With six signers of the Declaration of Independence having lived in the region and a substantial inventory of Colonial-era buildings, central New Jersey readers do not have far to go to celebrate a meaningful Fourth of July.
The reality is that the places that housed the American Revolution are so widespread that they essentially disappear into the landscape.
Let’s look at some of the buildings still standing today that were also standing when the Spirit of 1776 swept our region and representatives from the 13 colonies instituted a new government. Some are privately owned, but most are open to the public and provide an ongoing invitation to step into history.
Rockingham was originally a two-story, two-room frame house constructed in 1710. Its approximately 100-acre farm was purchased in 1735 by John Berrien, whose resume includes New Jersey Supreme Court justice, Colony assemblyman, Somerset County judge, and College of New Jersey trustee. He was the one responsible for enlarging the home and farm.
Although Rockingham existed during the Revolutionary War and George Washington’s attacks in Trenton and Princeton, its historical importance is connected with the post-war nation and General Washington. In 1783 the U.S. Congress moved to Princeton to escape angry Continental Army soldiers who had not been paid and were making life uncomfortable in Philadelphia. Using Nassau Hall at Princeton University (then called the College of New Jersey) as the capitol, Congress asked Washington to come to Princeton and send the military to Philadelphia. Looking for temporary lodging for Washington, his family, and his military entourage, Congress arranged to rent Rockingham from the late Berrien’s wife, Margaret.
Between late August and November 10, 1783, Washington created history at Rockingham. He wrote his famous “Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States,” received the news that the Treaty of Paris had been signed and to end the Revolutionary War, posed for several paintings (including Charles Willson Peale’s “Washington at the Battle of Princeton” on display at the Princeton University Art Museum), and entertained both members of Congress and the regional patriots Robert Morris, Thomas Paine, and Annis Stockton.
Margaret Berrien moved back to the house soon after Washington left. Over the next century it and the farm went through a number of owners until the Rocky Hill Quarry Company purchased it in the 1890s to house Italian quarry workers. It was then that Rocky Hill resident Kate McFarlane rallied a group of concerned citizens to purchase the house in 1896 and launched the first of several moves that led from the quarry site to its current location in 2001. Restored in 2004, Rockingham is operated by the State of New Jersey Division of Parks & Forestry and the Rockingham Association.
Various sources say the name Rockingham was introduced in a 1783 newspaper advertisement to sell the house by connecting it with the Marquess of Rockingham, a British prime minister who had opposed the British War against the colonies, and providing an early example of real estate marketing (something historical on its own).
Rockingham Historic Site, Route 603 (Kingston-Rocky Hill Road). Guided tours Wednesday through Saturdays, 10 and 11 a.m., 1, 2, and 3 p.m., and Sundays, 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Free, but donations requested. Call for reservations: 609-683-7132. www.rockingham.net
The Watson House
Located in Hamilton on a bluff overlooking the marshlands between Trenton and Bordentown, the stone house was built by Quaker Isaac Watson in 1708, making it the oldest house in the region.
As historical reports have it, Watson came to America from Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire, England, in 1684. His father brought his family to escape religious persecution and after a short time in Philadelphia arranged to purchase the property in what was then called West Jersey.
It was Isaac who built the stone house where he lived with his wife, Johanna Foulke, and their nine children. The stones were moved by flat boats from the “falls” of the Delaware (now the stony section of the river near the state house).
The Watson House is owned by Mercer County and has been leased to New Jersey Daughters of the American Revolution since 1964, when the organization took on the building’s restoration as part of the New Jersey tercentenary celebration. It now serves as NJDAR’s state headquarters and is listed in the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Sites.
Now restored, the house’s lead-glass windows, kitchen hearth, and furnishings let visitors quietly escape today’s high-tech world and get a glimpse of the past. And there’s a bonus: The site is located in the National Historic Landmarks Program’s Abbott Farm Historic District — an area where Native Americans lived and worked for more than 8,000 years and where several important 20th-century archaeology excavations were launched.
Isaac Watson House, 151 Westcott Avenue. Open Sundays, September 9, October 14, and November 11, 1 to 4 p.m. The grounds and the Abbott Farm Historic District are always open. Free. www.njdar.org/watson.html
John Abbott II House
Merchant John Abbott and his farmer son, also John, built the house in 1730. Its role in the American Revolution involves money.
Reports note that as the British were advancing on Trenton in 1776 state treasurer Samuel Tucker secured 1,500 British pounds of public money and 1,000 more pounds of assets, packed them in a trunk, and took them to the Abbott house for safekeeping.
John Abbott II House, 2200 Kuser Road. Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. (last tour starts at 4:15), March through December. Closed Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving weekend. Free. 609-585-1686.
Isaac Pearson House
The Isaac Pearson House, located off South Broad Street at the intersection of Hobson and Emiline avenues in Hamilton, was built in 1773. The grandson of early English settlers and prominent farmers, Pearson was a member of the state assembly, a supporter of American independence, and a member of the New Jersey Provincial Congress.
The house had been owned by various families and was known in the mid-20th century as Rose’s Riding Academy (for horseback riding). Hamilton Township obtained the property in 1996 and has renovated the roof.
The property has period renovations and is occasionally open for tours.
Isaac Pearson House, Hobson and Emiline avenues.
William Trent House
The American-Georgian-style building was ultra-modern when wealthy Scottish immigrant and businessman William Trent had it built near the shores of the Delaware River in 1719. Here the formerly Philadelphia-based merchant (and William Penn partner) laid out what was to be then called Trent’s Town — now known as Trenton. Incidentally, one of Trent’s successful enterprises was the slave trade.
The house with 11 rooms, indoor basement kitchen, and cupola was Trent’s home for several years and then passed on to his eldest son and then to a series of owners including a supreme court justice, generals, governors, mayors, doctors, and merchants. Its last private owner was Edward A. Stokes, a lawyer and writer who in 1929 donated it to the City of Trenton to be used as a library, art gallery, or museum. Today it is operated in partnership with the city and the Trent House Association.
A National Historic Landmark (NHL) building, its NHL application calls it “a distinguished example of the William and Mary or Queen Anne style. “Of red brick with white trim, the house has a handsome simplicity of straight lines, accentuated by bare arched windows (the shutters are inside) the bold cornice, and the absence of classically enriched doorways.”
The NHL also notes that during the Battle of Trenton “the house was occupied by Dr. William Bryant, a Loyalist who ministered to both the American and Hessian troops. In 1778, he sold the property to Colonel John Cox, Assistant Quartermaster General of the Army, who occupied it for 14 years. During that time many Revolutionary War figures, including Generals Washington and Greene were entertained by the Coxes, who gave the name ‘Bloomsbury Court’ to the property.” (Bloomsbury is a London district historically connected to culture.)
During the Revolutionary War, French troops under the command of Count Rochambeau set up camp across from the Trent house.
1719 William Trent House Museum, 15 Market Street. Wednesdays through Sundays, 12:30 to 4 p.m. $4 to $5. 609-989-3027 or www.williamtrenthouse.org
Friends Meeting House
As the Trenton Historical Society notes, the Friends Meeting House is “one of the few buildings still standing in Trenton whose history goes back to the years 1746-1750, when Trenton was a free borough town, exercising its powers and privileges under a Royal Charter of Incorporation granted by His Majesty, King George the Second. “Constructed in 1739 and modified in the 19th century, it “stands today on its original site at the northwest corner of Hanover and Montgomery Streets.” Still a functioning meeting house, it was used during the Revolutionary War by both British and Continental forces. Its cemetery contains the body of George Clymer, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Friends Meeting House, 142 East Hanover Street. Sundays, 10 a.m. 609-278-4551 or www.fgcquaker.org/cloud/trenton-friends-meeting
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
St. Michael’s Church on the corner of Warren and Perry streets in Trenton was first built in 1748 but has been the subject of expansions and reconfigurations over the centuries. During the American Revolution, its Anglican — or Church of England — services were suspended because of tensions between congregants loyal to the crown or to the colonies. In addition to being used by troops on both sides (with the British using the building as a stable), the church and its property figured prominently in the First Battle of Trenton.
According to New Jersey Churchscape, the church “reached its current dimensions and shape in 1870, when the nave was extended for the last time and the Warren Street towers, the current recessed chancel and the north transept, were added. The crenellated towers were designed in honor of the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose residence, Lambeth Palace in London, sports a very similar facade. Fantasy Gothic is the term usually applied to this style.”
The cemetery reflects the region’s democratic and royalist roots: among the buried are David Brearley, a singer of the United States Constitution, and Pauline Savage, daughter of Annette Savage and Joseph Bonaparte, who, as brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, served as King of Spain and Naples and later became a resident of Bordentown.
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 140 North Warren Street. Services Sundays at 10:15 a.m. www.stmichaelstrenton.org
The Old Barracks
The Old Barracks on Willow Street in Trenton is one of the most significant structures still standing associated with the December 26, 1776, Battle of Trenton. It was erected between 1758 and 1759 to serve as the winter quarters for British Troops during the French and Indian War and is the only survivor among five similar structures built in Burlington, Elizabethtown, Perth Amboy, and New Brunswick to alleviate the practice of the British military taking possession of private homes for shelter.
In addition to housing the 300 Hessian soldiers whose were either killed or captured in the Trenton battle, the barracks also served as a hospital for American soldiers during the war, including 600 transported to Trenton after the 1781 Battle of Yorktown in Virginia.
When the Revolutionary War was over, the legislature in 1782 elected to sell the barracks and in 1786 it was subdivided into multiple dwellings. In 1813 a 40-foot section was demolished to extend Front Street to the State House. And in 1855 the southern section was purchased and used as a home for elderly women.
In 1899 the Daughters of the American Revolution created a public subscription to purchase the southern L-shaped portion of the property and save it from demolition. Three years later the same group formed the Old Barracks Association to preserve and restore that property. The state followed by purchasing the remaining and privately occupied northern portion. The Old Barracks Association then deeded its section to the state with the stipulation that the Barracks be restored and managed by the association. The reconstruction of the central section and building restorations were completed in 1917.
Old Barracks, 101 Barrack Street. Monday through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $6 to $8. 609-396-1776 or www.barracks.org
The Eagle Tavern was built in 1765 as a private residence by the owner of the mills previously established by Mahlon Stacy and William Trent. It operated as a tavern through most of the 19th century and was nominally connected to the nearby Eagle Race Track. It became a boarding house in 1890 and continued operating as such until 1947. The building was vacant from that time to 1965, when the City of Trenton purchased the property and leased it to the Trenton Historical Society. Though it was the subject of a federal feasibility study, the building is closed.
Eagle Tavern, 431-433 South Broad Street.
Built around 1766 and purchased in 1769 by Alexander Douglass, a quartermaster in the Revolutionary Army, this building now in Mill Hill Park in Trenton was where General Washington held a Council-of War on the night of January 2, 1777 after the Second Battle of Trenton and decided to march to Princeton.
Originally located at 191 South Broad Street, the house is an example of the small 18th century dwelling of the type common in Trenton during the Revolutionary War.
Douglass lived in the house until his death. Subsequent owners include Douglass’ family members, the Lutheran Church, and a businessman who moved it to Centre Street, where it was resold and occupied by tenants.
Interest in the house began after the Trenton Evening Times published a December 26, 1901, article on the 125th anniversary of Washington crossing the Delaware River. The result was that various civic-minded individuals took an option on the building, partnered with a Trenton church group to raise funds, and moved the building to city property near the Old Barracks and then to Mill Hill Park.
The building is currently being renovated.
Douglass House, Front and Montgomery streets. www.destinationtrenton.com/listings/the-douglass-house/113/
Princeton Friends Meeting
The frequently passed and perhaps seldom notice Stony Brook Friends Meeting House on Quaker Bridge Road in Princeton was built in 1726 and rebuilt in 1760. It is indicative of the simple and clear Quaker design. The meetings still continue on the site as does a school. It also houses a cemetery where the bodies of several soldiers who died during the Battle of Princeton are buried. It is also the last resting place for Declaration of Independence signer Richard Stockton.
Princeton Friends Meeting, 470 Quaker Road. Sunday services, 9 and 11 a.m. 609-924-5674 or www.princetonfriendsmeeting.org
Morven, the Princeton home of Declaration of Independence signer Richard Stockton (1730-1781), has its roots in the 1750s when in 1758 he rebuilt an earlier home consumed by fire. It was his wife, poet and patriot Annis Boudinot Stockton, who dubbed the mansion Morven — Gaelic for “big peak or mountain” and connected to the Romantic epics of Scottish poet James Macpherson.
Stockton was at the center of action and innovation in the area. He was one of the first graduates of what is now Princeton University, was a lawyer, served on the Continental Congress, and brought fellow Declaration of Independence singer Reverend John Witherspoon from Scotland to Princeton to serve as the college’s president.
The house was also part of the action of the Battle of Princeton when the British ransacked it after Stockton and his family had to flee — with the signer being captured and imprisoned.
Now a National Historic Landmark, Morven has undergone a series of additions and renovations reflecting the character of its occupants: generations of Stocktons, Johnson & Johnson family members, and, after the building was given to the State of New Jersey in the 1940s, the official home for the governor.
In 1982 a decision was made to relocate the governor’s mansion to Drumthwacket on Route 206, and, per the ownership agreement with the state, Morven reopened in 2004 as a museum and garden.
Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, Princeton. Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. $8 to $10. 609-924-8144 or www.morven.org
Nassau Hall & Maclean House
Nassau Hall was built in 1756 as the main building the College of New Jersey. Its designer and builder was Robert Smith, who, as a past U.S. 1 article noted, was one of the master carpenter/builders of Philadelphia (“architect” was not yet generally used as a separate term). Working in the dominant Georgian style, his major Philadelphia “high-style building” successes include Carpenters’ Hall, St. Peter’s Church, and the Christ Church steeple, all of which have literally stood the test of time.
In its day Nassau Hall was the largest stone building in the American Colonies. New Jersey Governor Jonathan Belcher proposed the name to honor British King William III, a member of the house of Nassau and Orange, two references that continue to resonate in Princeton.
Nassau Hall was the scene of the last stand by the British during the Battle of Princeton, when artillery commanded by Alexander Hamilton fired on the building. The Continental Congress met here in 1783. The faculty room modeled after the British House of Commons is where Congress received the news of the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783.
A victim of two fires and subsequent restorations, the building involved several important architects including United States Capitol designer Benjamin Latrobe (who also designed the university’s Stanhope Hall) and the prolific Scottish-born and Philadelphia-based architect John Notman, the Italianate-Villa style proponent and designer of the university’s Prospect House.
Constructed by Robert Smith at the same time as Nassau Hall in 1756, the Maclean House served as the official residence of early college presidents to 1878. Its first occupant was the university’s first president, Aaron Burr Sr. Declaration of Independence singer John Witherspoon lived there from 1768 to 1769.
Now the headquarters for the university’s Alumni Association, it is named in honor of John Maclean Jr., the last president to occupy the house throughout his administration and founder of the association. The sycamores that still stand in the front yard were planted in celebration of the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766.
The building experienced major changes in 1855, including room reconfigurations, a change in roofline, dormers, and the addition of a cast iron porch — all done to match the Italianate-influenced renovations at Nassau Hall.
A major restoration to the house by Princeton-area firm Mills & Schnoering Architects concluded in April, 2014. The project involved repainting the interior and addressing the building’s roof and chimneys, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and alarm systems.
In late 2017 the house was the subject of a Princeton & Slavery Project art installation by American artist Titus Kaphar that memorialized the slaves owned and sold there by a former university president.
Both Nassau Hall and Maclean House serve as university offices and have limited access.
Princeton University, Nassau Street and Elm Drive. www.princeton.edu
Bainbridge House was built in 1766 by Job Stockton, a prosperous tanner and cousin to Richard Stockton. The house was used by members of the 1783 Continental congress and was later leased to Dr. Absalom Bainbridge. His son, War of 1812 hero William Bainbridge, was born in the house — and gives it its name.
Princeton University has owned the house since 1877 and it has served as a student dormitory, Princeton Public Library, and the Historical Society of Princeton headquarters. At present Murphy Burnham and Buttrick Architects of New York City are developing a plan to preserve and restore the house’s historic features while updating it for new uses.
Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street.
Thomas Clarke House
The Thomas Clarke House, the white clapboard building was built in 1772 in the middle of a 200-acre farm, now known as Princeton Battlefield — the site of the Battle of Princeton.
According to Princeton Battlefield materials, the Clarkes, a third-generation Quaker family at Stony Brook Quaker Settlement, turned the house into a hospital after the battle, taking in both British and American wounded. Despite being cared for by Dr. Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence), American General Hugh Mercer died here nine days after the battle from being shot and bayoneted. Mercer County in New Jersey, site of the battle, is named in his honor.”
Part of Princeton Battlefield State Park and operated by the State of New Jersey, the house features period furnishings evoking the daily life on a Colonial-era farm. Also on view are firearms, maps, documents, and other historic artifacts that keep the past alive to the present.
Thomas Clarke House, 500 Mercer Road. Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to noon, 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. Free. www.visitprincetonbattlefield.org
The privately owned historic property, adjacent to Mountain Lakes Preserve in Princeton, had been the summer estate of John Witherspoon, signatory to the Declaration of Independence.
The original stone structure was built in 1773 to entice Witherspoon to become the sixth president of what is now Princeton University, and a wing was added in the 1830s. Witherspoon, an orator and preacher, named the estate after a home built by another orator, Cicero. His Tusculum was built in a resort town that was 15 miles from Rome.
In the 1920s it was used as a hunting lodge. It is now a private residence and not open to the public.
Tusculum, 166 Cherry Hill Road.
Johnson Ferry House
The house in Washington Crossing State Park in Hopewell Township was built circa 1740 by Dutch settler Rutger Jansen, who had come from Long Island and purchased a 490-acre farm tract. His son, Garret, inherited the house and farm and operated a ferry. He also Anglicized his name to Johnson.
Records say that by 1769 “the Johnson Farm included the present farmhouse, a barn, stables, a stone shop and kitchen, fruit orchards, grain fields, meadows and a timberland. In 1761, Garret obtained a tavern license to operate a ferry service with an upper and a lower landing. The crossing bridge now stands at what was the lower ferry landing. Ferry travelers could find refreshment or lodging in this farmhouse.”
The gambrel-roof farmhouse’s role in history was secured on Christmas night, 1776, during Washington’s fateful decision to use the ferries to transport 2,400 troops across the Delaware River during a storm to engage the British in Trenton and Princeton. Now the only structure in Washington Crossing State Park that was standing during the historic passage, the building is believed to have provided brief shelter to Washington and his officers during what is considered the most revolutionary moment of the war.
Johnson Ferry House, Washington Crossing State Park, 355 Washington Crossing-Pennington Road, Titusville. Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. 609-737-2515 or www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html
John Hart House
The oldest portion of this privately owned Colonial-era structure in Hopewell is the undated home built by Declaration of Independence signer John Hart. Here in 1776 after British forces invaded the region and Washington retreated into Pennsylvania, Hart had to flee and hide in a cave in the Sourland Mountains until news of the British defeats in Trenton and Princeton. Two years later, Washington and his army camped on the property on their way to what would become the Battle of Monmouth. John Hart’s memorial can be seen nearby on the property he donated to the Hopewell Old School Baptist Meeting House Cemetery.
John Hart Homestead, 60 Hart Avenue, Hopewell.
The oldest section of the Mercer County-owned Hunt House was built by farmer and legislator Noah Hunt before 1762 and includes a parlor, hall, and two pairs of rooms on two floors. Here during the 1778 encampment on John Hart’s farm, Washington convened what has been called the “largest gathering of Revolutionary military leaders” at the large and prominent home.
The house stayed in the family for more than 100 years, passing first to Noah Hunt’s only son, Stephen, who married distant cousin Ruth Hunt, and then to other Hunts who sold to Cornell Blackwell in the early 1900s. He sold the property to the county around 1950.
The vacant and dilapidated house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 and in 2001 the New Jersey Historic Trust granted Mercer County $49,000 to create a historic structure and archaeological investigation. Decisions were made to seek more funding and restore the building.
The house now serves as the office for the Mercer County Park Commission. Located in Rosedale Park and on the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, it has public restrooms on the first floor and a rest stop with picnic tables and water fountain.
Noah Hunt House, 197 Blackwell Road, Pennington. www.mercercountyparks.org/#!/facilities/hunt-house
Benjamin Temple House
The circa 1750 Temple House takes its name from Benjamin Temple, an early area settler, prosperous farmer, and friend and brother-in-law to area Declaration of Independence signer John Hart.
The Temple family maintained and modified the Georgian-style house for 150 years. Records show that the house was eventually sold in 1903 to Patrick Ryan, whose family operated a dairy there for the next half century. The house was also moved in the 1970s. Originally on Route 31 or the old Hopewell-Trenton Road, it was in the path of the construction of Interstate 95 and was to be razed. The building was saved by the Ewing Township Historical Preservation Society (ETHPS) and Ewing Township and moved to its current Federal City Road location.
According to the ETHPS, which maintains and operates the building, the “front entrance opens into the oldest portion of the house with four rooms (two rooms on the first floor and two rooms on the second floor) leading off the side hall and the staircase. This oldest section of the house is distinguished by the original paneled fireplace surrounds, dentil crown molding and corner cupboard.”
The house now operates as a museum and cultural events center.
Benjamin Temple House, 27 Federal City Road. www.ethps.org
The Maidenhead Meetinghouse
As the current Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville records note, a meetinghouse was established in 1709 on the same spot on the current Route 206. That was a decade or so after settlers had traveled from Long Island and Connecticut and christened the region after an English town on the River Thames, Maidenhead. Although there is a seemingly odd reference to female virginity, the British town’s website says its actual name is Maidenhythe, Anglo Saxon for New Harbor.
More information says the church built in 1764 originally measured 45 feet wide and 32 feet deep, about half the present depth. In 1853, “the building was given its present depth of 75 feet, the balcony was enlarged, and the pulpit was carved to match the front arch.”
The place where Declaration of Independence signer John Hart was baptized and Colonial and British forces passed during the Revolutionary War, the church is a witness to time and is keeping the faith after three hundred years.
Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, 2688 Main Street. Services Sundays at 10 a.m. (9:30 a.m. July 4 through Labor Day). 609-896-1212 or www.pclawrenceville.org
The house off Princeton Pike is a Georgian brick house typical of other 18th-century colonists’ homes. Its 1761 date noted in glazed bricks was “the practice in York, England, from whence John Brearley had arrived 66 years earlier, to identify a house with the date of its construction on the gable that faced the road,” according to background information written by the house’s occupants, the Lawrenceville Historical Society.
It was built for James Brearley, the thrice-married farmer who lived into his 90s. For the next century or so it was occupied by various family members and then a succession of people in the 20th century — with one using portions of the house to renovate a similar house elsewhere.
Farming or animal raising seemed constant occupations with the LHS noting one family “did some pig farming and grew vegetables that he gave away for free during his time on the property. Some of his pigs weighed 400 pounds, it is said. He was also reported to have had 17 dogs. This strange menagerie kept thieves from stealing fine 18th-century mantels, doors and woodwork until the house could be rescued.”
That rescue came from the township, which secured the building from developers in 1978. In 1998 partners LHS and New Jersey Historic Trust supported a renovation project. They selected the Philadelphia firm of Theodore H. Nickels to make “the exterior and interior of the house look much as they did in 1761, or as much as modern research and technology and present day needs make feasible.”
Brearley House, 100 Meadow Road. Tours the third Sunday of every month, from 2 to 4 p.m., and the first Saturday of the month, March to October, from 10 a.m. to noon. Free. www.thelhs.org/1761-brearley-house
Francis Hopkinson House
This privately owned Georgian-style home built in 1750 by John Imlay on Farnsworth Avenue in Bordentown was where Continental Congress delegate and Declaration of Independence signer Francis Hopkinson lived from 1774 until his death in 1791. A businessman, lawmaker, author, and composer, Hopkinson is credited with creating the designs used for the first American flag, paper currency, and coin. Originally from Philadelphia, he came to Bordentown when he married Anne Borden, daughter of Judge Joseph Borden and granddaughter of the town’s namesake.
Francis Hopkinson House, 101 Farnsworth Avenue.
McConkey Ferry Inn
Situated in what is now Taylorsville, Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River from the Johnson House, the McConkey Ferry Inn was originally built in 1752 by the Baker Family. Samuel McConkey purchased the business and was the owner and operator during the 1776 crossing.
The current inn was built in several stages with the section farthest from the river built 1790 over the original basement. While only that section physically connects to 1776, Pennsylvania’s Washington Crossing Historic Park materials says the ferry house represents a typical country inn or tavern of the era.
McConkey Ferry Inn, Washington Crossing Historic Park, 1112 River Road, Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania. Guided tours of the park $7 per person. Daily on the hour from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The grounds are open from dawn to dusk for free self-guided tours.
This 1765 Georgian Mansion on the quiet back streets of Legion and Hillcrest avenues in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, has a history written in loud letters. As tour guide Sharon Hughes will tell you, “Few homes in America have been owned by, or occupied by such important actors of the 18th century as Summerseat.”
Hughes then lays out the proof like a winning card hand. It was built by early American entrepreneur Adam Hoops, who served as a type of general contractor to the British during the French and Indian War. It was taken over by Hoops’ son-in-law, businessman, patriot, and later the United State’s first overseas consul Thomas Barclay. It was Barclay who offered General George Washington the use the building as his headquarters in the winter of 1776.
Here, in the mansion in a town then known as Colvin’s Ferry, Washington formulated the strategy that would shake off the series of defeats he and his army had experienced and developed the strategy that would turn the tide of the Revolution to favor the colonies. That included Washington’s directive “that all the boats and water crafts should be secured or destroyed” and the daring plan to attack the Hessian garrison in Trenton.
During the Revolutionary War years, the house was a stage for other events, such as Washington and his army returning on December 31, 1776, with troop member and painter Charles Willson Peale camping on the property, and General “Mad” Anthony Wayne using the dining room as a 1781 courtroom where two men were found guilty of spying for the British and sentenced to hanging.
The home was later owned by two individuals who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution: Robert Morris, who helped finance the Revolution and who gives the town its current name, and George Clymer, who gave the mansion its summer-friendly name when he took possession in 1806. He remained here until he died in 1813 and was buried in Trenton.
The house was used through the 19th century by various owners, mainly farmers. With renewed interest in American history and interest in the property’s role in the Revolution, the property was obtained by Morrisville Township School District and renovated in 1931 to use for education purposes, first as a school and then as an office. The district used the Bicentennial in 1776 as a selling point and put the building up for sale. The property was acquired and renovated by the all volunteer Historic Morrisville Society, which provides free tours on the first Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Summerseat, Legion and Hillcrest avenues, Morrisville, Pennsylvania. www.historicsummerseat.com