Ellarslie, an Italianate villa, was built for Henry McCall Sr. of Philadelphia as a summer residence in 1848. The architect selected to design Ellarslie was John Notman, known for designing the first Italianate building in America in Burlington, NJ, and the first Renaissance Revival building, the Athenaeum in Philadelphia. Notman was locally recognized for also designing the 1845 expansion of the New Jersey State House and the design for the State Hospital, which was also begun in 1848.
In February 1881, Henry McCall Jr. sold Ellarslie to George Farlee for $25,000. Seven years later, in September of 1888, the city of Trenton acquired the property from Farlee for $50,000, which also included the surrounding 80 acres, which would become the city’s first public park, Cadwalader Park, designed by the father of landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted.
The City of Trenton opened the first museum here in 1889, closing several years later. Ellarslie has been a restaurant, ice cream parlor and monkey house. The building itself has been home to several noted Trenton families over the years, and in 1971 renovations began to create the Trenton City Museum.
The Trenton City Museum opened in 1978 in Ellarslie Mansion with an exhibition from our permanent collection of Trenton cultural history. Ellarslie Mansion is included in the National Registry of Historic Places.
Today the Trenton City Museum is owned and maintained by the City of Trenton. Programs are made possible in part by the Mercer County Cultural and Heritage Commission through funding from the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment of the Arts.
All programs and additional support are provided by the Trenton Museum Society.
In 1887, following the purchase of Ellarslie Mansion from George Farlee, a committee of the Common Council for the city of Trenton began to seek a location for what would become the City Park. Edmund C. Hill — a baker by trade, a developer by avocation, and a member of the Common Council — was chairman of the committee and principal advocate for the idea of the City Park.
After the purchase of the Farlee estate, the city contracted the landscape designer, Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted’s style is defined by natural rolling landscape, plantings of various species and subspecies of trees and shrubs, the consistent use of curved footpaths and roadways, and often the addition of animals in a natural habitat.
Though perhaps best known for his design of Central Park in New York, Olmsted applied the same approach to the nearly one hundred acres of the former McCall estate, resulting in what is now Cadwalader Park.
With over 100 acres of urban parkland, Cadwalader Park offers a stream, a small lake and hundreds of trees, including some that are rare at this latitude. An arm of the historic Delaware-Raritan Canal flows through park, a perfect setting for quiet nature walks.