During the Eisenhower Administration, in about 1956, Interstate Highway Construction of Interstate 78 divided the Bonnell farm and the landmark tavern was dramatically affected. Using the powers of eminent domain the 60 acre farm was purchased by the government leaving only the building and 1.8 acres of land at the intersection of Rt. 173 and Interstate 78. In 2004, the Hunterdon County Cultural and Heritage Commission identified the Bonnell Tavern as one of the 6 most imperiled places in the county.
The Bonnell family believes that the best use of the property would be to preserve the building as a modernized tavern and brew pub, emphasizing all of the charm and historical significance of the structure and site. Clinton’s Main Street would then be flanked by its two most important historic structures, The Clinton House and the Bonnell Tavern, as it was hundreds of years ago. The governing bodies of the Town of Clinton and Union Township informally declared that this plan would be of great interest to them.
The restaurant and tavern would be built in the existing structure. The main 3 story wooden building would house the public areas, while the kitchen and other modern amenities would be located in a new adjacent structure. The renovation would provide a 4-5,000 square foot footprint for the restaurant and bar. Historical memorabilia would be placed in the rooms and corridors of the restaurant and tavern to highlight the role the structure played in the revolution, the underground railroad, the Sons of Liberty, and the history of Hunterdon County.
Funding sources are being considered by the Bonnell family. The property would be leased to an experienced and suitable operator.