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Neighborhood Watch: Mount Holly

by Samantha Melamed

…From the pages of South Jersey Magazine…

With its historic landmarks, meandering waterways, green parks and one-of-a-kind boutiques, Burlington County’s seat is an under-the-radar destination with plenty of charm. After all, where else can you take a dulcimer lesson, sample prison life circa 1815, dine on hoppy IPA-infused wings and wind down the day at a jazz bar? We spent a sunny afternoon kicking around Mount Holly, and here’s what we discovered.

Mount Holly’s oldest neighborhood is also one of the most fun to visit. The 17th-century Mill Race Village, once home to workers at the city’s gristmills, still stands, though now the historic houses contain a carefully curated selection of shops. A mandatory stop is the Burlington County Prison Museum (128 High St., 609-265-5068), constructed in 1810 with a design by Washington Monument architect Robert Mills. It opens for a special Ghost Walk on Friday May 13, among other special events. Also worth a stop are the Shinn-Curtis Log House (Park Drive), circa 1712, excavated from within a later, larger house; New Jersey’s oldest schoolhouse; and the Mount Holly Library and Lyceum (307 High St., 609-267-7111), a graceful Georgian structure that’s nearly 200 years old.

When High Street Grill (64 High St., 609-265-9199) opened in 2004, it turned the Mount Holly dining scene on its head with craft beers and the types of gourmet dishes—IPA-hopped wings; beer-battered artichoke hearts stuffed with crab, feta, poblanos and herbs; and arugula salad with fennel, fried goat cheese and blood orange vinaigrette—that made area foodies take notice. Also popular is Robin’s Nest Restaurant (2 Washington St., 609-261-6149), with patios perched above the Mill Race waterway, a creative, upscale American menu and baskets of in-house baked goods. For dinner and a show, you can’t beat the Firehouse Café (20 Washington St., 609-261-4502), a converted fire station that serves up American fare and live jazz. For snacks, there’s Rutolo’s Gourmet (35 High St., 609-265-6700), known for artisan breads, tapas and Italian spe­cialties, and the gleamingly retro Mug­shot Diner (65 High St., 609-265-2100), which serves up classic diner fare. For caffeine addicts, Daily Grind (48 High St., 609-267-8330) brews a mean latte and hosts open mic nights every Tuesday evening.

It’s hard to find a more diverse shopping scene than this one. The Ghosthunter Store, (16 Church St., 215-274-5217), equipped with infrared video cameras, saint medallions, holy water, crystals and everything in between, sits not far from The Bookery, (20 White St., 609-220-4466), a cozy bookstore filled with knights of armor and dark leather chairs, looking very much like a nook within Hogwarts. Also nearby is TLC Interiors (10 White St., 609-702-9005) the tiny but lavish bohemian show­room for Terri Lindahl-Castro’s interior design business. Sil­ver Lining (5 Church St., 609-518-0077), offers jewelry, clothing and ac­ces­­sories, as does Jade Alexandra (7 Church St., 609-288-6160), attached to the hip new Rock Paper Scissors salon.

Arts & Crafts
Mount Holly has a growing reputation for art, thanks in part to efforts like the Mural Arts Program, which has adorned the town with big, bold mural walls, and Main Street Mount Holly’s Windows For Art program, which puts artwork into vacant windows. Home Fine Art (2 Church St., 609-261-8634), a cooperative gallery, offers outstanding works at unbeatable bargains, while Jersey Made, (33 White St., 609-914-1536) specializes ex­clusively in local wares—and the artists regularly stop in to teach aspiring crafters. There are also other places to learn: Study stained-glass making at Liberty Belle Glassworks (25B Church St., 609-261-8883), or stop by Doodles to learn about painting and restoring furniture (25A Church St., 732-557-1703). And don’t miss the Pinelands Folk Music and Basketry Center (31 White St., 609-518-7600), where Mary Carty weaves spec­tacular baskets with driftwood her son, Steven, salvaged from the Delaware River, and her husband, Rich­ard, teaches dul­cimer lessons and sells folk instruments.

Photo: Burlington County Prison Museum

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 4 (July, 2011).
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