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East Jersey Olde Towne Village Programming
Indian Queen Tavern

The Indian Queen Tavern was reputed to have been built as a home in the early 1700s along the New Brunswick waterfront. Later the structure was enlarged and operated as a tavern during the Revolutionary War period. By the 1780s, it was under the ownership of James Drake who also operated a ferry between New Brunswick and Highland Park.

From the late 1700s until 1818, the name of the establishment intermittently changed between Drake's Tavern and the Indian Queen. After 1818 and throughout the rest of the nineteenth century, the tavern was known as the Bell Tavern or Bell Hotel.

Indian Queen Tavern
parlor room

Cage bar typical of 18th century taverns

Federal style architecture was gaining popularity during the post Revolutionary War period. It is often distinguished by lighter treatments of architectural elements, a reaction to the heavy look of the Georgian style that preceded it - which was noted for its wood paneling and highly decorative fireplace surrounds.

Staircases in the Federal style are exemplified by simple rounded handrails and square balusters, with light and flowing architectural features.

One of the Tavern's most distinguished guests, Benjamin Franklin

Chamber pot

The Indian Queen Tavern first floor areas have been interpreted to reflect December 9, 1783, as if tavern owner James Drake were setting-up for the festivities that would take place later that evening. Although documents do not detail what furniture was in the room for Washington's visit, a number of period pieces help to depict the room setting.

Rush-bottom chairs and a looking glass (mirror) are typical of furnishings found in New Brunswick taverns.

Part of the permanent exhibit in the tavern

Tavern Wares

Most bedchambers were sparsely decorated in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, often containing only beds, washstand, and perhaps a looking glass (mirror). During the eighteenth century it was not uncommon, especially in rural taverns, to be placed in crowded rooms with multiple beds. In 1794, French political refugee Moreau de St. Mery, while traveling though New Jersey, remarked on the custom of sharing rooms, which on occasion included sleeping in a bed with a stranger.

The custom transcended all classes, as even Benjamin Franklin was forced to share a room with John Adams after finding that most of the inns in New Brunswick had been filled.

Inn room of the Indian Queen Tavern on the second floor.
Note the rope bed, wash stand and stove for heat.


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The Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission is funded in part by the
New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts
New Jersey Historical Commission, a Division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State

Middlesex County Cultural & Heritage Commission 703 Jersey Ave  New Brunswick, NJ 08901-3605
(732) 745 4489       FAX (732) 745 4524      Email   
culturalandheritage@co.middlesex.nj.us      TTY users only call (732) 745 3888