This shoreline was settled by two groups of English Quakers in 1677, one from Yorkshire and the other from London. High Street (the traditional English name for a town's main street) was laid out with lots to the east for the Yorkshiremen and lots to the west for the men of London. A gristmill and a sawmill were quickly established and by 1681 the Colonial Assembly had designated the fledgling settlement as the capital of the province of West New Jersey and the official port of entry. By the mid-1700s Burlington ranked with New York, Philadelphia and Boston as one of the busiest ports in the country.
As a Colonial political center, Burlington attracted many political figures. During the American Revolution, in stark contrast to, and defiance of, his famous father, William Franklin was Royal Governor and the most intractable of Tory Royalists, until his arrest. Today's riverfront residential area is called Green Bank and was his estate. As the shipping trade waned through the 1800s that riverfront reverted from industry back to its natural beauty and began attracting Philadelphians as a summer resort.
Burlington saw it share of industrial development through the years. The first iron plow made in America was crafted in 1797 by Burlington resident Charles Newbold. More than a quarter-million mulberry trees were planted in 1838 to jump-start a silk industry - a spring cold snap the next year short-circuited the enterprise. James Birch was a world-renowned carriage builder in the days before the automobile. But no great industry or employer emerged to energize modern development in Burlington. The county seat followed the population inland to Mount Holly in 1793 and much of the town west of the railroad tracks that split Broad Street in 1834 maintains the feel of a Colonial port.
Our walking tour will begin on the banks of the Delaware River and then follow the patterned brick sidewalks frequented by American luminaries from Benjamin Franklin to Ulysses S. Grant...
WALK SOUTH ALONG THE RIVERFRONT PROMENADE.
Beginning in the 1700s, the Doron family operated a ferry between the industrial towns of Bristol and Burlington. The ferry, whose charter had been granted by Queen Anne, operated continuously under family ownership for two centuries. However, the ferry often shut down during inclement weather. That problem was solved in 1931 with the opening of this two-lane bridge after only 13 months of construction. The original plan caused for the Delaware River to be spanned via Burlington Island but the U.S. War Department considered it too close to the original location to the Keystone Flying Field so it was moved one mile downstream. The innovative design for the bridge called for flanking truss sections approaching a vertical lift that could be raised to provide a clearance of 138 feet, high enough for the tallest vessels of the time to navigate up the Delaware. When the bridge opened, cars paid 35 cents to cross the span, pedestrians a dime.
This private educational institution was established by Episcopal Bishop George Washington Doane in 1837 as a school for girls. That first year, the enrollment was 52. Tuition was $100 per semester with an added charge of $6.00 for bedding. The 10-acre campus, listed on the National Register of Historical Places, features three ivy-covered stone buildings and a chapel.
TURN AND WALK BACK DOWN RIVERBANK, AWAY FROM THE BRIDGE.
Riverbank and Talbot streets
At the foot of Talbot Street a bustling shipyard was established as early as 1698. Sea-going ships were launched here in the days before the Delaware silted so heavily that no deep-keeled ship could reach the site of the old wharf. The last Royal Governor of New Jersey, William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin, built a mansion named Greenbank here. His politics opposed those of his father, unto death. At 202 Riverbank the early 19th century home of Judge Edward Shippen typifies the elegant houses lining the Riverbank, often used as summer retreats from the poisonous air of Philadelphia. His daughter Peggy married Benedict Arnold and he struggled to keep her in a lifestyle to which she was accustomed, perhaps, some speculate, triggering his betrayal against America as he tried to sell West Point. Across Talbot Street is Stone Cottage, a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture designed by architect William Strickland, a leading proponent of the Greek Revival style in America and an early practitioner of Gothic styles. It was the home of Cortlandt van Rensselaer, founder of the Presbyterian Church in Burlington.
Ship Shield Site
Riverbank, between Talbot and Wood streets
On this site, the ship Shield came to Burlington and tied up to a large buttonwood tree on December 10, 1678. Legend states it was so cold that overnight the river froze, and the passengers walked ashore on the ice. The “Shield” of Stockton was the first ship to navigate the Delaware River from the Atlantic Ocean to Burlington, setting the stage for Burlington’s eventual emergence as the third largest port in the New World.
46 Riverbank Street
Henry Grubb operated the first tavern in Burlington and his family was later involved in mining and manufacturing. This estate contained a tannery, a brewery and a brickyard. The Grubbs were abolitionists and reportedly built tunnels under their home to the river to hide escaped slaves. Henry's grandson Edward Burd Grubb, enlisted in the 3rd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry in May 1861 to promote the Union cause n the Civil War. He was wounded in action, promoted several times, and on March 13, 1865 he became, at age 24, the second youngest general in the Union Army. Several decades after the war ended, Grubb would be appointed United States Minister to Spain. In 1872 Grubb retained another Civil War veteran, Frank Furness to create a "cottage" and matching guest residence on this corner. Furness was Philadelphia's leading Victorian architect with nearly 650 designs to his credit, including several of the city's most prominent structures.
TURN RIGHT ON WOOD STREET.
213 Wood Street
This small brick house, laid in Flemish bond of alternating headers and stretchers, stands as the oldest building in Burlington County, and one of the oldest residences in New Jersey. It was constructed in 1685 by George Hutchinson, a wealthy Quaker distiller, and sold to Thomas Revell who used the house as an office from 1696 to 1699. Tradition places this as the home where Benjamin Franklin was sold gingerbread and given supper by a friendly Burlington woman on his way to Philadelphia. Thus, it is sometimes called the Gingerbread House.
222 Wood Street
This was the home of the Gemmere brothers, John and Samuel, prominent members of the Society of Friends. Distinguished scholars, they, with Dr. John Griscom of Burlington, played an important part in the establishment of Pennsylvania’s Haverford College in 1833. The house dates to the early 1720s.
TURN LEFT ON UNION STREET.
Library Company of Burlington
23 West Union Street
The Library Company of Burlington was chartered in 1757 by King George II. It is the oldest library in continuous operation in New Jersey, only six are older in the whole of the United States. The building dates to 1789, the first library building in the state. It was the first library in the country to publish a catalog of its books. Originally, over 70 individuals promised to pay 10 shillings a year to maintain and increase the library, the first patron was William Franklin.
TURN RIGHT DOWN THE LANE ACROSS FROM THE LIBRARY.
Woolman Carriage House
23 Smith Lane
Tucked in the center of town, behind the main streets, this 1870s carriage house stabled the horses of the Woolman family who were prominent in West Jersey business affairs. This building is the City of Burlington Historical Society’s Headquarters, the interior stables and lofts are original.
TURN RIGHT DOWN SMITH LANE OUT TO WOOD STREET. TURN RIGHT.
Ulysses S. Grant House
309 Wood Street
Seeking a quiet, safe place for his family during the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant sent his wife, Julia, and their children to Burlington in September of 1864. The connection seems to have been Captain Miner K. Knowlton, a retired army officer who resided at Wood and West Union streets. Knowlton had been an instructor at West Point when General Grant was a cadet. Grant visited his family in the Italianate 1856 house, amid great acclaim and celebration, prior to victories at Vicksburg and the Battles of the Wilderness. The Grant children were enrolled at Burlington college and often seen around town on ponies sent to them by their father from Vicksburg, Mississippi. On April 14, 1865 the Grants were en route from Washington to Burlington after declining an invitation to attend the play Our American Cousin with the Lincolns at Ford Theatre. Grant gave as his reason his promise to escort Mrs. Grant to Burlington to be with their children but the undisguised frostiness of Mary Lincoln towards Julia Grant may have played a part. Grant received the news that President Lincoln had been shot earlier that evening at midnight in Philadelphia while awaiting a ferry to Camden to complete the final leg of his journey home. The General completed the trip with his wife, turned around, and dashed back to Philadelphia in time to catch a 6:00 am special train back to Washington.
Old St. Mary's Episcopal Church
northwest corner of Wood Street and West Broad Street
Constructed in 1703, this is the oldest Episcopal Church in New Jersey is Old St. Mary’s. The early Georgian building is covered in stucco with white wood trim. The roof is topped by a modest, louvered lantern. To this day the congregation uses a silver communion service that was a gift from Queen Anne before 1713. Despite that, during the American Revolution, this church served as the focal point of the activities of the American Loyalists.
New St. Mary's Church
West Broad Street
The Episcopalian congregation moved into this church in 1854, designed by Richard Upjohn, architect of New York's Trinity Church and the country's leading proponent of the Gothic Revival style. This church is one the earliest and important examples of Gothic architecture in America. St. Mary’s churchyard is the resting place of prominent citizens including Governor Joseph Bloomfield, President of the Continental Congress Elias Boudinot, and several United States congressmen.
St. Mary's Guild Hall
northeast corner of West Broad Street and Talbot Street
The Guild Hall has served the community since 1799, from acting as a hospital, a soup kitchen, to meeting hall, and more.
207 West Broad Street
Elias Boudinot was a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Congress and when America officially gained its independence in 1783 he was serving as president of the body and so he signed the Treaty of Paris. As such he stands in the rogue's gallery of characters holding a claim to the honor of being first "President of the United States" in the pre-constitutional election days. Boudinot served in the United States Congress from 1789–95, as a Supreme court lawyer, Director of the U.S. Mint, and founder of the American Bible Society. He was also a trustee of what is now Princeton University. He built this brick mansion in the late 1790s. His daughter, the wife of the first United States Attorney General, William Bradford, lived here her entire life.
CROSS THE RAILROAD TRACKS AND WALK BACK DOWN BROAD STREET, TOWARDS TOWN CENTER.
130-136 West Broad Street
This trio of early Federal-style frame houses was built in 1799.
100-102 W. Broad Street
This large Federal-style house, now clearly converted into a double house, was built in 1813 by Joseph McIlvaine. In 1820 his son, Charles, became the Episcopal Bishop of Ohio. Earlier, when 17 years of age, Charles founded the first United Sunday School in New Jersey. In 1864, Mary and Margaret McIlvaine donated the bells to St. Marys Episcopal Church.
TURN RIGHT ON HIGH STREET AND STAY ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE ROAD.
Henry Carey House
406 High Street
At the core this three-story brick building is the oldest extant construction in the City of Burlington, a home built around 1680 by Thomas Olive, a town founder and one-time acting governor of West Jersey. Famous 18th century residents were international trader Richard Smith, Jr., and his son Richard Smith, a member of the Continental Congress who resigned because of his Quaker vows of nonviolence when war with Great Britain was imminent. A notable 19th century inhabitant was Henry C. Carey, an early political economist and muckraker.
432 High Street
Lyceum Hall was constructed in 1839 as a public hall for lectures, theatrical productions and cultural programs. It was given to the City in 1851, and housed the municipal government for 140 years. Most present residents know it as Old City Hall. In 1910, the hall was remodeled and stylistically updated under the direction of architect Henry Armitt Brown. The building, once again a cultural center for the arts, is the best example of Neoclassical Revival architecture in the City.
CONTINUE TO FEDERAL STREET AND CROSS OVER HIGH STREET. TURN LEFT AND WALK DOWN THE NOTH SIDE OF THE STREET.
Captain James Lawrence House
459 High Street
James Lawrence was born in this 1740s house in 1781. At 16 Lawrence entered the United States Navy as a midshipman on the U.S.S. Ganges. During the War of 1812 Lawrence, as commander the U.S.S. Chesapeake tangled with the H.M.S. Shannon outside of Boston.. After taking a terrible battering, the Chesapeake was boarded and Captain Lawrence, who had been mortally wounded, shouted to his men, “Tell the men to fire faster and not to give up the ship; fight her till she sinks!”. This became paraphrased as, “Don’t Give Up the Ship”, and was sewn onto a flag, becoming the motto of the U.S. Navy. There have been six American vessels commissioned in his honor. He is buried in New York City.
457 High Street
William and Elizabeth Cooper were renting this house on September 15, 1789 when Elizabeth gave birth here to a son, James. Shortly after the infant's first birthday the family packed for upstate New York where William, later to be a United States Congressman, founded the village of Cooperstown. Young James was at Yale by age 13 and at sea as a merchant seaman a few years later. He published his first book in 1820 and three years later introduced Natty Bumppo, the prototypical resourceful American woodsman, to readers in the Leatherstocking series. James Fenimore Cooper's most famous novel, Last of the Mohicans, was published three years later and his place among the most popular of early 19th century American novelists secure.
453 High Street
This building was probably constructed about 1743 by Bennett and Sarah Pattison Bard. It is the earliest of the historic houses maintained by the Burlington County Historical Society, which includes the neighboring Cooper House and Lawrence House. Samuel How, Sr. purchased the house in 1756. He was an Inferior Court of Common Pleas Justice, and a representative to the Provincial Congress of New Jersey. In 1782 the house was passed to his sons Samuel, Jr. and John.
427 High Street
This cast iron statue was erected in 1881 and served as the centerpiece of the Birch Opera House which once stood here. The "Messenger of the Gods" was plucked from its former home when it was razed to make room, appropriately, for the new post office. The figure is believed to have been cast in England and is a copy of a sixteenth century work by Flemish sculptor Jean Boulogne. Now resplendent in gold leaf, it stands atop a base inscribed ‘BIRCH 1881’' for the year it was placed at the Opera House.
415 High Street
This was originally the home of Joseph Bloomfield, a Captain in the American Revolution, Chief Justice of the New Jersey Vice-Admiralty Court, and Mayor of Burlington. From 1800 to 1812, he served as Governor of New Jersey and during the War of 1812 he was commissioned as a Brigadier General. Before his political career, as a lawyer Bloomfield successfully defended the American patriots who burned British tea at Greenwich, New Jersey. The house received its fashionable Second Empire mansard roof when owned by James Birch. Birch built his first carriage repair shop in 1867 and eventually he was producing more than200 models of carriages exported around the globe from his three-story factory in East Burlington. Henry Ford visited the Birch factory and offered to have automobile bodies built in Burlington. Birch refused, believing there would always be a market for carriages and the automobile business was suspect.
AT BROAD STREET MAKE YOUR WAY ACROSS TO THE SOUTHWEST CORNER OF HIGH STREET.
Mechanics National Bank
southwest corner of High Street and Broad Street
This Neoclassical bank was constructed in 1926 on the site of the historic Blue Anchor Tavern, established in 1750. This famous hostelry was used as a public house where food, drink, lodging and a place to meet and exchange ideas were available to locals, and visitors. During the Revolution, this building served both Colonial and British forces. A stage line ran from the Blue Anchor to points north. Republicans utilized this building as a headquarters during Abraham Lincoln’s presidential political campaign. The bar within is the site of a legendary arm-wrestling match between candidate Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.
CONTINUE WALKING DOWN HIGH STREET, TOWARDS THE RIVER.
341 High Street
This building’s location has been the meeting place of area Quakers for over 300 years. The original seats and tables built during the Revolution are still in use in this building that was completed in 1785. The original hexagonal meetinghouse was used from 1685 to 1785. Among the noteworthies interred in the burial grounds behind the building are founder of Bryn Mawr College Joseph Taylor, printer Isaac Collins, and missionary Stephen Grellet. Under a huge sycamore is a plaque and stone marking the grave of Chief Ockanickon, Chief of the Mantas tribe of the Lenape, and an early Native American friend of the settlers. A boulder near the tree bears his mark, and a bronze plaque with his last words: “Be plain and fair to all, both Indian and Christian, as I have been.” Nearby, on Broad Street, is the West New Jersey Proprietors Office, a tiny one-room red brick building that contains rare documents relating to the establishment of West Jersey by William Penn.
Nathaniel Coleman House
320 High Street
Coleman, a Quaker, was a silversmith, whose work is toady prized by collectors. He lived here for nearly a half a century after he moved in during 1793. The Friendly Institution, a local charitable society, was organized in this building on December 14, 1796. The Friendly Society continues doing good, charitable work to this day, over 200 years later.
Richard Smith House
315 High Street
The earliest parts of this building date to 1700 when it was constructed for Richard Smith, a physician. The Smiths evolved one of colonial Burlington’s largest and most influential families. Richard Jr. was an international trader and representative to the Provincial Assembly and built the Blue Anchor Tavern. His son Richard Smith, Esq. also served in the Assembly and served one term in the Continental Congress before resigning based on his Quaker opposition to the Revolutionary War. Later the building housed William R. Allen, a Whig, who served two terms as mayor, and for whom a school was named.
301 High Street
This is the New Jersey’s oldest pharmacy in continuous operation. It was once a center of anti-slavery activity in town; poet John Greenleaf Whittier denounced slavery from its doorstep, and oral tradition has it that tunnels under this building hid slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. Isaac Collins, the royal printer, lived in this building from 1770 to 1778.
TURN RIGHT ON UNION STREET.
Endeavor Fire Co.
19 E. Union Street
Organized in 1795, the Endeavor is the oldest fire company in New Jersey operating under the same name. Each original member was required to obtain a bucket, a ladder and axe, and to pass a morals test. The spire once topped the original Town Hall and Market House which was on High Street at Union.
RETURN TO HIGH STREET AND TURN RIGHT, TOWARDS THE RIVER.
John Howard Pugh House
214 High Street
Known as the Counting House, this building was created after 1768 from two houses built in the first decades of the 18th century. It was then occupied by Samuel Allinson, author of a state laws compilation, and a member of the Friends prominent in local anti-slavery movements. His grandson, William J. Allinson, opened the Burlington Pharmacy. John Howard Pugh altered the Georgian house when he moved here in the 1850s. During the Civil War, he served without compensation at the U.S. General Hospital in nearby Beverly. After the war, he served in the House of Representatives, resumed his medical practice, was president of the Mechanics’ National Bank of Burlington, and served on the State Board of Education. Pugh lived here until 1905.
Temple B’nai Israel
212 High Street
One of South Jerseys oldest synagogues, Temple B’Nai Israel was established 1916 and occupies this 1801 Federal-style structure.. Originally built for Lydia Ritche, it was later the home of U.S. Senator Garret Wall and his son, James, first mayor of the City of Burlington under the 1851 charter. The building became the residence of the McNeal family, founders of U.S. Pipe and Foundry Company, and an adopted daughter, Marguerite V. Burton. Marguerite married a German baron in 1912 and later a German diplomat’s son in 1917, provoking a duel between them, and inciting international controversy during World War I. Just to the west was the location of the Isaac Collins' print shop. Collins arrived in Burlington in the 1760s and established himself as a printer of the first degree. His accomplishments included the state’s first weekly newspaper, The New Jersey Gazette, superb almanacs, and several editions of the Holy Bible. Ben Franklin used America’s first copperplate press here to print New Jersey’s first colonial currency.
202 High Street
This colonial period structure has been restored as a model for restoration and preservation throughout the City of Burlington. There have been several archeological digs, where pottery, jars, and tools have been uncovered.
Hope Steam Fire Company No. 1
High Street at Delaware Avenue
In the mid-1800s, a series of consolidations took place among fire companies in Burlington. The Washington Engine Company and Hope Hose Company consolidated in 1849 as the Washington Engine and Hope Hose Company, and reorganized in 1850 as the Hope Hose Company. After merging with the Fulton Engine Company in 1869, fires were fought from a headquarters across the street until this building was constructed in 1967. The weathervane that sits on the domed steeple is a depiction of the horse-drawn fire wagons used in its early days.
The Liberty Belle
Delaware River at foot of High Street
This 118-foot sternwheeler plies the Delaware River as a venue for special events.
The first recorded settlement in New Jersey places Europeans on this island in 1624. They were Walloons from Belgium who established a trading post to barter with the local Indians. The first murder in recorded New Jersey history took place on this island in the 1670s when two Indians murdered two Dutchmen. Since 1682 one of the oldest trustees in the nation, the Board of Island Managers, has administered funds from part of the island for the education of City students.
TURN LEFT AND WALK DOWNSTREAM ON THE RIVERFRONT PROMENADE TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.