National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program
Weekly Highlight: Bear Tavern Road--Jacobs Creek Crossing Rural Historic District,
Mercer County, New Jersey

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.


[photo] of highlighted property

Bear Tavern Road—Jacobs Creek Crossing Rural Historic District is significant in the areas of settlement, agriculture, architecture, military, transportation and engineering. The district includes 9 buildings, four structures, 2 sites. The period of significance begins in 1739, the earliest year that Bear Tavern Road, an important colonial thoroughfare known as the “river road,” can be documented and ending in 1930 when paving improvements began.

In this district, the rural landscape reflects the region’s 18th/19th century pattern of development exhibited by such features as property lines, farmstead locations, field patterns and circulation. The landscape remains intact, showing evidence of the agricultural communities of scattered farmsteads once prevalent throughout much of New Jersey. In what became Hopewell Township, and elsewhere in the region, farms acquired from the proprietary owners by the pioneer settles often continued in the same family for several generations. Such was the case in the neighborhood along Bear Tavern Road north of Jacobs Creek, where the Tavern Road itself, once of the region’s earliest and most important roads, give the district transportation significance as a good example of a cultural route, a historic road type shaped by necessity or tradition. The route is clearly designed to follow the terrain’s path of least resistance. Used for nearly 300 years, the road also retains evidence of transportation improvements over time, particularly at the creek crossing where successive bridges replaced the colonial ford.

The district’s architectural significance derives from its late 18th and early 19th century dwellings whose construction materials, plan types and detailing are representative of the region’s early domestic architecture, who has its roots in the region’s traditional building practices. Although no historic barns remain, several outbuildings such as wagon houses and a smokehouse remain to reflect ancillary building once typical of area farmsteads.

The district possesses military significance for its Revolutionary War associations. Bear Tavern Road (the colonial river road) was the route of Washington’s troops on the their march to Trenton on December 26, 1776, and crossing Jacobs Creek presented a formidable challenge to the troops, second only to crossing the Delaware River. Due to urban and suburban development, beside s Washington Crossing State Park, Bear Tavern Board/Jacobs Creek Crossing District is the only sizable area along the route with the ability to evoke something of its appearance at the time of the Revolutionary War.


To read the full file on the Bear Tavern Road--Jacobs Creek Crossing Rural Historic District.

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