< Back

Trent House

William Trent built his country estate north of Philadelphia, in New Jersey, at the Falls of the Delaware River about 1719. It was a large, imposing brick structure, built in the newest fashion. An "allee" of English cherry trees led from the entrance down to the ferry landing. Nearby, there were numerous outbuildings as well as grist, saw and fulling mills along the Assunpink Creek. In 1720 Trent laid out a settlement, which he incorporated and named "Trenton." A number of different people have resided in the Trent House during its long history. After Trent died, his son James sold "300 acres plus the brick dwelling house" to William Morris of Barbados who was the half-brother of his father's second wife, Mary Coddington Trent. In 1742 the house was leased to the first Governor of New Jersey, Lewis Morris. Gov. Morris used the house, then called "Bloomsbury Court," as his official residence until 1746, despite the fact that it was then owned by the Governor of Pennsylvania, George Thomas. An early painting of Trent House. During the American Revolution, the Trent House was occupied by Hessian forces and played a prominent role in several battles fought at Trenton during December of 1776. Later, Dr. William Bryant, the owner of the property, was expelled for his Tory sympathies. Colonel John Cox, a wealthy Philadelphia patriot and Deputy Quartermaster General of the Continental Army, acquired the house and turned the grounds into a supply depot for Washington's army. The house returned to prominence in 1835 when Philemon Dickerson, a prominent Jacksonian Democrat, purchased it. The following year he was elected Governor and used the Trent House as his Official Residence. Again in 1854 it served as the Official Residence of the Governor when the property was purchased by Governor Rodman McCamley Price. Price, a Democrat, made his fortune in the San Francisco Gold Rush of 1849, returning to New Jersey to enter politics. The last private owner of the Trent House, Edward A. Stokes, donated the building to the City of Trenton in 1929 with the condition that it be returned to its appearance during the William Trent era and be used as a library, art gallery or museum. Little is known about William Trent despite his once local prominence. Even his date of birth is uncertain. Some sources say that he was born about 1653-1655 at Inverness in the Scottish Highlands; others attribute the date of his birth to 1666 when he was baptized at South Leith in southeast Scotland. Exactly when he emigrated to the American colonies is also unknown. We do know that by 1693 William Trent had followed his brother, James, to Philadelphia, as we find him on the tax rolls in that year. We think, too, that about this same time he married his first wife, Mary Burge. Apparently it was through her family connections that William Trent eventually acquired the land at the falls of the Delaware River where he would build his country seat. Trent became one of the wealthiest men in Philadelphia.William Trent became a very successful and wealthy merchant, trading with Great Britain and the Colonies and participating in the slave trade. At one time he owned an interest in over forty ships, exporting such products as tobacco, flour and furs while importing wine, rum, molasses and dry goods. He also imported African and West Indian slaves and indentured servants from the British Isles. Soon Trent became one of the wealthiest men in Philadelphia.