How much do you remember about colonial-era America? For many of us, it’s been a while since we studied U.S. history, and specifically the American Revolution. If you live outside of the original 13 colonies, you might not be exposed to constant reminders like historic landmarks that serve as living memories of this volatile time. But if you’re thinking of creating a historic road trip through the original states this summer, you’re going to want to include these five landmarks on your list.
Fraunces Tavern – New York City
New York City is full of locations where our Founding Fathers met, the nation’s first president was sworn into office, and which was an occupied territory under British rule. If your travels take you to lower Manhattan, you can see all of those places and get a history lesson at Fraunces Tavern. Fraunces Tavern is a real working pub that was originally intended to be the private home of the De Lancey family after the land was first acquired in 1719.
Eventually, the three-story building was transferred to Samuel Fraunces in 1762 and was named Sign of Queen Charlotte (The Queen’s Tavern). The property served as an inn for weary travelers, a place for hungry locals, and—at times—a safe haven for loyalists during the Revolution. As the war progressed, patronage shifted to Continentals and even housed George Washington when he was in the city. Since 1762, Fraunces Tavern has served as a bar and occasional boarding house. Today, you can visit the museum on the upper floors and enjoy a drink downstairs in the bar or grab a bite in one of the historically named rooms.
Old Tennent Presbyterian Church – Manalapan, New Jersey
Everyone knows that historic battles occurred in fields all across the original colonies. But did you know that one church in a sleepy New Jersey town served as a field hospital after the Battle of Monmouth? In June 1778, the British and Continental armies faced off in a part of Monmouth county known today as Freehold. While the battle wasn’t a deciding point militarily, a historic landmark was made when the Old Tennent Presbyterian Church in present Manalapan became a triage center for the Continental Army.
Army doctors cared for wounded soldiers while the battle raged on around them. And to this day, you can find bullet holes and cannonballs in the church’s walls as well as see marks and blood stains on several church pews where wounded soldiers were treated.
Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson – Winnabow, North Carolina
Often when we focus on the Colonial Era in the U.S., we think about the Northeast almost exclusively. But the southern colonies were just as active throughout this period of history. Brunswick Town is a port town on Cape Fear River in North Carolina that was once central during the 18th and 19th centuries for sea merchants and businessmen who relied on exporting their goods. The settlement was established in 1729 and helped to drive economic growth in the region thanks to an infusion of wealthy landowners from South Carolina.
But the town is best known as an early site of Colonial rebellion during the Stamp Act of 1765—a law that required any legal documents or commercial publications to feature a stamp that had to be purchased from the Crown. Angry citizens formed an armed mob and prevented a British ship from unloading the stamps. While this temporarily halted trade in the region, the colonists’ persistent protest in Brunswick Town led to the eventual repeal of the Stamp Act.
Nathan Hale Homestead – Coventry, Connecticut
Who is Nathan Hale? If you’re not an American Revolution buff or a Connecticut resident, you might not know. But for the Constitution State, this young man is a local hero who was born in Coventry. Nathan Hale is considered by many to be an integral member of the Continental spy ring that provided vital information about British activities to the Continental Army and General George Washington specifically. However, the spy ring wasn’t well managed, and Hale wasn’t the best spy.
After infiltrating New York City and gathering critical information in 1776, he was discovered by British forces with drawings and detailed notes—outing him as a spy and condemning him to death. Nathan Hale is best known for his famous final words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” But these days you can visit the Nathan Hale Homestead, which has been expertly preserved from its humble origins when it was built in 1776.
George Washington’s Estate – Mount Vernon, Virginia
And finally, if you’re going to create a trip focused on U.S. colonial history, you simply can’t skip Mount Vernon. This Virginia locale is the home of our nation’s first president, George Washington. Step back in time and see how Washington lived as you walk through the plantation’s palatial grounds. Mount Vernon serves as an immersive experience with guided tours and history lessons that help you understand more about the man who would lead a cluster of colonies to independence and what led him into this role. The estate was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1960.