Historical Walking Tour
THIS SELF GUIDED WALKING TOUR WAS DEVELOPED BY THE HISTORIC COMMITTEE OF THE PHILLIPSBURG RIVERVIEW ORGANIZATION IN 1991. Please see the last page for acknowledgments.
To be recognized as a landmark a site does not have to be associated with George Washington, commemorate a Civil War battle, or even be 100 years old. Phillipsburg contains numerous historic sites.
It is the purpose of the Historic Conservancy to preserve these sites and cultivate the public appreciation of them. Towards this end, it will create a historic district in Phillipsburg.
The initial district, the Union Square Historic District, shall include that portion of S. Main St. between Union Square and the Black Bridge.
The Conservancy shall:
Safeguard the heritage of Phillipsburg by preserving the elements of its cultural, social, economic, and architectural history;
Strengthen the economy of our community;
Preserve and promote such historic district as an essential and dynamic element of our municipal character and identity.
The self-guided walking tour follows. We hope that you enjoy it and find our glossary helpful. Please join us for our guided walking tour next community day.
The area presently occupied by the town of Phillipsburg made its debut in history as the Leni Lenape settlement of Chintewink. In 1654 the Dutch engineer Vonder Donk included in his map this site on the banks of the then Lenape River which was favored by the Indians for its fishing grounds and cornfields. The original inhabitants of Phillipsburg’s North End were eventually displaced or absorbed by the Europeans - but not without a trace. The area’s Native American past not only remained in artifacts such as flint-arrows, tomahawks, and corn-pounders; the name Phillipsburg, which by 1749 came to replace Chintewink, commemorates one of their chiefs, King Phillip.
Although Phillipsburg’s growth was slowed throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by the shadow of its more prominent neighbor to the west, the completion of the Morris Canal in 1832 marked a turning point. The canal now put the town at the junction of three important waterways (the Delaware Canal, the Lehigh Navigation System, and the Morris Canal) and positioned it for an economic and population boom that would lead Phillipsburg to outgrow its status of village and to separate from Greenwich Township in 1861. The period from the completion of the Morris Canal to the turn of the century saw Phillipsburg become home to successful iron industries and a center for the technological successor of the canals, the railroad. It was this period of “iron, coal, and railroads”, particularly the years between 1850 and 1860, that also witnessed the construction of many of the structures comprising the Historical District.
The architectural legacy of that period not only provides a reminder of Phillipsburg‘s prosperous past, but also an inspiration for a prosperous future.
Most of these historical structures included in the self-guided walking tour are privately owned and are not open to the public. When viewing, please be courteous.
SOUTH MAIN STREET
Before the Revolutionary War, this was a stagecoach trail named George Street after King George lll of England. For patriotic reasons, the name was changed to the New Brunswick Turnpike in 1776 and later to South Main Street in the mid - 1800’s. Prior to the 1830s, this area consisted of several farms with Union Square and Hanover Street being the only areas of relative concentration. Beginning with the construction of the Morris Canal in the 1830s and, more importantly, the first railroad in the early 1850s, the South Main Street area experienced a tremendous building boom that lasted through the 1870s. Many of the buildings existing today date from that period.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE HISTORIC DISTRICT
178 South Main Street
This structure was formerly the Union Station for the Central Railroad of New Jersey on the left side and the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad on the right. The station and the bridge were built in 1912–1913 at a cost of 1.3 million, after complaints that many of the passenger trains did not stop in Phillipsburg, but merely passed through on their way to the impressive railroad station in Easton. This was previously the site of an 18th-century log cabin built by the Phillips family, after whom the town might have been named.
165 South Main Street
The brick portion of this home was built in the 1850s as the Seager home. Henry Seager owned much of this downtown area and subdivided the original lots. The house was substantially enlarged and remodeled in the 1890sp in the exotic revival style featuring a Chinese pagoda with oculus windows and an elaborate metal roof. The first floor of this structure housed the People’s Water Company office for a long period during the last century. Note the copper toilet floats used to replace the original ornaments.
160 South Main Street
This modest structure was Phillipsburg’s town hall at the time of the 50th anniversary of the town’s incorporation in 1911. The projecting bay on the second floor is called an oriel window and was designed to let more light into apartments with no side windows.
158 South Main Street
Dating from around the turn of the century, this interesting example of commercial architecture features an all metal façade. The second floor boasts a central palladian window flanked by two blind oculus windows and a decorative false parapet above.
154 South Main Street
The second and third floors of this building are excellent examples of the Second Empire style. The first-floor storefront features the original tin ceilings, which had been covered over for many years.
140 South Main Street
Built around 1880, this was one of Phillipsburg‘s most photographed structures and can be seen on many early postcards. This building features many elements of the Italianate style which dominated American architecture during the period from 1860 to 1885. These include the large overhanging cornice with brackets and recessed panels as well as the segmentally-arched windows with the original sashes. It is built on a “flatiron” plan due to the convergence of Main and Market Streets. The Second National Bank operated here from 1900 until the early 1970s. The first floor was completely remodeled in the early 1920s, but some of the original building fabric can be seen at either end. Note that the fancy bracketing appears on the Main Street or “show” side.
8-10 Market Street
This impressive home was built in 1904 by John
Savercool, a real estate speculator in the area. The home was used as a doctor’s office for many years by Dr. Lawrence Bloom and later Dr. Ralph Buchanan. Stylistically, this home would be termed a transitional Queen Anne since it was built during a period of transition from the ornate Queen Anne style which most people associate with Victorian architecture, to the more reserved Colonial Revival style. As a result, the house has a Queen Anne plan with Colonial Revival detailing. - Note the fish-scale shingles.
135 South Main Street (Towne Market)
This building was originally a stagecoach stop.
131 South Main Street
The original portion of this home - which was built in three parts - dates from 1850 and was built by Adam Ramsey Reese. His manufacturing complex was located directly behind the house on what he named Reese Alley. His son, Dr. James Mitchell Reese, was a prominent figure in town and lived here until he died in 1922. A reception was held here in 1911 for Woodrow Wilson. who was the Governor of New Jersey at that time. Many other notables including Teddy Roosevelt also visited the politically active Dr. Reese during campaign tours through Phillipsburg. The house was enlarged and remodeled in several stages through the 1870s and the current porch dates from about 1910. The original house had a peaked roof with the Mansard roof added at a later date.
121-123 South Main Street
This building dates from around 1880 and was the location of Matt Kingfield’s shoe store for many years. The unusual shape of the building is due to an old farmhouse which was located on the left side of this building where the bank driveway is now located. The 18th-century stone home predated the current street and therefore stood at an angle.
115 South Main Street
The Phillipsburg National Bank began its operations in the building across the street at 120 South Main Street in 1856. Shortly thereafter, it moved into a new building in Union Square next to the former train station (now the site of the Texaco Gas Station). An example of neo-classical architecture, the present structure was completed in 1927 and stands as a testament to the grandeur of public buildings constructed during the “Roaring Twenties”. Note the bronze doors.
118 South Main Street
This home was built in 1875 by Lewis C. Reese. He chose for his residence the Second Empire style, which was very fashionable since it was a contemporary style in France at the time. This style is also called the Mansard style because of the characteristic Mansard roof and the Grant style because it was used for many public buildings during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. This house represents one of the finest examples of this style in the area. This was the home of Dr. William Kline from 1902 until 1941.
102-104 South Main Street
These are two fine examples of mid-19th-century townhouses. The brick building on the left dates from around 1850-1860. Substantial alterations to this Greek Revival townhouse made around 1880 include the octagonal tower, the door and window surrounds, and the cornice. On the right is the only brownstone in town. It was designed in the Renaissance Revival style, an elegant sub-style of Italianate architecture, similar to buildings that lined the streets on the East Side of Manhattan. This home was built around 1880 and features exquisite interior woodwork as evidenced by the carved front doors made from cypress which was imported from Lebanon. These two buildings were once interconnected (lawyer with office on one side and home on the other) and remain under single ownership.
Governor Meyner’s Office 83 South Main Street
Note the double-stacked oriel windows on the north side, next to the Old Elks Building at 75 South Main Street. In addition to being the long-time office of Governor Meyner, State Senator Wayne Dumont - for whom the Warren County Administration Building is named - is said to have gotten his start at Governor Meyner’s office.
The below excerpted from Images of America: Phillipsburg by Dr. Leonard Buscemi Sr.
« Robert B Meyner was born on July 3, 1908, in Easton, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Phillipsburg High School in 1926, Lafayette College in 1930, and Columbia University in 1933. He was head of the Phillipsburg Chamber of Commerce, a New Jersey state senator, and a two-term governor of New Jersey (1956–1962) While Governor, he married Helen Stevenson, the niece of Adlai Stevenson. Meyner passed away on May 22, 1990. He is the only one of the state’s chief executives to come from Warren County. »
Union Square Hotel (17 Union Square)
Built in 1811 by John P. Roseberry. The walls are rough squared stone. The height was increased with a Mansard roof and dormers later in the 19th century. The smaller one-and-a-half-story wing to the north with its tall chimney may have served as the original kitchen. On April 8, 1861, when the hotel was owned by Joseph Fisher, the first town officials were chosen at a meeting held here – votes cast 363. It served as the town hall until that relocated to Market and Main Streets. Many famous persons have spoken from the balcony, including William Jennings Bryan, who stopped on a campaign tour.
Union Square Bridge
Better known as the “Free Bridge“, the current structure was built in 1895 to replace the covered bridge which had been in service since October 1, 1806. The bridge is a cantilever structure designed by James Madison Porter of Lafayette College. (His grandfather was the founder of Lafayette College). This bridge was originally a toll bridge but was purchased by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission at a cost of $300,000 and freed of tolls in 1921. The bridge was seriously damaged during the 1955 flood caused by Hurricane Diane. (Most serious of the 48 floods recorded on the Delaware since 1687. The bridge took two years to rebuild. A temporary Bailey bridge handled the traffic during that time.
Tindall Building 28 North Main Street
This tall, narrow structure is constructed of rough-squared stones on the lower floors and is undoubtedly among the earliest industrial buildings surviving in Phillipsburg. In 1874 the owner of this building was listed as J. Tindall. Reportedly John Tindall and Co. built a large distillery in 1850 capable of producing 240,000 gallons of whiskey annually. The building appears on the 1855 tax maps.