Real Estate

Delaware Township, N.J.: A Farming Town With One Traffic Light


When Kevin Eberle and Genna Cargill began exploring the river towns and farmlands of Hunterdon County, N.J., seven years ago, seeking a more rural lifestyle, they often found themselves passing through a small, historic community with a single flashing traffic light.

“Every time we’d go around looking, we’d end up at that red blinking light, and we said to each other, ‘We’re going to move here,’” said Mr. Eberle, 37, the owner of a digital marketing company.

That prophecy turned out to be correct — twice. In 2015, the couple bought a two-bedroom 1790 farmhouse eight houses east of that blinking light, paying $300,000. The following year they were married, and in 2020 they traded up to a three-bedroom Victorian house eight houses west of the light, paying $490,000.

The only traffic light in Delaware Township, a 37-square-mile area bordering Pennsylvania via the Delaware River in the Amwell Valley, is at the intersection of Routes 604 and 523, in the unincorporated community of Sergeantsville. It’s within walking distance of the one-room post office, the town hall, the Sergeantsville General Store and the 19th-century Sergeantsville Inn, where locals gather on Friday nights.

It was on one of those Friday evenings a few years ago, at the Inn’s tavern, that Ms. Cargill and Mr. Eberle met the former owners of their current home. When the house went on the market a year later, they reached out to the two women and asked for a tour. Within a few days, they were in contract.

“It’s a small area, and everybody knows everybody,” said Mr. Eberle, who has built up his company by serving businesses in the area. “The pace of life is a lot slower here. There’s no traffic, unless you get stuck behind a tractor. It doesn’t feel like you’re in New Jersey.”

Aside from a few historic villages and the adjacent residential neighborhoods, most of Delaware Township is farmland, rolling hills and woodlands. Through restrictive zoning, environmental protections and a dedicated open-space fund, close to 40 percent of the town’s land mass has been preserved, said Rosalind Westlake, the chair of the planning board and the township’s Open Space Committee.

“It’s a culture in this area,” said Ms. Westlake, who moved to Delaware from Princeton, N.J., in 2004. “Everyone’s in favor of preservation. The farmers want it to keep the town’s agricultural heritage alive, and the New York transplants want it because it’s spectacular.”

That commitment to land preservation was tested when PennEast Pipeline Company tried to build a 116-mile natural-gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey that would have seized state and privately owned land through eminent domain and cut through the heart of Delaware Township. Working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, township residents mounted a seven-year campaign to block the $1 billion project. They emerged victorious last September, when the consortium of energy companies withdrew the proposal.

The protracted battle may have temporarily dampened Delaware Township’s appeal to potential buyers, said Jacqueline Evans, an artist and real estate agent with Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty. “The pipeline was constantly an issue, and because there was so much uncertainty, it could have devastated this town,” said Ms. Evans, 57, who has lived there for 22 years and spoke out against the pipeline. “There was so much opposition here, so we formed an organization to fight it. And we won.”

Delaware Township, with fewer than 5,000 residents, has eight designated historic districts, including Sergeantsville, Rosemont and Locktown, where the more concentrated residential areas are found. In much of the rest of the township, zoning and environmental restrictions require minimum building lots of three to seven acres. There are also several large farms, some of them occupying hundreds of acres. More than 60 percent of the township’s acreage is farmland assessed, and more than 50 percent is actively farmed, Ms. Westlake said.

The farm owners include wealthy New Yorkers who lease their fields to working farmers, as well as horticulturalists like Peter McCrohan, the owner of Shoppons Run flower farm. A Princeton native, Mr. McCrohan took his farming skills to Arizona for eight years, until the land there became too dry to grow much, he said, sending him back East. His dahlias, lilies and peonies now grace the tables at local restaurants and weddings, and can be picked by customers dropping by.

“I found these 14 acres of sandy loam soil with all these overgrown outbuildings. It didn’t look like it does today, but it was perfect — and it was like they threw the house in for free,” said Mr. McCrohan, 71, of the farm and 1879 farmhouse he bought for $525,000 in 2010. “It felt like I was coming home.”

Delaware Township is also home to a number of artists, because of its proximity to popular Delaware River towns like Lambertville, N.J., and New Hope, Pa. Long rows of converted chicken coops at Cane Farm Furniture, in Rosemont, serve as studio and retail spaces for artisans. Other makers have workshops in their homes: Geoff and Karen Caldwell operate Sunflower Glass Studio out of a former tool-and-die shop next to the 1870s farmhouse they bought 44 years ago.

“Some very famous artists have lived all along the river,” said Ms. Caldwell, 69. “I guess artists attract artists.”

Fund-raising events sponsored by the Delaware Township Historical Society have a similar small-town vibe: The group’s president, Roger Byrom, holds candlelit dinners at his 18th-century sheep farm, cooking over his cellar kitchen’s open hearth.

This year, on Thanksgiving weekend, 22 artists will share their work and work spaces during the 28th annual town studio tour. And for nature lovers, there’s the 79-acre Bull’s Island Recreation Area, with hiking and biking trails along the Delaware and Raritan Canal, and stocked fishing sites.

Delaware Township School serves 361 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade on its 26-acre campus, with a state-of-the-art applied-technology lab and an active parent program. Residents will vote in November on a $1.35 million bond referendum to rebuild the school’s roof.

High school students attend Hunterdon Central Regional High School, in Flemington, N.J. It serves 2,566 students from four neighboring communities and sits on 72 acres, with four gyms, two theaters, a football field and its own television and radio stations. The school offers 76 Advanced Placement and honors classes, 26 of which can earn college credits. In 2021, the average SAT scores were 593 in reading and writing and 596 in math, compared with state averages of 557 and 560.

Area private schools include the Pennington School, a coed day and boarding school for students in sixth through 12th grade; the Hun School of Princeton, a middle and high school; and the Lawrenceville School, a coed boarding high school.

The closest train stations are in Princeton Junction or Trenton, about a 20-minute drive away. New Jersey Transit trains to Penn Station in Manhattan from Princeton Junction take 55 to 85 minutes and cost $16 one-way or $451 for a monthly pass. From Trenton, the trip takes from 70 to 95 minutes and costs $16.75 one-way or $480 a month.


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