The West Trenton portion of Ewing has yet another treasure for us to explore! And, it’s brand new and more than 100 years old all at once.

Over the past year and more, readers of this column have explored with me a few of the sites, institutions, homes and patterns of development in the greater West Trenton area, with names such as Birmingham, Trenton Junction, Altura, Greensburg, Wilburtha and Brookville. These columns though have only touched briefly on the sites and places, providing some context and some brief history.

But history is so much more! What makes history so engaging is not just the names, dates and structures, but the people who gave that history life!

The stories of the individuals and their interaction with their physical, geographical, political, social, historical and personal environment are what we connect to with most interest.

And thanks to a life-long resident of West Trenton, we now have a history of Trenton Junction as told through fascinating bits of the stories of the lives of its residents.

Local historian Mark Falzini has recently self-published his fourth book, entitled One Square Mile: A History of Trenton Junction, New Jersey. Drawing from a variety of original sources including interviews and newspaper articles, Mr. Falzini frames a fascinating view of rural, small-town American life at the turn of the century, and specifically about that life in Trenton Junction.

Explosions, mysterious visitors, unsolved crimes and patriotic festivals—it’s all there in Trenton Junction.

He concentrates his focus on the years between 1876 and 1932, those bookended by the coming of the railroad creating Trenton Junction, and its name change to West Trenton.

The chapters tell of larger events that affected life in the area: the coming of the railroad, the hotel, the automobile and the airplane to the area.

But it also tells of the people attracted by and affected by these changes. He traces the history of the local school and Sunday School; of Lincoln Park (a community gathering place) and local parades; and of the immigrant laborers living in the “railroad camp.”

He writes of the “old foundry,” which became the short-lived “American Motor Car Manufacturing Company,” which then was used officially and unofficially in a variety of capacities, including a huge protected (and likely prohibited) playground for neighborhood children.

Explosions, mysterious visitors, unsolved crimes and patriotic festivals—it’s all there in Trenton Junction.

Even the newspaper accounts of criminal activity and tragic accidents provide glimpses into the everyday lives of those that lived and worked in Trenton Junction. For example, the reader learns of the specific Christmas gifts stolen from households a few days after Christmas in 1905.

The reader also learns of the many tragic accidents and losses of limb and life from working in close proximity to railroads and locomotives.

When the sources exist, the details Falzini includes in this book are fascinating. Have you ever wondered why Grand Avenue turns in a curve as it descends under the railroad bridge and becomes Sullivan Way?

There’s far more involved to that answer than you could ever guess! Mr. Falzini also expresses the researcher’s (and reader’s!) frustration when the story falls from the newspaper/source’s original coverage, leaving outcomes in question.

Engagingly written and thoroughly foot-noted and documented, the book is treasure for those with an interest in local history, or the general feel of small-town America at the turn of the century. I personally would have welcomed the inclusion of a few maps and more “old photos,” but copyright limitations might have been part of the issue.

In any case, the book is well worth the price of less than $15, and is available from Amazon and other online booksellers. An upcoming talk and booksigning by Mr. Falzini may also be in the works, so watch this space!

Mr. Falzini is an accomplished historian and researcher, and has created an informative and fascinating glimpse into the history of a part of our Township.

I applaud his work and efforts, and offer a standing invitation to be a guest columnist here anytime he desires! Kudos, Mark!