Potter's Tavern
49-51 West Broad Street
Bridgeton, NJ 08302

Owner:
Cumberland County

Notes:
Restricted access to the public.

 

General Information:
18th Century

1740 Restored by the City of Bridgeton under the auspices of the Bridgeton Historical Commission

Significance:
Potter's Tavern was a popular meeting place just before the Revolution due to its proximity to the Cumberland County Courthouse. As revolutionary sentiment spread through the colonies, the humble tavern, then the principal hostelry in this County Seat, became "Bridgeton's Independence Hall. "

In 1775 at Christmas time, patriots published a manuscript newspaper called The Plain Dealer at Potter's Tavern in Cohansey Bridge. Dedicated to the cause of liberty, it in the strongest terms for separation from the Crown rule. Matthew Potter, tavern keeper, risking a charge of treason, thus became one of the unsung heroes of the Revolution. Some of the leading citizens who wrote articles included Dr. Jonathan Elmer, Dr. Lewis Howell, Richard Howell and Joseph Bloomfield. The latter two became governors of New Jersey.

Architecturally, the Tavern is an excellent example of the type of frame house built in New Jersey during the 17th and 18th century.

Description:
The earliest English construction in the Delaware Valley region was "timber-framed". Potter's Tavern is a two and a half story modified salt box English framed house of the type filled between the timbers with salmon brick on edge set in lime mortar. This last feature would seem to indicate 18th century. However, it is not a late example of frame house construction. The corner posts and "girts" are over size and were boxed in at the corners of the building and along the ceiling. The corner of the girt across the front wall of the east room, first floor, was cut off to eliminate the boxed corner, but it remains at full size across the west room adjoining.

The exterior is sheathed with sawed and reeded clapboards, some of which appear to be original. All of the windows and floors are replacements, but the original sash is still in place, concealed on an inside wall between the rear extension and the later shed which now runs across the rear of the building. This sash displays the heavy muntin characteristic of the first half of the 18th century.

The general plan of the house follows that of early, small English houses in America - a "hall" and a "parlor" or "chamber" constituting the first floor. A narrow kitchen extended across the rear of both rooms. The rear room of Potter's Tavern appears to have served as the kitchen. Its floor was originally one step down and the ceiling joists were exposed and are heavily yoked. The roof framing at the "plate" varies at the back from the conventional method used at the front, which seems to indicate that the long narrow rear "lean-to" was built concurrently with the two front rooms. It is therefore likely that the two existing fireplaces in this rear extension are constructed after the original cooking fireplace was demolished.

Evidence indicates that, originally, there were diagonal fireplaces in such front room on both floors. The old chimney therefore contained five flues including the kitchen.

lt appears that the exterior doors of the Tavern were plain square openings with transoms above. lt had two main exterior doors, one facing Broad St., leading into the west room, first floor; the other facing east and leading into the east room, A winding stairway originally led from cellar to attic, in the southwest corner of the house. Part of it has survived in the second floor. There are traces of alterations made toward the close of the 18th century, probably by Charles Clunn who took title in 1788.