signs of life and rebirth normally associated with spring have been
slow to show their hand in the Northeast during this particular cycle
of the seasons. Winter cast a firm grip early on, and the “Old Man” has
stubbornly maintained his hold over the land ever since. The abundance
of gray chilly days since last November has only intensified my
inclination to seek relief and libations close to home. I am lucky
though that within my nesting range is the small city of Lambertville,
This picturesque community that can boast of having one of the finest
collection of restored 18th and 19th century architecture in the
country is also home to some of the best taprooms and taverns in
America. During the last few months we’ve sought sanctuary from the
vagaries of winter at The
Boat House, Lambertville Station and the
of the Hawke. We will now take our leave of this delightful
a few parting cups at the Swan
and Raritan Canal
Built around 1870, this striking red brick structure provided overnight
accommodations to those conducting business and seeking the more
refined pleasures of this prosperous transportation hub and industrial
center. But within a few decades, those factors that fueled the town’s
financial success, primarily the presence of transport by way of canal
and rail, would begin to fall prey to the conditions of functional
obsolescence. Barges and steam locomotives would give way to flatbeds
and diesel tractor trailers. At best the community was facing a
somewhat dubious and uncertain future.
By the 1970s, Lambertville was beginning to make progress toward its
goal of recovery and rehabilitation. Many of the old dilapidated homes
and businesses had been purchased by artists, artisans and tradesmen.
Among those who would be instrumental in the town’s redevelopment was
Jim Bulger. This retired high school history teacher, who was also
responsible for the construction of The
Boat House, purchased the hotel
around 1971. A few years later he would create the elegant and magical
adjoining space known as the Swan Bar.
The original tavern room in the
hotel now houses a separate restaurant called Anton’s at the Swan.
Abandoned tracks through Lambertville, New Jersey
Jim Bulger combines his love of the past with an impeccable sense of
interior design. He brings into existence rooms that are so pleasing to
the eye that it makes it very difficult for one to return to the
reality that waits beyond those walls. Christine, one of the bartenders
at The Boat House, recently had
this to say about that now legendary
establishment. “It is like Brigadoon rising from the mist.” The same
could most certainly be said of The
Swan Bar. It is a place where
lingering is not an option—it is an absolute must!
But as the warmth of spring slowly finds its way back into my bones and
psyche, I know that I will once again leave to undertake those journeys
in search of that next great bar. And as I now rejoice in the overdue
departure of those cold gray days, I also know that there will come a
time in the heat of late summer where I begin to pine for chilly
evenings, heavy sweaters, snowy lanes, crisp air, parting cups by the
fire—and another season’s swan song in Lambertville.
The Swan Hotel in Lambertville, NJ
The Swan Bar
Bar room at The Swan
Who wouldn't want to be sitting here?