Category Archives: James P. Allaire

What the Howell Works Really Looked Like

If you’ve ever strolled through Allaire Village during the warmer months you’ll have enjoyed strolling through a bustling living history museum surrounded by the green of Allaire State Park. Visitors often come to our Village to “escape” the hectic Jersey Shore summer traffic and to enjoy the peace and quiet. While I am biased, it really is a beautiful park.

It’s easy to assume (I certainly did) that during the 1830’s the Village was just as idyllic and green as it is today.

Unfortunately, that was not true.

While much of the surrounding area was farmland, the Howell Iron Works was a bustling industrial village, operating in the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. When James P. Allaire bought this large parcel of land he designed it as a iron-production source to his primary steamship making company in NYC.  He parceled off the forestry in what is now Allaire State Park and designated which trees would be cut down and when. (Timber was one of the primary ingredients in the production of iron ore.)

During the cold winter months it’s easier to imagine what the Village would have looked like.

While much of the land surrounding the Village was forest, the Village itself would have been bare of trees and grass due to the heavy traffic of carts, horses, and wagons. While today the Village is very green, in the 1830’s it would be fair to say it was dirty and dusty!

While this isn’t Allaire Village, it gives a good idea of what the Village landscape would have looked like in the 1830’s.

In addition, the Village would have been covered in soot from the furnaces. While today there is only one furnace standing, in 1836 there would have been four. For the most part, these furnaces would have been operating 365 days a year, spewing black smoke into the Village. Mr. Allaire’s wife, Frances passed away in 1836 due to tuberculosis. No doubt the Allaire home being in close proximity to the furnaces did not help her case.

Fun fact (though not-so fun for us)- A few years ago we were trying to plant some more gardens at Allaire and the plants kept dying. After a soil study we discovered there’s still a thick layer of soot under the topsoil from the furnace smoke…170+ years later and it’s still having an effect on the environment!

Pre-restoriation Blast Furnace

Eventually, after the furnaces shut down, nature reclaimed the Works, earning it the name “The Deserted Village”. The large sycamore trees that currently line the pathways were planted by Mr. Allaire’s son, Hal in the mid 1800’s! Today, Allaire Village is a beautiful spot to explore history and nature alike!

For more information on James Allaire and his Village, check out our website or visit us sometime!



Schooling at Allaire Village- Fun (and not so fun) Facts!

This past weekend we held School Days in the 1830’s, an event that transports visitors into the life of a child in 1836. We had a wonderful turnout, we hope all students (and parents) had fun and learned something new! For those unable to attend, here’s some fun facts…

In 1836, “schoolhouse” moved from the Carriage House and into the newly renovated Chapel. Like most (if not all) schoolhouses at the time, all of the students attended in the one-room building.

Mr. Allaire understood the advantages of education and therefore paid for all of his workers’ children to attend school…including the girls! This, as well as the free tuition was an unheard-of practice at the time.


Unlike school today, classes were only held three days a week. Sounds pretty good, right? Think again! Children ages 5 to 12 would have attended from sunup until sundown, all year round. And on those days off they would be working or helping their parents with chores.

The schoolmaster at the Howell Works was the Reverend Tanser who used the Lancastrian System. This teaching method emphasized discipline and rote memorization. It also encouraged students to assist each other in the lessons which were comprised of mostly reading, writing, arithmetic, and latin.

Rather than corporal punishment for unruly children, Reverend Tanser practiced punishments of embarrassment such as the dunce cap. If students continued to misbehave they ran the risk of expulsion, and their parents could be fired from their jobs!

Clearly, in the 1800’s education was a privilege, not a right! Thank-you to everyone who visited, volunteered, or worked at the event!


Meet the Villagers

During your walks through Allaire Village you’re often to find Villagers at their trades, playing games, doing chores, and participating in daily life in 1836. On special event days, especially it is probable that you will come across officials of the Howell Iron Works and members of the Allaire family. If you meet any of these villagers, be sure to engage them in conversation and ask any questions that you’ve been wondering about- they’re always more than happy to chat with curious visitors! Here are a few actual and fictional characters you may find…

James P. Allaire

Owner and founder of the Howell Iron Works, Mr. Allaire can usually be found on some of our larger, family-centered events (such as the Funeral, or the Wedding of Maria Allaire). As the Howell Iron Works is supplemental to the Allaire Iron Works, he is usually in New York City with the primary business. A very generous employer, Allaire built the industrial village and invited hundreds of workers and their families to live on the premises. In addition, he provides free education to all children of his workers, including the girls (an unheard-of practice in the 1830’s)!

Manager James Smith

As Mr. Allaire is away most of the time, it is Mr. Smith’s job to run the industrial village in the owner’s absence. As manager, he oversees the numerous furnace workers, tradesmen, shopkeepers, and factory workers to ensure that things are running smoothly and fairly. You’re invited to visit the home of Mr. Smith where his family are always welcoming and eager to engage visitors in their everyday activities.

Maria Allaire & Thomas Andrews

Maria Allaire, the youngest daughter of James Allaire, just recently married Thomas Andrews, Manager of the Allaire Iron Works in New York City! The entire village came out to celebrate the wedding, which was held in the Allaire Chapel. The newlyweds can often be seen walking around on event days when they’re not at their home in New York City. If you spot them, be sure to offer your congratulations and see what they’re up to in the Village!

Captain Brown

Captain Brown is the leader and commander of the Howell Works’ militia and can usually be found in the Village every weekend. In order to ensure the safety of the Village and its citizens, the militia frequently practice their drills and musters on special event days. You too can join the Allaire militia and take part in their marches and orders!

The Village Blacksmiths, Carpenters, & Tinsmiths

The Village tradespeople are always out practicing their craft and happy to share their wealth of information with any curious visitor! Stop by the Blacksmith shop to learn more about the iron-making process and how difficult it was to be an apprentice. In the Tinsmith shop see things like lanterns & whistles being made. While you’re there, visit with the Carpenter see some handmade, 19th-century toys!

The Foodways Guild

Allaire wouldn’t be the same without these talented & warm-hearted villagers! Always out on event days, they can be found in the Bakery, Manager’s House, or Big House cooking up traditional, 19th-century recipes. Using authentic methods and ingredients, and using the open hearths, it always feels as if you’ve stepped back into 1836 when they’re around! Always willing to give out their recipes and tips, be sure to seek them out on your next visit!

The Village Boys & Girls

No matter what day it is, there are always young people in the Village & welcoming visitors into their homes! Take tours of the Foreman’s, Manager’s and Allaire Mansion and learn what it was like to be a young family member in a bustling industrial village. If the villagers are out and about, they will be more than happy to invite you into their activities! Join them for some games, learn about cider pressing, or help with their chores such as gardening, laundry, and water-hauling!

Hope to see you out soon!


An 1836 Wedding

Last Sunday our Villagers helped to recreate the 1836 Wedding of Maria Allaire & Thomas Andrews. While not a “real” wedding (as some have asked), everyone did a wonderful job portraying the Allaire Family and members of the Howell Iron Works. The event was a success and (despite the heat) everyone seemed to enjoy the ceremony and celebrations that followed! Here’s some of our favorite shots from the event…

Wedding rehearsal…note the sleepy villager on the far right :P

The wedding party make their way down to the Chapel

The bride & groom

A few lively villagers join in the dancing & celebrations following the wedding service!

The day isn’t thru without a Villager tug-of-war game- boys (mostly) against girls!

Thanks everyone who came out to the event!



You are Cordially Invited…

…to the Wedding of Maria Allaire! On Sunday, June 10th at 1:30pm join the Villagers in celebrating the marriage of James Allaire’s youngest daughter, Maria and her fiance, Thomas Andrews. The ceremony begins at the Allaire Chapel and is followed by a Village Frolic on the Charcoal Depot with wedding cake for all!

Before attending the ceremony, here’s a little information on James Allaire, 19th-century wedding traditions, and the happy couple!

1836 was a bittersweet year for James Peter Allaire and his family. Prior to that year, Allaire had moved his family out of the cholera epidemic sweeping through NYC and into his Howell Works Village. Despite these efforts, in March of 1836 Allaire suffered the loss of his wife, Frances Duncan Allaire, to whom he was deeply devoted. In addition, the flagship of his coastal fleet, The William Gibbons would founder in a storm off the Carolina Coast in the Autumn of that year. The Nation was on the verge of its first financial crisis, the Panic of 1837….Despite these problems, 1836 marked the peak production year for the Howell Works, and Allaire’s youngest surviving daughter, Maria Haggerty Allaire was married.

Maria Haggerty Allaire was born to James Peter and Frances Duncan Allaire on September 9th, 1813. On Sunday, June 5th she wed Thomas Andrews, manager of the Allaire Works in NYC. At the time of Maria’s wedding it was customary for working-class women to wear their “Sunday best” for the ceremony. Maria, however, was an affluent young woman of the era and would have worn a lavish dress especially made for the occasion.

The custom of a bride wearing white would not officially begin until February 10th, 1840, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. HM Victoria would shun the tradition of being married in silver brocade bedecked with precious jewels, and designed her own wedding gown of white satin, trimmed in Honiton lace and bedecked with sprays of orange blossoms.


It was customary during the time of Maria’ wedding for the bride and her attendants to carry flowers. Maria, attended by her Matron of Honor (her sister, Frances) will walk up the aisle on the arm of her father, James, carrying a seasonal tussie mussie- a small bouquet of flowers favored by 19th-century brides. The groom is attended by the Howell Works Company Manager, James Parshall Smith.

After the ceremony, the happy couple will walk down the aisle of the church to greet their guests and well-wishers on the recieving line. During the early 19th-century, physical contact between a man and woman was not socially acceptable. Therefore, only the men shake hands. The ladies curtsey to the gentlemen while they, in turn, bow.

So join our villagers for this happy occasion and spot our homages to traditional wedding practices!


The Allaire General Store- Celebrating 175 Years of Retailing Goods (Part 1)

The Allaire General Store- Celebrating 175 Years of Retailing Goods
By: Hance M. Sitkus, CPA, Allaire Village Inc. Treasurer (Interim General Store & Museum Gift Shop Manager)

Along the winding paths of the Historic Village at Allaire, towering as high as the sycamore trees is the Allaire General Store & Museum Gift Shop. Construction started on the Store in 1835. It opened for business by 1836 as the “Howell Iron Works Company Store.” Its purpose at that time was simple- to ensure the self-sufficiency of James P. Allaire’s Howell Iron Works.

To local farmers and merchants in central Jersey, the size of the Store was inconceivable! For Allaire, this is the store he envisioned to keep his Howell Iron Works community thriving. The fact that the new Store replaced another, goes to show the tremendous amount of business the Store and Howell Iron Works Company was doing. And Allaire spared no expense in the Store’s “federal” architectural design. He spent over $7,000 in the Store’s construction. This, along with the tender loving care it received, has allowed to the Store to survive into the 21st century. In 1836, the Howell Iron Works Company Store was the third largest building at the Howell Iron Works, surpassed by the Iron Works Complex and the Charcoal Depot. Since 1900, it is the only one of the trio that still stands, making it the largest building at Allaire today.

The Howell Works Company Store was outfitted with a state-of-the-art elevator, post office, apothecary shop (i.e. drug store), and butcher shop. Items needing a cooler temperature were kept on the lower floor, such as fish, dairy, and meat products. The main level of the Store was organized into “departments”. The upper floors were packed with furniture, grain, flour, an assortment of tools, supplies, and other items. It was said that anything you could have possibly wanted was found at the Howell Works Company Store. This boast was often put to the test, and it succeeded!

Fabric  was the number one seller, as many of Allaire’s workers made their own clothes. However, fancy dresses, shirts, footware, and coats were also stocked. Customers could by lard or beeswax to make their own soap and candles and more affluent customers could buy the ready-made items. Household items such as pottery, tin-ware, irownware, and glassware were also sold. Finished cast-iron products made at the Howell Iron Works were not only sold at the Store but also shipped to New York City. It is rumored at the store even contained an early soda fountain! It certainly sold all kinds of candy, toys, books, and school supplies for children (it still does, today!). Food products from Allaire’s farms and other local items were also sold here.

What was most unique about the Store’s merchandise is that it came from local vendors or New York City shops! Through Allaire’s transportation network, he was able to bring the latest fashions and goods down to the Village. In this way, the Store truly functioned as any general store- as the eyes of the world!

The Chief Store Clerk kept track of villagers’ accounts in a ledger (credit), as well as what the Store received and sold. The Clerk also issued Howell Works Scrip. When it was “pay day”, workers at the Works would come to the Store to be paid in scrip (federal currency wasn’t adopted until later). They would also be given a chance to pay off any credit on their store account. Items were sold very reasonably to ensure the Store would operate as a “wholesale” business with other NYC merchants. The Store drew in customers up to 30 miles away, or more, just so they could avoid traveling all the way to NYC to buy  items.

After the last batch of iron was produced in 1846, the Store continued to function into the 1850’s. Although many village buildings collapsed by 1900, the Store weathered well. In 1907, it was leased out to a toy company, by the village’s new owner, Arthur Brisbane. Brisbane allowed various manufacturing companies to use the Store, including the Boy Scouts in the 1930s. As many know, Brisbane would eventually lay the groundwork to preserve and donate what was left of James P. Allaire’s Howell Iron Works to the State of NJ. Although his intentions to make over 1,200 acres of land into a “historical center and forest reserve” were completed in 1940, the State lacked the funds to open the Village until 1957.

The Store re-opened in 1960 under the proprietorship of Charles Van der Veer. Many of the Store’s antiques were later donated by him. Allaire Village, Inc. took over direct operation of the Store in the late 1970s. Out of all the buildings at Allaire, the Store has never undergone a full restoration- apart from stabilization. Thus, it retains much of its original character. Visit the Store to learn more of its unique history!


Store Hours are as follows:
Wednesdays & Fridays: 10am-4pm
Weekends: 10am-4:30pm

Our next blog post will include part 2 of this article!

The Funeral of Frances Allaire: A Narrative in 11 Photos

Note: The blog layout has changed but you’re in the right place, I promise!

In March of 1836, Frances Allaire, (the first wife of Howell Works’ owner, James P. Allaire) passed away at the Village. The 1800’s (unfortunately) wasn’t all about idyllic village life, men in cravats, and excessive use of the word ‘amiable’.  This event demonstrated a different side of 19th century life. While obviously not one of our more cheerful events, we got a great turn-out and the weather held out (two events which don’t always coincide!).

Villagers cover mirrors: a 19th century mourning custom practiced when a member of a household passed away.

Mr. Allaire mourns the death of his first wife, Frances.

The Funeral Procession makes its way from the Allaire Mansion to the Chapel.

Reverend Tanser greets the procession at the Chapel.

More moments…

Thanks to all Volunteers, Staff & Visitors who came out to the event!

In other news:

  • April 10th-16th is ALA’s National Library Week! Check back here during that time for ultra-special book-related blog posts!
  • We changed our layout. Like, or no like?

Check back next time for a more cheerful post!