Turn of Century Growth: Commerce and Cultural Activities
By July of 1895, the streets were lighted with electricity. A local electric company, privately owned, was housed on the present grounds of the Red Mill complex. In 1898, using funds from the estate of Daniel Grandin and land purchased by the citizens of Clinton, the Grandin Library building on East Main Street was erected. Also as a gesture of civic pride, it boasted having main facades of cast iron, a building fabric not often seen in country towns of this size. It continued into use until 1966. 15
By the turn of the century, telephone and telegraph were in use, and in time both water and waste-water companies were established and are run by the town until present times. 16
The Hunterdon County Directory of 1914 gave the population of Clinton as 836. Interestingly, many residents whose names were listed gave their occupation as farmer. The directory also contains advertisements run by Rittenhouse & Co. Clothiers and Outfitters, and Daniel Fox for coal and lumber (sash, blinds, moulding, builders' hardware, slate, cement, etc.). There were as many and more boxed advertisements for similar and additional services in all nearby towns of the region, indicating lively competition for survival. 17
With the increasing use of the automobile, Clinton won out as the hub of Northwestern Hunterdon County, quite possibly because of its size and the number of shops it had. Main Street remained the merchant center with grocery, shoe, drug, clothing, bakery, dry goods, hardware, and paint stores well into the 1950s. Doctors, lawyers, dentists, barbers, beauticians, and others offering like services could be found on Main Street. A car dealership was opened off West Main Street. The hitching posts, like those still remaining around the corner on Center Street, were eventually removed as vehicular parking replace horse tethering.
During the decades of the teens and twenties, another house building surge occurred, and it was as up to date in current taste as the changes on Main Street, reflecting new ideas in architecture and design. These bungalows, four squares and other manifestations of classical or traditional forms added a layer of building choices, representing still another generation in a vibrant town.
The mills closed and became cultural centers. The Red Mill, on the west bank of the Raritan, is now the Historical Museum, privately owned, and Dunham's stone mill on the east bank is the Hunterdon Art Center. Both continue as landmarks and add to Clinton's cultural life and visitor attractions. 18 The 1870s truss bridge still spans the river for vehicular and pedestrian use, while proving a similar view of Main and Lower Center Streets as depicted by Barber and Howe in 1844. As part of that historic center is the Clinton House, of the same vintage, which remains in operation, modernized at ground story, where it has a large restaurant. The historic core of Clinton, the town, is still intact.
Overall, most of the town's buildings are well preserved and have not been subject of restoration. There is the feel of authenticity, which is underscored by various additions, mostly at rear, and a degree of eclecticism in combinations of architectural detail applied over the years. Many homeowners have been lifelong residents and have a regard for the town based on close association. There is as much civic pride today as there has always been, and this has been a factor in the successful ongoing life of the town.