With its handsome homes, bustling business district, gardens and nearly 500 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, Haddonfield, N.J., is a worthy destination for a pleasant day of shopping, dining and even a bit of paleontology.
Its restaurants and taverns along the main street, King’s Highway, span more than a dozen cuisines, and shopping there ranges from a selection of high-end consignment shops to trendy clothing and jewelry boutiques, garden shops, bakeries, book shops, toy stores and dozens of other enterprises.
Scattered along King’s Highway and several side streets of Haddonfield are 20 photogenic and provocative works of art, including a toad, a bunny and a sea lion at the new Children’s Sculpture Zoo in Tatem Garden.
The most historically significant centerpiece statue is “Haddy,” a life-size bronze gem by John Giannotti. Installed by the Haddonfield Garden Club in 2003 at King’s Highway and Allen Street, the work commemorates a legendary figure in Haddonfield’s history, and America’s pre-history.
Off the typical tourist trail in Haddonfield is the site of an event that took place 162 years ago that is in turn the site of an event that took place about 73 million years ago.
It all started so innocently. In the mid 19th century, folks who lived on the edge of town along a ravine with sandy, slimy soil called marl discovered some startling artifacts there.
First, there were large teeth and then much larger bones, which were retrieved and prized as peculiar souvenirs, paperweights, umbrella stands and doorstops. Those who collected them had no idea what they were.
Upon closer examination, it became clear that they were the remains of a very large and possibly prehistoric creature.
In 1858, the finds caught the attention of William Foulke, a paleontologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.
In ensuing years, what was left of a massive skeleton was assembled. Missing parts were crafted, and the first-ever, anywhere, reconstruction and display of a dinosaur skeleton was put on display at the academy, where it is still on prominent display.
“Haddy,” as it came to be called (scientifically it is Hadrosaurus foulkii, a play on where it was found and who found it), is still on view at the academy. A statue at King’s Highway and Allen Street pays tribute to the Official State Dinosaur of New Jersey.
Of course, do some shopping, grab something to eat, and walk among the sculptures of charming Haddonfield. But let the inner Indiana Jones in you lead to that ravine at the end of Maple Avenue, where you will find the Hadrosaurus foulkii National Historic Landmark.
Designated in 1994, the small site features descriptive bronze markers, and an enclosure stocked with free, eight-page guides to the nine sites of the easily walkable Hadrosaurus foulkii Historic Trail.
The detailed brochures lead to and detail the significance of each stop as it relates to the discovery and retrieval of the dinosaur bones.
There is also a picnic table, usually adorned with toy dinosaurs left by visitors in tribute to Haddy.