07/2010 Update: A large real estate group currently owns the site and is playing the role of absentee landlord. They have had several plans over the years for renovation but no progress has actually been made. The building remains abandoned.
1/2012: A fire has damaged the third floor of the Horsman Doll Factory. The single-alarm blaze is suspected to have been the result of arson.
The Horsman Doll factory complex was the main manufacturing location of the very popular Horsman family of dolls. Built in the early 1930s, it was once considered the largest doll factory in the United States. The one-block square complex, which at its peak had more than 800 employees, consists of two connected, three-story, brick mill buildings, plus several one-story brick additions. Because this site is the dominant feature in an otherwise residential neighborhood, it provides an important reminder of a time when workers still walked to work from homes that were clustered around places of employment.
Doll manufacturing at the site ceased in the 1960s, though sections of the complex housed various enterprises for sometime thereafter. The complex has been completely vacant for approximately 10 years, leaving a substantial vacuum in the neighborhood. Currently, the buildings are threatened because a developer who controls the property has proposed to demolish the entire complex in order to build new townhouses on the site.
But these handsome buildings are structurally sound and they offer enormous market-rate redevelopment potential. Unlike many other cities, preservation minded builders in Trenton have not put loft-style condominiums and apartments in former factories. Since there are at least a dozen other buildings in the Trenton vicinity with similar prospects, the Horsman Doll Factory could exemplify for the entire region the way new housing can be provided in sensitively converted industrial buildings.
04/2004 Development pressure has significantly demolished with developer hiring an architect to look into feasibility of turning the property into loft housing.
Staff, Trenton Landmarks Commission
319 East State Street
Trenton, NJ 08608