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Once Upon a Time In New Brunswick

A report on the findings of an archaeological dig, conducted in 2004, at Albany and Water Streets in New Brunswick. Available to the public, for the first time, via this website, the remarkable discoveries are documented in exciting narrative, imagery and maps, and will be of interest to students, researchers, historians, archaeologists and educators.

Founded in the 1680s at a traditional crossing of the Raritan River, first by an Indian trail and later by one of New Jersey’s earliest roads, the New Brunswick had become a major port by the second decade of the eighteenth century. Its location within easy reach of the hinterland that produced New Jersey’s major agricultural exports put it at an advantage over the colony’s legal entry ports of Perth Amboy and Burlington. New Brunswick thrived on trade; its wharves and ship facilities included substantial warehouses stretching along the docks. Cranes could often be seen hoisting produce on and off boats docked in the Raritan River.

Dutch settlers streamed into the Raritan Valley in the 1730s. They settled along Albany Street in New Brunswick giving the early city a Dutch character that could be seen in its architecture. A veranda, resembling a small balcony, was built on to most homes, elevated from the street by steps. These porches had benches on both sides on which the people sat in the evening to enjoy the fresh air and watch the passers-by. Remnants of the Dutch architecture are long gone from the streetscape of New Brunswick.

However, the impending redesign of the Interchange at Route 18 and Route 27, necessitated an excavation of the area. This afforded archaeologists and historians the opportunity to look beneath the ground in the very area where the city began and where the Dutch had settled. As is often the case in urban areas, more evidence of the past was left than would seem possible, especially since the site lay within a highway interchange that had been built in the 1970s.

The dig site was in the vicinity of Albany and Water Streets. The findings were remarkable and included artifacts from THE INDIAN QUEEN/BELL TAVERN, the VAN DYKE property, the “DUTCH” HOUSE, the PARKER HOUSE and six more lots or parcels on Water Street.

HOW TO USE/SEARCH THIS REPORT: The dig has been well-documented through narrative, imagery, maps and charts. For your convenience, the images and maps have been duplicated and provided separately, accessible by clicking on the Images and Maps/Charts buttons at the bottom of this page.  Click any thumbnail and it will open full-size. Use the back button to return to the thumbnails. NOTE: Captions were added to each image and map indicating where in the text it is located, should you want to learn more about it.

The massive, two-volume report (complete with charts, maps and images) has been combined into one PDF document that you may download and open online or download and save to your hard drive (preferable). Please be patient; the download may take up to 3 minutes, as the report is over 300 pages. Use your Adobe Reader to view the PDF file or acquire Adobe Reader for free by following the link below.

Search the PDF document for names, places, words or terminology of your choosing, using the comprehensive search mechanism of Adobe. Depending on which version of the Reader you have, a search window will open automatically OR locate the Search button/tab and click on this to open the search window OR  go to the Adobe menu bar, click Edit, click Search and the full search window will open. Type a word or phrase representing what you wish to locate and Adobe will provide a listing of everywhere in the text that your search words can be found. Click any of the listings and Adobe will take you to the page on which it is located and the search word (s) will be highlighted.

This study was published in 2007. The archaeological dig (2003) and subsequent findings report were undertaken by John Milner Associates, Inc. Philadelphia, PA, in 2003, for Gannett Flemming the engineering firm in charge of the Route 18/27 Interchange project, on behalf of the NJ Department of Transportation. All artifacts and materials have been given over to the County of Middlesex and are the sole responsibility of the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission/Board of Chosen Freeholders.

The Indian Queen Tavern was relocated to East Jersey Olde Towne in Piscataway, by Dr Joseph Kler and the nonprofit organization he founded, in order to save this vestige of history for the public. The Tavern and East jersey Olde Towne Village are now under the auspices of the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission and the Board of Chosen Freeholders, having been gifted to the County by the nonprofit.  The Indian Queen Tavern has been fully restored by the Commission and is open to the public, as are other historic structures at the Village. Regrettably, the other buildings that were part of this historic excavation have not survived. (See this website for more information, images, directions and programming at the Village.)

Report PDF is 17.75mb and requires
Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

The Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission is funded in part by the
New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts
New Jersey Historical Commission, a Division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State

Middlesex County Cultural & Heritage Commission 703 Jersey Ave  New Brunswick, NJ 08901-3605
(732) 745 4489       FAX (732) 745 4524      Email   
culturalandheritage@co.middlesex.nj.us      TTY users only call (732) 745 3888