A description of Pennington in 1834 states that it was "a very neat and pleasant village, surrounded by wealthy and liberal farms. At this time it contained two churches, three taverns, three stores, and about thirty dwellings".
Most of the urbanization of the crossroads areas of Pennington took place during the middle half of the 19th century -- so that in 1842, shortly as Mercer County split from Hunterdon County, Pennington contained two churches, two seminaries and about 60 dwellings. And as it continued to grow, by 1875, the village contained three general stores, two dry goods stores, one hardware store, two grocery stores, two confectionery stores, one drug store, two merchant tailoring establishments and a population of about 750.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, the railroad was the single most important factor stimulating the residential growth of Pennington. As this growth occurred, it became apparent that the village had needs differing from the Township, and in 1890, Pennington Borough was formally separated.
First Baptist Church of Pennington: This structure was originally built in 1857, and served as a Pennington school for 40 years. It was then moved across the street to its current location. From 1898 until 1904 it was, used by a men’s athletic organization. In 1902, The First Baptist Church of Pennington was formed. Two years later, the church bought the building and the land that now is on the corner of Crawley and Academy Aves. The land was used to build houses for the church members. Crawley Ave. is named after the first pastor, Reverend Edward D. Crawley.
5 Academy Avenue, Pennington, NJ
Pennington Bethel AME Church: Founded in 1816, the Pennington-Bethel AME Church was the first African American church in Pennington, as well as the entire Hopewell Valley. The first pastor, Rev. Elijah Hamitt and the original members met in different homes for 31 years. In 1847 land at 246 South Main St. was purchased from Mr. Johnathan Bunn. Shortly after that the church was built.
In 1865, the church was used as a day school for African American children; Mr. William Boyer, a civil war veteran, became the headmaster. His descendants still reside on Crawley Ave. in Pennington. In 1867 the church was enlarged, and in 1950 the current edifice was built within the old church walls.
246 South Main Street, Pennington, NJ
Pennington African Cemetery: The cemetery was established in 1863, making it one of the oldest historical landmarks in the area. Nine African American Civil War veterans are buried there.
The cemetery committee worked with Bethel AME to ensure African Americans in the community had a place to be buried. The last caretaker, Albert Witcher, former member of First Baptist Pennington and lifelong resident of the Sourlands, passed away in 2013. Mr. Witcher worked very hard to authenticate records and restore and repair headstones. He was awarded a certificate of appreciation from Pennington Borough for his work with the cemetery, and The Pennington Shade Tree Commission planted a Burr Oak in his honor in Sked Street Park.
5 Main Street, Pennington, NJ