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Educator’s Tour

A list of Burlington’s illustrious educators reads like a Who’s Who of institutional founders and teachers. Tour takes in eight sites and a good bit of the Historic District (approx. 2 miles, or 1 1/2 to 2 hours), including schools and homes of educational pioneers..

Take a walk back in time and engage your mind with Self-Guided Tours of historic sites in the City of Burlington. Available year-round, these are especially fun when taken during one of our special annual events (see Events Calendar). The Site Numbers (in circles: 1 ) below may appear out of order, but the sites are arranged in order of best walking route. To help you find your way, print out a copy of our Historic District Map. Or, request a FREE Map Brochure– by <E-mail> or call (609) 386-3993. Supplies are limited.
Some sites may contain stairs. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

1 Burlington Island 1624

Visible from Riverfront Promenade
The first recorded settlement in New Jersey places Europeans on Burlington Island in 1624 (1 on map, viewed from E. Riverfront Promenade) . They were Walloons from Belgium who established a trading post to barter with the Indians. New Jersey’s first record of an African presence notes slaves of a Dutch colonial official held on Burlington Island as early as 1659-1664. Subsequent to the Dutch, Swedes and Finns occupied this island, and it was finally seized by the English in 1664.

From the first, Quakers made children’s education an imperative in Burlington. In 1682 they created one of the oldest trustees in the nation, the Board of Island Managers, to administer funds from part of Burlington Island...

“...for the encouragement of learning and the betterment of youth.”.

44 Friends Schoolhouse 1792

York & Penn Streets
The Friends Schoolhouse (1792, York & Penn Sts., 32 on map) was begun with but three pupils under young John Griscom, headmaster. The Quakers stressed education, feeling that a young person must be prepared to accept the responsibilities of adulthood. Discipline was strict and the students spent long hours attempting to solve the mysteries of long division and Latin. This building contains many photographs, books, and documents of Burlington.

In 1977, the City of Burlington Historical Society placed a time capsule in these grounds to be opened in 2077 to celebrate four centuries of Burlington history..

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29 Shippen House & Riverbank Houses 19th C.

202 Riverbank
The waterfront area derives its name from Green Bank, the estate of Gov. William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin and last Royal Governor of New Jersey. His politics opposed those of his father, unto death. William Franklin was instrumental in founding Queen’s College, since known as Rutgers University. Green Bank is now the site of the truncated V.F.W. building (Riverbank Houses, 202 Riverbank, 29 on map).

Across Talbot Street is Stone Cottage, a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture designed by architect William Strickland, the home of Dr. Courtlandt van Rensselaer, D.D., founder of the Presbyterian Church in Burlington. Dr. van Renssalaer established the Van Renssalaer Seminary in 1853.

31 St. Mary's Hall 1837

Episcopal Bishop George Washington Doane in 1836 acquired Gummere’s girls academy, opening St. Mary’s Hall church school for girls in 1837 (now St. Mary’s Hall, 31 on map). St. Mary's Hall, now a private educational institution, had a first year enrollment of 52. The instructors stressed classical studies and a high standard of education. Each semester cost $100 with an added charge of $6.00 for bedding. The building was lighted with whale oil and contains many original portraits and furnishings. This property has been placed on the National Register of Historical Places.

Bishop Doane, in 1846, opened Burlington College for boys for a live-in classical education under religious principles. Bishop Doane was also instrumental in the founding of Columbia University, New York.

26 Gummere House ca. 1721

222 Wood Street
The Gummere brothers, John Gummere and Samuel R. Gummere, and John’s son, Samuel J. Gummere, were prominent members of the Society of Friends. They were distinguished scholars who greatly added to the fame of the City of Burlington as an educational center. John Gummere (Gummere House 1721, 222 Wood St., 26 on map) opened his classical Academy on E. Union Street (since converted into two homes) about 1814. In 1833, he was called to be President of Haverford College. Eminently qualified, he was a Fellow of the American Philosophical Society, corresponding Member of Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences, and wrote oft-used treatises upon Surveying and Astronomy. John Gummere was appointed superintendent of the schools in 1834 and taught mathematics for a number of years.

His brother, Samuel R. Gummere, founded the girl’s school later made into St. Mary’s Hall. Both John and Samuel, with Dr. John Griscom, founded Haverford College. John Gummere’s son Samuel J. Gummere became in time President there as well.

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40 Boudinot-Bradford House 1804

207 W. Broad Street
The 1795 Burlington Academy (formerly on the site of “New” St. Mary’s, W. Broad St., 19 on map) had among its revered founders and trustees one Hon. Elias Boudinot (Boudinot-Bradford House 207 W. Broad St., 1804, 22 on map). Besides his great political career and social activism (click <here> for more) he was a founder and first President of the American Bible Society. As a trustee of Princeton University, he founded the Natural History Department in 1805.

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11 Friends Meetinghouse orig. 1685 replaced 1785

341 High Street
The Friends Meeting Nov. 7, 1705 established the first recorded school in Burlington, to convene at the old Meeting House. This building’s location has been the meeting place of area Quakers for over 300 years. The original seats and tables built during the Revolution are still in use. Constructed on the site of the original hexagonal meetinghouse used from 1685 to 1785. The building and grounds are reminders of the important contributions Quakers have made to the area’s culture over the centuries.
Among the noteworthies interred in the burial grounds behind the building are the founder of Bryn Mawr College Joseph Taylor, printer Isaac Collins, and missionary Stephen Grellet.

28 James Fenimore Cooper House 1782

A deep appreciation of the American wilderness, and its indigenous peoples, was forever branded into the American psyche by that first American author, James Fenimore Cooper. Reading with his wife one night, he impatiently hurled a book by a British author to the floor, exclaining that even he could do a better job of writing than that. To which his wife simply said, well then, do it. In novels such as Last of the Mohicans and Leatherstocking Tales he placed memorable characters such as Hawkeye, Chingachgook, and Natty Bumpo in action on vividly detailed, patiently described wild terrain unique to this continent. At every turn, Nature was not a mere backdrop, but a willing participant in the drama. Born here, Cooper returned to Burlington later in life. Visit the Cooper House at 457 High Street (37 on map), part of the Burlington County Historical Society row.

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Burlington: Making Good Marks on Education

Rooted in its long history and Quaker origins, and fueled by its growth as the Capital of West Jersey and stature as third-largest port in the New World, education flourished in Burlington. It is almost incredible today to think that such a small City could bring to bear such a seminal influence on the establishment of education in America.

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We hope our Educator’s Tour has illuminated the City’s importance in early American education, and welcome your return to our Historic District. Why not bring the family, your professional or seniors group?

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NOTE: Some of the sites listed in Tours (4-5, 7, 11, 13-23, 25-28, 30-33, 38-44) are private property owned by individuals or organizations, and must be viewed and enjoyed with respect from without.
These contacts are offered only to aid those interested in requesting access to the following private interests:
Burlington County Historical Society 453 High Street (properties include Bard-How House, Cooper House, Capt. Lawrence House, Delia Biddle-Pugh Library at the Corson Poley Center and Aline K. Wolcott Museum) For walking tours, tours of the interiors of their buildings, hours and more information call (609) 386-4773
City of Burlington Historical Society Carriage House, Ellis Lane (properties include Hoskins House, Carriage House, Friends School House) For information call (609) 386-7125
Bethlehem African Methodist Episcopal Church 213 Pearl Blvd. Tours by arrangement (609) 386-6664
Burlington Friends Meetinghouse 341 High Street Tours available by arrangement (609) 387-3875
Temple B'nai Israel 212 High Street For more information call (609) 386-0406

See the past for yourself– it’s our present to you. Welcome to the City of Burlington.



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