A Brief History of the Old Barracks Museum


In 1758, during the French and Indian War, the Old Barracks was constructed by the colony of New Jersey to house British soldiers and was used as such until the war's end in 1766.


In December 1776, George Washington crossed the Delaware to escape the British army during the American Revolution. On Christmas night 1776, American troops under General Washington re-crossed the river north into New Jersey, winning a stunning victory over British and Hessian troops in Trenton. This success marked the turning point of the American Revolution.


From March 1777 until the treaty of Paris in 1783, the Barracks served as a military hospital, primarily engaged in the inoculation of Continental Army soldiers with smallpox during an army-wide effort that was likely the first, successful, mass-inoculation in Western history.

The building served as a variety of private residences and institutions, until in 1902 it was purchased by a small group of local women who became the Old Barracks Association and opened it as a museum in October 1903. In 1914, the building was given to the State of New Jersey to maintain its upkeep, supported by the Old Barracks Association and a unique combination of public, private and personal funding. You can read the Deed of 1914 and the Law of 1917 substantiating the State’s historical obligation to fund the Old Barracks. It was fully restored in 1915-1916 and 1995-1998.

The Old Barracks is the last remaining British military barracks in North America.

Today, the Old Barracks serves as a destination for visitors from around the world as well as an educational center for Colonial and American history. Nearly 20,000 school children and thousands more people from all over the world visit the Old Barracks every year, making it one of the most visited sites in New Jersey and one of the most important historic sites in the United States. The Old Barracks staff provides guided tours and interpretations of American colonial life. The building offers a museum of 18th century artifacts and weapons, as well as a gift shop.

For more details about the State and its unique funding relationship with the Old Barracks, read the FAQ and a Statement by Richard Patterson, Director of the Old Barracks.

A deeper history of the Old Barracks can be read on our "The History" page or our booklet "A History of the Old Barracks" available for sale in our Quartermaster's Store gift shop and online.


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