Indian King Tavern Museum

by Jeff Murza | Nov 10, 2014
Indian King Tavern Museum The Indian King Tavern Museum is one of the oldest historic buildings in New Jersey, and also quite possibly one of the most important buildings to this state’s history. Originally used as a community center for entertainment and relaxation, this historic site quickly became a political meeting ground as the cities of Princeton and Trenton were engulfed in the turmoil of the Revolutionary War. The name ‘Indian King Tavern’ was coined by Sarah Norris, who owned the original Indian King Tavern just a block away, in reference to the helpful Lenni Lenape Indians who supported the newly arriving British settlers. Located in the historic town of Haddonfield, this museum is administered by the Division of Parks and Forestry of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and logs more than 4,000 visitors a year.

The building was originally constructed circa 1750 by an affluent merchant from Philadelphia named Matthias Aspden. It changed hands many times throughout its history. Its style is traditional colonial American architecture, which is a main attraction for architecture and history buffs. The building had three-and-a-half stories, and within 15 years was expanded to 24 rooms and five cellars. There was also an addition on the north side, commonly referred to as “the ark,” which was originally used in Tavern operations and was later used as a general store, separate from the Tavern. In 1775, Thomas Redman, a local Quaker, purchased the Tavern, but was arrested for his lauded pacifism in 1777 and upon his release from prison, sold the Tavern to Hugh Creighton. Creighton, who also owned the original Indian King Tavern on Potter Street, transferred the name to the larger, more prominent tavern located on Kings Highway. At this time, the Revolutionary War was in full swing and was ravaging New Jersey’s political center. Subsequently the New Jersey General Assembly held important meetings at the Indian King Tavern haven in Haddonfield.

New Jersey became a sovereign state on July 2nd, 1776 via the New Jersey Constitution of 1776, and in 1777 the New Jersey Assembly and Council met at the Indian King Tavern and formally read into the minutes the Declaration of Independence, officially making New Jersey a state of the Union.

Around this time, a man name Francis Hopkinson played an influential role in the creation of the nation’s Great Seal and also the seal for many states. His contributions to the Great Seal—also taking shape at the Indian King Tavern--included the 13 stripes, 13 stars, the arrows, and the olive branch. He appointed a Swiss artist, Pierre Eugene Du Simitiere to design the state seal of New Jersey. Simitiere also designed the state seals for Virginia, Delaware, and Georgia.

After the political needs of the tavern had expired, the tavern returned to its normal daily activity of supplying hungry and thirsty travelers with provisions for the following 113 years. The Indian King became a Hotel until June 15, 1903 when the State of New Jersey acquired the property and placed it on the list of New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. It has since undergone extensive repair in an attempt to return it to its original state. Over the past decade, the efforts of several volunteer craftsmen have made this possible.

The Indian King Tavern museum, located at 233 Kings Highway East in Haddonfield, is an important piece of New Jersey History, as is the history of the town of Haddonfield. It is worth a day trip to experience the grandeur of this beautiful building. Please call 856-429-6792 in advance of your visit for hours of operation.

The Tavern hosts a number of special events throughout the year. For more information, click here.

For more information, contact
William Mason
Indian King Tavern Museum
233 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield, NJ 08033
856-429-6792

Updated 11/6/14

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For more South Jersey History, visit our South Jersey History page.

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