Historical African-American Landmarks of Monmouth County, New Jersey (part 1)

During a trip to Red Bank, NJ, we were compelled to visit two landmarks with deep-rooted history within the area. While these visits were quick and limited in terms of photography, the information we learned was profoundly enlightening. This is the very first of what will be several trips to Monmouth County’s historical African-American landmarks.

T. Thomas Fortune House and Cultural Center

The historical T. Thomas Fortune House and Cultural Center is a preserved property in Red Bank, New Jersey. Once owned by Timothy Thomas Fortune (1856-1928); a speaker, civil rights figure, writer, journalist, and editor; well known for being the editor of The New York Age – one of the leading black newspaper publications in the United States.

Fortune founded the National Afro-American League in 1890; later the National Afro-American Council, with the goals of providing advocacy and support for African-Americans and the socio-cultural injustices that they faced in the late Nineteenth Century and beyond. These organizations became a predecessor for the NAACP. Later, Fortune famously served as an editor for the highly influential Negro World, a publication that reached a circulation total of 200,000.

Fortune moved into the historic house, named Maple Hall, in 1901. Despite the family’s brief tenure in the house (1901 – 1911), the structure still served as a popular destination for local, cultural, social, and political events among the African-American community. Fortune also entertained famous guests, including Booker T. Washington. In 2019, the house was restored and donated to a local non-profit by a developing plan which included a housing complex on the physical property. As the historical structure was facing demolition, this new business development saved the house and all the history associated with it. To that end, the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation and Cultural Center was formed.

We visited the house on a Saturday afternoon after a visit to the downtown Boro of Red Bank. On the ground floor, there are two display rooms featured. First, in the main room to the left is an exhibit detailing the life and work of another famous Red Bank resident, legendary jazz pianist and bandleader “Count” Basie. In the other room to the right is a showcasing of pictures and documentation of Fortune and his family, including some of his most famous publications.

Upstairs leads us to a room converted into an open floor with a podium and chairs for speaking engagements and public events; a common activity at the Cultural Center, and also an exhibit on Drs. James W. Parker; Sr. and Jr., and the Parker family legacy of being among the pioneering African-American doctors in Monmouth County. A truly educational experience of which we should all be so grateful to still have with us – restored, and preserved.

For more information, please consider visiting



Cedar View Cemetery, Lincroft, New Jersey

The Cedar View Cemetery at Lincroft is a historic resting place for black veterans and their families. Acquired in 1850 to 14 black men in a land deal from a wealthy farmer and slaveowner, the cemetery is situated along a quiet stretch of land within what is now a residential area within the unincorporated section of Lincroft in Middletown Township, NJ.

The first reporting of the Cedar View Cemetery was in 1900, when former slave Charles Reeves died at the age of 80. The article acknowledging his passing was the first publicized reference for the Cedar View Cemetery, despite being in existence for 50 years.

Over the latter half of the Twentieth Century, Cedar View Cemetery at Lincroft was largely forgotten as development happened around the space, and the decades moved along into the new century. However, some of the local residents and descendants of the former slaves and war heroes buried at the site would continue to uphold the historical integrity of the location.

In present day, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Friends of Cedar View Cemetery, the site is now known among locals and historical travelers alike. The Friends have done their part to raise awareness and education for the importance of this location. Every Memorial Day, a ceremony is held at the cemetery, acknowledging the sacrifices made from the veterans and citizens buried there.

Montreal, QC : A Brief Introduction

Montreal, the beautifully vibrant French-speaking province in Quebec, has grown tremendously since Latoya first visited over ten years ago. Even though she doesn’t speak French, she still felt belonging and welcoming among the residents. Our goal is to return so we can provide more visual examples; however, this entry will provide the introduction to a city. The first chapter, as it were.

Montreal has unique qualities. The city is surrounded by water, but its interior presents an extremely diverse population in an urban environment. There are many festivals in Montreal which showcase the multicultural identities of its population. Uniquely, Montreal has an underground city where residents and tourists have access to hundreds of stores and restaurants, while being shielded from the harsh Canadian winter. This infrastructure allows pedestrians to walk through different locations of the city despite freezing conditions. 

Additionally, Montreal has extensive shopping, restaurant districts, and metro line systems where locals and tourists can harmoniously enjoy city life. For the history enthusiast, there is a bountiful display of architecture and statues sprawled throughout the city.

We will be back to Montreal for a much deeper dive. 

Please consider visiting: 


Mercer Lake at Mercer County Park, New Jersey

It’s tough to do any sort of activity after working all day, but when the weather is an unexpected 75 degrees, it’s hard to pass up on a trip to the park. In this case, one of our default destinations is the expansive Mercer County Park, covering portions of Hamilton, West Windsor, and Lawrence Township, New Jersey. Mercer County Park deserves its own wing of posts within our travel blog, as it is a fully functional space with facilities and activities for all hobbyists. 2,500 acres of property boasting services such as a world class tennis center, performing arts stage, festival grounds, ice skating rink, over 25 fields, a disc golf course (!), volleyball courts, basketball courts, dog parks, picnic areas, a truly moving 9/11 memorial, plenty of nature/hiking/fishing opportunities, a bald eagle habitat, and a boathouse and marina. Within the area of the boathouse and marina is Mercer Lake, the beautiful man-made reservoir, and today’s destination.

The story of Mercer Lake is standard in environmental infrastructure policy. In 1975 a dam was formed to contain the flooding of nearby Assunpink Creek from the former USDA Soil Conservation Service – now the Natural Resources Conservation Service. During the construction of I-295, work crews excavated the basin as a complimentary service with no additional cost to the taxpayers (hard to believe). The basin is now the beautiful Mercer Lake, flowing through the heart of the massive Mercer County Park that surrounds it.

Present day, the belly perimeter of Mercer Lake is a frequently traveled stretch for hikers, dog walkers, fisherman, families. Grilling pavilions are available for rent, and spacious green patches are ideal for picnics and photo opportunities. Most notably, Mercer Lake is home to one of the premiere US Olympic Rowing training centers. The Lake hosted US Olympic Team trials in 1988, 1992, 2004, and 2008. Both Junior and National Rowing regattas are held there. The Olympic Rowing presence at Mercer Lake is one of the stronghold legacies of the area, and Mercer County Park as a whole. When going for a walk along Mercer Lake, it is not uncommon to both witness and overhear the intense team rowing training going on at any given time. Mercer Lake is a frequent fishing destination, too. The Lake is well stocked with bass, catfish, and perch, with a high catch rate.

While not a natural body of water, Mercer Lake has both the historical framework of the development of infrastructure and flood control in the 1970s, and has since become a revered facility for Olympic caliber rowing. Aside from that, Mercer Lake is always popular for a stroll and some photography. A truly pleasant way to spend time in good weather.

For more information, please consider visiting: Mercer County Park Commission | Mercer County, NJ

Hopewell Borough, New Jersey

One of our favorite daily visits, the historic Hopewell Borough is located within the larger Hopewell Township in northern Mercer County, New Jersey. Hopewell is a part of the Raritan Valley region of the state with the woodsy Sourland Mountains to the north; Lambertville to the west; South Brunswick to the east; and Princeton to the south. Visually, Hopewell boasts a sleepy, calming small town aesthetic that has attracted young artists and off-beat small business owners. While all of Hopewell Township provides opportunity for nature preservation and historical investigation, Hopewell Borough has its own unique small town legacy of pre Revolutionary American History.

Like most early New Jersey settlements, the territory that became Hopewell was inhabited by Lenape Native Americans. A substantial land deal in the latter 17th century introduced the Colonial influence into the area. Over the following decades, Hopewell would be inhabited by settlers who were enticed to move to the area for its space and fertile soil, only to be misled by the real estate company, as the area at the time was vastly rural, forested land. The settlers who stuck around after this ordeal would become core components to what would eventually become Hopewell, and their contributions still stand in town to this day. The Baptist influence of mid-18th century reflects today with the Baptist Meetinghouse and the Hopewell Academy – the latter was a Baptist school which taught Latin, laying the conceptual framework as the forerunner institution for what would become Brown University. If you’ve been to Brown, visited Brown, or have friends or family as Brown alum, you all can thank the Hopewell Academy for laying the groundwork! Over time, the people began to utilize the resourcefulness of the land to develop industry and production. Lumber mills began to operate in the area to clear out much of the forest to make space for farmland; not to mention, also curate the stock for the important asset of lumber, benefitting the growing community; which was eventually incorporated as Hopewell in 1891.

We decided to visit Hopewell because we were on the road thinking of a destination for a quick visit to take some pictures. We say Quick, because we were within a 4 hour window of clear Spring sunshine, sandwiched in between hours of rain earlier in the morning, and what would become a tornado warning and hail storm later that night. To that end, time was a factor. We pulled up on a residential street across from the fire station, right by the Borough park. The park has a gazebo, small playground, and then a short but serene nature trail covering the perimeter of the site. We walked along the main stretch of Hopewell Borough, Broad St.(County rd 518) and took in a few sites, including the aforementioned Hopewell Academy. The antique shops and curious outdoor decorations are a trademark along the stretch of Broad Street by Greenwood, and on the other side is the Brick Farm Tavern (several Farm to Table options in the area, BTW), and the historic Hopewell Library. Hopewell Theater is a unique performing arts and dine-in theater right in town and offers an eclectic showcasing of music, plays, film screenings, and spoken word performances. The Highland Cemetery along the Baptist Meetinghouse is walkable along the town.

As you drive through Hopewell Borough without context, you may not realize that you are driving by structures that have existed within the community for over 250 years. That’s why whenever we drive through a small town in New Jersey, we always make it a point to visit and explore. Hopewell has always been a popular midday trip for us on a weekend, and when you take the time to learn about its historical significance, you learn to appreciate it even more.

For more information, please consider visiting

Hopewell Borough – Mercer County, New Jersey (hopewellboro-nj.us)

Hopewell Theater | Performing Arts & Dine-in Theater in Central NJ

Hopewell Academy Historical Marker (hmdb.org)

Historic Walnford, NJ

About twenty minutes east of home leads us to the calm, tranquil region of western Monmouth County, New Jersey. The village of Allentown – which will be covered by us in the near future, boasts many shops, restaurants, an old mill, and plenty of other opportunities for shoppers and weekend photographers alike. A little deeper into the Cream Ridge and Upper Freehold Township area we have today’s destination, with Revolutionary Era historical framework; now preserved into an open air museum, showcasing local artists while also preserving the artifacts and display of the late- 18th century. While historic Walnford is so beautifully tucked away in the quiet forest along Crosswicks Creek; much as anywhere else in New Jersey, it is still seemingly in the middle of everything. 

We decided to visit and profile Walnford for this blog entry out of the inspiration of constantly driving by signs for the site while exploring Allentown. With full discretion and humility as someone who studies local regional history as a hobby, I had no idea about Walnford. I have never seen it advertised on our local travel guide pages on social media, and neither of us have seen it referenced in any of our literature regarding Atlantic regional historical sites. We owed it to both the physical site and its historical impact to take a visit and experience for ourselves.

The current site of Walnford, NJ is an open air museum, with several buildings showcasing old artifacts, such as early Eighteenth Century transportation hardware and horse rearing equipment. The two main event buildings – the Waln estate and grist mill, are preserved and protected for the public. From a historical perspective, Richard Waln purchased several mills on the land and constructed both the estate and grist mill in 1773. The open air displays on site tell a story of two centuries from an industrial stronghold to a Twentieth Century country retreat for the Waln family. The Merchant trading industry of Colonial America relied heavily on the Crosswicks Creek, flowing as a natural corridor during local trade routes. The Walnford site is situated right along the Creek, and the trading services sourced out of the grist mill allowed the Walnford site to become a thriving industrial complex. In later years, Walnford transformed into a quiet, serene family retreat, upholding generations of contributions of local industrial history, as perpetuated by Richard Waln.

In 1979, the Walnford site was donated to Monmouth County, NJ and has since become a public attraction and display site for local art. The open air museum displayed in structures along the site are open to the public, as is the historic mansion structure, and grist mill, still standing tall, with centuries of legacy supporting it. Occasionally, the park staff at Walnford will facilitate a grist mill demonstration, where visitors can receive an in-person account on the operation of the grist mill as it was, many years ago.

For more information about the Walnford site, please consider visiting

Monmouth County Park System Parks Historic Walnford     

Historic Walnford | Facebook

West Haven Green, West Haven, Connecticut

West Haven, Connecticut is Latoya’s hometown with great childhood memories. This historic plot of land represents the colonial culture developed in New England. The Green was the scene of action during the Revolutionary War when Major General William Tryon led British forces in a brief invasion directed at nearby New Haven.

 Present day, the Green is an area where residents enjoy music festivals, parades, and other cultural activities.The area is now surrounded by several residential and commercial properties. Latoya’s dancing school was in the nearby vicinity.  As a dancing school student, she fondly remembers participating in parades and the unmistakable ring of the clock tower.

The Historic District of West Haven was settled in the 17th century as part of the “New Haven Colony”. This stretch of land contributes to religious, commercial, and residential development  — over the next three centuries and beyond.  

Day Trips, July-August 2021

After a few trips, a broken couch, ongoing full-time work, and a brand new air purifier, we are back and ready to continue presenting our daily adventures. Since it’s been a while and we have so much ground to cover, we decided to showcase two locations and one event for this post– going against our ideal format of diving deep into just one location. We’ll be back at it next time around when we cover the Green at West Haven, CT.

For now… enjoy these pictures and blurbs from our grab bag of day trips over the past two months.

Calgo Gardens – Freehold, NJ

Along Adelphia Road in Monmouth County, NJ sits Calgo Gardens, an expansive display of floral arrangements, exotic landscape design, and unique gardening architecture. We took the trip one Saturday in July to take in the sights and check out the outdoor vendors. Despite the intermittent rain, we were able to walk the perimeter and take a few good snaps of the grounds. We also visited our friend Brian; the Driftwood Buddha of Wood Vibrations, showcasing his amazing art that he creates primarily out of driftwood. We also stopped by the table at Edgar Allan Joe coffee. The team saw quite a few travelers, eager to try some of their top notch coffee. We went home with a scented candle. 

Calgo Gardens is a great destination to help find the perfect arrangement for your ideal backyard. The floral displays and gardening inspired architectural designs can transform your outdoors. 

Please consider visiting

Calgo Gardens (@calgogardens) 

Wood Vibrations Restorations LLC | Facebook  

Brian Sienkiewicz (@wood_vibrations_driftwood) 

Edgar Allan Joe Coffee (edgarallanjoenj.com)

Edgar Allan Joe NJ • Coffee (@edgarallanjoecoffee) 


The Rose Garden – Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

This place deserves its own full character profile post– something we intend to get to very soon. Morris Arboretum is located in the beautiful, affluent section of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. A beautiful property with a rich history, Morris Arboretum is worth a visit. There are many paths, biking trails, and unique bridges where you can get around to explore the many different exhibited displays on the grounds. The Victorian property has many different plants from around the world, and the presentation is such that while you are walking around, you feel as though you have entered several ecological environments. We attended Morris Arboretum in July to watch our good friends get married, which was a truly special occasion at the perfect ideal location. Prior to those festivities, we got to spend just a little bit of time exploring the Arboretum and were together blown away at the Rose Garden, pictured below.

This will not be the last report from Morris Arboretum. In the meantime, please consider checking them out at Morris Arboretum , and on Instagram, Morris Arboretum (@morrisarboretum) •  

The Brigantine Food Truck Festival, Brigantine Beach, NJ

Visiting family in Brigantine is always a good time during the summer, and in early August we got to check out the vendors and grubs on their long, wide beachfront for the food truck festival. Latoya and family checked out the gyros, cheesesteaks, fries, pizzas, lemonade, and ice cream, while Jason went for the street tacos. A convenient and quick fun summer afternoon experience down the Jersey Shore.

We should be all caught up to speed now. Thanks for sticking around and for all of the positive feedback on Instagram. As stated above, we will return with another shot this week detailing our visit to the historic Green in West Haven, CT. We have a big Fall season planned — stay tuned.

Lam Watah Trail to Nevada Beach, Stateline, Nevada. Lake Tahoe South

Lake Tahoe had an overabundance of nature trails, mountains, fishing and camping sites, and with regards to where we stayed, plenty of nightlife. Initially, we placed the Lam Watah trail to Nevada Beach on our to-do list because of its convenience to where we stayed; the trail was a half-mile walk from the hotel. We considered the earlier mentioned Emerald Bay State Park as the “Main Event” of our Tahoe trip. Lam Watah was always intended to be a secondary attraction. Since we are exclusively used to the nature of New Jersey, as beautiful as it is, we assumed that it would not take much to blow our minds in Tahoe- no matter where we visited. Needless to say, and possibly as expected, this 2.8 mile journey to the breathtaking Nevada Beach completely overshot our expectations, and created lasting memories that will stay with us for a lifetime.

Unlike Emerald Bay State Park, Lam Watah was not situated along a desolate mountain range; in fact, the entrance to the trail was right off of the very busy interstate route 50, which connected both Nevada and California in Tahoe South, serving as the main highway for the region. The trail opens up as a beautiful prairie in open land. Mercifully, the sun did not beat down on us during our trip in mid-May 2021, so the open space was breezy, and not at all glaring. The pine air escalated as we walked towards the heart of the trail, within the forested area leading us to Nevada Beach. Frequently visited by hikers and dog owners (and dogs without leashes!) alike, the forested portion of the Lam Watah trail was on a blacktop.

The Lam Watah trail to Nevada Beach is essentially a back trail that connects the main highway running through Stateline, NV to the picnic-friendly beachfront that coasts the southeastern border of Lake Tahoe. Much like any other destination that we visit, the Lam Watah trail has a historical context that has impacted both the tourism and ecological conservation of the South Shore. Used for nearly 1,000 years as a campsite, the 2.8 mile spread of trail is spoken for by the U.S. Forest Service. That prairie landscape that introduces the trail was once a part of a casino development plan, but the local Nature Conservancy saved the land and preserved it as a trail. “Lam Watah” is derived from the Washoe Nations phrase, translating to “permanent mortar by the stream.”

The beautiful forested portion of the trail is easy to navigate; thanks to directional signs and a smooth pavement. We noticed many people walking their dogs, and many small families pushing their strollers; this was not a difficult hike. As we eagerly approached Nevada Beach, we were not ready for the view that we were about to experience. Just before that, we noticed an open campsite in the forest, just before the Nevada Beach approach. It was serene, relaxed, and intense all at once.

There’s not much to write about in terms of the imagery provided by Nevada Beach. It’s one of those things that you’ll need to experience for yourself to fully digest the destination. The sand was a dark brown- almost like a milk chocolate powder. The water was pure blue and cold as ice. The destination ahead led to a pastoral landscape of the Sierra Nevada mountains on the other side of Lake Tahoe; it was undeniably breathtaking. The wind of the pines fused into the unique combination of beach air and the clean atmosphere of the mountains. Every breath meant something. 

We spent as much time as we could at Nevada Beach before it got too dark– we still had plans to eat Thai food— , so we began the 2.8 mile walk back. Leaving Nevada Beach was a tremendous bummer, but an experience that will never leave us. We took the forest trail and made our way back to the open prairies and back to the crowded traffic of route 50. After dinner we took a cab back to the hotel, tired as hell. The Lam Watah Trail to Nevada Beach blew our already high expectations out of the water, and once again reinforced our decision to make the trip out west.

Emerald Bay State Park, South Lake Tahoe, California

Photo not altered in any way. A simple cell phone pic.

We have been to many beautiful places within a small sample size of beautiful places. The mid-May trip to Lake Tahoe was an unreal, much needed experience. Aside from the beautiful sky and clean air, the deciding factor on traveling to Lake Tahoe was the trails. In South Lake Tahoe alone, there are 48 trails, ranging in difficulty from moderate to performance. We only did two during our trip; one in Nevada and this one, in California. 

Emerald Bay State Park is the most frequently-photographed destination in Lake Tahoe. A steep down-hill one mile stretch was a surprising discovery as we realized we had muscles in our calves that we never knew we had. The destinations and sights that followed led to our most tranquil experience in Lake Tahoe, and harvested the most impeccable pictures we have ever taken. 

First and foremost, the drive to this site was horrifying. Our untrained northeastern ignorance (for better or worse) made us naive to the fact that this destination wasn’t just up the street from the Hard Rock Casino. Uber and Lyft were tough to come by in the region, so we set up a costly cab ride, about 16 miles due west, directly into Emerald Bay, the centerscape of southwest Tahoe. Our cabbie took us through Bear Hazard road signs, uphill curves, and views that we can only believe because we were there to see it. Finally, along the final 5 miles , the turquoise colors flow into a very crowded parking lot, filled with people taking pictures and families enjoying a serene experience. Right past the row of port-of-potties and a small information desk led us to a solid rock formation, overlooking the mountain we were about to traverse, and the beach we were about to visit.

This is a place where people take selfies, propose marriage, paint pictures.

The walk is a one mile drop down the mountain to the beautiful beachfront at Emerald Bay, looking along Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe. The Vikingsholm Mansion along the beach is a major tourist attraction for hikers and visitors alike. While we worked to our destination, the thin, elevated air began to catch up on us as we made our way downhill. The sore calves haunted us for the rest of the trip, but it was worth it. On the way down, we got to appreciate the tall Jeffrey pine trees, a delicacy much like everything else at this destination for us. The sap created a moisture in the air on the way down, as did the slight drop in elevation – Emerald Bay is 6830 feet above sea level.

Eventually, the rugged mountain trail turned into a light pavement as we reached ground level and worked our way to Vikingsholm mansion and the beach at Emerald Bay. Although it was closed for the season, Vikingsholm mansion was still a sight to behold. The property was acquired and sold to various landowners throughout the 19th Century. After nearly forty years of established land, Mrs. Lora Knight purchased the property in 1928, and decided to construct a home that reflected some of her Scandinavian travels throughout her life, as Emerald Bay’s landscape reminded Mrs. Knight of fjords that she has seen. With the assistance of Lennart Palmle, an architect from Sweden and Knight’s nephew, Vikingsholm was constructed. Following Mrs. Knight’s death in 1945, the property was sold yet again, and the new owner negotiated a deal with the state of California, which led to the house and property being acquired by the state, which still stands to this day, as a frequently visited destination, and one of the oldest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States.

Vikingsholm mansion, as impressive as it looks, was merely the opening act for the beach at Emerald Bay. The sand was thick and grainy; the water clean and cold. The views were exquisite. Looking ahead at Fannette Island was ideal for the beach. We were not alone; many families showed up and posted up on benches, to enjoy a picnic in a setting of paradise. We joined for a few moments to take in the experience before heading back up.

Fannette Island – The only island in Lake Tahoe.

The walk up was rough. We were climbing up a mountain after a challenging walk down the mountain. We took multiple breaks coming back up to catch our breath and rest our quads. No matter how much step training we did in New Jersey, it still wasn’t enough for us to be prepared for the beautiful challenge of Emerald Bay State Park. Despite the challenging walk, this was a perfect, wonderfully captured moment for us in our travels. It’s a place that you see pictures of online and you research about – and maybe even visit on GoogleMaps (I did all three extensively), but you don’t actually believe that it is real until you actually go there. There’s really no other way to communicate the beauty of Emerald Bay State Park than to share our reflections and upload our pictures — and to that end, we hope we did it justice. But there is no comparison to seeing it in person.