Colonial Places to Visit in New Jersey

by Laurie Rappeport
New Jersey's Colonial citizens established the foundations for a strong future state.

New Jersey's Colonial citizens established the foundations for a strong future state.

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America's Colonial period covers American history from the first explorers of the 1600s to the early years of United States independence. During Colonial times, the New Jersey Colonial government provided a religiously tolerant and ethnically diverse society for Colonial settlers. New Jersey played an important role in the Colonial American history. History buffs can find a number of historical sites to visit when exploring the Colonial period of New Jersey.

Colonial Lighthouse

Get a glimpse of the hazards of Colonial era shipping with a trip to the Sandy Hook Lighthouse (lighthousefriends.com). The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest standing lighthouse in the United States. In 1764, a group of New York merchants petitioned the Colonial Assembly of New York to erect a lighthouse at Sandy Hook in response to shipwrecks that occurred on the dangerous sandbars surrounding the hook. The lighthouse guided ships into the treacherous waters as they entered New York Harbor. The New Jersey Lighthouse Society operates the lighthouse, which stands in the Gateway National Recreation Area. The lighthouse is open to visitors throughout the year.

Homes

Explore Colonial-era homes that open to visitors in New Jersey. The Continental Congress rented Rockingham House (rockingham.net) in Kingston for George and Martha Washington while the Congress met at Nassau Hall, Princeton. Washington waited at Rockingham House to hear the results of the Treaty of Paris negotiations that would end the Revolutionary War. The house was built in 1702 and enlarged in the 1760s. Visitors can see the preserved Colonial home, which includes 18th-century furnishings, a Colonial-style kitchen garden and a children's museum. The Wallace House (71 Somerset St., Somerville, N.J.; 908-725-1015) served as Washington's headquarters during the December 1778 to June 1779 Middlebrook Winter Encampment. Visitors can view the Georgian architecture displayed as well as artifacts and depictions of the Colonial area at the Somerville site.

Village Life

Observe what day-to-day life was like in the Colonial-era in New Jersey. The Batsto Village (batstovillage.org) was a Colonial-era industrial center that produced bog iron and glass. Visitors can see a depiction of the village's historic buildings and structures, which include the gristmill, sawmill, general store, Basto Mansion, post office and worker's homes. Visitors can take a guided tour via cellphone by accessing the Batsto Village Walking Guide Messages. The Long Pond Ironworks Historic District (1304 Sloatsburg Road, Ringwood, N.J.; 973-962-7031) in Long Pond Ironworks State Park exhibits three furnaces and other unique structures used by ironmakers. This ironworks plantation's furnaces, near West Milford, produced iron for the Continental Army.

Revolutionary War

Discover New Jersey's Revolutionary War history. The Old Barracks (barracks.org), the biggest building in Colonial Trenton, gives visitors a glimpse of military life during the Colonial period. British and Irish soldiers lived in The Barracks. When the Revolutionary War began, the Americans took The Barracks over to house British prisoners of war. The structure later served as an army hospital and, after the war, private homes. The Monmouth Battlefield State Park (16 Business Route 33, Manalapan; 732-462-9616) hosts a yearly reenactment of the Battle of Monmouth, the longest battle of the Revolutionary War. The annual June reenactment depicts army women cooking, mending and washing while the men clean weapons. You can see sentries pace and enlisted men gamble during quiet times between battles.

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