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First Appeared:
Ocober 5, 2000

Trenton - 1964

Trenton in 1964
Delaware River in foreground; Route 1 at Right
See below to view this photo in full size

In 1960 Trenton was a vibrant and pleasant smaller city, the commercial, industrial and residential heart of west-central New Jersey. Ten years later it was one of the dead zones of the east coast, a phenomemon then still relatively new in American experience. Crime, high taxes, bad schools and the advent of the welfare culture had emptied the residential neighborhoods of everyone who was able to leave, with the notable exception of enclaves with a proud and distinctive identity, like Chambersburg, Hiltonia and the Brunswick-Olden section of North Trenton. Beyond the Mom-and-Pop retail level, Trenton's commercial sector mostly decamped for the suburbs, or hung it up altogether, leaving a city dominated increasingly by government and its dependents. In the years after 1970 this trend would accelerate and soon would be joined by a another, long-term, trend still evident in the year 2000, the cultural "de-Trentonization" of central New Jersey.

Lawrence Township began petitioning to secede from the Trenton postal area about 1968. In 1974 the Township got what it wanted. Mailing addresses that had been "Trenton, N.J. 08638" became "Lawrenceville, N.J 08648." Property values went up immediately. Ten years later one of Trenton's two newspapers, the Trenton Times, actually dropped the word "Trenton" from its name and its masthead. Today it's just "The Times," a name wierdly cut loose from any discernable geographic moorings. (To its credit the paper not only has kept its offices and operations on Perry Street in Trenton, but has continued to make substantial additional investment in expanding and modernizing those premises.)

One of the saddest incidents of de-Trentonization occurred in the late '90s when Trenton State College changed its name to "The College of New Jersey" -- preferring the risk of a lawsuit from Princeton University (Princeton had the name 200 years ago and still claimed it) to the risk of continued association with anything as declassé as New Jersey's capital city.

However, the Trenton State College (as it will continue to be called here) episode illustrates that, just as the onset of de-Trentonization lagged behind the actual decline of the city, the end of the practice apparently is lagging behind the recent and notable revitalization seen in Trenton.

You can see the photo at the head of this page in full size here.

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