In 1698, Puritan settlers from Long Island and Connecticut came to Maidenhead and were granted land and established a Presbyterian church. A meetinghouse was erected on the site of the present Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville in the early 1700s. A record from 1709 indicates that it was used both for a meeting of the Presbytery of Philadelphia and for a session of the Hunterdon County Court. The present structure was built in 1764.
In 1810, the seventh minister of the church, Isaac V. Brown, began the Maidenhead Academy to prepare young men for college. This school is now the Lawrenceville School.
On January 24, 1816, the municipality was renamed Lawrence Township, in honor of Captain James Lawrence—commander of the frigate USS Chesapeake, one of the naval heroes of the War of 1812, and a native of relatively nearby Burlington, New Jersey—best known for his dying command of "Don't give up the ship". Lawrence Township became part of Mercer County at its creation on February 22, 1838. Portions of the township were taken to form Millham Township on February 10, 1882, which was annexed six years later by Trenton.
On September 23, 2003, at approximately 8:25am, an F1tornado ripped through Lawrence Township. The tornado followed a path along Princeton Pike and caused widespread damage to homes. There were no fatalities.
Violent crime in Lawrence Township is notably rare. A fatal shooting at an Applebee's restaurant on November 14, 2017, was the first murder in the township in 16 years.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 21.98 square miles (56.94 km2), including 21.73 square miles (56.27 km2) of land and 0.26 square miles (0.67 km2) of water (1.17%).
Many area residents often refer to all of Lawrence Township as Lawrenceville, as a significant majority of township residents use a Lawrenceville mailing address as specified by the United States Postal Service, while other residents have mailing addresses in either Princeton or Trenton. The township was notified by the Postal Service in 2007 that the preferred designation for the ZIP code 08648 would be changed to "Lawrence Township".
Of the 12,524 households, 29.2% had children under the age of 18; 51.1% were married couples living together; 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present and 35.2% were non-families. Of all households, 29.2% were made up of individuals and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.07.
20.0% of the population were under the age of 18, 13.5% from 18 to 24, 26.0% from 25 to 44, 26.7% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.3 years. For every 100 females, the population had 86.8 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 82.7 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $88,693 (with a margin of error of +/– $5,442) and the median family income was $108,743 (+/– $4,377). Males had a median income of $68,305 (+/– $6,890) versus $50,103 (+/– $5,345) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $43,136 (+/– $3,030). About 4.4% of families and 5.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.8% of those under age 18 and 6.2% of those age 65 or over.
There were 10,797 households, out of which 31.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.9% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.0% were non-families. 26.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the township the population was spread out, with 21.7% under the age of 18, 12.4% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 23.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.4 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $67,959, and the median income for a family was $82,704. Males had a median income of $56,681 versus $38,468 for females. The per capita income for the township was $33,120. About 2.6% of families and 4.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.0% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or over.
Quaker Bridge Mall is a two-level, indoor shopping center located in Lawrenceville on U.S. 1, near Interstate 295. The mall opened in 1975, and has over 100 retail establishments. The mall's anchor stores include J.C. Penney, Macy's, and Old Navy. The mall has a gross leasable area of 1,076,000 square feet (100,000 m2). Quaker Bridge Mall also had a renovation in 2011–2012, and was finished around August 2012.
Lawrenceville has a small business district near the Lawrenceville School. The Lawrence Shopping Center and other businesses along U.S. Route 1 provide additional commercial clusters in the township.
The transmitter for WKXW-FM, better known as New Jersey 101.5, is located near the Quaker Bridge Mall.
Lawrence Township operates within the Faulkner Act, formally known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law, under the Council-Manager form of municipal government, which was implemented in 1970. The township is one of 42 municipalities (of the 564) statewide that use this form of government. The governing body is comprised of five Council Members who are elected at-large in partisan elections to serve four-year terms on a staggered basis, with either two or three seats coming up for election in odd-numbered years as part of the November general election. At a reorganization meeting held in January after each election, a Mayor is selected by the council from among its members to serve a term of two years.
As of 2023[update], members of the Lawrence Township Council are Mayor John T. Ryan (D, term on committee and as mayor ends December 31, 2023), Chris Bobbitt (D, 2025), James S. Kownacki (D, 2025), Catherin MacDuff (D, 2023; appointed to serve an unexpired term) and Michael S. Powers (D, 2023).
In January 2023, the township council selected Catherin MacDuff to fill the seat expiring in December 2023 that had been held by Cathleen M. Lewis until she resigned from office earlier that month to take a seat on the Mercer County Board of County Commissioners.
In August 2015, the Township Council appointed Ian J. Dember on an interim basis to fill the seat expiring in December 2017 that had been held by Stephen Brame until his death the previous month. In the November 2015 general election, Democrat Chris Bobbitt was elected to serve the balance of the term.
Federal, state, and county representation
Lawrence Township is located in the 3rd Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 15th state legislative district.
Mercer County is governed by a County Executive who oversees the day-to-day operations of the county and by a seven-member Board of County Commissioners that acts in a legislative capacity, setting policy. All officials are chosen at-large in partisan elections, with the executive serving a four-year term of office while the freeholders serve three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with either two or three seats up for election each year as part of the November general election. As of 2023[update], the County Executive is Brian M. Hughes (D, Princeton, term of office ends December 31, 2023). Mercer County's Commissioners are
Commissioner Chair Lucylle R. S. Walter (D, Ewing Township, term as commissioner and as chair ends December 31, 2023),
Vice Chair John A. Cimino (D, Hamilton Township, term as commissioner and as vice chair ends 2023),
Samuel T. Frisby Sr. (D, Trenton, 2024),
Cathleen M. Lewis (D, Lawrence Township, 2025),
Kristin L. McLaughlin (D, Hopewell Township, 2024),
Nina D. Melker (D, Hamilton Township, 2025) and
Terrance Stokes (D, Ewing Township, 2024).
Mercer County's constitutional officers are
County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello (D, Lawrence Township, 2025),
Sheriff John A. Kemler (D, 2023) and
Surrogate Diane Gerofsky (D, 2026).
As of March 2011, there were a total of 19,237 registered voters in Lawrence Township, of which 7,718 (40.1%) were registered as Democrats, 3,152 (16.4%) were registered as Republicans and 8,342 (43.4%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 25 voters registered as Libertarians or Greens.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 66.7% of the vote (9,798 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 31.9% (4,688 votes), and other candidates with 1.4% (201 votes), among the 16,398 ballots cast by the township's 20,890 registered voters (1,711 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 78.5%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 66.3% of the vote (10,025 cast), ahead of Republican John McCain with 31.6% (4,771 votes) and other candidates with 1.2% (177 votes), among the 15,115 ballots cast by the township's 19,981 registered voters, for a turnout of 75.6%.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 51.4% of the vote (4,634 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 46.6% (4,205 votes), and other candidates with 2.0% (178 votes), among the 9,276 ballots cast by the township's 20,298 registered voters (259 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 45.7%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 54.7% of the vote (5,528 ballots cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 38.1% (3,858 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 5.3% (537 votes) and other candidates with 0.9% (86 votes), among the 10,113 ballots cast by the township's 19,495 registered voters, yielding a 51.9% turnout.
Eighth grade students from all of Mercer County are eligible to apply to attend the high school programs offered by the Mercer County Technical Schools, a county-wide vocational school district that offers full-time career and technical education at its Health Sciences Academy, STEM Academy and Academy of Culinary Arts, with no tuition charged to students for attendance.
Princeton Junior School is a private, co-educational school for students in grades K–6, now located on a 7-acre (2.8 ha) site at 3270 Lawrenceville Road in Lawrence Township. The school was founded in 1983 in a church basement in Princeton.
Colleges and universities
Founded in 1865 and granted university status in 1992, Rider University is a private university with its main campus just south of Lawrenceville that serves nearly 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
Yinghua Chinese School: In May 2002, the residents including Asian/Chinese as well as non-Asian/Chinese population established a Chinese language school where students of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds could learn the Chinese language on Sunday afternoons. From September 2002 to June 2005, Lawrence Middle School was the host to YingHua Language School, which teaches Simplified Chinese to over 200 students. Between September 2005 to 2017, YingHua was residing in Rider University. Since 2018 Yinghua has been residing in Chapin School and offer classes on Sunday afternoons. During COVID19, Yinghua Chinese School has continued its teaching virtually.
Since 2001, HindiUSA has been offering classes in the Lawrence Middle School where all students can learn Hindi on Friday evenings. Starting 2012 the class was moved to Notre Dame High School.
As of May 2010[update], the township had a total of 132.33 miles (212.96 km) of roadways, of which 102.37 miles (164.75 km) were maintained by the municipality, 11.48 miles (18.48 km) by Mercer County and 18.48 miles (29.74 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Several major transportation routes traverse the Township.Interstate 295 runs through as a semicircle while U.S. Route 1, the other major highway, bisects the municipality. U.S. 1 is in effect three different roads: the original route from Trenton to New Brunswick in the southern half of the Township, the limited access Trenton Freeway, and the combined road in the northern half that serves as a regional arterial linking the Interstates with New Brunswick and Route 18.
Lawrence Township had been the site of what was called the "abrupt ending" of Interstate 95. This was a result from politics in Somerset County that eliminated a planned connection of the Somerset Freeway to Interstate 287. Originally, when drivers travelled along I-95 north while approaching the interchange for U.S. Route 1, the 95 designation abruptly ended and the highway turned southward and became Interstate 295. Drivers wishing to continue north were required to use an alternate route, either by taking US 1 north, or continue along Interstate 295 south to Interstate 195 east and to the New Jersey Turnpike (Interstate 95) at Exit 7A in Robbinsville Township. This portion of interstate (between the Hopewell Township border and U.S. 1) was renumbered from I-95 to I-295 in May 2018.
A rail spur used to run to Lawrenceville from Trenton, but was discontinued in the 1970s and is now a bicycle trail. From Lawrenceville, a trolley line to Princeton existed from 1900 to 1941, but was dismantled before World War II, and the right-of-way largely has reverted to neighboring landowners.
The Port Mercer Canal House is located at 4378 Quakerbridge Road, along the Delaware and Raritan Canal near the border of West Windsor and Princeton. The house was built in the 1830s as housing for the bridge tender and his family. The bridge tender was needed to open the swing bridge when canal boats came through, then close it to allow traffic to cross over the canal.
The Delaware and Raritan Canal has an intact walking towpath for most of its length. Additional walking trail areas in the township include Shipetaukin Woods, Carson Road Woods, and part of Rosedale Park. Lawrence Township is part of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, currently under development.
^Kuperinsky, Amy. "'The Jewel of the Meadowlands'?: N.J.'s best, worst and weirdest town slogans", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, January 22, 2015. Accessed July 12, 2016. "Lawrence Township, in Mercer County, chose to capitalize on its square mileage with 'Where Nature Smiles for 22 Miles.' Joseph DallePazze, the town's mayor in the '70s and '80s, is credited with coining the motto, says township clerk Kathleen Norcia, even though, as sloganeer Swartz points out, the slogan is eerily reminiscent of Spring Lake Township, Michigan's motto, 'Where nature smiles for seven miles.'"
^ abhttps://www.lawrencetwp.com/departments/TownCouncilTown Council, Township of Lawrence. Accessed February 25, 2023. "Lawrence Township adopted a Council-Manager form of government in 1970. The Council is composed of five part-time members, each elected on a partisan basis, serving for a four year term. Due to overlapping terms, elections for Council are held every 2 years."
^Avilucea, Isaac. "Lawrence Applebee’s reopens after grisly murder", The Trentonian, November 15, 2017. Accessed November 28, 2019. "Lawrence - The Applebee’s where a horrific execution-style murder occurred has reopened. Workers at the chain restaurant off Brunswick Pike, next to the Quaker Bridge Mall, tried to regain a sense of normalcy following the point-blank killing of 23-year-old Devin 'Dynomite' Smith, who was shot in the back of the head as he drank at the bar early Tuesday morning.... He added the restaurant hadn’t experienced violent outbursts or altercations from patrons before Tuesday’s killing, the first homicide Lawrence has had in 16 years. The last one occurred in 2001, at the Sleepy Hollow Motel."
^Lawrence Township Assigned ZIP Code Designation, Lawrence Township, October 31, 2007. Accessed November 19, 2012. "The United States Postal Service (USPS) has notified Lawrence Township Officials that the postal ZIP Code 08648 has been approved for designation as Lawrence Township."
^Form of Government, Township of Lawrence. Accessed June 15, 2022. "Lawrence Township adopted a Council-Manager form of government in 1970. The Council-Manager Plan form of government was established under 'The Faulkner Act' (N.J.S.A. 40A:69A-81, et seq.). The governing body consists of five council members elected at large who serve four-year terms. The elections are partisan and occur every two years in November. The Mayor is elected by the council members and serves a two-year term."
^Kahn, Lea. "From Cathleen to Catherin: Lawrence Township Council appoints new member", CentralJersey.com, January 24, 2023. Accessed February 25, 2023. "The Lawrence Township Council has appointed lifelong resident Catherin “Catie” MacDuff to fill the vacancy on the council that was created by the resignation of former Township Councilwoman Cathleen Lewis in early January. MacDuff was chosen from among three nominees to fill the vacancy at the Lawrence Township Council’s Jan. 17 meeting. She will fill out the remainder of Lewis’ four-year term, which expires Dec. 31, 2023. Lewis, who is a Democrat, resigned from the Council Jan. 3. She was elected to the Mercer County Board of County Commissioners in the November general election, and was sworn into office at its Jan. 4 reorganization meeting."
^Abdur-Rahman, Sulaiman. "Lawrence councilman's death triggers competitive special election", The Trentonian, October 31, 2015. Accessed July 11, 2016. "The July 29 death of sitting Councilman Stephen Brame places Lawrence Township voters in position to elect the successor who will serve for the remainder of the late Democratic councilman's term.... An interim councilman, Ian J. Dember, is currently serving in Brame's council seat on a temporary basis. Dember's interim term ends when a new councilman is elected Tuesday. The winner of that special election will serve for the remainder of Brame's term, which runs through 2017."
^Biography of Bob Menendez, United States Senate, January 26, 2015. "Menendez, who started his political career in Union City, moved in September from Paramus to one of Harrison's new apartment buildings near the town's PATH station.."
^Government, Mercer County. Accessed March 1, 2023. "Mercer County is governed by an elected County Executive and a seven-member Freeholder Board."
^Meet the County Executive, Mercer County. Accessed March 1, 2023. "Brian M. Hughes continues to build upon a family legacy of public service as the fourth person to serve as Mercer County Executive. The voters have reaffirmed their support for Brian's leadership by re-electing him three times since they first placed him in office in November 2003."
^Lawrence Township Board of Education District Policy 0110 - Identification, Lawrence Township Public Schools. Accessed July 15, 2022. "Purpose The Board of Education exists for the purpose of providing a thorough and efficient system of free public education in grades Pre K through 12 in the Lawrence Township Public Schools. Composition The Lawrence Township Public Schools is comprised of all the area within the municipal boundaries of Lawrence Township."
^Heyboer, Kelly. "How to get your kid a seat in one of N.J.'s hardest-to-get-into high schools", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, May 2017. Accessed November 18, 2019. "Mercer County has a stand-alone specialized high school for top students: a Health Sciences Academy at the district's Assunpink Center campus. The district also offers a STEM Academy at Mercer County Community College. How to apply: Students can apply online in the fall of their 8th grade year."
^About Us, Saint Ann School. Accessed March 9, 2023. "It was 1962 when St. Ann Church pastor Father Joseph Keenan announced a building fund to construct a grammar school to accommodate the growing parish. Two years later, in September of 1964, Saint Ann School opened its doors for the first time under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Newark."
^Kahn, Lea. "Princeton Junior School expands", CentralJersey.com, April 5, 2021. Accessed January 23, 2022. "The Princeton Junior School is a private, co-educational school for students in grades K-6, located at 3270 Lawrenceville Road in Lawrence Township.... His contribution is the single largest donation to the school, which was founded by Juliana McIntyre Fenn and Helen Craven in 1983 in a church basement in Princeton."
^History & Traditions, Princeton Junior School. Accessed March 9, 2023. "The Princeton Junior School story began in 1983 in a church basement with four teachers and twelve preschool students under the leadership of co-founders, Juliana McIntyre Fenn and Helen Craven."
^Greenberg, Wendy. "A Look inside Princeton’s Educational Testing Service", Princeton Magazine. Accessed November 28, 2019. "In 1947, a small nonprofit organization with a mission of advancing equity in education began its work in a brick building at 20 Nassau Street in Princeton. After more than seven decades, Educational Testing Service (ETS), located since 1964 on a scenic campus off Rosedale Road just outside of Princeton in Lawrence Township, still adheres to its original mission to 'advance quality and equity in education' and 'measure knowledge and skills, promote learning and performance, and support education and professional development for all people worldwide.'"
^ abHome (Archive). Princeton Community Japanese Language School. Accessed May 9, 2014. "PCJLS Office 14 Moore Street, Princeton, NJ 08542" and "Sunday Office Rider University, Memorial Hall, Rm301"
^Direction & Map. Princeton Community Japanese Language School. Accessed May 9, 2014.
^Kahn, Lea. "Lawrence: Route 206: A road with history", CentralJersey.com, February 29, 2012. Accessed March 9, 2023. "After the Revolutionary War, Route 206 evolved into a major road between New York City and Philadelphia, he said. Gen. Washington passed through Lawrence on Route 206, en route to his first inauguration in New York in 1789. 'I think it is fair to say that for a period of about 50 years, anyone who traveled between New York and Philadelphia passed through Maidenhead along today’s U.S. Route 206.'... The Lincoln Highway, as the coast-to-coast road was named, included Route 206 as the first leg of the road."
^Port Mercer Canal House, Lawrence Historical Society. Accessed November 28, 2019. "The Port Mercer Canal House was built in the 1830s next to a swing bridge over the Delaware and Raritan Canal to house the bridgetender and his family."
^Colonial Lake Park, Lawrence Township. Accessed November 28, 2019. "A 25 acre lake serves as the focal point of this park which also includes tennis on three courts, exercise on the jogging path and play opportunities on a variety of playground equipment."
^Staff. "Brackett Making Impact As Nittany Lions Receiver", Centre Daily Times, September 4, 2008. Accessed October 10, 2012. "Now the fourth receiver in an offense that routinely utilizes four-wide sets, the redshirt sophomore from Lawrenceville, NJ, poses a big problem for opposing defenses... Brackett threw for 46 touchdowns and ran for 23 more during his career at Lawrence High School...."
^Staff. "Mercer County honors Richard J. Coffee", The Trentonian, October 19, 2009. Accessed May 29, 2011. "The Lawrence resident is considered the driving force behind the county park system. Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said Coffee should have been honored long ago."
^Margery Cuyler, Adams Literary. Accessed July 8, 2015. "She lives in Lawrenceville, New Jersey with her husband and has three grown children."
^Staff. "Tony DeNicola: Obituary", The Times, September 4, 2006. Accessed September 17, 2015. "Tony DeNicola, 79, died Saturday in the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Born in Pennington, he had resided in Lawrenceville for 40 years."
^Robbins, Lynn. "For Elliot, a Gig Near Home & Heart"Archived 2017-10-04 at the Wayback Machine, U.S. 1 Newspaper, April 23, 2014. Accessed October 3, 2017. "'I like playing at events where I've grown up. This area is a special spot for me,' says Elliot who now lives in Jersey City but hails from Lawrence Township."
^Piehler, Kurt; and Marley, Lynn. Kroesen, Frederick, Rutgers University Oral History Archives, March 16, 1998. Accessed May 4, 2020. "When I was ten-years-old, we moved to Eggerts Road in, what is now, Lawrenceville."
^Staff. "The Philosopher Kings", The Times, December 15, 2009. Accessed November 19, 2012. "By day, Josue Lajeunesse cleans buildings at Princeton University. By night, he drives a taxi, shuttling passengers back and forth from the Princeton Junction Train Station.... The Lawrence resident's efforts to build a life in the U.S. and support his community back home are the subject of a new documentary film, The Philosopher Kings."
^Plaks, Andrew H.; Peterson, Willard J.; Tang, Hai-tao; and Yu, Ying-shih. "James T. C. Liu (1919-1993)", The Journal of Asian Studies, Volume 53 / Issue 03 / August 1994, pp 1044-1045. Accessed June 27, 2015. "James T. C. Liu (Liu Tzu-chien) died at his home in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, on September 30, 1993, after a long illness."
^Staff. "Gen. D.W. M'Gowan Found Dead in Home", The New York Times, September 25, 1967. Accessed March 27, 2015. "Lawrence Township, N.J., Sept. 24 (AP) Maj. Gen. Donald W. McGowan, former chief of the National Guard Bureau in Washington, was found dead in his home today of apparently self-inflicted gunshot wounds."
^Hunt, Christopher. "Moran to live dream in NYC marathon", ESPN, November 2, 2011. Accessed July 8, 2015. "After his parents moved to Lawrenceville when he was 6, Moran started running as a sophomore at Notre Dame High School in New Jersey."
^Johnson, Greg. "Lawrence High grad John Schneider rising in Blue Jays’ system as a manager", The Trentonian, April 10, 2018. Accessed December 5, 2018. "During John Schneider’s sixth season as a prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, his career in professional baseball took a twist.... Schneider, a 1998 Lawrence High graduate, is in his first season managing the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, who are in town until Wednesday to play the Thunder."
^"Schwarzkopf returns to a hero's welcome Lawrence Township honors its favorite son", The Star-Ledger, May 25, 1997. "The hero at the Lawrence Township parade was also a favorite son – Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Army (Ret.). Schwarzkopf, 62, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, lived in Lawrence Township until he was 13."
^Lee, Felicia R. "A Writer’s Struggles, on and Off the Page", The New York Times, September 17, 2010. Accessed October 3, 2017. "The sisters were raised in St. Louis and in Lawrence Township, N.J., the oldest of four children of a surgeon, Paul T. Williams, and Eloise O. Williams, a social worker and educator who also had a fondness for the arts."
^Morton, Ryan. "Jon Solomon: Quirky Carols", Northwestern University Alumni Life, Winter 2011. Accessed November 21, 2012. " Solomon also runs an independent music label, Comedy Minus One, that produces post-punk, and he writes for various publications, while living in Lawrenceville, N.J."