There’s no better way to learn about history than by experiencing it firsthand. At the Old Barracks Museum in New Jersey, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the 18th century during the ups and downs of the American Revolution.
Located in historic downtown Trenton, this piece of local history doesn’t just house exhibits from the past. It’s a relic itself, pre-dating the Revolution and playing a key role in both the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars.
Admission is just $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors, making this an affordable—and fun—way to spend a few hours in downtown Trenton.
Two Wars, One Legacy: From Housing Soldiers to Telling Their Stories
The Old Barracks has been a symbol of colonial and revolutionary history in New Jersey since before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. Originally built as winter lodging for the troops during the French and Indian War in 1758, the Barracks also served as an army hospital during the Revolutionary War. It was the site of mass smallpox inoculations for troops, a then-controversial procedure ordered by General Washington, which successfully prevented widespread disease among the soldiers.
In the early twentieth century, the Old Barracks was preserved thanks to efforts by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Colonial Dames, and the State of New Jersey. Opened as a museum in 1914, the Old Barracks is now a beloved landmark where you can learn more about its role in New Jersey history and colonial traditions.
Find More than Relics at the Old Barracks
The Old Barracks Museum exhibits are an immersive historical experience, bringing the realities of 18th-century America to life.
Museum tours begin on the hour from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, led by historically dressed interpreters. These guides provide a window into the past as you walk together through squad rooms and officers’ quarters carefully restored to how they would have looked in the 1700s. Before or after your tour, you can take a self-guided tour through exhibits dedicated to the French & Indian War, the Battle of Trenton, and the Barracks Restoration.
The museum houses over 2,000 historical objects, ranging from needlework samplers to a paper handbill from the First Continental Congress dated September 22, 1774 (one of only two to survive). Look for the pine tree flag dating back to the 18th century. It’s believed to be the oldest American flag in existence!
You can learn more about daily 18th-century life on Saturdays, thanks to living history programming and demonstrations by the museum’s historical interpreters. You may find a shoemaker, a carpenter, or a tailor going about their chores as they would have in the 18th century. Discover Colonial fun with a traditional stick and hoop game, or watch a live musket demonstration with Revolutionary War-era guns.
After your tour, check out the Quartermaster’s Store for souvenirs and gifts. Browse history books, art prints, mugs, powder horn replicas, and much more. And make sure to visit other nearby historic attractions in Trenton, like the William Trent House, New Jersey State Museum, and New Jersey State House.
Planning a group visit? Group tours are available for parties of 15 or more.
Get Involved with Events and Reenactments at the Old Barracks
If you’d like to experience life in the 18th century for yourself, special events at the Old Barracks Museum are an exciting way to further engage with history. Here are a few of the upcoming events on their calendar. Period dress is always welcome but certainly not required!
Tavern Night – September 8, 2023
The tavern was a popular meeting place in Colonial America for both recreation and business. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the public house at Tavern Night, where you can enjoy hors-d’oeuvres and an open beer and wine bar in an 18th-century tavern. Play the favorite card games of the day and learn dances to popular songs alongside dancers in period costumes.
Your ticket to Tavern Night will support educational programming for New Jersey students of all ages through Meet the Past programs. Tickets to this all-inclusive event cost $70 and can be purchased online.
Patriots Week – December 26 – 31, 2023
At Patriots Week, join in a city-wide celebration of Trenton’s pivotal role in the American Revolution. Events include battle reenactments, walking tours, a pub crawl, and the Colonial Ball.
At the Old Barracks Museum, the week will include a wide range of events. Costumed reenactors will perform drills and fire their historic guns in daily musket demonstrations. New exhibits, lectures, and workshops will dig deep into fascinating historical topics. And at Warren Street Plaza, enjoy the Old Barracks’ “The Trouble with Trenton” interactive puppet show, exploring local history in miniature.
Two battle reenactments will be included in this year’s festivities. The First Battle of Trenton (December 26, 1776) and the Second Battle of Trenton (January 2, 1777) will both be recreated on December 30th on their original battlefields! Watch as both sides move through the events of each battle, culminating in decisive victories for the Americans.
Visit the Patriots Week website for more information about the week’s events!
How to Support the Old Barracks Museum
The Old Barracks Museum continues to thrive thanks to the generosity of private individuals and businesses. Want to help? Here’s how you can contribute to this important landmark and treasured piece of New Jersey history.
Become a Member
Membership in the Old Barracks Association provides ongoing support to the museum. There are six tiers of membership, each offering including free admission to the museum, free or discounted tickets to special events, and a discount at the gift shop. Higher tiers also include guest passes for friends and family, among other perks.
Make a Donation
Donations to the Old Barracks Museum help to fund its many initiatives, including educational programming. Students from elementary through high school can enjoy age-appropriate experiential activities, bringing history out of books and into real life.
Your donations will also support the historical research and collection maintenance necessary to keep these treasures of the past in excellent condition for future generations.
Sponsor the Museum or Museum Events
Private sponsors and supporters help the Museum to make special events possible. Please inquire about sponsorship opportunities to help keep the Museum’s mission alive.