By January 3, 1777, the colonies had been at war with Britain for over a year. The Continental Army, under the command of General George Washington, had recently defeated the British Forces at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. These military engagements had forced the colony’s legislators to move the seat of government to a safer haven. They decided upon the Indian King Tavern as a place to conduct the affairs of State.
From January 29 to March 18, 1777, and again in May and September, the General Assembly met here on the second floor. Innkeeper Smith, named Doorkeeper of the Assembly on January 30, 1777, collected rent for the space.
It was at the Indian King that the Declaration of Independence was officially read into the minutes of the New Jersey Assembly. And it was here that the Assembly adopted the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey. Yet another significant act was the amendment to the State Constitution which provided for the insurance of all official acts of the Governor and Courts under the authority of the State of New Jersey, rather than the Colony. The Indian King was also the place where the Council of Safety, formed to examine those suspected of loyalist activities, was organized. The Council held its first meeting at the tavern in March 1777.
Hugh Creighton sold the Indian King Tavern in 1790. For the next 113 years the Indian King continued to operate as a tavern and inn, being known successively as the Old Tavern, American House and Roberts Hotel. In 1874, it was turned into the American Temperance Hotel- a change prompted by the passage of an 1873 law prohibiting the sale of alcohol in Haddonfield.
Ownership of the ark, which had become a general store in 1842, was subdivided from that of the Tavern at this time. It continued to operate as a general store until 1908.
The State of New Jersey acquired the Indian King Tavern on June 15, 1903. In an attempt to return the tavern to its original appearance, several major architectural changes were made over the ensuing years. Among them were the removal of the “ark”; the return of the west section to 2 ½ stories and the addition of a pent roof across the front of the building. The Indian King Tavern is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.