Monday, July 9, 2012

Just back from a weekend in Lambertville, New Jersey!  You may have read my previous post  earlier this year about Frenchtown, New Jersey, which is very near Lambertville.  Though I've now been to Frenchtown half a dozen times I'd never been to Lambertville, and now I can report that it's as lovely and charming as people had told me.

According to the Lambertville Historical Society website, what is now the "city" (really, it's just a village) was originally purchased from the Delaware Indians as a portion of a 150,000 acre tract along the Delaware River north of Trenton.  The purchase price was about $2,800, and over the years the council of West Jersey subdivided and sold the land to farmers and developers.  The first resident of Lambertville was John Holcombe, who built the stone house on North Main Street that became known as Washington's Headquarters (one of many, obviously!).  In 1732, a fellow named Emanuel Coryell obtained a charter to operate a ferry crossing the Delaware River slightly south of the present Lambertville-New Hope (Pennsylvania) Bridge.  He also operated a tavern and an inn, and at the time these settlements (Lambertville and New Hope) were simply called Coryell's Ferry.  Lambertville was the mid-point on the two-day journey between New York and Philadelphia.    

Coryell's estate was divided among his four sons when he passed away and by the early 1800s the property had been subdivided.  In 1812, a wooden bridge was constructed across the Delaware River and Bridge Street was established.  In the same year, Captain John Lambert built a stone tavern and inn on Bridge Street, which today is Lambertville House, a very nice inn where I stayed this weekend.

In 1830, the Delaware and Raritan Canal Company began building and operating a canal to connect the Raritan and Delaware Rivers, and this 44-mile canal  follows the river to Trenton.  By 1849, Lambertville was incorporated and was home to 1,417 people.  Things rather boomed for a while, but the flood of 1903 -- which caused enormous damage and swept the covered bridge away (the iron one there now dates from 1904) -- began a spiral of unfortunate events (including the abandonment of the Delaware and Raritan Canal by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1937) and the town fell into decline.  Happily, Lambertville was "discovered" again in the 1970s and '80s, and a lot of beautiful buildings and the canal path have been restored, and lots of galleries, antique shops, and unique boutiques have opened up.

The Inn at Lambertville Station has an enviable position right on the canal (and also has several options for eating and drinking), but Lambertville House is less of a hustle-and-bustle kind of place, and each of the guest rooms is named after a local personality.  I stayed in the Edward Redfield (1869-1965) room on the 4th floor, and I didn't realize that Redfield was an American Impressionist painter and a member of the art colony in New Hope (in fact, as he was the first painter to move to the area he is considered to be a co-founder of the artist colony, with William Langson Lathrop).  Redfield studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and at the Academie Julian and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and today some of his work is in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Meeting the owners of the Lambertville retailers was a treat, and among those I particularly enjoyed were at June's Antiques (37 Coryell Street), Panoply Books (48 N. Union Street), the Antiques Center at The People's Store (28 N. Union Street), The Chocolate Box (really beautiful shop at 39 North Union, e-mail: and the Tomasello Winery shop (1 North Union), where I tasted (and bought) a terrific, dry rose called Summer Solstice, absolutely perfect for the hot weather we've been having.

On Sunday, my husband and our traveling companions drove north, mostly following the river, to Frenchtown, where we (again) had a terrific lunch at the Lovin' Oven and enjoyed wandering (again) around Two Buttons, the fantastic Asian emporium owned by author Elizabeth Gilbert and her husband.  If you go, don't miss The Buddha Wall, a huge stone carving from Indonesia that depicts the Last Temptation of the Buddha (the Wall is at the edge of the Lovin' Oven's outdoor patio).
Lambertville House
A National Historic Inn
32 Bridge Street / (609) 397.0200 /

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