Hopewell’s Architectural Diversity Is Focus of Walking Tours
VICTORIAN AND MORE: Architectural tours of Hopewell Borough will be led by, at rear: architects Max Hayden and Alison Baxter; and at front right, archaeologist Ian Burrow. Architect Michael Mills, front left, was involved in planning the tours.
By Anne Levin
Asked to associate Hopewell Borough with a particular style of architecture, most people would identify that style as Victorian. But there is more, architecturally, to the historic little town at the base of the Sourland Mountains.
On Saturday, May 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., as part of Hopewell Heritage Weekend, a team of two architects and one archaeologist will address the topic with walking tours through the town. The Hopewell Borough Architectural Walking Tour will be given four times during the day, starting at Hopewell Public Library. Admission is free.
“I have wanted to do this for a while,” said Annie Anderson, a staff librarian at Hopewell Public Library who organizes events. “When I first moved back to New Jersey from Vermont about 10 years ago, a friend sent me an article in the New York Times that described Hopewell as the closest thing to Vermont in New Jersey. It also said the town’s style was Victorian. But in fact, Hopewell has many other styles. So it kind of caught in my craw. I wanted to have a tour where there were people who were knowledgeable and could counteract that.”
The upcoming Hopewell Heritage Weekend seemed an ideal opportunity to launch the tours. Architects Max Hayden, Michael Mills, and Alison Baxter were soon on board, along with archaeologist Ian Burrow of Hunter Research. Hayden, Baxter, and Burrow will lead the tours, each with an individual slant. They will start by giving participants a brief lesson before beginning the walk.
“Ian — you could stand him in front of a building and listen to him for an hour,” Anderson said of Burrow. “Because he’s an archaeologist, he knows some things that the architects don’t. For example, he kind of off-handedly said there is brick that came in a particular year and there was a sandstone that was quarried in Pennsylvania, and a bunch of houses in Hopewell were built with that brick because it was cheaper. The Hopewell Presbyterian Church was built with it. He started pointing out different foundations that were built with the stone.”
Baxter is the chair of the Hopewell Borough Historic Preservation Commission, “so she’s very much aware of the history of the district — where it is and why it’s a historic district,” Anderson said. “She has the perspective of someone in that community.”
Hayden chairs the Hopewell Township Historic Preservation Commission, “so he has a different perspective,” Anderson added. Mills, who has to be out of town over the weekend, was actively involved in the planning. “They all know each other and know the buildings,” said Anderson. “It’s been fun to watch them interact.”
The tours will begin in the middle of town, but the leaders will give suggestions to people who might want to take a longer walk. “For instance, Hopewell has several Sears houses (built from kits), and you have to look for them,” Anderson said. “It isn’t like some places where whole neighborhoods are one style.”
Hopewell is typical of places where houses have evolved over time. “So someone who may have started with Colonial might have added a turret, or windows, so the same house could have examples of several styles,” said Anderson. “It makes things more interesting.”
Anderson hopes to have regular walking tours through Hopewell in the future. She also runs scavenger hunts in the month of July, “which only work because this is a town with sidewalks and people take walks all the time,” she said. The scavenger hunts are geared to adults.
Despite its architectural diversity, Hopewell “has a breadth of styles. Yet there is something about the town that gives it a sense of cohesion,” said Anderson. “And that is part of what makes it unique.”
The tours begin at 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1 p.m. at the library, located at 13 East Broad Street. Registration is required. Visit www.redlibrary.org or call (609) 466-1625. Walk-ins may be available the day of the tour.