Help plan your trip by exploring the The Historic Village at Allaire online. With a variety of historic buildings that still stand on their original foundations, the museum portrays early 19th century industrial community life, complete with interactive displays, hands-on-activities, and costumed period interpreters in 13 historic homes, craft shops, a chapel, a store, a bakery, exhibit halls, and other buildings.
The Row House
The block of row houses was originally constructed in 1832 and completed the following year. It was one of three blocks of row houses (the other two being on each side of the Chapel.) This row house was the largest and would have housed the skilled workers and their families. Rents for the housing was usually $1 or $2 dollars a month. A yearly salary for the Foreman, for example, would have been approximately $1000 dollars, the Manager may have made up to $2,000.
When entering this building, officially known as the “The Row House & Village Museum” (aka Visitor Center), you can see the only interior example of a remaining row house. One row house might be home to 10 or more individuals. The first floor was the living quarters; the second floor would have been used for sleeping quarters. The remainder of this building features a modern Visitor Center and contains the village’s museum that gives an overview of James P. Allaire’s businesses, The Howell Iron Works Company, the iron-making process at the village, and the multifaceted industrialist and entrepreneur that was James P. Allaire.
This building was built in 1835 to supply bread for the village since most homes did not have bake ovens. Traditionally a young boy would be recruited to crawl into the oven and light the fire at the back for baking to begin. Today, the beehive oven in the bakery building is used for demonstrations throughout the year to engage visitors in the process of bread making from mixing dough to the finished product. The beehive oven was been restored and today the Bakery features a variety of baked goods and beverages for sale.
The General Store
The General Store was built in 1835 at the substantial cost of $7,000 dollars. As one of the largest general stores in the State of NJ at one time, The store was designed to attract customers from the town as well as the surrounding community. Shipments from New York provided goods not readily accessible to the local community. The store also included a Post Office and utilized an elevator to lift goods to the upper floors – operating on a system of pulleys. Standing four stories tall, it is the largest building still standing at the village. Today the Store features early 18th and 19th century reproductions for sale as well as other goods reminiscent of a bygone era.
In addition to being a place of worship, the Chapel also served as a meeting place for the village. Constructed in two sections, the first section (the entrance) utilized recycled wood to begin the build in 1832. The second section, completed in 1836, was constructed from new, stronger wood timbers and as such, was able to support the weight of the belfry – this is why you find our church’s belfry in the back of the building instead of the more common placement, over the entrance. Today, the Chapel can also be rented out for various events such as weddings, christenings, memorial services, baptisms, and other facility events.
The Foreman’s Cottage
The Foreman’s cottage is the oldest brick building on the property and the first one Mr. Allaire had built in 1827. It is also the third largest house on the property, and was considered a middle-class home at the time. The upstairs window faces the blast furnace which enabled the foreman to monitor the smoke from the furnace from his home.
The Carriage House
The Carriage House was built around 1831-1832 and, as a stage coach stop between Red Bank and western Monmouth county, it was the first building people would come to when arriving by coach. Inside the building, we have some examples of early carriages from the later 1800’s. The Gardner’s Cottage was attached at the back of the carriage house as the gardener also worked in the winter months with the transportation of goods to and from the village.
The Blacksmith Shop
The Blacksmith shop, built in 1836, was one of the largest blacksmith shop in America at the time. With four forges, there could be between 12 and 20 people working in this building from sunrise to sunset, six days a week. Like in 1836, this is an active workshop today, where we use the building to make many of tools and equipment for the village; finished products are also sold at the General Store. The iron that was produced on site would have been the same used in the blacksmith shop. It would come from the local bog ore and would be melted down in the blast furnace, and then go through a refining process in order to become raw iron that could be used to create the blacksmiths’ tools and products.
The Manager’s House
This is the oldest house on the property as it was built c. 1750 by Isaac Palmer. In the mid- 1800’s, the manager of the village was Mr. James Parshall Smith, who lived in the house with his wife and four children. This house was the second largest house on the property and was considered an upper-middle class home at the time. This house has a beautiful 18th century hearth, complete with a bake oven, as it was built before Mr. Allaire had purchased the property.
Mr. Allaire’s House (The “Big House”)
Prior to his retirement in 1850, Mr. Allaire’s main residence was on Cherry Street in New York City. He would only come to the Howell Works on occasional weekends for business purposes. During the mid-1830s, a cholera epidemic spread throughout New York City and James P. Allaire made arrangements to escape the sickness by moving into the “Big House” at the Howell Works. His wife, Frances, had been ill for many years and could not afford to be exposed to the epidemic. In 1836, James P. Allaire and his family spent a considerable amount of time at this residence (nicknamed the “Big House” since it was the largest home on the property).
Those living in the house included: Mr. Allaire, Frances, their daughters (Maria and Frances), the two Miss Johnsons, and a cousin Calicia (who later became the second Mrs. Allaire). In March of 1836 Frances died from what was probably tuberculosis. When James P. Allaire retired in 1850, he took up permanent residence at the “Big House.” With his second wife, Calicia, and their young son Hal, he spent the last several years of his life in this home.
The Big House was built in three sections. The first section, which contains the front porch, dates back to the Palmer Saw Mill era of c. 1790. The kitchen was added on after Mr. Allaire purchased the property in the early 1820s. The three story brick dormitory (since fallen apart) was added on in the mid-1830s. This structure had a large dining hall on the first floor and housed the singe male workers of the village in the upper floors. When Mr. Allaire retired in 1850 he converted the dormitory for private use. The upper rooms were used for guests; the first floor dining hall as a ball room and banquet hall.
The Enameling Building
In 1828 Mr. Allaire built the enameling building (which was referred to as “The Fort”). A small furnace was later added in the early 1830s and operated for approximately one year, as an experiment in the production of enamelware using cast iron cookware (or “hollowware”). The cookware was coated with an enamel and fired in the furnace, located in the basement of the building. It’s possible that the original section of this building was even in place prior to Mr. Allaire purchasing the property – during the Monmouth Furnace era. Today the interior of this building features an exhibit hall known as the Arthur Brisbane Continuing Education Center. It features an extensive exhibit on the history of Allaire during the early 20th century when owned by famous Hearst editor Arthur Brisbane, an art gallery, interactive displays, and the museum’s gift shop.
The Carpenter Shop
This was the second carpenter shop built by Mr. Allaire. The first one was located halfway between the general store and the existing building, and on the far end of the carpenter shop, an addition to the building, that is now the wheelwright shop. The tinsmith shop also shares space in this building. Being an itinerate tradesperson, the tinsmith travels from town to town and works piecemeal in different locations throughout the area.