Bucks County Herald

Final acres preserved at St. Michaels Farm

Land housed an orphanage until 1973

Princeton, N.J.: D&R Greenway Land Trust has announced its most recent preservation success: the final 20 acres have been acquired that complete its St. Michaels Farm Preserve in Hopewell.

Funding came from Mercer County’s Open Space Program with about 2/3 coming from private donors. More than $600,000 was raised to purchase the land, which serves as the pedestrian entrance to the property.

The St. Michaels Farm Preserve was created in 2010 by D&R Greenway and local citizens, together raising $11 million, as an alternative to a development that would have destroyed the small-town character of Hopewell Borough. With the new property, the St. Michaels Farm Preserve is now expanded to over 400 acres.

The property, which was owned by the Diocese of Trenton, will be used for passive recreation, and a group of advisors will be assembled to care for the space, which was the site of the St. Michaels Orphanage from 1897 until the building’s demolition in 1973.

“Many may not remember that the Diocese kept these 20 acres from the original acquisition with the intention to build a parish house on this site,” said Linda Mead, Greenway president and CEO.

The story of the St. Michaels property began at the end of the 19th century. As urban areas grew, the Catholic Church rose to the crisis of providing homes for orphans and children living in abusive situations, according to local historian Jack Koeppel.

Koeppel said the at D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center recently, “Try to envision a crowd of 10,000 who came to attend the groundbreaking in 1896, with a parade of 3,000 people marching from the Hopewell Train Station to the site. Orchestras played, choirs sang and officials delivered in-depth speeches on the subject of child welfare.”

The facility housed more than 400 children at its peak. “I am sure that stories and images will continue to be discovered about this property, and we will capture, honor and share them as appropriate,” said D&R Greenway Vice-President Jay Watson. “This is a story much larger than the 20-acre parcel. This land has been a fixture of the community for well over a century.”



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