The borough of Farmingdale in Monmouth County is only around a half-square-mile. However, the history it holds is much larger than one would expect. Hidden within its wooded area lies the Historic Village at Allaire; once a booming iron manufacturing business, complete with housing and food supply. In fact, it even had its own currency.
But even before its days as an operating village, the land was a ceremonial ground for Native Americans. In the mid-18th century, a sawmill became the area’s first structure, staying active for a number of years. Despite this prior history, the property is best known for its ownership by New Yorker James Peter Allaire.
Business is Booming for Allaire
Allaire began his career at the age of 17 in a brass foundry, a factory that produces metal castings. Several years later Allaire branched out on his own, opening his first brass foundry; within the decade, his operations extended to New Jersey. Which brings us to 1822, when Allaire purchased additional property near Wall Township. Today, we know this property as the Historic Village at Allaire.
But back then, the production facility was known as Howell Works; primarily functioning as a source of pig iron for Allaire’s business back in New York. After seeing the merit of the Monmouth County location, though, he instead transformed it into a near self-sustaining community. For example, the village had its own housing, post office, church, school, and company store. As mentioned above, the village even had its own currency for a time, when Allaire couldn’t afford using actual money. Workers would use this currency exclusively within the village to purchase food as well as other goods and services.
Though business boomed for Howell Works in 1836, this did not last long. Richer deposits of iron and coal were soon found right across the Delaware in Pennsylvania. This made production cheaper for rivals, as coal is more efficient in furnaces than the charcoal in New Jersey. As a result, business at Howell Works hit a decline lasting nearly a decade. The furnace ceased operation in the late 1840s, and by 1850, all remaining operations also ended.
Gone, But Not Forgotten
A number of the village’s most notable structures are still standing today. One of the first structures you’ll see when strolling through the historic village is the row house. The construction – one of three row houses at Allaire – dates back to some time between 1832 and 1833. Depending on the living quarters, rent would be one or two dollars a month.
In addition to these row houses, many other structures remain on the property; such as the bakery, the general store, the chapel, the blacksmith shop, the enameling building, and the carpenter shop. Even Allaire’s intermittent residence is still on the property today. After retiring in 1850, Allaire took up residence at this home, known as the “Big House.”
The Historic Village at Allaire currently exists as an interactive museum. It invites visitors to come experience the land’s rich history through many hands-on and seasonal activities. For instance, during the month of October, the Historic Village at Allaire holds several fun Halloween events. These include haunted hayrides around the village and a reading of Edgar Allen Poe stories inside the chapel. You can click here to learn more or to purchase tickets to events coming soon.
A Note About Parking and Navigation
When traveling to the Historic Village at Allaire, keep an eye out for two important signs. One says “ALLAIRE STATE PARK / ALLAIRE VILLAGE” and the other says “ALLAIRE STATE PARK / PINE CREEK RAILROAD.” They border the entrance of the village. This is the best place to enter if you’re going by car. Then you’ll quickly find parking lots after passing the Allaire State Park/State of New Jersey sign near the entrance. If you’re using a GPS, keep in mind it may try to take you down a no-access road. So keep an eye out for those two signs right on County Route 524, near the Spring Meadow Golf Course.
Continue your journey through New Jersey’s most historic sites with Jersey Through History: The Complete Series.
All Photos: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ