Napoleon’s Brother Joseph Once Called New Jersey Home

His onetime estate is slated to become a park and museum

Joseph Bonaparte
A detail from François Gérard's portrait of Joseph Bonaparte.
François Gérard

When you think of iconic people with connections to New Jersey, who comes to mind? Bruce Springsteen, perhaps? Legendary baseball player Larry Doby? A growing amount of research has, as of late, revealed some details about the life of another notable Garden State resident: Joseph Bonaparte, onetime King of Spain and Naples. And yes, he’s related to another famous Bonaparte you might have heard of — namely, Joseph was the older brother of Napoleon.

Joseph Bonaparte once lived in a mansion in Bordentown, a town located 28 miles from Philadelphia. An article by Daniel E. Slotnik in The New York Times explores the history of how he came to be living there — and why there’s been a renewed interest in Bonaparte’s former home as of late.

In 1816, Bonaparte built the estate, known as Point Breeze. It sounds not unlike what you’d expect from a former monarch concerned about his continued safety. “He constructed atop a promontory that allowed him to see any hostile forces and perforated the grounds with tunnels that allowed quick escape, if necessary, to a boat on Crosswicks Creek, and from there to the Delaware River,” writes Slotnik.

As a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer notes, much of the estate as it existed in Bonaparte’s day is now gone, with only a gardener’s house remaining. The estate is now in public hands; the Times reports that its 60 acres will eventually be a park, with the aforementioned gardener’s house transformed into a museum focusing on the estate’s history. Not too many former kings ended up settling down in New Jersey, after all.

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