What History Lives in Your Backyard? In New Brunswick, Quite a Bit

Credits: New Brunswick City Hall
Trinkets from the 1920s and '30s are featured on the third floor of New Brunswick City Hall. Credits: New Brunswick City Hall
Credits: New Brunswick City Hall
Framed photos and articles hang on the walls of the third floor of New Brunswick City Hall. Credits: New Brunswick City Hall

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Did you know that the city’s first residents were members of the Lenni Lenape tribe? Or that the tycoon Andrew Carnegie paid $50,000 toward the construction of the New Brunswick Free Public Library?

Bits and pieces of history remain throughout the Hub City—if you know where to look.

To that end, the City of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Development Corporation, or Devco, have teamed up to post a number of signs marking historical sites around the community. The effort is meant to better highlight New Brunswick’s “rich history” to residents and visitors, according to a press release from City Hall.

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“The phrase ‘History Lives Here’ anchors this project in recognition of the many significant stories that have taken place right here in our town,” Mayor Jim Cahill said in a written statement. “We are proud to be able to showcase the history of our community in this new way and look forward to sharing these stories with all who live, work and visit in the City of New Brunswick.”

So far, workers have installed signs at eight historical sites in the city. More signs are slated to be posted in the future.

New Brunswick is also celebrating its historical roots in another way.

In celebration of its 90th birthday, City Hall now hosts a public exhibit that highlights the city in the 1920s. That was the first decade in which City Hall opened its doors.

The mayor’s office and the Art at City Hall program have spearheaded the project, which is set on the second and third floors of the building. The exhibit features photographs, newspaper articles and artifacts from 1920s New Brunswick, all of which come from archives and private collections of residents, according to the city.

A photograph of the exhibit shows old milk bottles from local dairies, a business card from Chester W. Paulus—who headed the city for a number of years in the mid-1900s—and a bowl used to scoop items like dried fruits, malt and coffee at a local business that once occupied the site of New Brunswick’s Health Sciences and Technology High School.

Members of the public may view the exhibit from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at City Hall.

The building itself, opened in 1927, largely resembles its original incarnation, according to the city. Original marble wainscoting, granite steps, record vaults and lighting remain, as do the wooden pews in council chambers and other furnishings.

Historians have traced the name “New Brunswick” to 1724, according to the sign outside City Hall. The municipality received its charter in 1730.

But New Brunswick’s history extends beyond its formation. Native Americans in the Lenni Lenape tribe first inhabited the area. European settlers, meanwhile, arrived in 1681, according to the city.

Revolutionary War battles and settlements took place in the city, as well. Of course, the establishment of Rutgers University and New Brunswick’s positioning on the Raritan River, once a bustling trade route, have further cemented its place in history books.

Historical signs mark the following areas: City Hall, 78 Bayard St.; New Brunswick Theological Seminary, 35 Seminary Pl.; Henry Guest House, 58 Livingston Ave.; Gray Terrace, the former home of Robert Wood Johnson I and the current site of The Yard; New Brunswick Free Public Library, 60 Livingston Ave.; Revolutionary War site on Holy Hill, Seminary Place; Christ Church Episcopal, 5 Paterson St.; and First Reformed Church, 9 Bayard St.

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