History has taken many forms at the Van
Horne House over the past 300 years, reflecting Somerset
County's history. The house and its site has seen the
tracks of Native Americans, the development of early
settlements, the struggles of the American Revolution
and the growth of commerce and industry.
Indians considered the hill on which the present
house sits sacred. It overlooked the Naraticong Trail
which later became the Old York Road. The Indians sold
the land in 1681 to Thomas Codrington.
In 1735, the site was the location of the Janeway and
Broughton Store. John Broughton was Bridgewater's first
Town Clerk. Philip Van Horne, the house's most famous
and colorful owner, purchased the property 19 years
later and built his home there. He was a generous and
hospitable man who freely entertained both sides of the
American Revolution, so much so that a concerned George
Washington considered throwing him in a New Brunswick
jail for treason. Van Horne's welcoming nature earned
his home various nicknames: "Phil's Hill,"
"Phil's Hall" or "Convivial Hall."
During the Revolution, the house served as
headquarters for Generals Benjamin Lincoln and William
Alexander (Lord Stirling). In April 1777 at thr Battle
of Bound Brook, Lord Cornwallis' troops marched to the
house and skirmished with Patriot troops in hopes of
capturing Patriot officers staying at the Van Hornes,
but without any luck. General Benjamin Lincoln, who had
been at the house escaped into the hills, "clad
only in his breeches," according to one account.
From the Van Hornes, the house and property
subsequently became part of a milling business, a
residence for down-in-their-luck union members, and
eventually was sold to Calco Chemical Company. The house
is listed on the National and New Jersey Register of
Historic Houses as a fine example of Corporate Colonial
Revival, a tribute to the renovations done by Calco.
In 2002, The Heritage Trail Assocation moved its
headquarters location into the newly renovated Van Horne
House and completed entry of the home into the New
Jersey Register of Historic places the same year. Today
the first floor of the house is exhibit space, a gift
shop and meeting rooms (available for rent). The second
floor is office space. It is a fine example of adaptive
re-use of an historic building.