As one of the first states in America (New Jersey was the 3rd state to ratify the Constitution), we have a LOT of history. Our past is an important part of our present, and we don’t want to forget it. We’re very lucky to have historic sites and villages that help to preserve our heritage for future generations. You can find these gems scattered throughout New Jersey; here are a few that will immerse you in the past. Please note that I’ve focused more on organized historic attractions than towns with historic merit like Princeton or Ringwood.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Waterloo Village, Byram
Open year-round, Waterloo Village is a restored 19th-century canal town. Explore a working mill complex with gristmills and sawmills, a general store, blacksmith shop and several historic houses. The open air museum is part of Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Educational tours are available.
2. Double Trouble Village, Bayville
This South Jersey town centered around Cranberry production and thrived from the mid 18th to the early 20th century. It fell into disrepair, but the sawmill and cranberry packing house have been restored. You can explore the interiors of these buildings, and you can enjoy over a dozen others up close.
3. The Historic Village at Allaire, Farmingdale/Wall
A former bog iron furnace known as the Howell Works, Allaire Village is now a living history museum. There are many well preserved buildings to explore along with tours, gardens, exhibits, historic interpreters and interactive demonstrations.
4. Howell Living History Farm, Lambertville
This historic village focuses on New Jersey's agricultural past, particularly between 1890-1910. It is very interactive, allowing visitors to harvest crops, care for animals and even make ice cream the old-fashioned way!
5. Historic Smithville and The Village Green, Smithville
One of my favorite ways to spend a day, this charming village is reminiscent of days past. Shop for unique treasures both vintage and modern while enjoying classic arcade games, historic reenactments, and a wide range of events.
6. Fosterfields Living Historical Farm, Morristown
This fantastic attraction is open seasonally and was once owned by the grandson of Paul Revere. A working farm, Fosterfields uses the tools and techniques popular over 100 years ago. There are frequent events, living history programs and numerous exhibits to enjoy.
7. Batsto Village, Hammonton
Enjoy guided tours of numerous buildings including a working gristmill, post office, iron furnace, blacksmith and of course, the incredible owner's mansion. A former iron works community, established in 1766, the property was bought by the state in the 1950s, though residents remained until 1989.
8. Historic New Bridge Landing, River Edge
One of the few organized historic villages in the Bergen County area, New Bridge Landing sadly sustained damage during an '07 storm. Still, visitors can enjoy regular events and Revolutionary War-era buildings up close. The Von Steuben House, located on the property, served as a temporary headquarters for George Washington.
9. Whitesbog Village, Browns Mills
An early 20th century agricultural community, Whitesbog Village is the birthplace of the Highbush Blueberry. Home to several historic buildings, the grounds are open to the public year-round. Buildings are open seasonally, for special events and prearranged tours. The general store (pictured) will be opening for the season on February 6th. To celebrate, there will be a special crafting event.
10. East Jersey Old Town Village, Piscataway
East Jersey Old Town Village is a collection of original, replicated and reconstructed 18th and 19th century structures. Guests can explore the New Brunswick Barracks, Runyon House, Williamson Wheelwright Shop, Fitzrandolph House and Smalleytown Schoolhouse which are representative of life in Central Jersey centuries ago. The Village provides activities including exhibitions, displays, demonstrations, hands-on workshops, storytelling, lectures, tours and more, free of charge! Enjoy the Raritan Landing exhibit and learn more about an archaeological dig at Indian Queen Tavern.
11. Historic Cold Spring Village, Cape May
Historic Cold Spring Village brings to life the day-to-day activities of villagers living in South Jersey between 1789-1840. A truly immersive experience, visitors can enjoy 26 restored buildings, interactive demonstrations and free carriage rides. Handmade goods reminiscent of the time period are also available for purchase. Children can enjoy games, costumes, crafts, and more. Upcoming events include a trivia night on February 24th offering food, fun, facts and prizes!
12. Red Mill Museum Village, Clinton
Though this village is on the smaller side, it has a superstar attraction - The Red Mill. The mill is one of the most photographed buildings in America, but there are other buildings and events to enjoy. Visitors will find a schoolhouse, sheds and log cabin along with tours and historic reenactments.
13. Millbrook Village, Hardwick
In 1832 this land was bought as a grain farm, but expanded significantly by 1875. By 1880, the local mill had closed and the village began to decline. The land was purchased by the government in the 1960s and many buildings were restored or relocated to the area. You can find several homes and businesses with period decor. They offer events and historic interpreters.
14. Tuckerton Seaport, Tuckerton
Tuckerton Seaport’s 40-acre site includes 17 historic and recreated buildings connected by a boardwalk, a maritime forest and wetlands nature trail, two houseboats, a decoy gallery, a working boatworks building, decoy carving workshops and the recreated Tucker’s Island Lighthouse. The Jersey Shore’s rich maritime heritage is brought to life by historically accurate daily demonstrations. Visitors will enjoy the Baymen's Museum and numerous hands-on opportunities. Watch this video to learn more:
15. Historic Walnford, Upper Freehold
Operated by the Monmouth County Parks System, Historic Walnford is a former mill village and country estate located along the Crosswicks Creek Greenway, showcasing over 200 years of New Jersey history. Explore several buildings and a working gristmill at the site. Guests can tour the Waln House and enjoy special events year-round.
16. Wheaton Village, Millville
Wheaton Village, home to WheatonArts, celebrates the historic art of glass blowing. In addition to daily glass blowing and artist demonstrations, WheatonArts features special exhibitions, programs, workshops, performances and several weekend festivals throughout the year. The focus is less on historic buildings and more on authentic art.
17. Historic Speedwell, Morristown
This 7.5-acre site preserves several early and mid-nineteenth century buildings, the most notable of which is the Telegraph Factory. The telegraph was invented here by Alfred Vail and Samuel Morse, the Vail Estate also sits on the property. Guided tours and various exhibits are available for visitors to enjoy.
Have you been to any of these historic villages? Which was your favorite? Are there any others I forgot? Let me know in the comments, I love keeping New Jersey’s history alive!