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12/4/2010 - 2010 Bridgeton Holiday House Tour

Over THIRTY Sites on Bridgeton’s 2010 “East Side/West Side” Holiday House Tour on Saturday, December 4…and tickets still $15!

“Only twenty sites? That’s soooo 2009!” It’s what they’re saying in Bridgeton, New Jersey, these days as more than thirty owners of historic homes and shops, at least ten more than last year, plan to open their doors for this year’s Historic Holiday House Tour on Saturday, December 4.

The city’s signature winter event, a must-see for anyone who’s ever wondered how to live a 21st-century lifestyle in a vintage architectural treasure, also includes two major firsts among the grand Victorians on West Commerce Street: the 1882 Garrison House and the 1889 Bloomfield Minch House, arguably the most gorgeously-crafted “painted ladies” in the entire National Register Historic District, the largest in New Jersey.

We’ve been dying to get these two gems into the tour for years,” says tour organizer Sandra Huster. “The same owner has adapted one for work and one for living with a real sense of the Victorian passion for color and comfort and a total devotion to detail.”

But Huster says there’s a lot that’s special to the 2010 tour, including the many shops and businesses that have joined the party. “Bridgeton’s downtown is still a ‘bridge’ between the East and West Side wings of the tour, but shops at the district’s western end are now part of the scene as well.” That “scene” is a fun event that crosses age-groups and combines what Bridgeton Main Street director Carola Hartley calls “sentiment and sustainability.” The idea, she says, is “not just to look back but to look forward too.” Evening horse-drawn trolley-rides and Victorian-style caroling by the award-winning Off Broad Street Players play off against all the eating and shopping venues, cool and retro, of an open-for-business historic downtown.

Hartley stresses the partnerships that make such an event work, in this case City, homeowners, shop and business owners, and Main Street as redevelopment non-profit. “We see this as a truly cutting-edge heritage tourism event,” she says. "It highlights enjoyment while encouraging ‘smart growth’ in this compact, historically rich, ethnically diverse little city.”

Setting off the East/West theme are a striking group of homes, businesses and public buildings on the East Side, like the endearing Shoemaker House (1870) on East Commerce and the elegant faux-Tudor Martin Estate (1920) in a beautiful setting on East Lake. Also the handsome Craftsman-style Bridgeton Fire House (1898) and two sites associated with General James Giles, a veteran of the American Revolution who committed his later life to “Bridge-town.”

Giles’s legacy includes the distinctive 1816 Cumberland Bank building adjoining the Bridgeton City Library, now being restored through combined gifts from the non-profit Save the Library! and the New Jersey Historic Trust. James Livoti, a local architect who sits on the Bridgeton Historic Commission, calls it “a Federal-style brick treasure,” but adds that it is only one among Bridgeton’s many.

The tour includes at least two more gems on the West Side,” he says: the Cumberland Nail House (1814-1866) and the David Sheppard House (1791), now housing Rutgers University’s satellite Cousteau Center for Marine Science. "Both have also received grants from the New Jersey Trust, and both," he says, “tell the story of Bridgeton’s preeminence in industry and education and point to a future where environment and culture meet.”

Huster is still thrilled about all those fabulous High Victorians up West Commerce and Lake Streets, plus the well-stocked West Side businesses that support the comfortable contemporary life inside them. “But,” she adds, “our final gift to sustainability is holding the same economy-friendly price for this East Side/West Side holiday double-bill: two even bigger tours than last year for $15. You can’t beat that for value.”

The Bridgeton Historic Holiday House Tour: Saturday, Dec 4, Rain or shine. The tour timetable offers visits on the East Side any time from 1-5pm & over the historic Cohansey Bridge through the West Side any time from 3-7pm. $15 per person ticket includes both tours plus full-color program and guide map. Parking and West-Side trolley-rides free. For info, ticket orders and details about ticket venues, phone Bridgeton Main Street 973-864-4001 OR 856-575-5582. Or visit