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Opening the Doors of History

Opening the Doors of History

Founded in 1664, Elizabeth, New Jersey—one of America's most historic cities—has been host to famed American figures, among them George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and more. Learn how students can be transported to the past and get a history lesson unlike any other.


The Elizabeth River Trail highlights the history of Elizabeth with artwork from local artists displayed along its path. From the river, pop into the Elizabeth Public Library, which stands at the site of the original Red Lion Inn where George Washington stopped prior to his inauguration as the United States' first president.

Down the road, stop into Altenburg Piano House to admire pianos and history. Founded in 1847, it is one of the oldest piano houses in the U.S., with origins going back to the Otto Altenburg Piano Co. from Germany. Next, view some impressive architecture at Belcher-Ogden Mansion, built in 1750, and Bonnell House, the oldest house in Elizabeth.

The nearby Snyder Academy of Elizabethtown is also worth visiting. With its roots reaching back to the 1664 founding of Elizabeth, the Academy is a vibrant center for culture, education, history, and economic and social advancement. Be sure to check out the burial grounds onsite, one of the oldest cemeteries in the state, where students can visit centuries-old graves for governors, Revolutionary War veterans, and hundreds of free and enslaved African-Americans.

For student groups seeking beautiful old churches, look no further than First Presbyterian Church. Built in 1668, it marks the site of the founding of Elizabethtown, as the city was originally named, and the State of New Jersey in 1664. Also, plan to explore the striking St. John's Episcopal Church. Founded in 1706, this is one of the oldest churches in the country and is known for stunning stained glass, rich woodwork and a historic cemetery.

As students explore the historic sites of Elizabeth, don't miss the fabulous art deco Ritz Theater. Built in 1926, the Ritz is one of the largest and oldest fully operational theaters in New Jersey. Just down the street is Boxwood Hall, where the paths of many influential figures—from presidents to mayors—have crossed over the centuries.

Elizabeth is home to Kean University, where history-loving students delight in the vast treasures found within its Liberty Hall Museum. The museum chronicles more than 240 years of American history and houses extensive collections of furniture, ceramics, textiles, toys, and tools owned by seven generations of the Livingston and Kean families, whose ancestors played pioneering roles in the history of Elizabeth.

Any historic journey of Elizabeth must include a stop at the important Minuteman statue at Union Square. This statue pays homage to the 15 Elizabeth Minutemen who held off the attack of 5,000 British Regulars during the Revolution. Continue to the waterfront to pay respects to those who served our country, at Elizabeth's beautiful Veterans Memorial Waterfront Park. With a striking view of the New York City skyline, the park provides a perfect location for recreation, reflection, and boat watching as ships continually come and go from the largest seaport in America.

Elizabeth is an important landmark in American history. Students could take time to enjoy these sites on foot with the 3.5-mile, self-guided Elizabeth at the Crossroads walking tour, which provides an insightful look into Elizabeth's history.

Content and photo courtesy of Elizabeth Destination Marketing Organization.

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