BARNGET TOWNSHIP — Ocean County Parks Department wants to preserve Cedar Bridge Tavern, which historians believe could have been the backdrop for a noted Revolutionary War skirmish in 1782.
Cedar Bridge Tavern sits on wooded acreage in the Pine Barrens about a mile south of Route 72. To get a glimpse of the building you must travel down a bumpy dirt road, deep into the woods.
For about the last 50 years, bachelor Rudolph Koenig called the tavern with the long front porch home. Tim Hart, division director of the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission said Koenig lived at the property alone and had accumulated a lot of stuff.
“For a little while he was like a recluse out there and he did things to keep people away. But eventually, he embraced the history of the property and was very gracious,” Hart said.
At the tavern site, Hart organizes an annual reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Bridge — one of the last land conflicts of the American Revolution — and Koenig was always gracious, he said.
Koenig invited the public into his home in 2009 following the reenactment and gave them a tour of the historical building.
“He was like a relative. He was always very nice to us and gracious to let us use the area,” Hart said.
Koenig died Jan. 12. He was 86-years-old. Hart said and it was then time for the county to step in and adhere to an agreement made with the bachelor in 2007. Koenig passed ownership of the tavern and five acres to the county. Part of the agreement included lifetime tenancy to Koenig at the property.
“Part of whatever we do will be a tribute to Mr. Koenig. Without him the building wouldn’t have existed,” Hart said.
Hart said the county plans to incorporate Koenig’s World War II medals at the tavern once the preservation process begins.
Ocean County Freeholder John Bartlett said the county purchased the building and land for $120,000. Although that selling price seems more than reasonable, it was about 10 times more than what Koenig paid for the parcel in 1961 that had 283 additional acres.
Bartlett said the county is working to have the tavern included on the state and national historical register.
“It’s part of the history of the county and the Revolutionary War and it ought to be in public hands,” Barlett said.
He said the county does not plan on spending a lot money of money to preserve the property.
“Given the economic conditions we have had to cut back substantially in the parks department. We’ll see what we can do to bring the building up to code and better condition,” he said.
Bartlett said previous historical analysis determined that the bar inside the tavern dates back to 1815 and could be older than that. Bartlett said historians and the county have been unable to absolutely document that the tavern was there in 1782 when the Battle of Cedar Bridge took place, which was one of the last land conflicts of the American Revolution.
He said the road in front of the building was a stage coach road to Burlington County.
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