Built by the “refrigerator genius” CV Hill, the inn was situated on former farms and woodland along the Shabakunk Creek, which was dammed to create two lakes, Ceva and Sylva. The dancing and dining hall was popular and attracted good-sized crowds.
The grounds featured boating excursions on the lakes, boardwalks and walkways, swimming and skating, a small beach on the lakefront, and even a miniature, water-powered village. But by the end of the 1920s, the costs of the inn were exceeding the benefits and pleasure for owner CV Hill. He sought to sell the property.
And as it happened, another significant, local entity was seeking property. The N.J. State Normal School, a post-secondary educational institution to educate and train teachers, had been established by the state legislature in 1855.
Trenton had been selected as the location for the school and the associated “model school” wherein the teachers could observe established teachers and practice their profession as a part of the training and education process.
The school was one of a few teachers colleges in the country, and welcomed its first 15 students on Oct. 1, 1855 to classrooms above city hall, while buildings were being made ready at its eventual location on Clinton Avenue. Additional land and buildings were added as enrollment steadily increased.
But by the early 1920s, it was very apparent that more space and updated facilities would be needed, and the campus would need to be relocated.
The state Board of Education petitioned the legislature in 1928 to sell the buildings of the N.J. State Normal School and Model School at Trenton, and later to appropriate funds of $95,000 to plan and erect new buildings on a different site.
Thirty sites around the state were considered for the new school, but ultimately the committee recommended the purchase of “the Hillwood Lakes area owned by CV Hill, for $85,000,” a plot of land of about 100 acres, “covered with beautiful trees,” and “easily developed into athletic and recreational fields.”
The site even included the inn, which could function as a dining hall until a new one was constructed.
It was not far from Trenton, and located along a trolley line. So CV Hill found an ideal buyer in the State of New Jersey.
The state began immediately to prepare for the move. An additional purchase of land along Pennington Road was made to provide for an entrance from that thoroughfare.An acre of woodland was cleared from a portion of the Titus and Blackwell farms.
After the state legislature appropriated nearly $1 million for new buildings in 1929, construction began on that newly cleared land for an administration building, as well as a nearby women’s dormitory and power house. The cornerstone of the administration building (Green Hall) was laid in May of 1931.
Over the next few years, appropriations and subsequent work also began on an auditorium and classroom building (Kendall Hall), library (Roscoe West Library), and men’s and women’s Dormitories (Bliss, Norsworthy, Allen, Brewster and Ely). Hampered by the Depression, the school had to operate from two locations—Hillwood Lakes,and Clinton Avenue in Trenton—from 1931 to 1936, at which point all classrooms, dormitories, and facilities at Hillwood Lakes were sufficiently completed.
In 1937, it was renamed the N.J. State Teachers College at Trenton. Assistance in completing the work was provided by laborers working with the Emergency Relief Administration, a depression-era works program.
It should be noted that all of these buildings remain standing and in use, although some of them are used in different capacities.
The new campus also had a dining hall: the old Hillwood Inn. The wooden structure—expanded somewhat in 1934 and renamed the College Inn—served as a dining hall for two decades.
It suffered a fire in September of 1948, delaying the start of the semester for three weeks, and emphasizing the need for a safer, more permanent structure.
Ewingville was now officially a destination for future teachers.