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SummerFest: Haddonfield Is A Colonial Gem

HADDONFIELD, N.J. (CBS)–If you’ve walked through Haddonfield then you know this place goes back a long way.

Between the beautifully preserved Colonial and Victorian style buildings throughout town — to the quaint brick sidewalks you’ll find along kings highway — there’s a story to be learned with each step.

“It’s a type of community where one person can make a difference,” said Joe Murphy, president of the Friends of the Indian King Tavern.

Haddonfield is a Colonial gem. Tucked away just 10 miles from Philadelphia, this stop along the Camden and Atlantic railroad has been a hub of activity for more than 300 years.

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“The goal is to make this a haven for Quakers — a place where they can worship in the new world, and freedom of religion and thrive as business people,” said Douglas Rauschenberger, vice president of the Haddonfield Historical Society.

Formally founded by Elizabeth Haddon in 1701, the young Quaker woman used her father’s money to develop the land into a bustling transportation hub along Kings Highway. Far away from the country where her religion wasn’t welcome anymore.

But it didn’t stay peaceful for long.

“During the Revolutionary War, when the British and the Hessians were in Trenton, the legislature met here at the Indian King in Haddonfield,” said Murphy.

“The Quakers would have like for it to have just gone away. They referred to it as ‘the commotions,’” Rauschenberger said.

While the Quaker pacifists may have protested the war in their backyard, today it is a celebrated part of Haddonfield’s past during the first Saturday of June every year.

“One of our major events — we reenact a gunfight between the Red Coats and The Continentals. Unfortunately, it’s historically accurate, so the Red Coats win,” said Murphy. “It’s one thing to read history books, and read about dates and generals. It’s another thing to actually see what life was like living back then.”

And — perfectly preserved — the Indian King Tavern still acts as a hub of activity for the town history buffs.

“It was really where things happened. For example, the Declaration of Independence in this area was first read from the Indian King,” said Murphy. “In the early 1900s, I think about 1903, the state acquired this, and this was the first historic site that the state of New Jersey acquired in order to preserve it.”

Just down the street, the second oldest volunteer fire department in the country is still dousing flames.

“First responder is not an easy job. Our saying: We run in where people run out,” said George Cox, retired fire chief with the Haddon Fire Company.

Cox became a firefighter and later the chief of the Haddon Fire Company, taking steps to preserve the legacy of the 253-year-old department.

“We have two old, antique hand pumpers in our museum. Leather buckets, some of the old equipment we used. We actually have a window from the original fire house in there,” said Cox.

A small museum inside of the building celebrates what would have been a treacherous profession in the 17 and 1800s.

“Back in the old days you didn’t have the masks, you just went in,” he said.

From the inside of this fire house to the Victorian-style homes that pepper the neighborhood, no matter where you look the history of Haddonfield is on display.

“You can feel the history here. You can have a pleasant time with the restaurants and the stores, and see what life can be like in a small town,” said Murphy.

Cox says, “It’s just a quiet little town. Everybody knows everybody, it’s a friendly town.”

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