Founded September 2003
The Bridgeton Renaissance League
"Promoting the Arts, History, and Beautification of Bridgeton"
A Section 501(c)(3) non profit organization
The City of Bridgeton
A signature of Bridgeton's historic downtown business district. Once a bustling center for entertainment, commerce, and services, Bridgeton's downtown is poised for revitalization. Gorgeous historic buildings line the downtown creating one of the most visually beautiful business districts in New Jersey. Our Main Street Association is working to improve our downtown economic climate through the use of grants and informational resources.
The City of Bridgeton boasts the largest historic district in the State of New Jersey, if not the entire United States. Our National Register Historic District includes over 2,000 historic structures comprising nearly one third of the City's housing stock. Located on 616 acres of land, Bridgeton's historic district is nearly four times as large as that of Cape May's and contains some of the most unique and important examples of historic architecture spanning over 250 years.
The Hannan House was built by an influential businessman in Bridgeton society during 1914. Attributed to the famous architect, Wilson Eyre, it is considered one of the finest examples of Scottish influenced Dutch Colonial style in the nation. Budding architects from all over the country have studied the home's proportions and unique use of windows.
In 1979 a growing concern to preserve the unique character of Bridgeton emerged and it was then that a formal inventory of our historic properties was compiled and submitted for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register Historic District was formally accepted in 1982 and this fueled a movement to preserve the irreplaceable historic architecture which is the backbone of Bridgeton. Despite the establishment of our "Historic Commission", many of Bridgeton's valuable historic properties have been damaged due to neglect or inappropriate standards in the repair and upkeep of the structures. Some have been converted to multi family dwellings or apartments without adhering to the District standards. Thus, placing the very survival of our treasured historic properties in jeopardy. Some, faced with the pressures imposed by commercial interests, have even proposed that we do away with our historic district entirely.
Our historic architecture is not a renewable resource and must be preserved for the many generations to come. It is indeed our duty and obligation to do so and it is a non dischargeable responsibility. The League holds this ideal for the City and its future.
And so the story goes...
Bridgeton was settled in 1686 by Mr. Richard Hancock who built a sawmill and several workmen's houses along the Cohansey River. In 1716, a bridge was built crossing over the river and the settlement became known as Cohansey Bridge. In 1749, Cohansey Bridge became the County seat with all of its 15 buildings in tow.
By the time of the American Revolution, Bridgetown, as it was then called, had 200 inhabitants. Potter's Tavern and Ebenezer Miller's House remain from pre-Revolutionary times as well as numerous others on the north side of Vine Street. Potter's Tavern is a regular in our featured properties each year when we host our Christmas Historic House Tour.
Potter's Tavern was a popular meeting place just prior to the Revolution. In 1775 at Christmas time, patriots published a manuscript newspaper called "The Plain Dealer" at Potter's Tavern. The first newspaper ever printed in New Jersey. Dedicated to the cause of liberty, it called for separation from the crown rule. Matthew Potter, Tavern keeper, risking charge of treason, thus became one of the unsung heroes of the Revolution.
Bridgeton was quite the booming city in 1838 with 2,387 residents and nearly 500 buildings. The post Civil War era up to the turn of the century marked the greatest growth for Bridgeton. Bridgeton had reached a total population of almost 9,000 residents with many prosperous businessmen having built quite expensive and most elaborate homes as an expression of their station in life.
Abundance and prosperity permeated every aspect of business and social life for the residents. In Bridgeton's heydays our downtown was spotted with opera & theatre houses with doormen dressed in formal uniforms donning their white gloves. Every shop was a buzz with ice cream and confectioneries, haberdasheries, department stores of every conceivable shape and size. Downtown was the place to be for families and couples. It was where you would find everyone on a cold winter's morning or in the warm summer days.
Major economic shifts created a ripple effect placing many Bridgetonians out of work in the 1970's and 'trickle down economics' had a dire impact on everyone. Homes that couldn't be sold were converted and rented. Historic property after historic property was stripped of its uniqueness to match the pocketbooks of the investor. Some properties escaped this outcome and have remained as family homes for generation upon generation. However, once converted to rentals many of the properties have remained that way to this very day. Over the years of sacrificing the unique details for the sake of economy, many of these properties barely resemble their former selves.
But we believe there's a better way...
A quaint vista found in Bridgeton's downtown business district
We take care of that which we cherish. The Bridgeton Renaissance League supports the preservation of its historic architecture and strongly opposes the relinquishment of our National Register Historic District. Some say that the condition of Bridgeton's historic housing stock is a reflection of the ineffectiveness of the District and its Historic Commission. We believe otherwise.
A community is built on respect for one another, our sense of community, and our laws. Apply those laws as they concern our historic properties at every turn and what was lost will be found once again.
We are committed to preserving our treasured historic architecture and invite you to join The Renaissance League in its cause to preserve our historic treasures.
The 21st Century Bridgeton is a town filled with opportunity and unlimited resources available for economic development. The trickle down economic impact of the late 70's and throughout the 80's has left our downtown in a state of flux. However, there is no doubt that Bridgeton's downtown is perhaps one of the most picturesque business districts in the State of New Jersey, if not the entire nation. It has an overwhelming majority of its original landscape which creates a natural ambiance. Poised for revitalization, our downtown business district represents one of the most advantageous locations for service, retail, and professional businesses as well as an ideal resource for satellite offices for corporations. Several large planned developments are making their way to our area with development beginning in 2006 creating unprecedented demands for goods, services and entertainment. Inquiries to The Bridgeton Main Street Association, The Bridgeton Chamber of Commerce, and the City's Economic Development offices will steer you in the right direction for information on grants and other business incentives.
To understand the countless amenities one needs to come to Bridgeton and take a look around. The Bridgeton City Park is an amazing sight to behold. The Cohansey River actually continues through the park creating something known as the Bridgeton raceway. In the 1800's it was the place to be, dotted with ladies and gentlemen rowing along underneath the canopy of large trees. In the 20's through the 40's they would hang Chinese lanterns from their boats and proceed down the river to Sunset Lake. It was known as The Bridgeton Regatta. The very idea of it is magical.
A free public zoo with White Tigers, bears, reptiles, goats and birds of all kinds in a unique, picturesque environment. The New Sweden Farmstead Museum is nestled in the park. It is an actual recreation of a 17th Century Swedish settlement. While the museum isn't open to the public on a regular basis, the League offers a special event at Christmas each year.
Bridgeton Zoo: The First Zoo in New Jersey
Free Admission Open to the Public
The Bridgeton Zoo is, to our knowledge, one of the only remaining free public zoos. A pair of White Tigers are on loan to the City zoo and have been here since they were cubs. Brought to us by our sister city in Sweden, they have been virtually raised here. Everything from bears, goats, peacocks, exotic birds, reptiles, and...believe it or not...Reindeer! Each year as the holiday season approaches our Reindeer hook up with Santa Claus for a special event for the children. Remember, this zoo is free. The zoo has countless special events throughout the year including Boo at the Zoo, which is a special Halloween event for children of all ages. Park benches and tables, ponds and ducks everywhere. This zoo is owned and operated by the City of Bridgeton through the assistance of the Bridgeton Zoological Society. You can become a member or even 'adopt' an animal in support of the zoo and for the care of the animals.
The New Sweden Farmstead Museum
17th Century Swedish Christmas December 2, 2006
Nestled in the center of the City park is an outstanding museum. It is an actual replica...recreation...of a 17th Century Swedish village. Every log building was created in the exact manner as the originals. From the choice of lumber to the methods and tools. Everything was recreated exactly at it was.
This amazing site was built in 1987 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the colonists in 1638 and was dedicated by their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden. Our friends from Sweden sent a team of experts to supervise the construction of the site consisting of seven log cabin structures with authentic fireplaces, chimneys and furnace for the blacksmith shop.
As the story goes, in 1638 just eighteen years after the arrival of the Pilgrims, the Swedes and ethnic Finns arrived in Delaware on the ships the Kalmer Nyckel and Fogel Grip to found a colony in the New World. Although the colony existed under the control of the Swedes for only 17 years, the Swedish people were remarkable among European colonists for their ability to live peacefully among the indigenous Lenni Lenape peoples, with whom they truly shared the lands and resources. The New Sweden Colony is truly a success story in the history of European/Native American relations.
The New Sweden Farmstead Museum stands today as a historical remembrance of the history of the Swedish Finnish people in early America and as one of the most important opportunities for the continued preservation of Swedish culture in the United States today.
Housing Stock: More to Offer
In Bridgeton a 1700's and an 1800's mansion is still a dream that can be realized. Many homes in Bridgeton have been passed down from generation to generation making them some of the finest opportunities for the homebuyer searching for a historic property to call home. Mansions dot our landscape. Some are in move in condition. Others may be in need of a complete restoration, but whatever way you look at it Bridgeton affords the homebuyer with unlimited possibilities to enjoy a way of life that has been priced out of many a homebuyer's pocketbook in other areas. Like every town that's had its hard knocks, Bridgeton has parts of its town that are in better condition than others. However, there has been increased interest from all over the country for redevelopment and revitalization of our historic properties, making an investment in one of our jewels a wise decision. But, as demand increases so does the price for these magnificent structures. So, we invite you to come to Bridgeton and tour all of our neighborhoods to find the mansion or the historic fixer upper you are yearning for.
A public school system is augmented by a series of well respected private schools. Tree lined streets create a wonderful canopy in some of our most notable neighborhoods. Some of the best known for their popularity during the 1800's and today are the West Commerce Street, Lake Street, and West Avenue areas with an amazing collection of larger homes, mansions, and family homes. To understand the beauty of Bridgeton, one must explore...and explore with an open mind and imagination. Imagine living in one of these magnificent homes.
Each year, hundreds of visitors come to explore these homes during our annual Christmas Historic House Tour held in December of each year. Visitors are often astounded by what they see. The beauty of these homes is unimaginable.
Realize your aspirational dream for an exceptional residence...one that is wholly unique, with us here...in Bridgeton.