POTTERS TAVERN OPEN SUNDAY’S IN JULY
Cumberland county, Bridgeton NJ – Beginning this Sunday, July 1st, Potter’s Tavern will be open to the public every Sunday afternoon from 1 PM to 4 PM during the month of July, 2012. Potters Tavern, located on W. Broad Street (next to the Hillcrest Tavern) in the City of Bridgeton will also be open on Wednesday, July 4th Independence Day from 1 PM to 4 PM also. In addition to Potters Tavern, the Cumberland County Historical Society will also open the historic Old Broad Street Church, which was the first Presbyterian Church in the City of Bridgeton (built 1772). Located at the corner of Broad Street (CR 49) and S. Lawrence Street just across from the Bridgeton Middle School, the church will be open to the public this Sunday, July 1st, 2012 from 1 PM to 4 PM.
Potter’s Tavern, located on W. Broad Street, in Bridgeton, NJ is just across the street from where the original Cumberland County Court House once stood. If the original County Court-house was still standing today it would be sitting in the middle of Broad Street right in front of Potters Tavern. If fact, at the time (1760) the original courthouse was directly in front of Potters Tavern and the roadway (W. Broad Street) actually ended right there. The roadway did not continue down the hill or go across the river as it does now. Potters Tavern has been there since the 1770’s. The location of the Tavern made it convenient for lawyers who often worked in the courthouse to frequent Potters Tavern and many discussions took place as well as the printing of the first newspaper in the state. The newspaper, the “Plain Dealer”, was actually hand written and it was often nailed to the doors of residents homes upon delivery. “Cumberland County owns the building, and the Historical Society maintains the tavern and provides the tours”, said Robert Francois, a trustee with the Cumberland County Historical Society. The Historical Society opens the tavern to the public every July 4th and Christmas.
As you enter the main room inside Potters Tavern, you see a sitting area with a fireplace and a small bar, along with reproduced images of the county’s first newspaper: The Plain Dealer. “No one knows for certain the exact date when the tavern was built or officially opened, but it was before the Revolutionary War, when young lawyers came to the tavern to talk and write the Plain Dealer” Francois said. Prior to the Plain Dealer, the nearest newspapers to the Cumberland County area were in located in Philadelphia. According to the Cumberland County Historical Society President Jonathan Wood, there were newspapers in Philadelphia during the time leading up to the revolution, but nothing in the Cumberland County area. “The Plain Dealer was hand written from Dec. 1775 to Feb. 1776, and had a lot of essays and lawyer news in it. Some of the writers were opposed to a separation from Great Britain and some were pro-separation. What’s interesting is that there was no mention of the word ‘independence. It was only six months prior to our entering a war and breaking away and the word “independence” wasn’t even spoken.” said Wood.
The Plain Dealer was nailed to the front door of the tavern, where members of the community could walk up and read it. 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. Dedicated to liberty and separation from the Crown rule, Matthew Potter, the tavern keeper, risking a charge of treason, became one of the unsung heroes of the Revolution.
From the time of the revolution until the 1960s, the tavern was privately owned. “Until the late 1950s, this tavern was actually a double house,” said Francois. In the late 1950’s a local man named J. Mead Landis who was dedicated to preserving history in the area, spearheaded an initiative to preserve the tavern. The county bought the tavern in 1959 did restoration work to the structure.
Built in 1792, the Old Broad Street Church is still used today and is even open for services during certain summer months.
Private tours or more information, contact the Cumberland County Historical Society at: www.cchistsoc.org.