Since the late 1800s, local commerce has served an essential role in the history of Bordentown City.
In recognition of the city’s past and present businesses, the Bordentown Historical Society is planning to dedicate its upcoming exhibit, “Made, Bought, and Sold in Bordentown,” to honor its local commerce.
The exhibit is scheduled to open on Oct. 5 during the 2019 annual Cranberry Festival and will run through December. The exhibit will be on display at the Bordentown Historical Society Friends Meeting House located on 302 Farnsworth Ave. and is open the first and third Saturdays of each month from 12-4 p.m. The schedule will be adjusted during the holidays.
In an effort to celebrate the history of commerce in the area, Bordentown Historical Society Co-President Doug Kiovsky said that one of the prominent intentions of this exhibit is to provide a glimpse of what products were bought, sold and moved through businesses in town.
Kiovsky explained that during the height of the shipping and freight industry, Bordentown was home to many restaurants, hotels and other businesses to accommodate commuters traversing through the area.
Although other businesses such as tailors, shoe repair stores and other services have since left the area or reduced in numbers, Kiovsky explained that the emergence of new businesses in Bordentown City still maintain the area’s long-standing tradition of local commerce.
“Bordentown was and still is a very vibrant place,” Kiovsky said. “It has just as much to offer here as big cities do. Times change and things change, but they stay the same if you think about it. Small town life is small town life.”
The historical society co-president said that the upcoming exhibit will feature a wide array of archived and donated artifacts with ties to local businesses such as items from past dressmakers and clothing stores; bottlers for hotel and pharmacy services; banks; photography studios; shipping in relation to the Delaware & Raritan Canal and the Camden & Amboy Railroad; merchant bill heads and a ruler from Jeffrey’s Store owned by Jeffrey Goldman; and furniture owned by merchant Samuel Burr and his son, Charles when Burr’s Corner and Burr’s Hardware Store were established in town.
Photographs of Downtown Bordentown that were donated by former Bordentown City Mayor Joe Malone will be on display as well. Due to limited space inside the Friends Meeting House, Kiovsky expressed that the exhibit couldn’t touch upon every business subject in the area, but still felt it encompasses a majority of Bordentown’s most notable businesses.
As the historical society prepares to showcase its new display to the public, Kiovsky said that he anticipates the exhibit to demonstrate a sense of unity in Bordentown through the partnership of local businesses.
“This exhibit is not just a big history thing. It’s to help people realize that we are one community,” he said. “We are all interconnected with whatever business it is and we all work together to make Bordentown. It reflects the history of the whole town, both past and present, by featuring its businesses. Bordentown, like any other town, reflects off of its surrounding businesses with everything else.”
The historical society co-president also pointed out that some of the area’s most notable entrepreneurs like Samuel Burr, a distant relative of Aaron Burr, was not only a local hardware store owner, but helped shift the scene of Bordentown.
For Bordentown Historical Society Co-President Tim Rollender, he said he felt the depth in the area’s background pertaining to this new series will allow it to garner more interest from people in the area.
Rollender explained that although Bordentown has a “tremendous history,” which allowed the historical society to showcase various topics in previous exhibits in unique ways, there was limited archived materials for some of them.
Rollender said that this led the historical society to assemble a series of speakers and presentations to sometimes tell the story, instead.
“We also used that opportunity to draw attention to the topic and enhance our archives as a result of that attention,” Rollender said.
But given the amount of archived and donated material related to local commerce in Bordentown the historical society has gathered for this upcoming series, the co-president said he plans to present the materials in a new way.
“In the case of this exhibit, commerce in Bordentown is a huge topic,” Rollender said. “We have a massive volume of artifacts. In fact, in researching the topic, we engaged a number of merchants in town and found they have a massive collection of artifacts, as well. Many of the shop owners moved into their stores and ‘inherited’ a volume of artifacts left by the prior owner/tenant.
“Therefore, for this exhibit we will plan to rotate the artifacts on display throughout the series. As visitors walk the room they will see a static vignette featuring furniture owned by the Burr family, prominent vendors in town,” he added.
While the historical society plans to have no shortage of items on display for this series, Rollender said that as patrons stop in to visit the new exhibit, he hopes its representation of Bordentown’s diversity in its businesses, services and its business men and women.
“We have additional sections on shipping and logistics, shops, manufacturers, service providers, [which include] the death and taxes section features stories on service providers from accountants to banks, to lawyers, to funeral homes,” he said. “The exhibit will celebrate the entrepreneurs that made daily life in Bordentown, what it was, regardless of race, religion, nationality, socio-economic status.”