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Haddonfield, New Jersey

Posted on Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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A historic revolutionary town, right across the Delaware River

The History

Haddonfield, New Jersey was settled in 1713, a couple of decades after Philadelphia in 1682.  Although located in New Jersey, Haddonfield has always had close ties to Philadelphia which is located only 5 miles to the west, and across the Delaware River.  In addition to being close geographically, Haddonfield also shares a similar origin to Philadelphia in that both were founded by persecuted Quakers who left England and traveled to the new world.  While Philadelphia was founded by William Penn, Haddonfield was settled by the Haddon family.  John Haddon of Southwark, England purchased 500 acres in the British colony of New Jersey in 1701, and the town is named after him.  But John Haddon never made it to New Jersey, thus the town was primarily settled by his daughter, Elizabeth Haddon, therefore instead of a founding father, Haddonfield has a founding mother. 
Under the stewardship of  Elizabeth Haddon, Haddonfield grew into a thriving town with a busy commercial center on the Kings Highway that ran through the center of the town.  One of the businesses that set up along the Highway was a tavern built in 1745 by a Philadelphian Quaker named Mathias Aspden which would eventually be named the Indian King Tavern.  This Tavern would go on to become one of the most important taverns in American History.   
The Indian King Tavern as it Appears Today
In January of 1777, the New Jersey capital of Trenton was decimated by warfare, leading the State Government to vote to leave Trenton and move south to Haddonfield, New Jersey.  The General Assembly of New Jersey met inside the Indian King Tavern periodically over the course of 1777.  It was while the General Assembly met there that the state of New Jersey officially approved the Declaration of Independence.  The General Assembly then moved to officially ratify the New Jersey Constitution to remove all references to New Jersey being a colony and replaced them with references to New Jersey now being a sovereign state. They also designed the officially seal of New Jersey while meeting in the Tavern, a work commissioned by Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
While meeting in Haddonfield, the state government was also alarmed by numerous speeches arguing for pacifism and criticizing the Revolutionary War by many of the Quaker citizens of Haddonfield.  The government of New Jersey thus decided to create the Council of Safety which operated out of the Tavern as well and arrested numerous loyalists and pacifists in the area, including a pacifist Quaker named Thomas Redman who actually owned the Indian King Tavern!  The arrested citizens were held in a guardhouse across the street from the Tavern. 
Guard House Historical Plaque

What to See

The Indian King Tavern is now over 270 years old and open for tourists to visit.  The building is now owned by the State of New Jersey and officially operated as a historic site and museum. The Tavern is restored to look how it would have in 1777 when it served as the State House of New Jersey and visitors can walk right into the room where New Jersey became a state.  The Indian King Tavern also hosts numerous events such as colonial crafting exhibits, and historic reenactment.  Every June there is a brief reenactment of a small battle that took place in Haddonfield.  In the reenactment, British Soldiers march down Kings Highway toward the Indian King Tavern which is occupied by Continental Soldiers.  A skirmish ensues and the outnumbered Continental forces are defeated by the British who then take control of Haddonfield, just as they did in 1778.
Shops on Kings Highway
Aside from history, Haddonfield has one of the most bustling main streets of any Philadelphia suburb.  Haddonfield is home to nearly 100 shops and dozens of restaurants, most of them located on Kings Highway.  Designer clothes, custom furniture or even unique imported goods from the United Kingdom, are just a few of the many things you can shop for in Haddonfield.  If you’re hungry your options include world class sushi, hand rolled ice cream, a crepe shop or a brewery.  Haddonfield is also home to many festivals and fairs that shut down Kings Highway to automobile traffic.  Craft and fine arts fairs, fireworks, food truck nights, and live music are among the many events you can enjoy!

Insider Tips

Haddonfield isn’t just important to American History, it’s also important to Natural History.  In 1838 a Haddonfield resident, uncovered a number of large bones that he eventually showed to Philadelphian geologist William Parker Foulke who then, along with paleontologist Joseph Leidy, managed to dig up more bones, assembling together an partially complete skeleton.  It was among the most complete dinosaur skeletons ever discovered up to that point and the species was named the Hadrosaurus after the town it was found in.  A few years later the reassembled skeleton was mounted and put on display at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.  It was the first ever mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world and caused quite a stir upon being shown to the public.  Today, a sculpture of the Hadrosaurus stands prominently in Haddonfield’s downtown.
Statue of Hadrosaurus in Downtown Haddonfield

How to Get There

Even though Haddonfield is in New Jersey it is actually very easy to get to from the National Constitution Center, where all of our Constitutional Walking Tours begin and end.  Just head south from the National Constitution Center and turn right on the next block when you get to Market Street.  Continue until 8th Street where you’ll see signs for an underground rail station.  Follow signs for PATCO and take a PATCO train Eastbound toward Lindenwold.  The Haddonfield Station is about 15 minutes away and will let you off right on Kings Highway where all of the shops are located.  You can also drive right over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge; follow signs for Haddonfield/Route-130.



Indian King Tavern:
Wednesday-Saturday - 10am-noon and 1-4pm
Sunday - 1pm - 4pm

Additional Information

233 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield, NJ 08033
2 Kings Court, Haddonfield, NJ 08033

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