Have you ever visited the oldest house in New Jersey, the Trent House? It has a history tied to America’s founding days

The home of the man who Trenton, New Jersey is named after is still standing and many people have never visited it. The home was built in 1719 as a summer home for William Trent. He died on Christmas Day, 1724, and a legend persists that Trent was poisoned by a disgruntled slave.

Strong ties to America’s History

The home has strong ties to American and French history as well as the politics and government of the colonial days of America. The Trent house has had many names including, Bloomsbury Court, Woodlawn and Kingsbury Court.

The Trent House was occupied by Hessian forces during the Revolutionary War and William Bryant, owner of the house, at that time, was expelled for his Tory sympathies.

(Note: Some of the language below may be a little antiquated because its excerpts and transcriptions from a the book -Transcription from Historic Houses of New Jersey By Weymer Jay Mills .J. B. Lippincott Company – written in 1902. The original words provide a unique glimpse of the people, the grandeur and early times of Trenton,  New Jersey)

Bloomsbury the beautiful

Bloomsbury the beautiful, as Bloomsbury Court used to be called in the days of Colonel John Cox’s ownership, is truly a house of many memories. Today the home is known as The Trent House.

In its colonial garden there still stands an aged ash-tree, planted by the wealthy and noted William Trent, the erector of the original Bloomsbury and the founder of Trenton; and flanking the building itself are bushes of aged box, reminiscent of the days of the Georges. Under the shade of the ash-tree and the boxwood hundreds of roses bloomed in the long ago, fair white-hearts and gloires de Dijon, loved and tended by the Demoiselles Chevalier, the French aunts of Mrs. John Cox.

William Trent house

One is prone to dream as he whispers the stately and euphonious name of Bloomsbury, for it belongs to the blossoming Trenton of yesterday, the Trenton of brick houses and brick-walled gardens an English visitor of the eighteenth century compared to a Devonshire town. Its leafy streets and lanes charmed many travellers.

Trent House, 15 Market Street (changed from 539 South Warren Street), Trenton, Mercer County, NJ before restorationTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

A pleasant place

Two of the most noted were the gossipy Marquis de Chastellux and the Duke de la Rochefoucauld. The latter wrote in his diary “that it was a pleasant place, and numerous handsome villas enriched the landscape of the environs.”

Standing in the summer sunlight before the Bloomsbury of to-day, and shutting one’s eyes to the growing city and her multitudinous voices, what genuine lover of history cannot obtain glimpses of the panorama of the past.

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, the rear before restoration-  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, the rear before restoration- Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

William Penn was entertained in this house

Through the wide colonial doorway, a portion of Trent’s Bloomsbury, where the great William Penn was often entertained, many figures pass: gentlemen of affairs, quiet, sombre-garbed Quakers, and gentlemen of the army. And who cannot see the ladies! Lovely visions in brocade and calico, flitting in and out like shadows.

During the Revolution Bloomsbury Court was occupied for a short period by Dr. William Bryant,* a practicing physician of great repute, and afterwards by Colonel John Cox, assistant quartermaster to General Greene.

The Coxes were greatly beloved by the dancing Greenes, and General Greene made the appointment of John Cox to serve under him a condition of his acceptance of the position of quartermaster-general.

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior hall looking south before restoration-  Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior hall looking south before restoration- Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior hall looking north to rear before restoration-  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior hall looking north to rear before restoration- Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Encyclopedia of New Jersey Hardcover

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street,1st floor southwest room –  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street,1st floor southwest room - Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street,1st floor looking NE to rear entrance –  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street,1st floor looking NE to rear entrance - Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Redcoats mistook it for a lumberyard

At the time the war broke out John Cox and his family were living in a fine dwelling on Third Street, Philadelphia. He was the owner of an iron foundry at Batisto, New Jersey, from which some of his ample income was derived. During the war it supplied the army with a large amount of ordnance.

On one occasion it nearly fell a prey to the British invaders, who passed by it on their way to Philadelphia. Owing to a skillful arrangement of lumber in covering the guns and cannon-balls the redcoats mistook it for a lumberyard.

The Batisto foundry played an important part in the lives of the Cox family; and when the Quaker City was given over to Lord Howe and his aides, Mrs. Cox and her daughters fled to a farm-house in its vicinity for safety.

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street,1st floor SW room looking  to  SE room-  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street,1st floor SW room looking to SE room- Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Basement kitchen-  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Basement kitchen- Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, original fireplace 1st floor-  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, original fireplace 1st floor- Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Cox family endured hardships during the Revolutionary War

In some old letters of the period, written by the Cox family to friends, we obtain a glimpse of the hardships they endured while there and learn to appreciate better the bravery of the carefully-nurtured patriot women of the Revolution.

The lovely Mrs. Cox, * who has been described as ” an angel of a woman” and a leader of the beau monde of Trenton and Philadelphia, was then forced to do up her hair with thorns in lieu of hair-pins, and her six daughters went about in home-made linsey-woolsey.

Miss Rachel Cox was seen at Valley Forge by Tory friends, and rallied by them on her ” homespun appearance,” but they later took pity on her forlorn condition, and helped her to secure some “London trades” for a more fashionable wardrobe.

Perhaps it was at Batisto that the Cox family learned the wise lesson of simplicity of manners and costuming.

At a later period, when the fashionables of Trenton and Philadelphia were rioting in every extreme of foreign extravagance and luxury, the Cox girls in their muslins charmed the occupants of all the drawing-rooms they entered.

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior stairwells-  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior stairwell- Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior stairwell2- Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior mantel and panel detail  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior mantel and panel detail Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior upper hall  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, interior upper hall Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Old Trenton society crowded in Bloomsbury Court

Bloomsbury Court during the Cox regime was a republican Hotel de Rambouillent in miniature. All that was best in the surrounding country came there. Old Trenton society crowded in its salons for the purpose of conversation. Often there was some air of Handel and Mozart played or sung by an eighteenth century celebrity, or the reading of the latest poem by a well-known litterateur.

Mrs. Cox herself had the volatile essence of gaiety and wit that characterized the women of the famous French salons, and her six daughters,—Catherine, Rachel, Sarah, Mary, Esther, and Elizabeth,—who inherited the quality with the additional fragrance of individuality, made a series of the most brilliant matches in the annals of old Philadelphia society.

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Cold cellar Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Cold cellar Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Basement looking east at fireplace Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Basement looking east at fireplace Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Basement looking northeast to bake oven Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Basement looking northeast to bake oven Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Bloomsbury days were the best

General Washington and his lady enjoyed the hospitality of Bloomsbury Court, and the Marquis de Lafayette, Rochambeau, and other noted Frenchmen were entertained there.

Many of the meals were served in the garden amid the roses of the Demoiselles Chevalier, and those stately ladies were always present conversing with their Gallic visitors in their native language.) Sarah Cox, then a girl in her teens, used to relate in after years as Mrs. John Redman Coxe, the pleasure she took in seeing the family plate brought out for these occasions and the bustle and stir they brought to the family kitchen. “Those were Bloomsbury days,” she used to sigh, and, according to Cox traditions, ” Bloomsbury days” were best.

Marie Antoinette fell under the influence of his charm

One of the most welcome visitors at Bloomsbury Court, Bellville, and other houses in the vicinity was a young Swedish aide-de-camp to Rochambeau, Count Jean de Ferson. This fascinating figure in our Revolutionary society has been described as a man of the pure blond type and beauty almost god-like. Marie Antoinette fell under the influence of his charm when he belonged to the revellers of the French court, and there is a story told that in disguise they often visited the streets of Paris together.

It is said that his advent in America was due to his regard for her majesty’s reputation, as the preference she showed for his society was noted in the tittle-tattle of the court. His character as well as his personality was much admired, and the Cox ladies were no doubt as sensible of his attractions as the unfortunate queen of France.

Of all the famous men who walked among the Chevalier roses in the Cox garden his life was the most brilliantly adventurous, for he it was who, disguised as a coachman, drove Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from Paris to Varennes on the occasion of their pitiful attempt to escape from the throne crumbling and falling about them.

At the time Trenton was being talked over as the probable capital of the United States many distinguished visitors were entertained at Bloomsbury Court, and the list would be a very long one if enumerated.

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Southeast looking to northeast  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Southeast looking to northeast Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Northwest room looking to west  Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Northwest room looking to west Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Northwest stairwell, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, Northwest 1st floor stair Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor looking southwest Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor looking southwest Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor looking northwest Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor looking northwest Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

When General Washington passed through the city on his way to New York in 1789, Mrs. Cox was among the matrons who received him, and all her daughters took’ part in the festivities. The two youngest daughters— Sarah Cox, who afterwards became the wife of Dr. John Redman Coxe, and Elizabeth the wife of Horace Binney —were flower-girls by the famous arch.Trenton triumphal arch george washington

Mrs. Cox received General Washington

When General Washington passed through the city on his way to New York in 1789, Mrs. Cox was among the matrons who received him, and all her daughters took’ part in the festivities. The two youngest daughters— Sarah Cox, who afterwards became the wife of Dr. John Redman Coxe, and Elizabeth the wife of Horace Binney —were flower-girls by the famous arch.

The Cox family disposed of Bloomsbury Court some time before the dawn of the nineteenth century. Among the families subsequently connected with its ownership and history are the Dickinsons, Redmans, Hewitts, Prices, Woods, and, last of all, the Stokes.

Mr. James H. Redman erected the wooden addition while he occupied it as a residence, but the main house, built of bricks brought from England as ballast by the Trent and Penn merchantmen, is still in excellent condition. Its interior is very interesting.

The old paper on the hall walls came from Alsace-Lorraine and is handpainted with views of Eldorado scenery. On the walls of the rooms which listened to the voices of the gay Frenchmen of the court of Louis XVI., fate has placed paintings once owned by the Bonapartes.

The famous old garden is still a riot of loveliness in the summer-time. To-day the old mansion is called Woodland, both fitting and appropriate. But when one pictures the old Demoiselles Chevalier among their roses, his mind reverts to the more poetic name of Bloomsbury bestowed upon it by the founder of Trenton.

The House is now called the William Trent house and is the oldest house in Trenton, New Jersey.

George Washington to president

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor looking west into southwest bedroom Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor looking west into southwest bedroom Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

 

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor southwest looking northwest Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floorsouthwest looking northwest Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

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Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor southwest looking northeast Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor southwest looking northeast Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor southeast looking northeast Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor southeast room looking northeast Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor northeast looking northeast Trenton, Mercer County, NJTrent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street, 2nd floor northeast looking northeast Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Trent House, 15 Market Street changed from 539 South Warren Street Trenton, Mercer County, NJ

Additional notes

  • Dr. William Bryant was a brother of Mary Bryant, who became the wife of William Peartree Smith, of Elizabethtown. His father was a sea-captain, and his tombstone in Perth Amboy records that he made fifty-five voyages between New York and London.
  • Mrs. Cox before her marriage was Esther Bowes, the daughter of Sir Francis Bowes.
  • Belville was the seat of Sir John Sinclair. It was occupied at different periods of the Revolution by the Stirlings and the Rutherfords.

 

RIBBON OF LOVE: 2nd edition – A Novel of Colonial America  Inspired by true historical events, it is almost impossible to put the book down until completion. – Dr. Don P. Brandon, Retired Professor, Anderson University

 

RIBBON OF LOVE: 2nd edition – A Novel of Colonial America (Tapestry of Love Book 1): Book 1 in Tapestry of Love Series


By (author): Donna R Causey

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me

All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .

For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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