1787: The Year The Smithville Inn and The U.S. was Built
The history of The Historic Towne of Smithville, New Jersey actually predates the inauguration of George Washington, the first President of The United States.
President Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York, which was America’s first Capitol.
It’s surreal, The Historic Towne of Smithville was established in 1787, two years earlier than President Washington and establishing America as we know it.
And, it’s still open today!
This is hard to process, because think about it, how many establishments are still open today that actually pre-date the existence of America itself?
We’re going to tell the incredible story of The Historic Towne of Smithville in 4 acts. It’s quite a story to tell.
History has properly memorized that the Historic Towne of Smithville, New Jersey all began with an Inn located along Route 9 in Galloway Township, New Jersey.
The Inn at Smithville was built in 1787 by a local developer named James Baremore.
The Inn was quickly established as a great stop for stagecoach travelers along the barren highway, during the 18th century of early America. James Baremore and his family took a part-time idea and went on to make inn-keeping their full-time pursuit.
Within the next four decades, The Smithville Inn had become a premier staple for fine food fare and drink for residents and travelers from everywhere.
Below is an image of an actual menu from the 1970s. The menu was fabulous and the prices are quite eye-catching.
What is not clearly known, however, is how this grand Inn went from a must stop enjoyed for decades by so many, to completely abandoned by the turn of the century in 1900.
What is known though is that by 1949 a couple named Fred and Ethel Noyes had the abandoned Inn at Smithville on their radar as a worthy project to renovate and restore again to its once place of grandeur. So in 1952, they purchased the Inn and acres of surrounding ground surrounding the original property.
A great second act was about to begin for the Inn at Smithville, as well as the creation of a whole historic town-like concept for the adjacent property surrounding the historic inn.
The return of the Smithville Inn was so well received by an awaiting public that the plans of Fred and Ethyl Noyes were expanded even further to include the restoration of many historically vintage buildings from the surrounding area of Smithville to be relocated and restored to their original condition in order to create the new “Historic Towne of Smithville.”
Smithville was now established as a one-stop area for antique shops, restaurants, and all other things which visitors in search of a slice of vintage Americana might be looking for in a painstakingly created world sitting on seven acres of beautiful open space in Galloway Township, New Jersey.
Fred Noyes was an artist at heart, while his wife Ethel was a restaurateur by family trade. This combination made for a wonderful blend of everything art and food which the heart could desire.
Their first pursuit when they arrived in Atlantic County was antique dealing. By going door-to-door to sell their wares, the Noyes’ had saved enough money to purchase the dilapidated Smithville Inn and a surrounding seven acres of land for $3500 in 1952.
The original idea conceived by Fred and Ethyl was to establish the Inn as solely an antique center, where they would hope to expose the region to the very founding of America with a property that predated the forming of The Constitution of The United States.
Things were going very well for the Noyes’ and their antique business, so they decided to offer food to further satisfy their customers. This ultimately ended up as a fully restored 42 seat “Inn at Smithville” Restaurant.
In no time at all, “The Inn at Smithville” had become the “it” place for local restaurants and visitors to gather for the finest in dining experiences.
As time went on, The Inn at Smithville became the choice for weddings and other important gatherings … where people would add great significance to their occasions by virtue of the fact it was being held at this now coveted location for events of all kinds.
By the time the Noyes family sold The Historic Towne of Smithville to The American Broadcasting Company in 1974 for $ 7 million dollars, they had amassed 2300 acres of beautiful open space, three inns, shops of all sorts, and a sanctuary and wildlife center to protect the precious species of the area.
This was the time for Act Three in the ever-evolving Historic Towne of Smithville. In 1975 Smithville would open what became known as “The Smithville Summer Theater.”
It was a great series of musical and theater-like performances which would be presented each Summer within a classically restored, circus-style tent that held nearly 2500 theatergoers, who regularly enjoyed some of the best entertainment of the day.
Zero Mostel opened the Summer Theater fresh off of Broadway in 1975, with a complete production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
There was a full recreation of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” at The Smithville Summer Theater, when the curtain opened on August 5, 1975.
It was Jack Klugman and Tony Randall playing poker at the table with the real Murray The Cop, Al Molinaro (Happy Days fame), and the rest of the cast of the mega-hit ABC TV television show “The Odd Couple.”
Smithville would follow suit with world-class productions of The Music Man, Mame, and Jesus Christ Superstar to round out a season of entertainment, which would all have pleased today's casino patronizing customers of the 21st Century.
ABC reported the weekly gross for “The Odd Couple” and Fiddler on the Roof” exceeded $100,000 in weekly gross for each show according to Variety Magazine. This represents a $ 500,000 gate by today’s standards.
In 1976, Milton Berle (for years the absolute biggest name in television) brought a complete vaudeville show accompanied by Georgie Jessel, Dick Haymes, and Marilyn Michaels to the tent at Smithville.
This was followed by performances from The Original Ink Spots singing group, Barbara Eden from “I Dream of Jeannie” would do her cabaret act, as well as a full stage performance of “Funny Girl” with Carol Lawrence.
Crooner Jerry Vale appeared later that summer to woo the audiences. Gabe Kaplan fresh from the television hit series “Welcome Back Kotter” brought his standup routines to the tent.
The rest of the summer featured The Original Gold-Diggers from Las Vegas, as well as singers Lou Rawls and Sergio Mendez with Brazil 77.
Once again, area revelers of entertainment would see some of the greats in the business right under the big tent at The Historic Towne of Smithville, New Jersey.
Due to the changing times and circumstances, sadly The Smithville Summer Theater would unfortunately only last for a couple of seasons. As times were evolving and the region of Atlantic County was preparing for a new industry - with the newly enacted Casino legislation - entertainment within the Pine Barrens of Atlantic County would not be feasible any longer.
This was similar in nature to economies of scale that made the continuation of the original Steel Pier Impossible.
This would not mark the end of The Historic Towne of Smithville by any means. In fact, some of the greatest days for the historic venue were still yet to come.
Smithville was now sprawled out amongst 2300 acres in Galloway Township. The Towne now consisted of more than 60 shops of all kinds as well as several eateries to attract the region's residents and visitors with any sampling of food and drink desired.
Today’s Smithville operated by The Coppola Family offers a Bed and Breakfast at The Colonial Inn, Barn Rooms, the great Bar and Restaurant named in honor of Fred and Ethyl Noyes and so much more.
Today, you can find one of the most beautiful Christmas Stores, which operates 365 days a year, with the best Christmas decorations and spirit to be found anywhere.
There are seasonal events throughout the year which have become decades-long multi-generational family traditions now, such as the annual tree-lighting at Christmastime going on in the lake surrounding the Village Green and Inn at Smithville complex right now.
All aboard the Smithville Express. If you are a train enthusiast or just looking to take a pleasurable ride around the Historic Towne of Smithville, you’ve got the opportunity for a small fee to ride in a vintage steam operating train, which has become a favorite of families everywhere.
It’s a great way to plan your day at Smithville too, by taking a complete ride around the property by a locomotive in a nostalgic, vintage way.
We caught up with Galloway Township Mayor Tony Coppola, (Partner - The Historic Towne of Smithville) who shared his thoughts:
Occasionally, I reflect back to 1997 when we first took over the village, which at that time faced an uncertain future. It gives me a great amount of satisfaction to see what it has become today. So many people have great stories and memories of this place, I feel that my family is just one part and it’s amazing legacy. I can’t wait to see what the next 100 years will bring.
Tony Coppola, Jr.
Towne of Historic Smithville
Smithville is now a community in which to live, too. There are currently hundreds of single-family homes surrounding the outskirts of the Historic Towne of Smithville, making not only a place to visit but also a place to live, too.
The Historic Towne of Smithville is a place with a rich history … but, it is not lost in the past. If you’ve never been to, or, haven’t been there in a while, it’s a welcome respite waiting to be discovered again … just as the stagecoach revelers of the 18th century did.
Treat yourself to a slice of Americana. You’ll be glad you did. The Historic Towne of Smithville is a place for all seasons and reasons, but mostly because it’s a fun place to enjoy life today while remembering the past.
NOTE: This comprehensive look back at The Historic Towne of Smithville is immediately followed by a great Smithville Christmas photo gallery from my colleague Eddie Davis.
This photo gallery is followed by two more amazing photo galleries of the iconic Adventure Village and the original world-famous Atlantic City Steel Pier. Both of these galleries include photos never before seen.
So Cool, So Close! Smithville Village Is Lit Up This December
Do You Remember Adventure Village in EHT?