Federal City

A couple of weekends ago, my friends and I went birding. Most of the day was spent along the coast, but we finished up west of Princeton at what is now known as “the AT&T Tract” of Mercer County Park NorthWest (Mercer County Park NorthWest covers a number of different properties). Birders know this place as “the Pole Farm” because it was once a trans-Atlantic radio station forested with poles (a single pole remains today). In case you’re wondering why birders would be attracted to a forest of poles, the area attracts wintering birds such as Short-eared Owls and Rough-legged Hawks.

Before AT&T set up its radio station, however, there was the dream of a “Federal City” or capitol to be founded in the area. All that remains of this dream is the road named Federal City Rd. (which provides access to the AT&T Tract). Today, the surrounding area is still farmland, and weather-beaten farm buildings on the AT&T tract add to its attractions for the decay-minded photographer.

The near-mythical Federal City looms like Atlantis over the portions of Henry Charlton Beck’s The Jersey Midlands that are concerned with the western part of Mercer County. By now, the Pole Farm days are fading into history alongside the dream of a Federal City. Meanwhile, the birds continue with their business, being less concerned with the past than we humans often are.


About Jennifer W. Hanson

I have a BA in Art History from Douglass College and an MLIS from the Rutgers School of Communication and Information (SCI, formerly SCILS). I have worked in publishing, libraries and sundry other places. My writing has appeared in Birding, The Chronicle of the Horse, International Wader Studies and Records of New Jersey Birds. My photographic specialties are historic sites and nature, mainly in New Jersey. My photography has been used for editorial and advertising projects; it can be seen in Weird N.J. magazine and Take a Beach Walk by Jane Kirkland. One of my photos is slated to be used in a permanent exhibit at the New Jersey Pinelands Commission's visitor center.
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