While Hessians were sleeping away in homes near these barracks, raised in 1758, General George Washington and 2,400 Revolutionary soldiers were crossing the icy Delaware River to start the First Battle of Trenton.
Built to house 300 soldiers during the French and Indian War, the Old Barracks is one of the oldest surviving buildings in New Jersey, and the last remaining British barracks in North America. The Royal Coat of Arms can still be seen on the Officers’ House.
The barracks and almost 900 Hessians were captured in the First Battle of Trenton, with negligible losses by the Revolutionary Army (tales of the Hessians being drunk from Christmas celebrations are most likely apocryphal). After the Second Battle of Trenton, the Barracks were used as a hospital. Dr. Bodo Otto led a successful smallpox inoculation program here.
The Old Barracks changed hands many times in the 19th century, housing both a widow’s home and school, before falling into disrepair. Some Daughters of the American Revolution and other wealthy patrons formed the Old Barracks Association in 1902 to help restore it to its original condition, with a rebuilt middle section and restored south wing. Now a museum, tours show British military life in the colonies and Dr. Otto’s smallpox program along with other artifacts of New Jersey’s colonial and revolutionary past.