Historic site in Trenton may be buried again

TRENTON, N.J. - December 13, 2010

Historians are hoping to dig up the remains of an old steel mill and other buildings, but the project has been put on hold due to money issues.

For now, the Petty's Run archaeological dig next to the statehouse in Trenton is exposed for all to see.

It's there that historians have uncovered the remains of a colonial-era forge and other buildings dating back to the 1730s. It's considered a rare find and internationally significant.

But rather than develop the site and turn it into a park and tourist attraction, the state has decided to bury it again for financial reasons.

Some fear it will stay buried forever.

"We have very little faith that once covered up and covered with grass it will ever be uncovered again," said Ron Emrich of Preservation New Jersey. "This is the only one of a handful of sites that have ever been discovered, so this really is unique in the history of the colonies."

"We recognize the historical significance of the site and understand it needs to be reopened again but, right now with the economy the way it is, we're focused on keeping existing parks open," said Deputy DEP Commissioner Irene Kropp.

Ironically, earlier this year the DEP named Petty's Run one of the top historic preservation efforts in New Jersey. Published reports say Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, whose office overlooks the site, thinks it's an eyesore and wants it cleaned up.

"If we leave that dig open the water, the plants, the weeds will grow and harm the preservation, the structures that are existing," said Kropp.

"It's an economic opportunity lost for one thing, it's certainly a historical one," said Emrich.

The Petty's Run dig was to be part of a stalled $87 million project to create a park around the statehouse and down to the Delaware River.

But unless something happens to stop it, this piece of colonial history will be buried once again-- until the state is flush enough and has the will--to dig it up all over.

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