Sunday, April 28, 2013

The people have spoken

Walking the dogs Saturday afternoon, we headed up Front Street. As we approached the Old Barracks, the strains of fife and drums could be heard. The closer we got, the louder the music.

It was very easy to imagine walking that very street some 237 years ago and hearing the same music emanating from the parade ground in front of the Barracks. It was hard to suppress a smile.

Coming around to the back side of the Barracks we came upon the landscaping crew laying the sod around the almost completed "Petty's Run" historic site.

This site, if you don't remember was the focus of controversy late in 2010. Excavations at the site uncovered the remains of a pre-revolutionary steel mill as well as the city's first cotton mill dating from the early 19th century. The steel mill is the only one from colonial America to have been located and uncovered.

Under Governor Corzine, the site was to be featured as part of the Capital State Park. When the Christie administration came in, plans were frozen due to the state's fiscal crisis. Lt. Governor Guadagno determined the excavation should be filled in. Preservationists and history buffs were up in arms.

Finally, with a promise of financial support from Mercer County, the state cancelled the plan to completely fill in and cover over the site. Instead, the site would be fenced, landscaped and interpretive signage installed to explain and celebrate the significance of that location.

The work is nearly complete. The ribbon cutting for the site is tentatively scheduled for late in May.

As the strains from the Barracks Fifes and Drums Corps echoed across the capital grounds, it caused us to pause and reflect on the history and significance of that corner of the city. 

The Barracks stand as a testament to the will of people or that of the government. They were built to house troops during the French and Indian War, rather than to have the soldiers billet in the houses of townspeople.

The building is also a symbol of Trenton's significance in our War for Independence from Great Britain.

Today, the preserved and interpreted presences of the Petty's Run site is there to remind us of our industrial past.  The fact that the site will be available to the public to view is due to the force of the voices that spoke up for its preservation. It was a bloodless fight of the people to overcome the single-mindedness (dare we say, "tyranny"?) of the state house.

The principles fought for in the 1776 were achieved and honored in 2011. The people spoke. Government responded. Appropriately.

The fifes and drums played. We smiled.

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