Hidden Jersey: Historic Sites

From military outposts and memorials to strange, sweet communities, history abounds in the Garden State.

Emilio Carranza Crash Monument in Tabernacle New Jersey is dedicated the "Lindbergh of Mexico." Crashing on July 12 1928 in a terrible thunderstorm it was reported that he was forced to leave by orders of a Mexican general.
Emilio Carranza Crash Monument in Tabernacle New Jersey is dedicated the "Lindbergh of Mexico." Crashing on July 12 1928 in a terrible thunderstorm it was reported that he was forced to leave by orders of a Mexican general.
Photo by Robert Yaskovic

Carranza Memorial
Carranza Road between Park and Tuckerton roads, Tabernacle (Burlington County)
In 1928, the Mexican government tapped 23-year-old war hero Emilio Carranza to make a nonstop goodwill flight from Mexico City to Washington, D.C. On his journey home, Carranza got caught in a storm and crashed in the Pine Barrens. Today, a 12-foot-tall monument marks the secluded site of his death in Wharton State Forest. American Legion Mount Holly Post 11 holds an annual remembrance at the memorial the second Saturday in July.—ND

Fort Lee Film History Walking Tour
Fort Lee (Bergen County)
This is where the American movie business was born. The old studios vanished after the great migration to Hollywood a century ago, but you can still glimpse a few landmarks—like Rambo’s Hotel, which served as a Western saloon, and Cliffhanger Point, where damsels dangled in distress. Download the encyclopedic map, find John Barrymore Way and watch the past flicker to life.—KC

Fort Mott State Park
454 Fort Mott Road, Pennsville (Salem County)
Formerly part of a post-Civil War coastal defense system along the Delaware River, the 104-acre site remains a worthy destination for families and history buffs alike. On a walking tour of old gun emplacements and batteries, visitors can stroll the Delaware River shoreline, enjoy ample picnic areas and hop on a seasonal ferry ride across the river to Fort Delaware. 856-935-3218. —ND

Greenwich (Cumberland County)
In another town, it might seem an affectation to call the main thoroughfare Ye Greate Street. In Greenwich (population 858 in 1810; 802 now) it’s a sign of continuity. Few towns in the state have changed as little as this postcard village ringed by farms and marshes on the Delaware Bay. Visit the local museum, have lunch at Aunt Betty’s Kitchen next to the post office, and pay homage at the monument to the local patriots who burned a shipment of tea trying to take a backdoor route to Philadelphia in 1774. You’ll feel a century or two slip away.—KC

Hangar No. 1
Lakehurst Naval Air Station (Ocean County)
This is the Cape Canaveral of dirigibles, the gargantuan airships filled with flammable gas that once cruised the skies at about the same speed you cruise the Parkway. Lakehurst was the Navy’s airship port in the years of their brief reign between the world wars, and it is now the prime keeper of their history. The free three-hour tour starts at the Cathedral of the Air, a Gothic chapel with stained-glass windows tracing the history of aviation, before proceeding onto the active military base—the reason you have to sign up two weeks in advance and bring photo ID. There’s plenty to see inside the base, including museum rooms devoted to airships, other aircraft and all manner of military artifacts (kids like this part best). You can stand at the spot on the wide, gravelly plain where the Hindenburg crashed and burned in 1937, and then walk through the cavernous hangar that was big enough to hold the German airship’s entire 804 feet length. 732-818-7520.—KC

Ocean Grove’s Tent City
Ocean Grove (Monmouth County)
Adjacent to the Great Auditorium each summer a city of tents pops up—114 of them to be exact. Beginning in May, members and supporters of the Methodist congregation come from all over to construct their semipermanent homes on wooden platforms—the largest being 13 feet by 18 feet. A tradition since 1869, the minature city bursts to life as families decorate their tent houses with fresh flowers and American flags. Surrounded by Victorian homes and pedestrian-only sidewalks, the tiny village is a sight to see before it is dismantled each September.—BM

Proprietary House
149 Kearny Avenue, Perth Amboy (Middlesex County)
Governor’s mansion, hotel, Presbyterian retirement home, boarding house—the Proprietary House has been many things over the last 250 years. Most memorably, though, it was a prison for one man: William Franklin, Benjamin’s illegitimate son, and the last royal governor of New Jersey, who was held under house arrest for six months in 1776. There are no prisoners now, just a museum. Tours are given the last Sunday of each month; afternoon tea is served on Wednesdays. 732-826-5527. —KC

Red Bank Battlefield Park
100 Hessian Avenue, National Park (Gloucester County)
Planes glide in and out of the airport across the river now, and cars traverse the Walt Whitman Bridge just to the north. But on an autumn afternoon in 1777, this placid green park was a battlefield. Outnumbered two to one, American soldiers repelled Hessians fighting for the British, and defended a fort built to stop the enemy from sailing up the Delaware to Philadelphia. Archeologists working in the shadow of the park’s tall monument are still unearthing artifacts. The graceful brick farmhouse where the wounded from both sides were tended is open from April through October. 856-853-5120. —KC

U.S. Coast Guard Training Center, Cape May
1 Munro Avenue, Cape May (Cape May County)
Recruits get their Coast Guard training at New Jersey’s southern tip. The public can see the results four times a year when each class graduates at a Sunset Parade. The graduate recruits perform military marching drills accompanied by the Recruit Band, cannon fire and a helicopter flyover. The timing, at sunset, is an extra treat. No admission charge and no reservations necessary. 609-898-6362. —RS

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