Some road trips cross multiple state lines. They involve days of careful planning, researching attractions, hotels, restaurant, and amazing sites. Those road trips are excellent, if tiring, ways to explore the country. All of that is well and good, but sometimes there can also be fun road trips to discover new locations in your own town!
Central New Jersey has a long and storied history. Middlesex County was first settled in 1683. Its location along the Raritan River made it an ideal trading crossroads for merchants, manufacturers, and farmers to ply their wares (via
Wikipedia). Middlesex County was also the site of several important historic locations tied to the Revolutionary War (via Revolutionary War New Jersey). One of the most interesting sites – the Cornelius Low House – is only minutes from our front door. Despite having lived in the area for several years now (and having mentioned many times, “Oh, we should go check it out!”), we finally made time this weekend to explore this and other cool spots around town!
First, however, a couple of automotive updates are in order.
Checking in on the Accord:
I recently took my Honda Accord to Keenan Honda for routine maintenance. The service was done quickly and competently. The car was due for an oil and filter change, a tire rotation, air filters, a transmission fluid change, and a brake fluid change. The car was delivered to me washed, and as always, a case of mints were resting on my center console when I got back in the car. Classy!
This vehicle inspection printout is a great report card… green as far as the eye can see!
As always, when waiting for my car’s maintenance, I went upstairs to check out Keenan Honda’s ever-expanding classic car museum. This second-generation Corvette is a new addition to the collection.
And I don’t remember seeing this 1950’s Chevrolet before, either. Cool stuff!
If I ever had to get another vehicle, one car on my short list of test drives would be the new Honda Insight. The model on the showroom floor was really eye-catching in this shade of silver (but don’t worry… my Accord isn’t going anywhere for a long time!!).
Closer to home, I finally hung my souvenir from our visit to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg museum in the garage. I see this every time I head to work in the morning – it’s a fun reminder of an amazing trip! Around Town
Today’s destination: two historic museums in Piscataway, New Jersey. First, the Cornelius Low House, and then, onto East Jersey Old Town Village.
Our first stop was a visit to the Cornelius Low House, one of the oldest buildings in Middlesex County. One tip: don’t bother using GPS – both Google Maps and Apple Maps were useless when we tried to find the place. Instead, we made like it was 1985 and just followed the road signs.
The signs directed us to a parking lot for Rutgers University near the athletic fields. In the far corner of the lot we found an entrance to a walking path that promised to lead us to the museum.
If you visit the Cornelius Low House, bring your walking shoes! The interpretive path, which has several exhibits telling the story of the settlement of central New Jersey and the Cornelius Low House, is a bit of a hike.
Cornelius Low, a wealthy 18th century merchant, built this house in 1741 high above the Raritan River in what is now Piscataway, NJ. Since 1979, this colonial-era home has served as a museum for Middlesex County, hosting a variety of exhibits on the history of New Jersey (via Wikipedia).
Upon entering the house, we were transported into the middle of the past century! The museum is hosting a special exhibit on the 1950’s, and the first item we encountered was this D. Gottlieb & Co. “Hawaiian Beauty” pinball machine from 1954.
And certainly, no exhibit is on the 1950’s is complete without a jukebox!
The walls of the museum were covered in reproductions of ads from the 1950s… talk about a time capsule!
An entire room was devoted to the car culture of the 50’s. The display on the far wall focused on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, both of which were developed during that decade.
I wonder if any of my readers will recognize these parts? Clockwise from upper-left: A Sun Dwell/Tachometer which was used to set the ignition and timing in a car, dashboard clock and speaker bezel from a Chevrolet Bel Air, a gauge panel from a 1951 Ford F-1 pickup truck, and an add-on turn signal indicator (turn signals were not mandatory until 1958).
This ad for the Chrysler Windsor Dartline was fantastic – and pay special attention to the box on the lower right, advertising one of the earliest commercially available cruise control options!
Ah, the toys of the 1950’s. I totally loved the Lincoln Tunnel toy car set… although I’m pretty sure the working Jig Saw Jr. (which included an actual saw blade) would not be able to be sold today.
My favorite toy was this train set. Lionel, an American toy manufacturer, boomed during the 1950s, bringing in its highest profits. Their trains, built to O-gauge size, were far larger than most other toy trains produced at that time. One of the highlights of many children’s lives in the 1950s was the arrival of the Lionel Toy Train Catalog, which was published until 1969 (via Wikipedia).
Of course, no display about life in the 1950’s would be complete without acknowledging the worries of nuclear war… did you know anyone that had a family radiation measurement kit?
After departing the Cornelius Low House, our next stop was to another historic spot less than a mile away: East Jersey Olde Town Village.
Olde Town is a collection of historic buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries that have been relocated to Johnson Park in Piscataway, NJ. This is the Indian Queen Tavern that once stood in New Brunswick. Built in 1729, this building was reconstructed on site from the original materials used to build the tavern.
As we began to wander the grounds, my wife spotted a really cool sign: this is a tactile map with braille lettering, designed for visitors with visual disabilities. Without seeing the map, you are able to feel the locations of the buildings in the village. Pretty cool!
This is the Williamson Blacksmith and Wheelwright Shop, built in the 1700s in nearby North Brunswick.
The building is a working museum, and you can see a wheel under construction (center). Wheel technology has advanced a little bit since the 18th century!
Built in 1850, the Farley Blacksmith Shop was operated by the same family until it closed in 1960. It was saved from demolition and moved to Johnson Park by the Army Corps of Engineers.
I’ve always been interested in the way that objects were made in the days before industrialization. The interior of the blacksmith shop was fascinating.
Working in the field of education, of course I had to stop and check out the (literal) one-room schoolhouse…
…and the schoolhouse had a cool display of textbooks from the 19th century. Check out this math workbook from 1878!
If you enjoy photographing antique objects, Olde Town is a really cool spot!
And once again, we’re at the end of another fun adventure! The Accord, meanwhile, continues to climb in mileage… 148,000 miles in just around the corner!
If you are passing through central New Jersey, a quick stop by Johnson Park to visit the Cornelius Low House and the East Jersey Olde Town Village can be a fun and educational way to spend a few hours. Both sites are open year round and admission is free! The buildings are open from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Wednesday through Friday and 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. You can learn more by checking out
this flyer online.
As always, thank for coming along on yet another journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.