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    A Swan Song in Lambertville     gray logo           

Story and Photography by Chris Poh

Those 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, New Jersey.

Bridge over the Delaware and Raritan Canal  in Lambertville NJ as seen in American Public House Review
Bridge over the Delaware and Raritan Canal

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 Inn of the Hawke. We will now take our leave of this delightful place with a few parting cups at the Swan Hotel.                   

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.

Tracks through Lambertville, PA as seen in American Publ;ic House Review
Abandoned tracks through Lambertville, New Jersey

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.

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 Bar

43 South Main Street

Lambertville, New Jersey 08530-1840

(609) 397-3552

no web site

Anton's at the Swan

same address

(609) 397-1960



The Swan Bar in Lambertville, NJ as seen in American Public House Review
The Swan Hotel in Lambertville, NJ

Bar at the Swan in  Lambertville NJ as seen in American Public House Review
The Swan Bar

Bar room at The Swan Bar in Lambertville, NJ as seen in American Public House Review
Bar room at The Swan

Dining Room at Atnon's at the Swan in Lambertvilee, NJ as seen in American Public House Review
Dining Room at Anton's at the Swan

Fireplace at The Swan in Lambertville, NJ as seen in American Public House Review
Who wouldn't want to be sitting here?

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