Englishtown's Village Inn to host 40-year celebration

ENGLISHTOWN When a group of area residents got together 40 years ago in the living room of one of their homes, all they wanted was to stop a developer from tearing down a close to 250-year-old tavern to make way for a gas station.
"People said it was just a tavern, and why save a tavern, but they don't realize their importance during (the 18th century)," said Lora Tilton (Capozzoli) of Keyport. "Taverns were the center of the community then. Everything that a municipal building is now, taverns used to be, and more. Back then every town had to have a tavern."
On Sunday, the group The Battleground Historical Society will celebrate its 40th anniversary at the very building they worked to save; the hard-to-miss red Village Inn in the heart of the borough on Water Street.
"Our crowning glory was to save this building," said charter member Dorothy McCue of Marlboro. "It was challenging, exciting and painstaking at times."
Today, the group is not only the Village Inn's caretakers but preservationists who work to save other such historic landmarks.
To date, they've catalogued close to 150 historic homes throughout the area and presented plaques to each home owner. They also worked to save the West Freehold one room school and the Cobb House (the onetime home of Battleground State Park).
"We are to learn from history but what's going on today is that we are not learning from history," said Battleground Historical Society president Hans Kernast. "We certainly don't want to preserve everything but you certainly want to preserve enough so you can see how things were."
It is that old tavern, now the group's headquarters, that has proved to be their biggest labor of love, said program directory, trustee and charter member Lydia Wykoff.
"This is an area rich in history because it was a major part of the Revolutionary War," Wykoff said. "It's very important to keep the history going."
Treasures from an archaeological dig at the site are carefully catalogued and placed on display for tours such as the one given by Tilton. Dressed in historic garb, she traces the origin of the near 280-year-old building through to the Flemming family's 1879 purchase and sale 100 years later.
And if the walls could talk, they could reveal the history behind generations of other families that resided and transformed the circa 1726 building from a tailor shop to a stage coach stop and ultimately a tavern.
Michelle Gladden: 732-922-6000; mgladden@app.com
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