Fascinating Facts: Rocky Hill
While one of the smallest municipalities in New Jersey, Rocky Hill is big on history and full of amenities and fun things to do. Here are just a few interesting facts that help provide insight into the borough’s past and its current reputation as a desirable place to live.
- Rocky Hill is named for the nearby Rocky Hill Ridge, also known as the Devil’s Featherbed, as it was difficult terrain to traverse.
- Not only did George Washington sleep here, he spent time here. In the years spanning 1777-1781, his troops and those of the French passed through Rocky Hill. He spent three months here in 1783 at the Berrien family farm known as Rockingham while he attended the Continental Congress at Nassau Hall in nearby Princeton. While there, he was briefly joined by Martha Washington, and entertained James Madison and Thomas Paine. The space has been preserved as the Rockingham State Historic Site.
- The opening of the Delaware and Raritan Canal and the location of the railroad line brought the Industrial Revolution to Rocky Hill in the 19th century, transforming it into a center of commerce with factories and various businesses. The river was a power source for the factories and the canal and railroad offered transit for goods and supplies.
- The roads now familiar to modern residents were once a bit different: Crescent Street was part of a main east/west road until 1820. Princeton Avenue used to continue north of Washington Street and over the river, connecting with Georgetown Turnpike.
- In 1890, as a result of the sustained growth described above, Rocky Hill separated from Montgomery Township and formed an independent borough.
- Several buildings and sites are included in the Rocky Hill Historic District and/or are on the National Register of Historic Places.
- The original building at 62 Washington Street – now the Community Center – was once the home of the town’s first physician, Dr. J.A. Grey.
- Two nearly identical homes located at 106 and 107 Montgomery Avenue are known as “the twins,” and were built in 1862 by a local builder named William Bastedo.
- Today, a local pottery shop and gallery sits on the site of what was once a grist mill, part of the Brearly-Mount mill complex.
- Vestiges of the old canal house are said to remain just east of the Canal and are included in the Delaware and Raritan National Register Historic District.
- Among the far-reaching impacts of the Depression of the 1930's was the end to Rocky Hill's boom as a commercial center, after which the village settled into a residential community.
Tucked into the southeast corner of Somerset County, Rocky Hill residents enjoy its proximity to Princeton and New York City without sacrificing its neighborhood feel. The village-like main street offers a quaint downtown of restaurants, coffee shops, library and shops. With fewer than 700 residents, the township maintains a small-town warmth that harkens back to its historic past as a tight-knit, independent yet interdependent community.
Published October 29, 2018 in Living in New Jersey