Last weekend was the Mill Hill Holiday House Tour. Now in its 50th year, the event allows members of the public into the homes of Mill Hill residents, offering a view of one of Trenton’s most interesting neighborhoods.The Mill Hill neighborhood is located around Mercer, Jackson and Clay Streets in downtown Trenton. The Tour kicks off at Trenton Artworks….
…most of the open houses are reached by following the path along the pretty Assunpink Creek, to South Montgomery Street with its statue of George Washington.
The statue of Washington commemorates the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776. On that day, Washington took Trenton, marking the turning point of the Revolutionary War. The fighting took place on land that became the Mill Hill Neighborhood, and the entire area has subsequently been built up with homes and buildings, many of which are themselves now historic.
The House Tour itself features dozens of open homes, each one marked by a gift box on the doorstep. Participation cost $16 this year per adult, and offered an insight into the neighbors and homes that make up Mill Hill. This is a particularly cohesive and characterful area, with a diverse group of residents. The neighborhood was apparently faced with urban renewal in the 1960s, and was saved by residents including the Mayor at the time, who moved to the area and pushed for the historic homes to be preserved. Today, many of them are in remarkably good shape, and have often been lovingly converted into comfortable residences with modern conveniences. The neighborhood is tidy and feels safe, and is marked by signs reading “Mill Hill: We look out for each other”.
Many of the homes were beautifully decorated for the holidays season and to welcome guests. (Out of respect for the neighbors, I’m not publishing photos from inside their homes.) Some of the gardens were beautiful too, offering unexpected views of nature from right in the middle of the city, such as over Assunpink Creek or Mill Hill Park. The Old Mill Hill Society, which organizes the Holiday House Tour, also runs a Garden Tour in June.
With this being the 50th year of the House Tour, there was an especially strong range of events and activities over the weekend, including horse-and-buggy rides, photo opportunities, and chestnut roasting. Two churches were also open to the public as part of the Tour. I stopped by the Life Abundant Church, and was treated to singing, hot cider and treats from the friendly congregation. The overall atmosphere was really welcoming, and made Mill Hill seem like an attractive place to live. It’s a 10-minute walk to Trenton Transit Center (NJ Transit, Amtrak, River Line, many buses), and a couple of blocks away from bars and restaurants on South Broad Street. That makes it a very walkable neighborhood.
Althought the vast majority of homes in the neighborhood are well cared-for, there are occasional reminders of some of the struggles it has faced in the past and that Trenton continues to experience. A few homes are abandoned / undergoing reposession. On the other hand, this is still an extremely affordable area. A really pretty 1886 townhouse with 2 bedrooms is available now at 224 Jackson Street, in the heart of the neighborhood, for $110,000. That’s a great starter home, and it seems in good condition. People sometimes say that Trenton is a transit-accessible place to live for people who work in Princeton. It is certainly possible to take the train or 606 bus, but the trip is about 50 minutes. Driving takes 25 minutes, so for me, it unfortunately didn’t make much sense to take transit. For NJ government employees in Trenton offices though, Mill Hill is a great option.