Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum

merchant and drover museum2

New Jersey is full of history. If you are looking for an interesting piece of history to check out, take a short drive from Millburn and head to Rahway, New Jersey to visit the Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum, located at 1623 St. Georges Avenue, on the corner of Westfield Ave and Saint Georges Ave. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the New Jersey Register of Historic Places, this building was first constructed in 1798 as a two story home and general store. Jon Anderson, a local businessman, purchased the property and applied for a license to operate it as a tavern. His successful venture added eleven feet onto the building and created extra rooms on the second floor.

Linking New York and Philadlphia and being a direct route between Newark and Princeton, Saint Georges Avenue became a well-traveled road. By 1820, a third and fourth floor were added to accommodate the many visitors that came to the Inn and Tavern. Rahway also became known as “Carriage City” due to the numerous carriage factories in the area.

In the 1930′s, the structure could no longer be renovated to compete with modern amenities that the new automobile-centered motels could offer. Not wanting to sell the property, the family of the original innkeeper decided to rent the building to the Girl Scouts. It was used as the Girl Scout Headquarters for over 40 years.

By the end of the 1960′s, rumors began to circulate that the owners of the property had interest in selling it to a developer. Concerned Rahway citizens decided to form the Rahway Historical Society to try to save it. Through fundraising and donations, the Historical Society purchased the building in 1969 and changed their name to the Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum Association. Their goal is to preserve this historic building.

As the building stands today, it has been restored and decorated to resemble how it looked back in the 1820s. A multi-phase restoration project began in 2013. When guests visit the museum, they are transported back to 1820 where they can see an early American bar and taproom. They can also see what accommodations were like for 19th century travelers who stayed at the inn. There is also an exhibit room that tells the story of tavern life.

Other things to visit on the property include the Terrill Tavern (originally built in 1765), which shows guests an example of a single-family home in Rahway during that era. The Rahway Cemetery, dating back to 1724, is also utilized to interpret local history.

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