Mount Holly Historic District
The Mount Holly Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
Mount Holly Historic District is architecturally significant because of its complete range of architectural styles. These examples of the development of building in this part of New Jersey include the 1723 Three Tuns Tavern (Mill Street Hotel; Mill and Pine Streets) with thick stone walls, a 1733 frame house (211 Mill Street) where Stephen Girard had both his home and shop during his stay in Mount Holly, the 1736 Shinn Log House (Park Drive and Commerce Place), a 1744 Flemish bond brick house with glazed headers (Thomas Budd House, 20 White Street), a 1775 Quaker Meeting House (Friends Meeting House, High and Garden streets), a 1775 English frame house (Samuel Carr House, 111 Garden Street), the 1796 Burlington County Court House (High Street) of superb architectural design, and the 1810 Burlington County Prison Museum at 128 High Street. Other buildings are an 1815 stately brick town house (21 Mill Street), an 1832 Georgian home (James Langstaff Mansion, 307 High Street), an 1864 superb example of board-and-batten construction (Fenimore House, 35 Ridgway Street), an 1865 Victorian home (Lippincott House, 29 Ridgway Street) with a mansard roof and an excellent example of an 1870 antebellum mansion (James Langstaff Mansion, 307 High Street.
The geography of Mount Holly contributed to its growth through the almost three hundred years since its first settlement. The early town was located in the bottom of a valley on a winding creek which provided power for the early industries. An adjacent hill or mound gave the town a unique position along with its surrounding flat plains that were fine agricultural lands prior to suburbanization.
The commerce of Mount Holly grew from a center to which early settlers brought their produce, grain, lumber, and wool to be turned into items which were useful on their homesteads or were sold or traded for goods they were unable to produce. In time an important economy developed; farm goods were delivered for local resale and export; and manufactured items were imported for resale in local commercial houses. Among the early enterprises were the 1723 "Three Tuns Tavern," a tailor shop belonging to John Woolman, Quaker minister, a store belonging to Stephen Girard, Philadelphia financier. The Farmer's Bank organized in 1814 and is the second oldest bank in New Jersey. Two early newspapers of the community were the "Mount Holly Mirror," established in 1818, and the "Mount Holly Herald," in 1826.
Industry began with the 1720 sawmill, a grist mill in 1723, and an iron works and a fulling mill in 1730. Later industries were a paper mill, plush mill, tapestry will, dye mill, thread mill, carriage factory, and a turbine foundry. Mount Holly supplies some of the labor for the H.B. Smith Machine Company at Smithville, via the Bicycle Railway which ran from Mount Holly to Smithville.
Transportation facilities had a definite influence on the growth of Mount Holly. The town, situated on the Rancocas Creek (North Branch), offered the advantage of an open waterway to the Delaware River. This made possible the exchange of commodities with the port of Philadelphia. In 1759 a stage wagon ran from Cooper's Ferry (Camden) to Mount Holly and on across the state to Middletown. The early roads began as bridle paths traveled by settlers on their way to Philadelphia, Burlington, Springfield, and the iron works, and later became streets in the growing town. By 1833 passengers could travel by stage to Burlington and board a boat for Philadelphia or a train to South Amboy. In 1849 train service was possible between Burlington and Mount Holly and in 1867 regular train service was established between Camden and Mount Holly. It is reported that in the busy season more than fifty trains a day stopped at the Mount Holly station.
The military significance of Mount Holly is as follows: In 1757 orders were received to draft militia to help a Fort William Henry in New York; in 1758, 100 troops were housed in local homes; in 1776 Hessians were quartered here and used the Friends Meeting House as a commissary; in 1776 a skirmish occurred between Continentals (on Iron Works Hill) and Hessians (on Mount Holly). In 1778 Mount Holly again was occupied by the British Army. Generals Clinton and Lord Cornwallis joined their forces in Mount Holly and spent two days here on their way to the Battle of Monmouth.
Mount Holly has always been a center of education since the first school was established in 1738. The famed John Brainerd, Presbyterian missionary, in 1759 established a school in the still-existing building on Brainerd Street. Many schools have existed in the following categories: private; religious; Young Ladies; Young Men; and, of course, the public schools.
The government in Mount Holly developed with the area being first settled in 1677. By 1723 the nucleus of a town existed around the "Three Tuns Tavern" and the mills near Pine and Mill Streets. John Cripps, an early settler, named the hill "Mount Holly," but the town was known as Bridge Town and existed in Northampton Township in 1709. The names "Mount Holly" and "Bridge Town" were both indiscriminately used until 1773, at which time "Mount Holly" became the commonly used and official name. The Brittania Fire Company, later known as the Relief Fire Company, was established in 1752 and is the oldest volunteer fire company in continuous service in the United States. The Bridgetown Library was chartered by King George III in 1765. Northampton Township ceased to exist in 1931 and the township became known as Mount Holly Township. Originally Mount Holly had a Township Committee form of government. In the early 1950s the citizenry changed the form of government to "Council-Manager," the professional manager reporting to an elected council. Mount Holly has been the county seat since 1796.
The religious history of the town is as follows: The early founders of the town were members of the Society of Friends; the Third Friends Meeting House, dated 1775, still exists; the first was built in 1716 at Woodlane Road; the second was behind John Woolman's tailor shop on Mill Street. The Episcopal Church was founded in 1742 and was incorporated in 1765 under a Royal Charter of King George III. The Presbyterian Church was established in 1762; the Methodist in 1790; the Baptist in 1800; and the Roman Catholic in 1852.
Landscape architecture and the nurturing of plants has long been a primary concern and avocation of citizens of Mount Holly. The gardens of the John Woolman House (99 Branch Street) have been a drawing card for visitations to Mount Holly. For many years the gardens of Sarah Leeds and Edward H. Levis drew tourists from near and far. The garden of Mr. Edward B. Jones still exists with many hundreds of species of trees, plants, and flowers and provides an ecological balance within the confines of the town. The wild flower garden of the Misses Etris at the Samuel Carr House has also been a source of joy for many.
† Richard Bruder, Mrs. Ray A. Perinchief, Mrs. Eleanor S. Rogers, Mount Holly Historical Society, Mount Holly Historic District, Burlington County, NJ, nomination document, 1972, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.