The latest update for this article is written by Lindsay Podolak.
This one goes out to all of the history buffs out there, and to the people who, like me, listened to the Hamilton soundtrack enough times to be verified historians. Seriously, go listen to it and try not to get excited when you hear familiar names coming through your headphones (Weehawken, Monmouth, the wonderful line “everything is legal in New Jersey”).
Our humble home state had a vital role in the revolution — and that’s not the only piece of history that got frozen in time throughout New Jersey. Take a walk on a battlefield, or through a historical village, and feel what it was like to be a New Jerseyan before that necessarily meant being an American.
Location: 38 Washington Place, Somerville
Details: It’s the winter of 1778, you’re general of the Continental Army, and you need a place to stay. Where do you choose? The largest house in the region, of course! And that’s exactly what George Washington did during the Middlebrook encampment from December 1778 through June 1779. The general leased the Wallace house as his headquarters and lived alongside the Wallace family while strategizing future attacks on the British and hosting foreign dignitaries. Check out the tours and travel the halls that Washington once walked.
Why I like it: The Wallace House is within walking distance of downtown Somerville, which is experiencing somewhat of a revival in recent years, with upscale eateries on every corner and quirky shops like Elysium Antiques.
More info: www.njparksandforests.org or call 908-725-1015
Location: 525 Waterloo Road, Stanhope
Details: Waterloo Village features two distinctive moments in history, frozen in time. Travel back 400 years to a Lenape Indian Village before fast-forwarding to a thriving 19th century canal town. Visitors can stop by the sawmill, general store and blacksmith shop, as well as a variety of other historic buildings. This is a great spot to spend the day with the kids, too. Although they’ll probably visit with their classmates at some point!
Why I like it: Come on a Sunday from July through October to peruse the farmers market. Fresh produce, artisan bread, pastries, pies, eggs, jams, jellies, honey, maple syrup and more are on sale.
More info: www.getoutsidenj.com or call 973-347-1835
Location: 4263 Atlantic Avenue, Farmingdale
Details: Step into an early 19th century iron-producing community at Allaire Village. Known as Howell Works Company during its heyday, this small community features homes and industrial buildings from the early to mid-1800s, all of which allowed it to be a self-sufficient community, as well as an important part of the steam engine industry in New York City. Thirteen original buildings still stand and, as a living museum, Allaire Village will take you through the day-to-day activities that went on here and allowed Howell Works to thrive.
Why I like it: Allaire hosts lots of weekend events for families to enjoy, from craft shows to flea markets to the Haunted Hayrides & Village during October.
More info: allairevillage.org or call 732-919-3500
Location: Route 542 in Wharton State Forest
Details: Batsto Village used to be the place to go if you were in the market for a nice iron pot to make supper for your family, or if you were a member of the Continental Army and you needed some supplies. Today, many of these original buildings are still in place and open for tours. Check out the Batsto Mansion, post office (one of the four oldest in the U.S.), blacksmith (working on Saturdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm) and sawmill just to name a few.
Why I like it: Visit the website to check out the Batso Village live webcam before you go!
More info: www.batstovillage.org or call 609-561-0024
Double Trouble Village
Location: Double Trouble State Park, Bayville
Details: Head down to the Pine Barrens to visit the village with the coolest name in history. Double Trouble Village features fourteen original buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Located within Double Trouble State Park, Double Trouble village gives a peek into the lumber industry during the 1700s through the 1900s. Even better, once some of the lumber had been cleared away, Double Trouble became the site of one of the largest cranberry operations in New Jersey, and they’re still harvested there to this day. Go check it out for yourself!
Why I like it: There’s no entrance fee to visit this park, plus it’s easily accessible from Exit 77 on the Garden State Parkway.
More info: www.state.nj.us or call 732-341-4098
Grover Cleveland Birthplace
Location: 201 Bloomfield Avenue, Caldwell
Details: Two-term American President Grover Cleveland was born in Caldwell – in the Pastor’s residence for the first Presbyterian Church at Caldwell to be exact. This is due to the fact that his father was the minister there from 1834 to 1841. As Cleveland achieved greater political status throughout his life, friends took steps to preserve the home. Today, it houses the largest collection of Cleveland artifacts in the U.S. With memorabilia ranging from his beginnings all the way throughout his incredible life and political journey, a walk through the house is like a walk through American history itself.
Why I like it: Groups or families of ten or less are welcome to picnic on the three-acre grounds during the hours of 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
More info: www.state.nj.us or call 973-226-0001
Location: 16 Business Route 33, Manalapan
Details: One of the largest battles of the American Revolution took place on Monmouth Battlefield on June 28, 1778. General George Washington and the Continental Army ambushed the British Army as they left Monmouth Court House. What followed was a tremendous battle in which the Continental Army forced the British Army to retreat. At this point, the tides of the Revolutionary War began to shift in the rebels’ favor. If you want to get an authentic taste of what it was like on the day of the battle, head there during a heat wave — a great number of the casualties during this battle were due to heatstroke.
Why I like it: Each year in late June, the park hosts a reenactment of the Battle of Monmouth. You’ll see soldiers cleaning their weapons and the army’s women taking care of the cooking and laundry.
More info: www.state.nj.us or call 732-462-9616
Location: 1304 Sloatsburg Road, Ringwood
Details: Ringwood Manor is the place to go for a veritable smorgasbord of history. The manor itself features a blend of architectural styles. These range from early 1800s and on through the ensuing century. They were blended together over the course of six renovations. Within the manor is a compilation of the residents’ own items, which include collections of art, vintage furniture and even firearms. The grounds include a historic cemetery, as well as a variety of small buildings, gardens and historical objects. Tours of the manor take place all year, while grounds tours are limited to the warmer months.
Why I like it: The Victorian Christmas weekends are not to be missed! Wander through the whimsically-decorated home as your kids enjoy a scavenger hunt.
More info: www.ringwoodmanor.org or call 973-962-2241
Walt Whitman House
Location: 330 Mickle Boulevard, Camden
Details: Famous poet Walt Whitman bought the only house he would ever own in Camden in 1884 for $1,750. Over the years, he hosted the likes of Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde in his home. He lived there until his death in 1892. Historians have preserved Whitman’s belongings, letters, furniture and even the death notice that was nailed to his front door announcing his passing. A trip to the Walt Whitman House offers an intimate glimpse into the life of one of America’s greatest poets.
Why I like it: You wouldn’t think you would find a historical home sitting in downtown Camden, yet the Walt Whitman House remains there, just a stone’s throw from the waterfront.
More info: www.nj.gov or call 856-964-5383
Location: 1073 East Jersey Street, Elizabeth
Details: Boxwood Hall has seen quite a few great men walk through its front door. Originally home to Elias Boudinot, who was president of the Continental Congress and signed the peace treaty at the end of the Revolutionary War, George Washington famously made a stop here in 1789 on his way to New York to be inaugurated as the first US president. Boudinot later sold the house to Jonathan Dayton, who was the youngest signer of the Constitution. The modest home has been preserved, and is now open for informational tours. Call ahead to check tour hours!
Why I like it: After you’ve visited Boxwood Hall, continue on to another historical site, the Belcher Ogden Mansion just down the street. Call 908-232-3194 to schedule your tour.
More info: www.visitnj.org or call 908-282-7617
Weehawken Dueling Grounds
Location: Directly next to Hamilton Park, Hamilton Avenue, Weehawken
Details: Long before problems could be solved with a simple “I’m sorry” text message, feuds were settled in a decidedly more dramatic fashion. Dueling, to be exact, was the go-to way for men to settle their differences. As dueling laws began popping up in New York, it became common practice to hop in your boat and head to Weehawken for a quick duel at dawn. Famously, this is the location of Alexander Hamilton’s famous 1804 duel with Aaron Burr. Hamilton would die the next day in New York City, but the rock that he rested against following Burr’s fatal shot is said to still be here. Another casualty of the Weehawken Dueling Grounds? Hamilton’s son Phillip, who died here in 1801.
Why I like it: Hamilton Park sits next to the dueling site and provides an amazing view of the NYC skyline.
More info: www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com
Long Pond Ironworks Historic District
Location: Long Pond Ironworks State Park, Route 511, West Milford
Details: Take a hike through Long Pond Ironworks State Park to check out the remnants of Long Pond Ironworks. This site was once a thriving 18th and 19th century ironworks plantation. Long Pond was home to many families, and the ruins of homes and businesses as well as three of the plantations furnaces can be seen in the park. Recent renovations have improved the site, and also include the transformation of the old country store into a museum. It’s a great way to spend the day outside, so call now to schedule a tour!
Why I like it: Visitors to the museum can purchase a select number of items as souvenirs. Options include a painted roof slate from the church as well as an iron ore nugget.
More info: longpondironworks.org or call 973-657-1688