MSDA History Students Visit Solitude House in High Bridge, NJ

MSDA History Students Visit Solitude House in High Bridge, NJ


A group of US History students went on a field trip to Solitude House in High Bridge, NJ. The trip was limited to 14 students and selection was done on a first-come, first-served basis in order to abide by COVID protocols. Ms. Perez accompanied Mr. Rasmusson and his students. The trip was especially notable for the students as it was their first-ever high school field trip. 

The purpose of the trip was to show the students a first-hand snapshot of what life in pre-Civil War America looked like in our state. Solitude House, which gets its name from having served as a house arrest site for John Penn, last colonial governor of the colony of Pennsylvania, was primarily owned by the Taylor family. The Taylor family owned the adjoining Taylor Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) facility, where metals were refined and products ranging from locomotive parts to munitions were manufactured and sent out via steam train for distribution. The TISCO complex, unlike Solitude House, is privately owned and operated and still functions as a foundry.

While seeing these historic sites was the primary purpose of the trip, the students came away with other revelations. Perhaps the most important of these was the students’ discovery that, until approximately 1850, the house and the TISCO site made use of slave labor. This may come as nothing short of a shock to some, as “Union” states are often thought to have abandoned the practice of slavery long before the start of the Civil War. 

The majority of recent work done to the house was the efforts of Kelly Matos, High Bridge’s Historical Committee chairwoman, and her fellow committee members. This work has ranged from paint jobs and decor to filling in gaping holes in floors and ceilings. As the current owner of a nearby house once owned by the aforementioned Taylor family, Kelly has made it her mission to shed light on High Bridge’s little-known history, piecing bits of information together like a jigsaw puzzle. Kelly and her colleagues have spent hundreds of hours of research in pursuit of getting Solitude House’s story right. 

Another, more intangible goal that Kelly and company are pursuing is getting Solitude House added to the National Register of Historic Places, a process that requires hours of exhaustive research and the meeting of stringent criteria. 

Mr. Raz, Ms. Perez, and the students are so grateful to Kelly and the rest of the committee for accommodating them!

  • Academics
  • Homepage
  • News