History Lessons
Step back in time and explore SJ’s past
By Erin Bell

You don’t have to be sitting behind a desk to get a great history lesson. Several SJ sites take visitors back in time for interactive, out-of-the-ordinary encounters with our past. Grab the family and head out for an historical experience everyone will enjoy.

OPEN--Whitall-House-2Red Bank Battlefield and Whitall House
100 Hessian Avenue, National Park
856-853-5120
whitall.org
Hours: Daily from sunrise to sunset
Cost: Free
A decisive Revolutionary War battle was won right on this Gloucester County site when patriot forces, though greatly outnumbered, defeated Hessian troops. Stroll through the riverfront battlefield and explore the stone forts and walls that fortified General George Washington’s men.

The stately Whithall House is also open for tours (April through October). The home, which was built in 1748, housed the wounded after the battle, and residents James and Ann Whitall helped nurse the injured soldiers. The park offers pathways along the Delaware River and plenty of spots for picnicking, as well as a children’s play area.

Fun Fact: The Whithalls were Quakers and refused to sell their land to the military, so the Army seized it.

 

Lucy the Elephant
Lucy-29200 Atlantic Avenue, Margate
609-823-6473
lucytheelephant.org
Hours: Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 4 pm (through March), with tours every 30 minutes
Cost: $4 for ages 3 to 12, $8 for ages 13 and up

She’s been a staple of Shore skyline since 1881, but Lucy the Elephant is more than just a family-friendly tourist attraction. Once a restaurant, business office, cottage and tavern (which was closed by Prohibition), Lucy has been visited by thousands of onlookers, including famous folks like Woodrow Wilson and Henry Ford.

Today, visitors to the six-story metal structure can walk up Lucy’s 130 steps (her legs!) and into her rooms and living quarters (her stomach!). Step inside the carriage on her back for panoramic views of Margate, the Atlantic City skyline and the Atlantic Ocean. And then learn about Lucy’s construction (she’s made of nearly one million pieces of wood!), how she was moved to her current location, and the storms and fires that almost wiped her out completely in the 1960s.

Fun Fact: On clear days, Lucy can be seen from eight miles away.

 

indian-king-6Indian King Tavern Museum
233 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield
856-429-6792
levins.com/tavern.html
Hours: Saturdays from 10 am to noon and 1 to 4 pm; call for additional availabilities
Cost: Free

As the American Revolutionary War was raging in 1777, government officials who were forced to evacuate their offices in battle-ravaged Trenton gathered at the Indian King Tavern in Haddonfield. It was here they enacted the law that officially changed New Jersey from a colony into a state – a move that was followed by a toast of ale.

These days, you can tour the rooms, including the bed First Lady Dolley Madison is said to have slept in, and peruse the tavern’s collection of historical items. Throughout the year, the tavern hosts live music concerts, where musicians in historical dress play traditional Colonial songs on the harp, fiddle, flute and trumpet. The tavern no longer serves food or drinks, but it is convenient to several Haddonfield restaurants where you can refuel when you’re done with your tour.

Fun Fact: The tavern was named after the leader of a Lenni Lenape village, who European settlers called the “Indian King.”

 

burlingtonprison-1Burlington County Prison Museum
128 High Street, Mount Holly
609-518-7667
prisonmuseum.net
Hours: Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm; Sundays from noon to 4 pm
Cost: $4 for adults, $2 for students and seniors

It held debtors and criminals alike, and some people maintain that the historic building and its grounds are haunted by the spirits of former prisoners – the museum was even featured on an episode of Syfy channel’s “Ghost Hunters.” If you dare, you can tour the small cells, complete with their original doors, and learn what prison life was like. Originally designed to house approximately 40 prisoners, the structure was in constant use until 1965.

During tours, you’ll also hear how you can help participate in research and data compilation to fill in the missing holes in the history of the Burlington County Prison.

Fun Fact: It took $24,201.13 to construct the prison in 1811. That amount would have paid for about a third of a single cell in Burlington County’s current jail.

 

February 2014
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