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Historic Havens: 200th Anniversary of The Historic Village at Allaire

By Lori Draz

This year is the 200th anniversary of the Historic Village at Allaire. The complex is a carefully restored and respectfully operated treasure, and this year, the company town, created by James P. Allaire in 1822, will be marking this special birthday with events all year.

Originally known as Howell Works, it operated as an iron production factory from 1822 to 1846. It later became known as the Historic Village at Allaire. Towns like these were often called company towns as they served as self-sufficient villages with everything workers and their families would need to live. There was a school, general store, church, post office, a boarding house and living quarters, farm and stable areas, carpentry and pattern making shop, blacksmith shop, a bakery, a blast furnace, mills to finish iron products, and the “big house,” James Allaire’s home. Remarkably, all these structures have been expertly preserved and are still in active service. A trip to the village allows you to go back in time and experience the economic and social changes of early Industrial America.

Iron produced at the village was shipped to New York City by wagon and steamship. It was used to produce steam engines parts in a factory also owned by proprietor James P. Allaire. The bog iron processing community flourished, housing nearly 500 people who lived and worked there. Then in 1846, iron production ceased when Pennsylvania coal made the bog iron processing business more expensive and less efficient. The town remained populated by workers of nearby farms until 1907, when it was sold to Arthur Brisbane, a noted journalist. Brisbane operated the site as a farm, resort town and as a Boy Scout camp into the 1930s and 1940s. In 1936, Brisbane died, and his family completed his intentions that gifted the property to the State of New Jersey for use as a park. The 13 original buildings on site fell into a state of disrepair until 1957, when the Deserted Village of Allaire, Inc. (now Allaire Village, Inc.) was formed as a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the site. Today, the village operates as a living history museum, located within a state park. The towering four-story General Store operates as the museum’s store and primary gift shop.  

In celebration of the 200th anniversary, the Board of Trustees have announced a robust calendar of events. The village will feature ongoing demonstrations by a carpenter, blacksmith, home and lifeways historical interpreter, and enameling building exhibit hall attendant. An operating general store and food service will be in the Village Bakery and the Pilsen Gourmet Food Truck, or you can bring your own lunch. It’s a big place with paved walkways, so comfortable shoes are recommended. Dogs are allowed. 

On Saturday, June 18, take dad out to the ballgame. See the Monmouth Furnace take on the New York Mutuals in this 1864 Base Ball game. Players wear the original uniforms and use the original equipment as they play with the rules and customs of 1864. It’s a day of old-fashioned entertainment, music, food, fun and the history of America’s favorite sport. 

Fourth of July weekend, see Allaire’s one-of-a-kind American flag collection on display. There will be five rare, historic flags. The oldest flag dates back to before 1840 and was authenticated by the Smithsonian Institute. The weekend also includes a 19th Century Independence Day program. 

On Saturday, July 16, it’s a Happy Birthday Party for the founder, Mr. Allaire. There will be all kinds of special historical demonstrations, more than a dozen early 19th century craft guilds at the village, children’s games/activities, tours of the historic homes and craft shops and more. 

On Sunday, Aug. 21, the village will host the 27th annual Antique Rolling Iron Auto Show. This is one of the best antique car shows on the Jersey Shore, featuring antique cars, firetrucks, motorcycles and other vehicles. This family-friendly event includes spectacular show cars, a DJ, food from Pilsen Gourmet and Your Sister’s Balls Food Trucks, quilting, and other historic demonstrations. The cost is $5 per car. No general admission fee will be charged this day.

The Historic Village at Allaire also holds monthly History Kids Day and monthly Flea Markets with plenty more events like fall festivals, Halloween and lantern tours and a Victorian Christmas being planned. Private group tours can be scheduled too. 

The village has expanded hours this year; it is open Wednesday through Sunday 11 am to 4 pm, April through November. The Historic Village at Allaire is located at 4263 Atlantic Ave. in Farmingdale. For more information, contact the Allaire Village office during business hours, Tuesday through Friday, at 732-919-3500 and visit Admission is free on weekdays, and weekend general admission is just $5. Some extra fees for special events may apply.

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