portion of the lot, described as a "plantation" in the deed of conveyance, from New York City merchant James McEvers. Another lot was acquired before 1811 by Oliver W. Ogden, a physician who resided at both Oldwick and Perth Amboy, New Jersey in the early 19th century. He disposed of the tract by several conveyances including a 113-acre parcel at its southern end, which encompassed a large part of what is now the heart of the Mountainville Historic District, sold to Daniel Potter in 1822. A 1787 survey of Philhower Road makes reference to "Daniel Potter's house," suggesting that he was renting the property by that time. The eastern end of the Mountainville Historic District along Saw Mill Road formed part of a 138-acre tract sold to Andrew Stout in 1810 by Gertrude Parker, the executor of James Parker, a prominent West Jersey proprietary landowner.
Rockaway Creek's waterpower at Mountainville was used as early as the beginning of the 19th century. In 1803, Eve Teets sold 15 acres along the creek at the northeastern corner of her farm to Joseph Sergant who probably established a saw mill there before 1810, since an 1825 deed describes the property as the "saw mill lot formerly Joseph Sergants" and his widow released her dower rights to it in 1810. Except for this enterprise, the neighborhood evidently remained a dispersed agricultural settlement until well into the second quarter of the 19th century, no mention of it appearing in either Gordon's 1834 New Jersey gazetteer or Barbour and Howe's 1844 state history.
While a village had not yet coalesced, the community acquired its placename as early as 1832, the year in which Jacob Apgar sold a small parcel located east of Main Street between Sawmill Road and Mountain Road to "the trustees of the Mountainville Academy" for the purpose of building a school. The schoolhouse is identified on an 1842 road survey which, in addition to several scattered dwellings and a blacksmith shop, also depicts "Rowland's Mill" on what is now Sawmill Road a short distance the east of the schoolhouse, indicating that the upper mill had been built by that time. The 1852 county map suggests that only limited development had occurred in the intervening ten years, depicting about eight dwellings (four clustered along Main Street, the others scattered), besides the upper grist mill and the lower saw mill.
In the next two decades, however, Mountainville grew markedly, attracting other important elements of a small rural service community. Sometime between 1850 and 1854, the community acquired its general store, evidently established by Wesley Lindaberry and in 1859 a post office with Hiram W. Lindaberry as post master. Before 1860 the growing village had also acquired its tavern which, according to the 1881 county history, was opened by Daniel Hoffman in a house built by Daniel Potter sometime before. Daniel's son Jonathan evidently commenced making cider and apple jack as early as 1856; his distillery was located at the east end of the village. He is also credited with erecting three village dwellings: one in 1856 and two sometime thereafter. In the third quarter of the 19th century Mountainville experienced development at its western end as well. In 1860, a new school house was built on the site of its subsequent replacement. By 1870, John S. Apgar had established a wheelwright shop, a business identified as a carriage manufactory in the 1873 county atlas, and by 1873 a grist mill evidently had replaced the saw mill (possibly only discontinued for a time) at the lower mill seat. A doctor also settled at Mountainville in this period, and the Methodist churches of Cokesbury and Fairmount chose the village as a convenient midway location for the parsonage of their joint minister.
By 1875, Mountainville' s growth appears to have peaked. According to the 1881 county history the community contained a store, blacksmith-shop, wheelwright-shop, shoe-shop, hotel, school-house, still-house, saw-mill, two flouring-mills, and twenty-three dwellings indicating that little new development had occurred in the intervening period. While property transactions continued and a few new houses were built in the late 19th century, no appreciable commercial or industrial construction was undertaken in the village, and after 1900 its industrial enterprises sunk into insignificance and gradually disappeared. Taking no notice of any local industry still operating, a 1914 New Jersey industrial directory praises the community's "healthful, semi-mountainous location" as an "ideal place for those who, in pursuit of pleasure or health, seek homes in the country during the summer months," and, in fact, during the early 20th century, urban visitors did board with local families, most notably at the boarding house conducted at the Lindaberry's farmstead.
While its industrial activities disappeared during the late 19th/early 20th century period, the village retained its historic role as a center for the surrounding agricultural community for sometime thereafter. The general store, operated by three generations of the Parley family beginning in 1868, remained open until 1964, and the Mountainville Hotel, owned by five generations of the Potter family, continued in business until the early 1930s. The hotel, in particular, as a venue for local social events and a meeting place for the Tewksbury Township Committee for many years, was an important focal point for local residents.
Except for the school house built in 1935 to replace its predecessor which was destroyed by fire, new construction in the village in this century has been limited to a few infill dwellings, garages and related outbuildings, and replacement bridges.
The paving of rural roads and the proliferation of automobiles in the second quarter of this century hastened the decline of isolated villages like Mountainville as local economic and social centers. Good roads and cars enabled local inhabitants to go elsewhere to work, shop, and play. In more recent years, new highways have allowed urban and suburban residents to establish their homes in rural Hunterdon County and commute to work. As houses have been built on large lots subdivided from the surrounding abandoned hill farms, Mountainville has once again become a local service center having attracted several new businesses in recent years and with the conversion of the old school for municipal offices. Renovations to existing buildings for commercial and residential purposes have generally been sympathetic to the community's historical character, a situation which is fostered by the designation of the heart of the village as a local historic district zone. Both township residents and officials have recognized the community's special historical and architectural heritage which make it a worthy candidate for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and the desirability of preserving that heritage.
Books & Reports
Barber, John W. and Henry Howe. Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey. Newark, NJ: Benjamin Olds, 1844.
Bryant, Lewis T. (Commissioner). Industrial Directory of New Jersey. Trenton, New Jersey: Bureau of Industrial Statistics, New Jersey Department of Labor, 1918.
Chambers, T. F.
Gordon, Thomas F. A Gazetteer of the State of New Jersey. Trenton: Daniel Fenton, 1834.
Hunterdon County Master Plan, Sites of Historic Interest. Flemington, NJ: Hunterdon County Planning Board, November 1979.
Schmidt, Hubert G. Rural Hunterdon: An Agricultural History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1945.
Snell, James P. (ed.). History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey. Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1881.
Stevenson, Robert P. & Meta Potter. Oldtime Days in Mountainville and Surrounding Towns. Robert P. Stevenson, 1990.
Wacker, Peter. Land and People. A Cultural Geography of Pre-industrial New Jersey: Origins and Settlement Patterns. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1975.
Vermeule, Cornelius Clarkson. Report of Water Supply, Water Power, the Flow of Streams and Attendant Phenomena. Geological Survey of New Jersey, Final Report of the State Geologist, Vol III, Trenton, NJ: John L. Murphy Publishing Company, 1894.
Whitehead, William A. et al. (eds.). Documents Relating to the Colonial, Revolutionary, and Post Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey. First Series, 42 volumes, Various Places: State of New Jersey, 1900-1949.
Maps, Atlases, and Views
Beers, F.W. County Atlas of Hunterdon, New Jersey. New York: F.W. Beers & Co., 1873.
Cornell, Samuel C. Map of Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Philadelphia: S.C. Cornell and Lloyd Vanderveer, 1851.
Hammond, D. Stanton. "Hunterdon County, New Jersey." Map Series #4. Genealogical Society of New Jersey, 1965.
Hunterdon County Historical Society. John Emley Papers. Norman Wittwer Papers.
Pamphlets and Periodicals
Hunterdon Democrat. Flemington, New Jersey, 1838-1866.
Hunterdon County Democrat. Flemington, New Jersey, 1867-1930.
Hunterdon County Court House, Flemington, NJ. Hunterdon County Deed Books. Hunterdon County Mortgage Books. Hunterdon County Road Returns. Hunterdon County Will Books.
United States Census. Population Schedules, Tewksbury Township, 1850-1910. Industrial Schedules, Tewksbury Township, 1850-1880.
† Dennis N. Bertland, Bertland Associates, Mountainville Historic District, Hunterdon County, NJ, nomination document, 1992, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.