Having been home over the centuries to patriots and Tories, New Jersey governors and a Trenton mayor, the stately Trent House was deeded to the City of Trenton in 1929 by its last private owner, Edward A. Stokes. His stipulation was twofold: that the house with its later additions and alterations be returned to its original early 18th century appearance, and that it be used henceforth as a library, art gallery or museum.
The restoration wasn’t started until 1934 because of the national Depression. With funding from the federal government through the Civil Works, the Emergency Relief and the Public Works Administration, restoration commenced under the direction of the Trustees of the Trenton Free Public Library. J. Osborne Hunt and Samuel Mountford were the architects, and Howard L. Hughes, City Librarian was coordinator. The building was formally dedicated on October 14. 1936.
With the restoration complete, Trenton’s mayor, the Honorable William J. Connor, named a Trent House Commission to manage and control the affairs of the house, and Samuel Mountford was chosen as its first President. The work of preparing and furnishing the House to open as an historic house museum was overseen by a separate Board established by the Commission. Bertha M. Barwis, retired Director of Elementary Education, headed up the Board and formed a membership body; these groups were the predecessors to the current Trent House Association and its Board of Trustees. The first Board included representatives of local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Junior League, and the Garden Club of Trenton. The Garden Club also undertook the restoration of the garden and grounds. Furnishing the House, based on the inventory completed after the death of Mr. Trent in 1724 and following the advice of experts at the time, commenced. On the afternoon of June 1, 1939, the 1719 William Trent House Museum opened its doors to the public with a gala reception.
More than fifty years later, in the 1990’s, the City of Trenton undertook a second restoration project based on the Trent House Master Plan developed by Susan Maxman & Partners of Philadelphia with funding from a Federal Urban Initiatives grant. Repairs to an underground service tunnel, a new roof for the Trent House, repairs to the nearby carriage house roof and asbestos removal were addressed as a result. Significant funding from the New Jersey Historic Trust coupled with funds from the City of Trenton’s capital budgets and a Community Development Block Grant allowed the carriage house conversion to a Visitor Services Center, improvements to the drainage system, ADA accessibility upgrades, window repairs and new paint reflecting the findings of a state-of-the-art paint analysis. The color scheme of the historic house was restored to its original whitewashed walls, off-white woodwork, and black baseboards. Concurrently, the Trent House Association, with funding generously provided by the New Jersey Historical Commission, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and the Bunbury Company, focused on the development of accurate, scholarly furnishing implementation plans, further refining the collection. The Trent House museum re-opened to the public in June of 2004.