The Lebanon Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡] .
The Lebanon Historic District is representative of the small agglomerate settlements that developed throughout the region in the 18th and 19th centuries to serve the dispersed local agricultural population and, where favored by location, private travelers and commercial traffic moving over the early New Jersey highways. A distinctive historical element is the linear nature of the earliest agglomerate settlement along the old turnpike and the grid pattern developed for its later residential neighborhoods. Growth in some of these villages, including Lebanon, became thwarted when they became isolated as a result of being bypassed by transportation innovations elsewhere. The Lebanon Historic District has architectural significance as an assemblage of mostly 19th and early 20th century buildings, whose construction, form, detailing and spatial organization are representative of the rural region's vernacular architecture in that era. In addition, archaeological resources relating to the area's 19th-century material culture may be present in the environs of district buildings and sites. The period of significance extends from 1813, when the final route of the New Jersey Turnpike Road was surveyed, to c.1942, by which time a new highway bypass around the village that would stifle future growth was nearly complete.
Notwithstanding the presence of modern infill development as well as the loss of some early fabric to modern alterations, the Lebanon Historic District possesses the architectural significance and integrity necessary for listing on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. Significant for the period 1813 to c.1942, and retaining its integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association, the property clearly meets National Register eligibility criteria, which references those properties "that embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction." Additionally, evolution of the village during the period reflects a significant pattern of rural community development meeting National Register eligibility criteria.
While European settlement in the area around what would become Lebanon began during the first half of the 18th century, a village did not begin to coalesce there until some years later. A German Reformed Church was in existence in Lebanon probably by around 1747; a number of farmsteads in the vicinity are depicted on a 1765 survey; and the site of a mill, about a half mile distant from the church, was marked on a Revolutionary War map. Depicted on the same Revolutionary War-era map are the two east-west roads through the future village, which was along an important early route between New Brunswick, the head of navigation on the Raritan River, and Easton, Pennsylvania, at the forks of the Delaware River, and Brunswick Avenue. Also depicted is a road leading south toward a hamlet at Round Valley. A merchant was conducting business in Lebanon prior to 1792.
The organization of the New Jersey Turnpike Company and its initial 1807 survey of the route between New Brunswick and Easton acted as a stimulus for economic activity at the crossroads. A new store and several artisans were soon conducting business near the proposed turnpike route. The final survey of the turnpike route in 1813 used a more northerly route, a modification that undoubtedly created economic problems for those businesses that established near the original proposed route. Those businesses soon reestablished themselves on the relocated turnpike, which developed into a distinctively linear commercial district. By 1844 Lebanon contained a tavern, a store, several mechanic shops, a church, and about a dozen dwellings.
The village received a new economic boost in 1852 with the opening of the Jersey Central Railroad. Its depot was less than a quarter of a mile south of the turnpike and Main Street businesses did not bother to relocate to the railroad vicinity. However, the railroad provided improved access to resources and markets, and within a couple of decades, several new commercial and industrial enterprises located along the tracks. The village thrived and, by 1880, there were "many pleasant-looking homes" in addition to a growing number of businesses. Prosperity continued into the 20th century and the village continued to grow and modernize. Numerous new houses were built, most in the modern styles popular at the time. Garages appeared behind most houses. Several new auto repair businesses and a tourist cabin facility along Main Street served to symbolize the central role of the highway to the local economy.
A 1930 Sanborn insurance map shows a well-developed village, with its linear commercial district along Main Street, an industrial area along the railroad, and residential neighborhoods in between the two roads. Plans were underway to dualize the state highway and bypass several towns, including Lebanon. The highway project was finally completed in 1943, and afterward there was little further commercial development in the bypassed village. As a result of being bypassed, Lebanon has preserved much of its 19th and early 20th century character.
The Lebanon Historic District's resources, mainly dwellings, but also including two churches, two cemeteries, a general store, a firehouse, a former tavern, a former hotel, a former public school, a former carriage manufactory, a former service station, and a former municipal water system building, are, in general, well preserved with relatively few modern alteration. 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 19th and early 20th centuries.
In contrast to many of the dispersed farmsteads in the surrounding region, where stone was a common building for both dwellings and outbuildings, Lebanon has only one early stone building, the former tavern (74 Main Street). The vast majority of the buildings in the Lebanon Historic District are frame construction. Brick was used in a handful of early twentieth century non-residential buildings, and the 1938 Reformed Church (Brunswick Avenue and Maple Street) is the only other stone building in the Lebanon Historic District.
Some dwellings exemplify the traditional house types and construction practices found in the region. Among the traditional types, 1-1/2-story houses, which were prevalent in the region at an early date, are represented in the district by only one dwelling (42 Main Street), which is one of the Lebanon Historic District's earliest extant buildings. The district includes a good representation of the traditional, two-story, gable-roofed house types with regular facades of three-to-five bays and interior gable-end chimneys that are ubiquitous in northwestern New Jersey's 18th and 19th century housing stock. The Lebanon Historic District includes a small number of double-pile traditional plans and single pile plans, identified as the I-type by cultural geographers, are well represented, with twenty-three examples. Dwellings are representative of the popular house types adopted by local builders in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The commercial buildings are also for the most part unadorned vernacular buildings, while the institutional buildings, the fire department, the two churches and the former school, evoke building forms that evolved during the mid 19th and early 20th centuries.
The influence of popular architectural styles is seen frequently in details added to vernacular forms. These houses are essentially vernacular buildings of traditional or popular types that have been embellished with detailing associated with Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Colonial Revival, Craftsman or other styles current in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are several noteworthy examples of particular styles: 57 Main Street, 61 Main Street, 8 Cherry Street, 12 Cherry Street and 14 Cherry Street, which are striking Italianate dwellings; 51 Main Street and 1 High Street are fine Queen Anne examples; 5 Main Street and 75 Brunswick Avenue are good examples of Craftsman or Bungalow style; and 27 Main Street and 99 Main Street are good representations of the Colonial Revival style.
Contributing to the collective significance of the Lebanon Historic District's buildings are the numerous outbuildings, all of which are frame construction and almost all of which are located behind their associated houses. Late 19th century wagon houses and barn/wagon houses and early 20th century garages predominate. There are seven small frame barns, including a small barn on a raised stone foundation comprising a stable at 6 Main Street. Also fourteen sheds survive and two privies. A frame summer kitchen survives at 61 Main Street. Taken as a whole, this is a noteworthy group of surviving domestic and agricultural outbuildings that contributes to the significance of the Lebanon Historic District as a cultural landscape.
As is frequently the case in rural communities, the two churches are the largest buildings and, while not imposing, they are more stylized than most other buildings within the Lebanon Historic District. The restrained Lebanon Reformed Church (Brunswick Avenue and Maple Street), built in 1858 and one of the few stone buildings in the district, was designed along the early meeting house plan, with a stocky corner tower that reflects influences from the popular mid-19th century "mighty fortress" Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture. The 1872 Round Valley United Methodist Church exhibits greater stylistic detail. It is one of the few buildings in the district with Gothic Revival features, although the overall architecture is quite eclectic in overall design, with Queen Anne and Stick Style influences also in evidence (30 Main Street). The other contributing institutional buildings in the Lebanon Historic District, the gable-front firehouse and the square, hipped-roof public school, represent types that were popularized during the early 20th century for their specific uses. Although simple in architectural design, the use of brick in both buildings gives them prominence.
Two of the most significant landmark buildings in Lebanon are the Lebanon Hotel (69 Main Street) and the former tavern (74 Main Street). These and the other early commercial buildings are traditional domestic building forms and contained places of residence, as were typical during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Only the hotel remains in commercial use. Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, the commercial buildings took on a more distinctive appearance, with shop windows at the street level. The two-story commercial buildings contained residences on the second floor. The Lebanon Historic District's commercial buildings reflect a variety of stylistic influences. Several of the earliest commercial buildings that have been converted to residential use exhibit no stylistic influences. The Georgian-influenced Lebanon Hotel is the most significant example of the handful of Georgian-influenced buildings in the district. Mid-to-late 19th century buildings are concentrated along Main Street and are all small modest frame buildings reflecting several stylistic influences, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire). Commercial buildings dating to the early 20th century were typically purpose-built, with four of them reflecting the influence of the development of the automobile.
Lebanon was the early name attached to a ridge northwest of the village site, and was mentioned as the name of the northern-most township in Hunterdon County as early as 1731. The name likely derives from the Bible. Formed partly from Amwell Township, the exact date or circumstances of incorporation of Lebanon Township are unknown. The name was used for the German Reformed congregation when it was incorporated in 1788 and is found on a 1795 map of New Jersey just north of the Cushetunk Mountain. Settlers of German descent were among the earliest settlers in the south-central part of the township, in the neighborhood that would become the village of Lebanon. According to some accounts, around 1707 a small colony of Germans, evidently Palatines from New York's Hudson Valley region, arrived to settle on what was part of a vast tract surveyed by the West Jersey Proprietors known as the Society's Great Tract. Consisting of nearly 100,000 acres, the Great Tract, which was formally surveyed in 1711, was part of Burlington County. In 1735, there were already 98 families living on the tract without permission of the Society, which set about to obtain leases. In 1744, James Alexander, surveyor for New York and New Jersey, purchased 10,000 acres of the tract that included the site of the village. Settlers established a German Reformed congregation at Lebanon as early as the 1740s, and by 1747, there was a log church in existence. This was likely the church shown on a 1765 map by Benjamin Morgan, which depicted the church in the location it continued to occupy until 1854.
Morgan's map is of seven farms in the area and represents a division of some of James Alexander's 10,000 acres, encompassing portions of Lebanon east of the road leading south to the small hamlet at Round Valley. Lot #6, a 272-acre parcel that contained the church and burial ground, was acquired in 1768 by Walter Rutherford, a son-in-law and heir of James Alexander. On April 7, 1769, Rutherford conveyed a portion of that parcel, described as "a lot on which a meeting house is now built together with the grave yard adjoining and a lane to the High Road," to Harmon Kline, Henry Huffman, and others, "Elders of the Calvanistical Congregation, adjacent to the Round Valley of Lebanon." The Kline and Huffman families would continue to be prominent in Lebanon for the next one hundred years. Also in 1765, two lots southwest of the parcels surveyed by Morgan were surveyed to Messrs. Marston, Ludlow, and Cuyler, investors who later sold one of the lots to Capt. Thomas Jones. In 1796 Jones sold forty acres lying on the west side of the road to Round Valley to William Huffman, a parcel that would eventually have a particularly significant role in the development of the village. Two years later, Jones mortgaged the entire 221 acres to Thomas Marston, an indication that he must have reacquired an ownership interest in Huffman's forty acres.
A Revolutionary War-era map of the region that included the Lebanon neighborhood depicted what appears to be the preferred east-west route for military travel — roughly along current Main Street — and an alternate byway south of the main road along the route of today's Brunswick Avenue. Branching off the southerly byway is a road leading south toward Round Valley, past the Reformed Church that stood on the bank of the South Branch of the Rockaway Creek, which is the only building depicted on the map in the vicinity of the village. A building northeast of the church on the map could be the mill on Prescott Brook acquired by "Big Mike" Shurts in 1799. The nascent village continued its gradual development. Although it was a half-mile from the nearest mill seat it was in close proximity to the church, and was centrally located between small settlements at Round Valley to the south and Potterstown to the east. In 1780, the log church was replaced by a frame building, and in 1788 the church was incorporated as the "First High Dutch Reformed Congregation in the Township of Lebanon." A brief notice in the New Jersey State Gazette in 1792 datelined from Lebanon described the dissolution of a partnership of John P. Schenk and Ralph Hunt, and included a request to settle accounts, an indication that some amount of commercial activity was taking place in the vicinity. By 1795, Hunt had acquired a new partner, and was mentioned in an advertisement in the Gazette for lottery tickets, which were available "at Lebanon of Captain Ralph Hunt and James Anderson, merchants."
The story of David M. Kline is intertwined with many of the significant events in the early development of Lebanon. Although no direct connection has been found, there was undoubtedly a family connection between Harmon Kline, one of the first elders of the Lebanon church, and David Miller Kline, who was born in Hunterdon County in 1784 to Christian Kline, and Elisabeth Miller Kline, part of the growing population of German-Americans in Hunterdon County. In 1798, fourteen-year-old David was indentured to an uncle in German Valley until he was twenty-one. After completion of his servitude in 1805, young Kline was owed "a freedom suit and one hundred dollars in money." He was married the same year and began a mercantile business in New Germantown, where he stayed for two years. Kline then moved to Lebanon where he commenced a long career as a successful entrepreneur. He initially located his mercantile business near the church, and in 1811 purchased forty-three acres surrounding the Lebanon church from Jacob Nitzer, including the house where he was already living, paying $1,400. The amount paid by Kline suggests a good deal of success in his first years as a merchant. In 1818, Kline made three more land purchases, acquiring a total of twenty-three additional acres.
At the turn of the 19th century, toll roads became a matter of great interest in New Jersey. By then, numerous turnpikes had been chartered in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, but New Jersey was slow to act to improve the condition of its highways, an effort essential for development. The first turnpike in New Jersey, the Morris Turnpike, was chartered in 1801. In 1806, the state legislature chartered the New Jersey Turnpike. Also known as the Easton and New Brunswick turnpike, it was to begin at New Brunswick and end at Phillipsburg, a route that would take it through Lebanon. Any village along the route stood to benefit economically from the commercial and private traffic using the improved road. An 1807 survey for the proposed turnpike shows that in the vicinity of Lebanon it was originally planned to hug the northern flank of the Cushetunk Mountain, slightly south of the old east-west road on a route very similar to the one eventually selected for the Central Railroad. Only two buildings were depicted on the survey, one of which has been identified as the "hole meeting house," an unexplained name for the Reformed congregation. There is no identification of the second building on the map. It is clear that by 1811 David Kline had invested a substantial amount in property at the intersection of the old east-west road and the road to Round Valley. By around this time too, a blacksmith, John Tway, and a tailor, Jacob Corson, both of whom married daughters of William Huffman, had also established businesses near the church, all of which suggests that, at least from the local perspective, the proposed route fit in with their business plans. A second survey of the turnpike route was completed in 1813, and surprisingly it showed the final selection was a route north of the old road, essentially following the military route depicted on the 1780 military map. Selection of the northern route must have been a surprise to Kline and the others already located along the southern road. However, despite the relocation of the turnpike, commercial activity continued near the church for several years, and in 1816, the Reformed congregation "deemed it expedient" to build a new church at the intersection. The frame church was replaced by a sturdy brick building at a cost of $7,459.70, evidence of substantial prosperity among members of the congregation, further solidifying its location.
Within a few years of the opening of the turnpike, the death of William Huffman brought about a major and lasting change of course in the development of the village. The forty acres that Huffman had acquired in 1796, bounded on the east by the road to Round Valley and on the south by the "old road," were bisected in the north by the turnpike, creating a potential commercial opportunity. In October 1818, the Hunterdon County Orphan's Court ordered a division of the property among Huffman's widow and his nine children, resulting in the creation of lots, nine of which fronted on the turnpike. Huffman's daughter Ann and her husband Jacob Corson, the tailor, received Lot #4, on the south side of the turnpike. In August of 1820, storekeeper David M. Kline purchased Ann's lot and relocated his store there. Huffman's daughter Elizabeth and her husband John Tway, the blacksmith near the Reformed Church, received Lot #9, on the north side of the turnpike and diagonally across the road from Kline's store. Tway proceeded to build a new smithy at his new location and by 1828, a stone tavern as well, which being an admirer of General Andrew Jackson he named the Jacksonville Hotel. His tavern license petition stated, "He has been at considerable expense in erecting commodious buildings, which are well calculated for an Inn or Tavern." Among the subscribers signing the petition was David M. Kline. Tway also tried to change the name of the post office to Jacksonville, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Tway turned over the tavern operation to twenty-eight year old Austin Clark, who obtained tavern licenses for the period 1831 through 1834. In 1832, Tway sold the tavern lot, consisting of 13.37 acres, to Jacob Karkuff of nearby Readington Township.
Kline continued his success as a merchant and in 1827 the Lebanon post office was moved to his store from its original location at Bray's Hill, about a mile west, an event that undoubtedly served to further consolidate the village's role as a local center of commerce. Mail was received daily by stage over the turnpike. In 1830, John Tway proceeded to open the second store in the village, which was located across the turnpike from the stone tavern. A road return from 1832 documents the formal establishment of a new public road commencing at the turnpike next to the stone tavern, which was at that time kept by Austin Clark, and leading north to German Valley (now Long Valley) in Morris County. At the same time, two other roads leading north from the turnpike, which were located short distances to the east and west of the tavern, were vacated, thereby assuring that all local traffic between Lebanon and points north would be directed past the tavern and the nearby stores of Tway and Kline. An 1834 map depicts the road leading north toward German Valley (now Long Valley) in Morris County. Also in 1832, the first doctor arrived to set up a practice in Lebanon, which, although he stayed for only a year, it was another signal of the village's continuing development. Thomas Gordon's Gazetteer of 1834 gave a brief description of the still-small village that emphasized its convenient location: "[P]ost-town of Lebanon township...centrally situated, upon the turnpike road leading from Somerville to Philipsburg; 11 miles N. of Flemington, 47 from Trenton, and 211 from W.C.; contains 1 tavern, 1 store, and several dwellings. There is a Dutch Reformed church in the neighbourhood."
Despite the improvements to commerce provided by the turnpike, the revenue was inadequate to maintain the road and the tolls were strongly resisted by locals, particularly in Hunterdon County, finally forcing the turnpike company to surrender its western section to local control in 1838. Failure of the turnpike company seemed to have no adverse effect on the commerce in Lebanon, which continued to grow and prosper.
Between 1807 and 1830, Kline and his wife Elizabeth had ten children, eight of whom had survived infancy. Elizabeth Kline died in 1835. Apparently, Kline was remarried not long after to a Margaret, who was mentioned in a deed dated December 1836 that conveyed a lot on the turnpike to Samuel Shannon for $139.65, one of what would become many turnpike lots that were conveyed through Kline. Also in 1836, Kline's oldest son, David M. Kline, Jr. (b.1811), purchased two parcels from his father, one of fifty-three acres that included the property by the church that Kline had purchased in 1811, and a second of twenty-one acres, for a total of $3,500.00. At the same time, Kline conveyed two lots to his son that were located by Cushtunk Mountain, for which the senior Kline received only $1.00, indicating this was a gift. Sometime before the mid-1840s, but evidently after 1834, Kline added a hotel to his property, the second travelers' accommodation built in Lebanon, a likely indication of a substantial amount of traffic through the village. According to minutes from that period, officials of Clinton Township occasionally met at "Kline's House," the first known mention of the hotel. Clinton Township was set off from Lebanon Township in 1841, and included the village of Lebanon, which had the somewhat confusing result of physically separating the village by several miles from its namesake township. Lebanon gained its first public school in 1842, when a small frame building was erected about a quarter of a mile north of the turnpike on Cokesbury Road. Its first trustees were William H. Huffman, Henry A. Apgar and Samuel Clark. A brief description of the village from 1844 by historical geographers John W. Barber and Henry Howe suggests some commercial and residential growth since 1834: "Lebanon is on the Easton and New Brunswick turnpike; and contains a tavern, a store, several mechanic shops, a Reformed Dutch church, and about a dozen dwellings."
Barber and Howe listed only one tavern, indicating that Kline's tavern was not yet in operation, and only one store, which was perhaps an oversight. In 1848, David Kline subdivided the hotel and 1.68 acres from the original 5.8 acres he purchased in 1820. Thereafter known as the "tavern lot," the property was conveyed to John R. Kline, David's twenty-six year old third son, who promptly submitted his tavern license petition the same year, in which he briefly stated his request to "keep an inn and tavern, in the house wherein he now dwells." Also in 1848, Kline conveyed his store to his second son, Lambert Boeman Kline, who was two years older than John R., and had "grown up behind the counter at his father's store."
In 1842, the Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad finally reached Somerville, still fifteen miles east of Lebanon, but a clear harbinger of coming changes in Lebanon. After several years of financial trouble, the railroad company was reorganized in 1847 as the Somerville and Easton Railroad (later the Jersey Central Railroad), to build a railroad from Somerville to the Delaware River opposite Easton, Pennsylvania. Construction began immediately, roughly paralleling the route of the turnpike road, and was completed to Whitehouse the next year, bringing train service to within five miles of Lebanon. Construction of the railroad from Whitehouse to the Delaware began in 1850, and its route just south of the turnpike in Lebanon is depicted on an 1850 map, which also shows the proposed location of the depot well west of the road to Round Valley, the closest access road. The 1850 map shows most of the buildings in town clustered along the turnpike. A few were located along the north end of the road to Round Valley and two were on a new north-south street between the turnpike and the old road to Potterstown. In contrast to an 1845 map, which did not show the road leading south to Round Valley, in 1850 that road is shown connecting through to Flemington, providing a fairly direct route from the northern end of the county to the county seat. A portion of the Round Valley road near the new railroad was formally laid out in 1851, probably in connection with the construction of the railroad overpass, at which time the intersection with the old road to Potterstown was moved slightly east to better line up with the course from there up to the turnpike, which for the time being remained a private "driftway." Specifically noted on the road survey map, which interestingly used the short-lived "Lebanonville" as the name of the village, are J.R. Kline's Hotel, a Dr. Blackfan on the old road, and the Reformed Church close to the planned route of the railroad. Also at this time, according to the 1850 census for Clinton Township, Austin Clark continued as a merchant in Lebanon, with his nineteen year old son as a clerk; boarding with Clark was William Sweany, a tailor; nearby were shoemakers George Gray, Peter Conover, and Henry Diley, blacksmith John Pidcock, and wheelwrights John Van Doren, Henry Apgar, and Charles Wright. Three Kline households were included in the census, and were among the most prosperous families in Lebanon. Sixty-five year old David M. Kline was listed as a farmer with $16,000 in real estate assets, while his son Lambert, age thirty, was listed as a merchant with $4,000 in real estate, and his twenty-seven year old son John was listed as an innkeeper, also with $4,000 in real estate.
Compared to a number of other towns along the Jersey Central, Lebanon's main commercial district was fortunate. The railroad was barely a quarter mile south of the turnpike in the vicinity of Lebanon, whereas in nearby Whitehouse, the station was over a mile distant from the existing village, a situation that eventually resulted in economic stagnation in the original village as a new commercial center was established along the railroad. Railroad service to Phillipsburg began in 1852 and by 1859 through-service was established to Pittsburgh. By 1854, the Reformed Church had decided to abandon its original location next to the tracks as well as its 1817 brick church, reportedly because the noise of the trains frightened the horses in the sheds. A lot on the north side of the old road to Potterstown was selected, and a new frame church was constructed in the popular Italianate style at a cost of $6,000. Around this same time, the west end of the old road to Potterstown was vacated. Meanwhile, the business district on the turnpike continued to flourish. A map from 1860 depicts the growing number of increasingly varied businesses. Clustered just west of the road to Cokesbury were a blacksmith and wagon shop, and oyster shop, a tailor, a harness shop, and a shoe shop. East of the Cokesbury road the businesses were more spread out, including Tway's original tavern, now owned by David M. Kline, Pidcock's blacksmithy, a grain house, and Van Doren's wagon shop. Another dense cluster of buildings was located on the south side of the turnpike opposite the Cokesbury road, including the Kline store, the hotel, now owned by W.G. Jones, three additional unspecified stores, the post office, another shoe shop, A.E. Sanderson's new law office and an additional unspecified office. On the south side of the railroad, a store house had been constructed near the depot, which had been built closer to the Round Valley road than was originally planned; however, in the eight years since the railroad had begun operating through Lebanon, local businesses had resisted relocating nearer to the tracks.
In 1860, seventy-five year old David M. Kline, who listed himself in the census as a "Gentleman," was one of the wealthiest men in the village with real estate valued at $6,000 and $10,000 of personal property. He lived with his wife, Margaret, age seventy-two, and two girls who were probably grand daughters. Kline's son, Lambert, continued to own and operate the dry goods store, reporting $4,000 in real estate assets and $2,000 in personal assets. The proprietor of the Lebanon Hotel was William Jones, age thirty-five, who reported $5,000 in real estate assets and $1,000 in personal property. Jones had recently purchased the hotel from the estate of David Kline's son, John R. Kline. He lived with his wife, three young children, and two servants. Other business owners reported in the census included James L. Clark, dry goods merchant; David K. Hoffman, also a dry goods merchant; Witfield Seasy, George N. Apgar, and John Van Doren, all master wheelwrights; Timothy Porter, a master blacksmith; and Samuel Crate, the saloon keeper at the oyster shop. The trades of two others listed in the census that year, Joseph Biglow, a master carpenter, and Abraham Conger, a master housepainter, seem to suggest that something of a building boom was underway.
The decade brought a number of significant changes to the village. The death of David M. Kline in 1861 necessitated a division of his lands to settle his estate that would generate more residential development in the village. Jacob H. Huffman, Miller Kline, and attorney Augustus E. Sanderson were appointed to divide Kline's land, which they auctioned at a series of public sales in 1862. Kline's real estate holdings at the time of his death included four lots in town, not including the hotel and store lots, which he had previously conveyed to his sons. One parcel faced the hotel and store on the north side of the turnpike, and included several existing stores. Another parcel included the old stone tavern, while a third parcel was located on the west side of the road between the turnpike and the Reformed church. These parcels were subdivided into at about twenty smaller lots, including a number of building lots, and were sold to a numerous different buyers. Kline's homestead lot, which was not subdivided before auctioning, was on the old road to Potterstown. At around this same time, the north end of the road to Round Valley, between the turnpike and the old road to Pottertown, was finally laid out as a public road upon a petition of twelve local residents.
The town continued to prosper, and by 1869 the population had increased to a level that required the construction of a new school, two stories in height, costing $3,500. The new school was probably the school building on Academy Street that was depicted on an 1873 atlas and was located on one of the lots that had been auctioned to settle David M. Kline's estate. The atlas showed continued residential and commercial growth since 1860, a good deal of it as a result of the division of Kline's property. For the first time streets were given formal names: the turnpike had become Main Street; the road leading north from the turnpike was called Cokesburgh (sic) Road; while the road south to Round Valley was South Street; the old road to Potterstown became Church Street, which sometime between 1861 and 1873 was vacated east of South Street; the street in front of the new school was Academy Street; and a new road that provided a grade crossing at the railroad depot was called Rail Road Avenue. Along Main Street, the block between Academy and South had remained largely commercial with a similar mix of stores and artisan shops. West of Academy, the streetscape had changed dramatically, with the addition of three new dwellings and a high school. On the north side of Main Street, the number of buildings remained fairly consistent, though the proprietors and types of stores and shops changed. J.W. Lowe took over the hotel and S.J. Shurts replaced Lambert Kline at the corner store. The oyster shop that was on the north side of the turnpike seems to have been replaced by a confectionery store. The stone tavern had become M.J. Cramer's Refresh Saloon. Perhaps the most noteworthy change on the street was at the far western end where a new Methodist Episcopal Church had been constructed. Organized in 1870, the congregation completed its new building in 1872.
The 1873 atlas also documented the location of the Hoffman Brothers Machine Shop & Feed Mill, on the eastbound side of the railroad tracks next to the depot, where a siding had been added. The Hoffman building was apparently added after 1870, when Rail Road Avenue was surveyed. Hoffman's factory was the first industry to locate near the Lebanon depot, and was an important new economic stimulus in the town.
While most of Hunterdon County had experienced prosperity along with the rest of the country during a period of post Civil War economic expansion, a panic in 1873 shook the country and resulted in a slump in values that impacted the agricultural areas of Hunterdon County. A result of several factors, including the great expansion of western farmlands, cheap transportation for farm goods, deterioration of soil fertility, and decline in rural population, the downturn would continue for the next thirty years. As a result of the downturn, or perhaps in spite of it, the Hunterdon County agricultural community continued to evolve in its crops and methods. Representing this continuing agricultural evolution was another noteworthy addition to the village: Depicted on the 1873 atlas was a creamery located a short distance north of Main Street on Cokesburgh Road. Dozens of creameries were organized in New Jersey during the late 19th century, revolutionizing dairying by taking the marketing of butter and milk out of the home. With the arrival of the railroad, some farmers began shipping fluid milk to New York City, finding the fresh milk market more lucrative than butter making, the traditional farm-based milk product. Lebanon became an important milk-shipping point for a large dairying district. However, in Hunterdon County another important part of the dairy industry was the creamery. Lebanon was able to capitalize on its central location in the dairy region and its good transportation connections, and established a creamery that apparently was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, organized in the county.
Hunterdon County farmers also made a major investment in orchard crops, especially peaches. Interest in commercial production of peaches began in the southern part of the county around 1852, when Dr. George H. Larison planted three thousand trees at Sergeantsville. Within ten years, a special daily train was transporting cars of peaches along the Delaware and Belvidere Railroad heading to New York City and beyond. Cultivation of the crop moved northward in the county, and various points on the New Jersey Central also became important shipping points. By 1881, Mansfield Eich was operating a nursery in Lebanon of mostly peach trees, selling them at a price of $50.00 per thousand, mainly to customers in New Jersey, but also to some as far away as Michigan. Although many farmers dealt directly with merchants, a number of local cooperative peach auctions were organized in the 1880s, including one at Lebanon, which was conducted near the railroad depot and continued to operate into the early years of the 20th century. Commercial peach growing had a relatively short-lived history in the county. In 1889, there were over two million peach trees of bearing age in the county, but the 1890 crop was a total failure, while the following two years produced such large harvests that prices plunged, causing some farmers to begin cutting down their orchards. The northeast part of the county, with its newer orchards and excellent transportation system, continued to produce good peach profits into the late 1890s. However, the appearance of the San Jose scale around 1900 added to the farmers' troubles and by 1909 the number of bearing peach trees in the county was only around 300,000.
Signs of local prosperity during the last quarter of the century are evident in what 19th century county historian James P. Snell described as the "many pleasant-looking homes" that were constructed in the village, especially along Brunswick Avenue and Academy and South Streets. Lebanon entrepreneurs continued to establish new businesses at the turn of the 20th century. By the final decade or so of the 19th century, farmers had overcome their earlier opposition to wire fences, which quickly became an accepted part of the rural scene. In Lebanon, the Knox Fence Company sold a patented wire fence that they called the Perfection Spring Lock Wire Fence, which they marketed as either a farm fence or, woven into a more elaborate pattern, as a lawn fence. The company was very successful and were contracted to install fencing at a number of reservoirs in New York State. In 1909 Knox employed 110 men, an impressive number, which evidently included numerous installers. The distinctive Knox lawn fencing is still in existence at the Reformed Church and other local sites. There was other evidence of the innovative nature of local entrepreneurs. By 1902, the local creamery had been relocated to a new site along the turnpike east of the center of the village. The year 1902 saw the founding of Lebanon Telephone Company, one of first local telephone companies in the county, which eventually became part of the Bell system.
According to a 1914 directory, the Lebanon business community included a dry goods merchant, a barber, a carpenter, a lawyer, a plumber, a music teacher, a mason, a painter, a grinder, and a dry goods merchant, among others. Four teachers lived in an unidentified teachers' residence. The Conovers, who took over the original Kline store location at the corner of Main and Academy, advertised "Fancy and Staple Groceries and Provisions." Altogether, it was a portrait of what had become a mature and prosperous town. Around town, there were many new houses, most built in the new Bungalow and Colonial Revival styles, reflecting the continued good fortune of the community.
The year 1918 would be a momentous one for Lebanon. The county business directory described the town as an "enterprising post village of about 400 inhabitants," and states its desirableness as a place of residence or as "a point at which to successfully prosecute important branches of industry." One of the "important business concerns" profiled in the directory was Oscar Apgar, contractor and builder.
Also profiled were A. Henkel, who had begun his carriage building concern in 1876. N.W. Hoffman continued in the agricultural implement business, repairing and selling new implements, which he conducted in a three and one-half story building fitted with steam machinery. C.L. Johnson was the new proprietor of an established general merchandise business, in competition with S.J. Shurts, who was now in his twenty-fifth year of business. Both general stores featured imported as well as domestic goods. Shurts operated a stove and hardware business in a second building across the street. Specialty shops in town includes Mrs. Charles Alpaugh's millinery store, M.J. Cramer's sewing machine business, and E.W. Davis' meat market, established in 1908. Davis handled "some little western meat," instead slaughtering most of his own meats. The picture drawn is that of a business community that took advantage of Lebanon's excellent transportation system to bring a variety of goods to their increasingly sophisticated customers.
Tragedy struck the community the night of December 30, 1918, when a gas explosion and fire destroyed the Odd Fellows building across from the Lebanon Hotel, killing ten local men immediately, including sixty-four year old Oscar Apgar. It was reported as the worst accident that had ever happened in Hunterdon County. Three other carpenters were killed in addition to Apgar. Also killed was Josiah Stryker, the proprietor of the confectionery store and ice cream parlor on the first floor of the building. The Odd Fellows building also housed the local post office, though the postmaster had left a few minutes before the explosion. Lebanon had no organized fire department, so firelighters from nearby towns had to respond. According to one newspaper report, "A bucket brigade did all that such an inefficient firefighting body of men could do, but it was almost impossible to get the water on the flames where it was needed."
As terrible as the disaster was, the community was quick to recover. Not only was a new Odd Fellows building erected within a few years of the tragedy, but also an improved water system, including street hydrants, was constructed. And, in 1923, the Lebanon Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 was established as a direct result of the accident, with a new firehouse constructed in 1926. By 1926, Lebanon had optimistically decided to separate from Clinton Township, with 215 out of the 271 registered voters in the community favoring the change when it was discussed at a state senate hearing. Complicating the proposal was the fact that a "very expensive school house" serving surrounding areas of Clinton Township as well as the village had recently been constructed in Lebanon, paid out of funds of the entire Township. On April 20, a public referendum on the question passed, creating the new Lebanon Borough.
By the second decade of the twentieth century, motorized vehicle traffic was having a significant impact on roads, causing residents to demand improvements. Beginning 1924, the state was persuaded to take over several roads in the county, including the old New Jersey Turnpike through Lebanon, which was designated as Route 28; state paving projects, including Main Street, soon followed. As of 1930, Main Street was the only paved road in the town; others were gravel. A photograph of Main Street around this time shows the wide concrete-paved street, concrete curbs and sidewalks, streetlights, and utility poles, a scene that closely resembles Main Street in the first decade of the 21st century. Also visible in the photograph is the replacement Odd Fellows building, and in the distance is a sign advertising a new auto repair garage, one of several new auto related businesses established along Main Street. In addition to the Lebanon Telephone Company, public lights, and electric service, new local utilities also included six miles of water pipe supplied by the Beaver Brook Water Company in Clinton. A fire hydrant is visible in the photograph in front of the Lebanon Hotel.
An insurance map from that year documents some dramatic changes during the first decades of the twentieth century. Another residential street, High Street, was laid out between Main Street and Brunswick Avenue, and houses have been constructed on all building lots on the new street. The new public school building fronted on the new street. Maple and Brunswick Avenues and Cherry Street have also been completely developed. A Sunday school wing has also been added at the Reformed Dutch Church on Brunswick Avenue. On Main Street, the area west of Maple Avenue had become almost entirely residential by 1930 except for the Lebanon Methodist Episcopal Church, where a new Sunday school wing had been added, and an auto repair shop at the extreme west end of town. East of Maple Street, the street had been fully developed with a mixture of commercial and residential buildings. The new fire department/borough hall building stands on the north side of Main Street in this area. Throughout the village can be seen numerous outbuildings, many of which are automobile garages. Depicted in an inset is the industrial area along the railroad. On the north side of the tracks, Excel Foundries had four large buildings, while on the south side of the tracks, the Cushetunk Mountain Creamery occupied a sizable building next to two buildings of the Knox Fence Company, which was no longer in operation as of 1930. Within a few years, the state had begun plans to dualize Route 28. As part of this project, the decision was made to eliminate the "hazardous traffic condition created by the narrow pavement" in the business section of Lebanon. Grading work commenced during the late 1930s under the state highway's Works Progress Administration program. Paving of the new bypass was completed in 1943. Afterwards, new commercial development was concentrated along the 2.85-mile bypass, effectively isolating the original commercial center of Lebanon and hindering its further development. Development in the industrial area along the railroad was stymied, probably by its relatively inconvenient truck access, although a new creamery business had taken over the Cushetunk Creamery building around the turn of the 21st century. Residential development within the borough continued during the 20th and 21st centuries in areas adjacent to the district.
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‡ Ann Parsekian, Janice Armstrong and Dennis Bertland, Dennis Bertland Associates, Lebanon Historic District, Hunterdon County, NJ, nomination document, 2007, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Alpaugh Lane • Brunswick Avenue • Cherry Street • Cokesbury Road • High Street • Main Street • Maple Street