New Jersey State House Tour
The New Jersey State House is located in Trenton across the Delaware River from Pennsylvania, and about half way between Philadelphia and the New York City metropolitan area. The land area to the north consists of farm lands on low rolling hills, merging with high density populations to the northeast, where the state borders New York City. To the east and south of Trenton there is a coastal plain with agricultural lands between the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean.
New Jersey State House
The State House has been under renovation for several years and has only recently opened for tours of a beautifully restored interior. The exterior renovation is near completion where the remaining scaffolding and barriers should be removed soon. The site is in an urban setting instead of a city park or square. Also, the original State House appears to have faced Washington DC to the south southwest but today that face is obstructed with many additions, and the main entrance is on the north northeast side facing West State Street.
The New Jersey State House was originally built in 1792, in a design by architect Jonathan Doane. It was a simple stucco finished building, with Senate and House chambers in opposite wings on the first floor, a central stair with a bell tower above, executive offices on the second floor, and a partial third floor under the sloped roof.
That work was eventually incapsulated or replaced by later additions in the 1800s. Those additions included an office wing by John Notman in 1845, new House and Senate chambers by Samuel Sloan in 1871, reconstruction of the main West State Street wing in a Second Empire architectural style by architect Lewis Broome in 1885, and a new Assembly Wing in a late Victorian style by James Moylan in 1891.
Today the current appearance is dominated by a 1903 reconstruction of the front north wing in an American Renaissance architectural style by architect Arnold Moses, the 1891 Assembly Wing by James Moylan, and the 1885 Rotunda and Dome by architect Lewis Broome.
Jonathan Doane was a Philadelphia based architect, but little else is known about his life and work.
John Notman, 1810 to 1865, was born near Edinburgh Scotland where he received his training as and architect. He then immigrated to the United States in 1831 where he soon set up a practice in Philadelphia. John Notman is noted for many Italianate architectural style churches and buildings, and as one of the founding members of the American Institute of Architects, of which I am a member.
Samuel Sloan, 1815 to 1884, was born in Chester County Pennsylvania, and practiced architecture from his office in Philadelphia. He was a noted author of many architectural books and also specialized in designs using the Italianate architectural style.
Little is known about Lewis Broome, James Moylan, and Arnold Moses, the three architects whose architectural designs are most notable in the appearance of the State House today. Lewis Brome reconstructed the House and Senate wings after a fire and added a new rotunda and dome in a Second Empire architectural style; James Moylan was noted as both an architect and an Assemblyman in the State House and led efforts to replace the Assembly Chambers with a design in the Late Victorian architectural style; and Arnold Moses reconstructed the Senate wing and led the unification of the exterior design in an American Renaissance architectural style.
The State House dome is located between the north entrance wing along West State Street, and the center wing, with the rotunda acting as a main connector between the two. The dome has been beautifully restored inside and out, but the exterior is difficult to see from the front, and is better viewed from the east or west side between the wings, or at a distance on the Delaware River.
The House and Senate Chambers include beautiful adornments with large stained glass skylights overhead. Each has a main entrance floor to the Chamber for state representatives and an upper level balcony for public viewing. In addition, the Senate Chamber has sixteen lunette murals above the viewing balcony with allegorical figures representing New Jersey history.
The murals were designed by artist William Brantley Van Ingen, 1858 to 1955, to celebrate freedom and prosperity with depictions from the Revolutionary War and important industries in New Jersey. The battle scenes include those fought in Trenton, Princeton, and Monmouth, and the industries include construction, agriculture, glass, and ceramics. He was born in Philadelphia and educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he focused on both murals and stained glass artistic works.
In the lobbies outside the House and Senate Chambers there are additional works of art like the stained glass panels titled “Peace” and “Justice” by artist Nicola D’Ascenzo.
Nicola D’Ascenzo, 1871 to 1874, was born in Torricella Peligna, Italy, where he immigrated with his family to the United States in 1882. He was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma in Rome Italy.
State House Annex
In 1929 a State House Annex was constructed on the west side connected through an underground tunnel. It is a Classical Revival architectural style building by an unknown architect. In the connecting concourse the floor includes a terrazzo artistic work depicting a stylized goldfinch representative of the State bird by the artist Livio Saganić.
Livio Saganić, born in1950, was born in Yugoslavia before immigrating to the United States where he was educated at Pratt Institute and Yale School of Art.
In the east wing of the Annex there is a large stained glass skylight panel titled “New Jersey a 360 Degree View” by Kenneth Leap. It celebrates New Jersey’s varied geography, folklore, legends and major historical events. J. Kenneth Leap, born in 1964, was educated at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
The State House and the Annex include many additional areas and works of art that were not accessible on this visit or were located where photography was prohibited, so depending on what is happening on site there may be much more to see. The New Jersey State House is a beautiful building, rich in history and artistic craftsmanship. Check it out!
This tour was done as part of a road trip from Huntsville Alabama to Boston Massachusetts, where I took an extra day to visit the Delaware Legislative Hall in the morning and the New Jersey State House in the afternoon. I had a 3:00 tour in New Jersey and was about 10 minutes late, but Carol the guide was gracious enough to take me through for a private tour anyway. It was excellent! Free parking is available in the garage behind the State House Annex when you sign up for a tour, or you can park out in metered spaces on West Main Street.
I had no problems finding Tesla superchargers along the route, but as usual, planning is important especially when looking for hotel locations. As mentioned in my Delaware Legislative Hall tour I stayed in a Fairfield Inn in Strasburg Virginia just up the street from a Tesla supercharger. This permitted me time to top the car off while eating breakfast in the hotel before heading out to Dover Delaware. In Trenton New Jersey the next day I did the same, staying at a Homewood Suites not far from a Tesla Supercharger adjacent to a Panera Bread where I had breakfast before heading out for Boston.
Notes and References
Story and photographs by David Smitherman, and historical data from onsite inscriptions and brochures, Wikipedia and Google Maps.
State House tour information: https://njstatehousetours.org/tour/