New Brunswick State Theatre and famous faces: fun central Jersey facts

New Brunswick State Theatre

Many famous faces have visited New Brunswick. State Theatre is just one of the hot spots in central Jersey’s history. (photo Jody Somers/New Brunswick Home News Tribune)

DealChicken spends a lot of time hunting and pecking around central Jersey in search of the best daily deals. So it’s no surprise he’s come across more than a few interesting facts along the way. From painstaking renovations to the New Brunswick State Theatre, to the famous residents, here are a few fun facts that even your favorite fine-feathered know-it-all didn’t know until recently.

Central Jersey set the stage for one of the Revolutionary War’s most memorable moments. On Dec. 26, 1776, General George Washington made the now-famous crossing of the Delaware River to begin the Battle of Trenton. This American victory over the occupying British and Hessian troops was a much-needed win for Washington and his battle-weary men.

Since its 1921 opening, the New Brunswick State Theatre has hosted big-name stars like Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis and Bruce Springsteen. This jewel of the vaudeville era has been through two major renovations. During the $3 million dollar overhaul in 2003 and 2004, experts researched the theater to discover and recreate its original paint colors and other architectural details. Thanks to their hard work, visitors today can experience the State Theatre in its original splendor.

Six years before Trenton became New Jersey’s state capital, the city nearly became the capital of the entire nation. For two months in 1784, the newly established government met in Trenton, and there was talk of staying there. In fact, the city might have been chosen as the country’s permanent capital if it weren’t for the southern states’ desire to place the capital in a spot farther south.

Thomas Edison’s amazing inventions, like the electric light and the phonograph, led people to call him the Wizard of Menlo Park. Here’s why: In 1876, the then-unknown Edison moved to the village of Menlo Park, New Jersey. Over the next six years he patented 400 inventions. His genius made Edison famous and really put Menlo Park on the map.

Central Jersey is served by Newark Liberty International Airport, the nation’s oldest airfield. Today’s sprawling airport originally opened in 1928 on 68 acres of marshland. In 1935, the airport became home to the country’s first commercial airline terminal, and Amelia Earhart was on hand to lead its dedication ceremony. Over the following decades, the airport has continued to improve, keeping it at the forefront of modern aviation.

Rutgers, New Jersey's state university, is one of the country’s oldest colleges, but it was originally opened under a very different name. In 1766, the school began as Queen’s College, an all-male school. The name was changed to Rutgers College in 1825 in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers, who was a trustee and Revolutionary War veteran. Women were admitted to the school in 1918, in a decision that was likely cheered by many of the male students.

Anyone who grew up in Somerset County has probably heard the ghostly tale of the old Bernardsville Library. During Revolutionary times, this library building was the site of the John Parker Tavern. As the story goes, the tavern owner’s daughter, Phyllis, fell in love with a man who was tried and hanged as a British spy. Poor Phyllis went insane and is said to haunt the building to this day.

You don’t have to be a local to know that the lead singer of Bon Jovi hails from Central Jersey. But did you know that the area is also home to Jon Bon Jovi’s JBJ Soul Kitchen? Set in Red Bank, this friendly restaurant offers healthy, family-style dining with a twist: there are no prices on the menu. Diners can donate $10 (or more) per meal or earn meal vouchers by volunteering at the restaurant. Now that’s a restaurant with a great sense of community!

While the Monmouth Park racetrack was first opened in 1870, this New Jersey landmark was forced to close its doors for more than 50 years. The hiatus began in 1894 when the state banned betting on horses. The track was closed, and the land was sold. Monmouth Park was finally able to reopen in 1946 after it again become legal to bet on standardbred and thoroughbred racing.

Stretching 173 miles, the Garden State Parkway is one of the state’s most important roadways. It passes through the east side of Central Jersey, running from Cape May to the New York State Line. This much-needed highway was opened to the public in 1954. During its first five years of operation, the plaza toll was 25 cents, and the ramp toll was 10 cents, yet the highway managed to collect more than $70 million in toll revenue!

Did you already know about the New Brunswick State Theatre and other NJ trivia? We've got more fun facts about Jersey:

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