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Historic Havens: New Year’s Resolution

By Lori Draz

New Jersey has some of the oldest historic destinations in the nation, all within a short drive. Make a make a New Year’s resolution to see history up close and personal as you learn more about the glorious Garden State. 

This Historic Havens offers 12 locations to visit, in no particular order. Of course, there are many more. Even if you only get to a few, you will be amazed at what New Jersey holds. 

Spring Lake Community House and Spring Lake Theatre Company 

In addition to the theater, you can also see the refined Brown and Potter Community rooms, the Upper Gallery art gallery, the library and more. This is located at 300 Madison Ave. in Spring Lake. To learn more, visit SpringLakeTheatre.com or call 732-449-4530.

Monmouth County Historic Society 

The Monmouth County Historic Society Headquarters in Freehold has more than 35,000 artifacts from three centuries, plus rotating exhibits, live and virtual lectures and an incredible virtual catalogue of historic clothing and items. To learn more, visit MonmouthHistory.org. 

Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City

Music lovers, this is home to the largest pipe organ and musical instrument in the world, as noted by the Guinness Book of World Records. Daily tours and concerts are held from May through August. To learn more, visit BoardwalkOrgans.org or call 609-402-9584.

First Presbyterian Church of Rumson

Established in 1861, this church features dramatic architectural features, vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows. It is located at 4 East River Rd. in Rumson. To learn more, visit RumsonPresbyterian.org or call 732-842-0429.

InfoAge Science & History Center

This is a historic and scientific complex has more than two dozen museums, an educational resource center and much more. The main campus is located at 2201 Marconi Road in Wall. To learn more, visit InfoAge.org or call 732-280-3000.

Historic Longstreet Farm 

Experience farm life in the 1890s at this living history farm, complete animals and guides in period attire who perform daily life chores and tours. It is located at 44 Longstreet Rd. in Holmdel. To learn more, call 732-946-3758.

Twin Lighthouses

With two side-by-side lighthouses sitting on the highest point on the East Coast, you can’t miss this spot. The museum and gift shop have new collections and items for 2024. You can take a tour, climb the towers or simply enjoy the bird’s eye views. It is located at 2 Lighthouse Rd. in Highlands. To learn more, visit TwinLightsLighthouse.org or call 732-872-1814.  

Historic Portland Place 

This is a great spring/summer stop. There are flowering trees and gardens, the historic Portland Place home and restored barn, and a beautiful Visitors Center including valuable art from the Hartshorne family collection and those sweeping views of the Navesink. It is located at 200 Hartshorne Rd. in Middletown. To learn more, visit MonmouthCountyParks.org.   

Poricy Park/Murray Farmhouse

This is a great family spot which includes open spaces and walking trails, a Nature Center with restrooms, the circa-1770 Murray Farmhouse and Fossil Excavating at their fossil beds. It is located at 345 Oak Hill Rd. in Red Bank. To learn more, visit MiddletownNJ.org or call 732-615-2260.

Parker Homestead 

This dates back to 1661, and it is a remarkable work of historic restoration. Stroll the grounds and on selected days take tours. The Parker Homestead is located at 235 Rumson Rd. in Little Silver. To learn more, visit ParkerHomestead1665.org.

The T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center 

This is the home of T. Thomas Fortune, one of the most influential African American journalists and newspaper publishers. It is located at 94 Drs. James Parker Blvd. in Red Bank. To learn more, call 732-383-5483.

Colts Neck General Store

This breakfast, lunch and bakery hub is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. It is located at 171 Route 537, next to the Colts Neck Steakhouse. To learn more, call 732-462-5185. 

One of the great introductions to area history is the Monmouth County Park’s System’s A Weekend in Old Monmouth. Dates for 2024 have not been released, but the event is traditionally held on the last weekend of April. During this weekend, nearly all county historic sites waive their admissions. Most locations feature docents in period attire who tell you all about the history and perform demonstrations and activities, making it a great way to sample lots of historic places in just a few days. 

Should you wish to really get involved in preserving history, there are a number of wonderful historical societies you can join. The new kid on the block is the Sea Bright Historical Society’s Museum at 1167 Ocean Ave. in the Ceil Norton Recreation Center. It just opened in November 2023, and it houses many photographs and some artifacts including the original plaque from the old Sea Bright Public School #6. The current exhibit is The Early History of Sea Bright. It is open Wednesday and Saturday from 11 am through 3 pm with extended hours and days in the summer months. Director Chris Doxey welcomes new members and volunteers. To learn more, email chrisdoxey@verizon.net or call 732-673-9730.

The Middletown Township Historical Society currently offers monthly virtual and in-person seminars at the Middletown Library. There is also an exhibit space in town hall, 1 Kings Highway, that is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4:30 pm. The current exhibit is historic postcards. New members, donations and volunteers are welcome, so visit MiddletownNJHistory.org to learn more. 

The friendly Shrewsbury Historical Society is a warehouse of incredible items. You’ll see everything from furniture, clothing, housewares, art, maps, tools and so much more. Their latest exhibit features more than three dozen antique sewing machines. The museum is located in the Shrewsbury Municipal Complex. Learn more at ShrewsburyBoro.com/historical-society.

One of the most valuable resources, the Monmouth County Archives houses thousands of important records, including some of the oldest documents and land deeds in the state. It’s an active stop for researchers, and they are always looking for volunteer archivists. Visit co.monmouth.nj.us to learn more.

New Jersey’s rich history includes Native Americans, settlers, nautical history, Revolutionary War sites, rum running in the prohibition era, World War I and II battles, and so much more. Let your mind wander in this historical state. Imagine life in all those different times, and think about what those earliest of residents would think of the New Jersey we know today. History is all around us; explore and enjoy. 

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