Top 10 Things to Do
1. Downtown Main Street
Hightstown was literally founded in the downtown. In 1721, after John and Mary Hight purchased 3,000 acres from the British crown, they erected a log cabin on the north side of Rocky Brook (along a winding Indian trail) currently the site of the Hightstown firehouse. Later, they built a mill, blacksmith shop, and at least 2 other buildings nearby.
Hightstown reached its pinnacle of prosperity and prominence in the late 1800s when the railroad ran through, and had a stop, in Hightstown. Most notably the John Bull, the first locomotive to connect two major cities, New York and Philadelphia, regularly ran through Hightstown. The town became a bustling center of activity and commerce, acting as a hub in the trade of agriculture for the surrounding rural farming communities.
Currently, downtown continues to serve as the economic center of our town. Its collection of locally owned “mom and pop” shops serve our residents well. There are also a number of service-oriented businesses, including accounting, insurance, photography, tailor and cobbler. Dining options include farm-to-to table, American bistro, casual outdoor dining at our local tavern, as well as pizzerias and sandwich shops. There are also a number of international restaurants, mostly south American, that cater primarily to a growing Latino population. The specialty shops in Hightstown are varied, including antiques and home furnishings.
Besides serving as the economic center of the town, Downtown also serves as our social center. Events such as the annual Harvest Fair, Memorial Day Parade, Santa Parade, and Triathlon all take place along Main Street. During the warmer months, events such as our Farmers’ Market, weekly swims in the lake, as well as occasional concerts in the park, draw residents downtown as well. People also enjoy taking in Pop-Up Art Galleries that represent recent collaboration between landlords and the town’s Cultural Arts Commission as a way to enliven vacant storefronts/businesses.
2. Stockton Street Historic District
Listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, the Stockton Street Historic District includes 56 beautiful dwellings, 26 support structures, one monument and one magnificent church. The district runs approximately four blocks in length along Stockton Street, a portion of Rogers Avenue, and contains mostly residential dwellings dating from just prior to the Civil War through the turn of the twentieth century.
The Stockton Street Historic District is recognized as significant to Hightstown’s history for its historic architectural styles, which is evident in the many examples of early Federal, high-style Victorian, ecclesiastic, and turn-of-the-century eclectic. The District has also become well known in these parts for their enthusiastic Halloween celebration. The Stockton Street Historic District connects directly into the downtown business district via Stockton Street (Rt. 571).
3. Peddie School
From three impressive main stage productions and seasonal music concerts inside the William Mount-Burke Theater to the excitement on its athletic fields, Peddie School welcomes its neighbors to campus throughout the year for special events and presentations.The campus' Mariboe Gallery has shown work by world-renowned artists and exhibits provocative and engaging art and artists. Gallery openings are free and open to the public.
In summer, Peddie opens its campus to a variety of camps and programs for children of all ages. The Summer Day School helps middle and high school students from throughout central New Jersey catch up or get ahead in academic classes; camps focusing on arts, sports and good old-fashioned summertime fun are offered in the summer season!
4. Peddie Lake
The site of the annual Hightstown Triathlon, Friday night swims, fishing, canoeing and kayaking as well as paddleboats at various times of the year, Peddie Lake is situated in the center of the Downtown. Peddie Lake provides beautiful views and much potential for further recreational opportunity.
5. Memorial Park
Home of the memorial to fallen local veterans, this small park located in the center of the Downtown is adjacent to Peddie Lake. This park is also a popular spot for fishing and occasional concerts. Future plans include replacement of the old walking bridge over the waterfall.
6. Association Park
This neighborhood park, situated within a town square, serves as a wonderful area for recreation and enjoyment. Seasonal activities take place within Association Park, such as the thriving Theater in the Park program for our town’s budding thespians. In 2019, this park will also be home to Hightstown's Fun Fridays!
7. Civil War Memorial Park
This small triangular park, located in the center of the Stockton Street Historic District, features a marble soldier’s monument. Dedicated in 1875, it retains its key components including an eagle resting on an orb at the top of an obelisk and four Confederate cannons at its base, one at each corner. At the dedication, an oration was given by Edward T. Green – a U.S. Sergeant during the Civil War who then resided in Trenton.
Green congratulated the East Windsor Soldiers’ Monument Association for accomplishing the design and erection by voluntary subscription. He consecrated the monument to “the memory of soldiers…who received their death wounds upon bloody fields of battle – not in gallantly defending their native land from the attack of foreign enemies, but in repelling an effort to destroy our government institutions, made by our misguided and rebellious Southern fellow citizens.” In addition to reminding visitors and passersby of our region’s history, it has become a true beacon in the town.
8. Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society
The Ely house is circa 1850 and serves as the Society’s museum containing local period furnishings, art work, clothing and musical instruments. It was a private home until purchased by the Society in 1974. In the 1990s, the original Camden & Amboy Railroad was forever abandoned for railroad use. The oldest and last structure of the railroad was the freight station located across town.
Built in 1869 the station was moved and attached to the Ely House with funding from Coca-Cola. Its renovations and conversion to a meeting room,museum and library was funded by community donations and a significant bequest from Sara Hutchinson West. The Society is used for special events and is open to the public at various times listed on the website. Researchers may contact the Society to schedule use of the library.
9. Art Station Studios
This adaptively reused railway freight building is home to painters, sculptors, potters, and many other eclectic artists. Their annual Open House allows the public to not only tour the studios but also purchase artwork.
10. Pianos in the Park
Like to play piano? Tickle the ivories at any of the pianos placed around town for your enjoyment. The one pictured here is in Association Park.