The Canal Era in Millstone
Nineteenth Century Industry
[singlepic id=18 w=200 h=150 float=right]The Delaware and Raritan Canal (shown at right) paralleling the Millstone River was constructed in the 1830’s. This was the beginning of a prosperous period when East Millstone and Millstone served as receiving junctions for the grain, cattle, and produce of the surrounding farms. In Millstone, large warehouses stored as much as 100,000 bushels of grain at a time, awaiting shipment. In 1834 there were four storehouses for grain, an extensive lumberyard, and a number of other establishments, such as hotels, a harness shop, and grocery and dry goods stores. The number and variety of stores escalated as canal traffic increased. At times, the D & R Canal carried more annual freight tonnage than the Erie Canal. By 1860 the D&R was carrying nearly 2,000,000 tons of freight annually, with approximately 1400 operational boats, nearly all of 180-ton capacity. Its peak years were the 1860s and 1870s when Pennsylvania coal was transported through the D&R Canal to feed the city of New York’s industrial boom.
One of the prominent industries in Millstone was that of the blacksmith. The Old Millstone Forge on North River Street is a two-story wood frame structure with a brick facade on the first floor level and wood shingles on the second. It served the area as an active blacksmith shop until the death in 1979 of the last blacksmith. The Millstone Forge Association now operates it as a museum. It contains an operational forge and many historic tools, including Dutch anvils dating to the late 1600s.
Many of the houses in the area around Ann Street, West Street, the Alley, Amwell Avenue, and Main Street date from the mid-1800’s, during the heyday of the Delaware & Raritan Canal. Many contain Italianate details. Also in this area is one of the oldest houses in Millstone, the story-and-a-half East Jersey cottage” style home. In 1854, a six mile line from the New Jersey Railroad in New Brunswick to East Millstone was constructed. In 1860, a one-room, brick school-house was built in the village. It was used as a school until around 1940. It has been restored and now serves as the municipal building, where the Borough Council, Planning Board, and other municipal boards meet.
Main Street also contains a wide range of historic homes of architectural interest. The Dr. F.C. Blackwell house, at 1429 Main St., was constructed prior to 1780 by Henry Quick and then modified by Blackwell in the 1860’s with Stick style details. The 1956 Abraham Wilson house, at 1423 Main St., is a Usonion home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. 1417 Main St. is an 1829 example of Greek Revival architecture. The Italianate detailed house at 205 Ann Street facing Main St. was built in the early 1800’s and then later modified. The Disborough house, at 1410 Main St., was constructed c.1810. The modified Federal style Van Buren house at 1403 Main St., facing the Peace Brook, was constructed in 1838 on an foundation from a 1700’s house that burned. The former Post Office at 1393 Main St. and the adjacent home at 1389 Main St. contain many Italianate details. At the north end of Main Street, near Maple and Beardslee, are examples of Queen Anne style Victorian homes.
Millstone is home to two churches. The Hillsborough Reformed Church, 1828, corner of Main Street and Amwell Road is one of the few true Federal-style meetinghouses in New Jersey. The building is listed nationally in the Library of Congress Historic American Buildings survey, Survey #: HABS NJ-295. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was built in 1998 on open land in the southwest of town.