Port Mercer Canal House
4278 Quakerbridge Road
Lawrenceville NJ 08648
The Port Mercer Canal House was built in the 1830's next to a swing bridge over the Delaware and Raritan Canal to house the bridgetender and his family. The D&R Canal provided a safe and short waterway from Philadelphia to New York City from its opening in 1834 until 1932. From approximately 1900 to 1934, the bridgetender was John Arrowsmith, who lived there with his wife and eight children. The D&R Canal and the canal houses on its banks are now a New Jersey State Park. The Lawrence Historical Society has restored the Port Mercer Canal House to the 1890-1920 time period. The downstairs kitchen addition was made circa 1900. The beautiful gardens, which include a pre-Civil War outhouse, are a particular highlight of the June open house event. The house now serves as headquarters for the Society. The Canal House and the Port Mercer area are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Delaware and Raritan Canal
Central New Jerseyans were isolated in the early 1830's. Few roads existed, railroading was in its infancy, and rivers were not easily navigated. Thousands of laborers, mostly Irish immigrants, spent almost four years hand digging the sixty-six mile D&R canal.
New Jersey Governor Peter Vroom and a party of dignitaries officially opened the Delaware and Raritan Canal on June 24th and 25th, 1834, traveling by barge for its entire length.
The D&R Canal was built to provide a safe and short waterway between Philadelphia and New York City for the transport of farm products, coal furniture, clothing and household goods. In short it provided connection with the outside world.
During the canal's heyday Port Mercer was an active community. Along with barges and ferries the canal was also used for pleasure boating.
The canal did not show a profit after 1892 as railroads gradually took over most of the shipping business. The canal stayed open, however, until the winter of 1932-33, when it was closed permanently to commercial navigation.
Shortly after the canal was closed to navigation, the State of New Jersey took it over and restored the feeder and main canal to be used as a source of raw water for farms, industry, and homes in Central New Jersey. In 1974 the State Legislature passed a bill establishing the canal and the narrow band of s state -owned land along its banks as a State Park In 1973, the Delaware and Raritan Canal and 17 structures relating to the canal were put on the National Register of Historic Places.
Tours are offered occasionally throughout the year and during events held at the house. Special tours are by appointment.
New Jersey Turnpike heading south:
Take Exit 9 (New Brunswick) and follow signs for Trenton (Route 18 north, then Route 1 south). For first-timers, navigating to Route 1 south from this exit can be difficult. Take the first right after toll booths, up ramp and onto to 18 north. Immediately, shift to lane second from left and, less than half a mile from entry point, exit left (you'll be heading over a Route 1 overpass). Stay in right lane. The exit to Route 1 south is on your right just beyond the overpass. For directions from Route 1, see below.
From Interstate 95 heading north:
From DC/Philadelphia, cross Scudder Falls Bridge into New Jersey (Interstate 95 becomes Interstate 295 several miles into NJ), and exit at Route 1 North (exit 67) and follow directions below.
From southern New Jersey:
Take 295 north, exiting at Route 1 North (exit 67) and follow directions below.
From Route 1 (north or south):
Exit on Province Line Road opposite the Quaker Bridge Mall/Road and continue straight. The Canal House is just past the lights on your left before the road bends to your right.