Senate Panel Clears Turner/Greenstein Bill To Stop Burial Of State House Archeological Site

Senators Say City’s Revolutionary History At Petty’s Run Shouldn’t Be Covered Up

TRENTON – A Senate committee today released legislation Senators Shirley Turner and Linda Greenstein sponsored to stop a plan by the administration to rebury an archeological project adjacent to the State House that tells the story of Trenton’s revolutionary past.

“Some in the administration may simply find the Petty’s Run site an eyesore, but this project is telling the story of the birth of Trenton and of our nation,” said Turner (D-Mercer). “All too often, we have seen New Jersey’s historical treasures knocked down or paved over. We can’t tell the story of our state without literally digging into its past, and we can’t allow our past to be covered up.”

Two centuries ago, Petty’s Run was a key water source for early industrial Trenton. The Petty’s Run archaeological excavation, located between the State House and Thomas Edison State College, has unearthed the remains of the iron plating mill of Isaac Harrow and Benjamin Yard, which operated from 1733 through 1777, and the steel furnace of the Trenton Steel Works, which operated from 1745 through 1785. Both of those industrial facilities supplied arms to the Continental Army.

Also found at the Petty’s Run location are the remains of a paper mill – in operation from 1827 through 1876 – owned by Garret D. Wall, a member of the New Jersey General Assembly and the United States Senate. Wall was elected Governor in 1829, but declined the office.

Last fall, the State Capitol Joint Management Commission voted to bury the open excavation site, which would cost approximately $400,000 to adhere to federal and state requirements. According to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services the cost to stabilize and preserve the Petty’s Run site could be less than the price-tag to bury it.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to protect and preserve a site that is an educational and cultural window into our past,” said Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer). “This site should be preserved so that visitors to the State House can have a full understanding and appreciation for the history of our Capital City. And when protecting Petty’s Run can cost even less than burying it, the decision to cover up history becomes all the more questionable.”

The bill (A-3699/S-2667) was released 3-2 from the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee. It now heads to the Senate for a final vote.