Delaware Historic District

Knowlton Twp, Warren County, NJ

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The Delaware Historic District [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

The village of Delaware is representative of the small, new communities that arose throughout the region in response to the 19th century railroad boom, established by entrepreneur, railroad magnate, John I. Blair, who attempted to capitalize on the potential of the railroad to stimulate industrial and commercial development. The Delaware Historic District has architectural significance as an assemblage of mostly late 19th and early 20th century buildings whose form, detailing, and spatial organization are representative of the region's vernacular architecture in that era, revealing the influence of then popular building forms and styles. The Delaware Historic District gains additional architectural significance from the survival of several houses predating its development as a railroad village, which exemplify the region's 18th/early 19th century domestic architecture and retain notable early fabric. Delaware's industrial significance stems from its blacksmith/wagon factory and steam-powered sawmill, rare survivors of the small-scaled shop manufactories once characteristic of the region. The Delaware Historic District has commercial significance because of its stores and hotels, physical documents of the important economic and social roles of such establishments in the development of a late 19th century service community. The Delaware post office has occupied one of the store buildings (9 Clinton Street) since 1884 without interruption (and perhaps as early as 1860), making it the oldest in the state of New Jersey still operating in its original building. A summer boarding house (23 Delaware Road; Delawanna House) documents rural Warren County's limited development as a destination for summer visitors during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, giving the district significance in the area of recreation. The Delaware Historic District also includes an unaltered example of New Jersey's first state highway system which was characterized by 2 lanes of concrete pavement and steel stringer bridges. Remnants of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad which passes through the district, including a stream culvert, providing the district with significance in the area of transportation, as well as the site of a Delaware River ferry (at the end of Ferry Lane). In addition, archaeological resources relating to the area's 18th and 19th century material culture also may be present in the environs of district buildings and sites. Therefore, the Delaware Historic District possesses significance in the areas of community development, architecture, commerce, industry, and transportation.

The village of Delaware owes its existence to the construction of the Warren Railroad in the 1850s to link the anthracite coalfields of northeastern Pennsylvania with eastern markets, and the efforts of John I. Blair, president and major stockholder of the Warren Railroad, to develop a community around the station established at the northern terminus of the line, its junction with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. Upon the start of the operations on the Warren Railroad in 1856, a station, hotel, and general store were built at what was first known as Delaware Station, forming the nucleus around which a small, but thriving village developed over the course of the next several decades. The community soon acquired an important economic role as the local center for shipping agricultural products and other commodities, and soon supplanted the adjoining hamlet of Ramsaysburg as a rural service center. The community's rail connections encouraged the establishment of such enterprises as a blacksmith/wagon factory, creamery and several steam-powered woodworking manufactories. Although it never became a regional manufacturing or commercial center, Delaware retained its role as a local shipping center until early in the 20th century, and experienced modest residential development throughout the period. Rail access also fostered the limited development of Delaware (located only eight miles from the Delaware Water Gap) as a tourist destination in the early 1900s as evidenced by the establishment of a few boarding houses in its pastoral environs that catered to urban visitors of moderate means. The subsequent construction of Route 46 and decline of the railroad, however, brought an end to the community's importance as a shipping center, and the village has experienced little growth since the 1920s except for highway oriented businesses and the low-density residential development of recent years in its environs.

As a result Delaware has managed to preserve much of its late 19th early 20th century character, despite the loss of its railroad stations and related facilities, along with most of its industrial buildings. A majority of the Delaware Historic District's buildings were erected ca.1855-1900, although several are considerably earlier or somewhat later. The distinctive historical character of the village results from the survival of these buildings, and their siting with varied setbacks and spacing along often tree-lined streets. These resources — mostly dwellings and 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 late 19th/early 20th century period, the tune when local building traditions were supplanted by those associated with national culture. The influence of popular architectural styles is readily apparent in the design and/or the detailing of many district buildings, essentially vernacular structures of traditional or popular type embellished with Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and/or other styles current in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Delaware Historic District's commercial buildings similarly exhibit a mix of Victorian detailing like the 1871 Hartung Store (12 Clinton Street) with its bracketed cornice and porch, and its two late 19th century churches (7 Clarence Street, St. James Episcopal Church and Knowlton Presbyterian Church) reveal a combination of Italianate and Gothic Revival influences in their bracketed eaves and pointed-arched windows. Two district houses predating Delaware's development as a railroad village are important documents of the region's 18th/early 19th century domestic architecture. The ca.1760-80 Robeson-Albertson House (23 Delaware Road), for example, retains notable features (entry door with tabernacle panels and bull's-eye windows and paneled fireplace wall with robust pilasters and bolection moldings) exhibiting early Georgian design motifs rarely encountered in the region's early farmhouses. With its gambrel roof and Adamesque cornice, the ca.1815 Dr. Jabez Gwinnup House (61 Valley Street) reveals influences of both eastern New Jersey architectural traditions and the Federal style.

While the village of Delaware was not founded until the 1850s, European settlement of the neighborhood occurred as early as the middle of the 18th century, initiated by pioneer agriculturists of English, Dutch, German, and Scotch Irish stock, the population reaching sufficient numbers to warrant the founding of Knowlton Township in 1768. Among the early settlers along Delawanna Creek was Jacob Engle, a German, who occupied a large tract north of the future village site. Nicholas Albertson, grandson of a Dutch emigrant to America, came to Knowlton in 1760, settling land to the southeast of Delawanna Creek. Another pioneer named Robeson, located on the north side of the creek sometime before the Revolutionary War establishing his homestead at 23 Delaware Road (according to local tradition his son Elam was shot and killed by Indians in 1777 while attempting to ford the river at a gravel bar near the 19th century railroad bridge, a place afterwards knows as Robeson's Rift). The elder Robeson presumably was the Edward Robeson who died some time before 1787, leaving a life interest in his 200-acre farm adjoining the lands of Jacob Engle and Nicholas Albertson to his daughter Mary and her husband Cornelius Albertson. The Robesons were probably of English origins, like Robert Allison who, emigrating from England shortly before the Revolutionary War, acquired and settled property just south of the district at what became Ramsaysburg where a church and tavern were established in the late 1700's.

The 1852 Warren County maps document the existence of "Atens Ferry" across the Delaware just north of Ramsaysburg, which probably was located on or near the site of the later 19th century ferry (end of Ferry Lane), as well as "Allen & Hutchmers [Hutchinsons] Saw Mill" on Delawanna Creek, where a saw mill existed as early as 1800. A grist mill replaced the saw mill around the middle of the 19th century. It was constructed by William F. Hutchinson who had acquired the Robeson/Albertson property sometime earlier. At mid century, two farms and three dwellings occupied the Delaware village site. Just south of the Hutchinson property was the farm purchased by physician Dr. Jabez Gwinnup in about 1815 and the house he erected around that time (61 Valley Street). The farm of Cornelius Albertson was located between the Gwinnup property and Ramsaysburg, his farmhouse (9 Clarence Street) stands on the corner of what became Clarence and Valley Streets. The third house then extant (16 Ann Street) is located near the Gwinnup house.

In the early 1850s, several New Jersey railroad companies were in competition to make the connection between eastern New Jersey and the Pennsylvania coal fields. The Scranton family, who had reactivated the 18th century iron works at Oxford in central Warren County in the 1830s, subsequently embarked on the development of new iron works in the Lackawanna Valley of northeastern Pennsylvania at what became Scranton. To provide a more direct transportation link between that isolated area and the New York City region, the Scrantons began what became the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad in the early 1850s connecting Scranton and the Delaware Water Gap. The Morris and Essex Railroad and Central Railroad of New Jersey were the principal New Jersey competitors in the race to the Water Gap, and it was thorough the efforts of local entrepreneur, John I. Blair, more than any other individual, that the connection with the Central Railroad was realized." The Warren Railroad was chartered in 1851 to construct a rail line from the Delaware River at a point no more than five miles below the Delaware Water Gap to the Central Railroad of New Jersey at or near Hampton. Blair, a business associate of the Scrantons, became the major stockholder and president of the fledgling Warren Railroad at its organization in 1853. Through an aggressive course of action, which included securing the necessary financing and right-of-way and supervising the design and construction of the rail line along a technologically challenging route, he thwarted the Morris and Essex Railroad efforts to reach the Delaware and succeeded in opening the Warren Railroad for operations in the spring of 1856.

Born at Foul Rift on the Delaware River where his father James managed shipping operations for the nearby Oxford Furnace, John Insley Blair (1802 -1899) pursued a mercantile career after receiving a limited education that ended at the age of twelve. A successful businessman, he had his own general store before the age of twenty (located in the northern Warren County village later named Blairstown), and subsequently acquired five more stores. As his capital increased, Blair invested in industries such as grain mills and cotton factories. He began his business association with the Scrantons in the 1830s when he helped them secure leases to the iron mines at Oxford, and in the 1840s joined them in their Pennsylvania venture, the Lackawanna Coal and Iron Company. Railroad connections were pivotal to the success of that business, and Blair became involved in the development of the Legget's Gap Railroad between Scranton and the New York State border (and junction with the Erie Railroad) in 1850/51, as well as the Cobb's Gap Railroad between Scranton and the Delaware Water Gap around the same time. Shortly thereafter the two lines were consolidated as the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, and Blair focused his attention on the Warren Railroad which was leased to the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western in 1857. In subsequent decades, Blair concentrated on the organization and development of railroads, particularly in the Midwest, although he also became involved in several coal and zinc companies, as well as banking and real estate. Blair's pioneering efforts to found a community at Delaware Station were repeated throughout the West where he acquired two million acres of government land for railroad development, laid out over eighty towns, and served as director of "six land and town lot companies," as well as assisting newly organized church congregations with donations of land and money.

Once the alignment of the Warren Railroad and been finalized and its junction with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad fixed, John I. Blair acquired several farms at the junction in anticipation of the establishment of a station there for which he provided a building site. In 1856, the year in which the rail line began operations, Blair had the property laid out in an ambitious rectilinear grid of "squares and building lots" extending between the hillside and the river from what is now Ann Street halfway to Ramsaysburg. Early train schedules included a ten or fifteen minute stop for meals at Delaware Station, perhaps at Blair's behest, and a hotel, the "Delaware House," (6 Clinton Street) was erected in 1858 by Charles Cool on a lot near the station on Clinton Street acquired from Blair. The post office was transferred from Ramsaysburg in that year, and Cool appointed postmaster. Blair constructed a brick store (9 Clinton Street) on the northwest corner of Clinton and Valley Streets in 1860, and James R. Dye became the community's first merchant and succeeded Cool as postmaster. A second store (12 Clinton Street) was built by Charles Hartung opposite the brick store in 1871.

The new settlement soon attracted industries and institutions, as well as modest residential development. Two small "bending works" or woodworking operations were established: one erected by C.T. James on the northwest corner of Valley and Amelia Streets in 1863 and the other built by the firm of Troxell and Brands near the intersection of Charles and Valley Streets in 1870. Just north of the latter, Albert Ammerman established a blacksmith shop on property he purchased from Blair in 1866. Fire ignited by a spark from a passing train engine destroyed the stone Episcopal church at Ramsaysburg in 1866, and three years later the congregation erected a new house of worship at 7 Clarence Street (St. James Episcopal Church) in Delaware Station. A Presbyterian congregation was organized at Delaware Station in 1871, and a church built in 1875 (Knowlton Presbyterian Church). John I. Blair gave the church lot, parsonage and lot, and "money enough to make his donation worth $4,000," one third of the total project cost. Throughout the third quarter of the 19th century residential growth appears to have been fairly slow; the 1874 atlas depicts the village as containing less than two dozen houses, five of which belonged to the railroad company.

Delaware continued to grow modestly during the late 19th century, attracting new businesses and residential development. Sometime between 1874 and 1881, George G. Flummerfelt opened a restaurant, subsequently known as the Lackawanna House, in a frame building opposite Cool's hotel constructed by him in 1860 (3 Clinton Street). A creamery was established along the railroad in the 1880s, and in 1884, the year in which station was dropped from the community's name, Albert Ammerman constructed a three-story building (8 Ann Street) where he expanded his business to include wagon making. The 1881 county history gives the population of the village as 235. The 1886 county directory includes the following as village residents: several merchants and clerks, two wheelwrights, two blacksmiths, two marble cutters, two dressmakers, a saddler, carpenter, shoemaker, doctor, and a lawyer, as well as several dozen laborers and railroad employees. The marble works and a feed and grain storehouse (7 Clinton Street) were located on north side of Clinton Street. While the two small bending works on Valley Street closed, a "manufactory of wood stock, carriage and wagon material" was established along the railroad about a quarter mile northwest of the depot sometime before 1906, in which year it employed thirty-five people and was owned by John Hoyt. Other industries operating in the early 1900s included a saw mill owned by M.C. Allen, which also employed thirty people, and the Hutchinson grist mill and Ammerman wagon shop. During this period George Prall, who owned the feed store, shipped "large quantities of sand" mined from the farms he purchased from John I. Blair. Local agricultural products shipped from Delaware at this time included "grain, potatoes, apples, butter and milk," as well as asparagus and strawberries.

In the second decade of the 20th century, however, Delaware began to decline as an industrial and business center. The construction of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad cutoff across the northern part of Warren County in 1908/11 relegated the old main line through the village to a secondary route, thus decreasing Delaware's attractiveness as a place of business. The 1909 state industrial directory notes that Hoyt's factory employed fifteen people, a more than 50% decline since 1906. Subsequent industrial directories indicate that Hoyt's factory regained five employees during the next decade, but that a factory building in the village remained for sale or lease. By 1918, the Allen saw mill had only six employees. A new factory making "black walnut gun stocks and propeller lumber" and employing sixty-five opened between 1915 and 1918, but this appears to have been a short-lived industry tied to war production. As Delaware's attractiveness as a place of business declined, the directories began to promote its recreation potential, noting its picturesque location, healthful and bracing climate, and possession of "all the attractions of an ideal health or vacation summer resort." While the Delaware House next to the station closed, two small summer boarding houses opened on the outskirts of the village: the Delawanna House (23 Delaware Road) and Spring Brook Place to the south on the river near Ramsaysburg.

The construction of Route 5 (which was later replaced by Route 46) in 1923 heralded the end of Delaware as a railroad village. Route 5 was authorized in 1917 and became one of the fifteen routes that represent the foundation of the present New Jersey highway system, which was characterized by 2 lanes of concrete pavement and steel stringer bridges. An original segment of that road with concrete pavement and steel-stringer bridge, remains intact on the northwestern edge of the Delaware Historic District. Train service gradually declined, and vestigial service on the old main line ceased in the 1950s, after which the line was abandoned. By 1927 most of the village industries had ceased operations, except for the Hutchinson mill, the Ammerman wagon shop, and the creamery. The latter was abandoned in 1946, by which time the mill and wagon shop also had closed. As new highway oriented businesses opened in the middle decades of the 20th century, Clinton Street could not sustain commercial activity, and the two general stores and restaurant closed. The railroad station survived until the 1960s, but was subsequently demolished. The Episcopal church closed in the 1960s, and was later converted into a dwelling. The posts office, however, still occupies the brick store building and provides a focal point for community life, as does the Presbyterian church.

Delaware exists today as a largely residential community whose character survives substantially intact, despite the strip commercial development stimulated by the existence of Route 46. Although many non-residential uses have disappeared within the village, the buildings, which housed them mostly remain.


Books. Pamphlets & Reports:

Armstrong, William C., Pioneer Families of Northwestern New Jersey. Lambertville, NJ: Hunterdon House, 1979.

Bertland, Dennis N., Early Architecture of Warren County. Harmony, NJ: Harmony Press, 1976.

Burr, Nelson R., The Anglican Church in New Jersey. Philadelphia: The Church Historical Society, 1954.

Cummins, George Wyckoff, History of Warren County New Jersey. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911.

Gorden, Thomas F., A Gazetteer of the State of New Jersey. Trenton: Daniel Fenton, 1834.

Griffiths, Thomas S., A History of Baptists in New Jersey. Hightstown, New Jersey: Barr Press Publishing Company, 1904.

The Industrial Directory of New Jersey. Trenton, NJ: Bureau of Statistics of New Jersey, 1906, 1909, 1912, 1915, & 1918.

Harpster, Richard E. (ed.), Historic Sites of Warren County. Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders, 1964.

Honeyman, A. Van Doren, (ed.), Northwestern New Jersey: A History of Somerset, Morris, Hunterdon, Warren, and Sussex Counties. 5 vols. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1927.

Hutchinson, Elmer T. (ed.), Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey. First Series, Vol. XXXIX, Calendar of New Jersey Wills, Administrations, Etc. Vol. X, 1801-1805, Trenton, NJ: MacCrellish & Quigley, Printers, 1948.

Kay, John L. and Chester M. Smith, Jr., New Jersey Postal History. Lawrence, Massachusetts: Quarterman Publications, Inc. 1976.

Kern and Weaver, History and Directory of Warren County, 1887. Washington, New Jersey: Press of the Review, 1886.

Lowenthal, Lany and William T. Greenberg, Jr., The Lackawanna Railroad in Northwestern New Jersey. Morristown, NJ: The Tri-State Railway Historical Society, 1987.

Portrait and Biographical Record of Hunterdon and Warren Counties. New York: Chapman Publishing Company, 1898.

Shampanore, Frank, History and Directory of Warren County, New Jersey. Washington, New Jersey: 1929.

Snell, James P. (ed.), History of Warren and Sussex Counties, New Jersey. Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1881.

Wacker, Peter, Land and People. A Cultural Geography of Pre-industrial New Jersey: Origins and Settlement Patterns. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1975.

Maps and Atlases:

Beers, F. W., County Atlas of Warren, New Jersey. New York: F. W. Beers & Co., 1874.

McCarty, D., Map of Warren County, New Jersey. Philadelphia: Friend and Aub, 1852.

Sanborn Insurance Map Company, Map of Belvidere, New Jersey. (Delaware Section) New York: Sanborn Insurance Map Company, 1909, 1915 & 1927.

Walling, H. F., Map of Warren County, New Jersey. New York: Smith, Gallup & Co., 1860.


Albertson, Sarah E., "History of St. James' Parish, Delaware, N.J." The Newark Churchman. Vol. XVIII, No. 5, February 1924, pp.1 & 2.

Public Records

Sussex County Court House, Newton, NJ: Sussex County Deeds. Sussex County Road Returns. Sussex County Tavern Licenses.

United States Census: Population Schedules, Warren County, Knowlton Township, 1830-1920.

Warren County Court House, Belvidere, NJ: Warren County Deeds. Warren County Road Returns. Warren County Surrogate Records.

Adapted from: Dennis Bertland, Sally Bishop, and Melody Lee-Imhof, Dennis Bertland Associates, Delaware Historic District, Warren County, New Jersey, nomination document, 2002, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Ann Street • Charles Street • Clarence Street • Clinton Street • Delaware Road • Ferry Lane • Hemlock Hill Lane • Route 46 • Valley Street

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