A Conversation with Lambertville’s Tour Guides

The guided walking tour of Lambertville is a popular, informative, delightful stroll through one of New Jersey’s most picturesque towns, and a longtime signature event of the Lambertville Historical Society.

Jeff McVey leads a tour.

In the 1980’s Yvonne Warren, a Coryell Street resident, along with Edward “Bud” Carmody, formalized tours that incorporated local history, architecture, culture and colorful community lore. The content was so rich that at one time Yvonne conducted a 10-part tour. Around 1990, the tours began to be conducted regularly. Passing the baton to others, Yvonne shared her knowledge and created a comprehensive set of more than 100 pages of notes. In 2002, Polly Dorman condensed the notes and added her own into a reference book. Both Yvonne’s and Polly’s compilations are still used by our guides today.

Photo courtesy of Kate Breuning.

The tour is held on the first Sunday of the month from April to November, and on demand for groups as well. The current guides are all volunteers and Lambertville residents. Four of them–Kate Breuning, Loren Hurwitz, Jeff McVey and Lou Toboz–recently shared their thoughts about the activity. The other two guides are Lauren Braun-Strumfels and Fred Eisinger.

What do you enjoy about the walking tour?

KB: Sharing both the history and the spirit of Lambertville, and what it’s like to live here.

JM: Sharing enthusiasm of our town’s history and its possibilities.

LH: I like meeting new people and “showing off” the Lambertville they may not know.

LT: I enjoy meeting people from all over the U.S. and abroad, including Europe and Asia.

What do people get out of the tour?

JM: They see beautiful buildings and gardens.

KB: I like to bring out the cultural history and discuss the families that lived here, as well as their homes.

LH: I usually ask what people are interested in and then adjust the tour content accordingly. Typically, I discuss more history than architecture but sometimes I focus on industry, or sports, or the canal and railroad.

What surprises people about the walking tours?

LT: People are impressed when we meet and talk to neighbors while we’re in the middle of a tour. They are pleasantly surprised by the genuine small-town community here.

LH: People are surprised that the tours even exist! While walking around, I’ll see people with the city map, or looking at the map like the one outside the Marshall House, and ask them if I can help them find something and tell them about the tours. Sometimes, when I see people taking photographs, I’ll ask them if they know what they are looking at and if I can perhaps describe the scene. Many do request a description.

KB: People don’t really know what to expect from Lambertville. If it’s their first time visiting, they’ll say, “There really were factories here?”

JM: Just about every grand house in Lambertville at one time was deserted and derelict—and then restored. One particularly beautiful old mansion on Jefferson and N. Union Street was a church community center for a while.

What route do you take?

JM: The guides each take different routes and we continually update our own routes. We adapt on the fly due to traffic, weather, or the group’s interests. I’ve also conducted reserved tours of the canal, river and bridge, as well as historical, business-oriented tours.

LH: Generally, I follow the same path, but am very aware of people’s ability to walk or stand or deal with the heat, or cold, and will adjust accordingly.

KB: We tend to stay between Bridge Street and Perry Street. There is so much to see.

What is the tour size? 

KB: It ranges from one person to as many as 60-70 for special groups.

JM: The typical size is 5-10.

 What is the tourist/resident mix on a tour?

JM: Roughly 75% tourists and 25% locals.

LT: We once had a group from the Gold Rush area of California who wanted to see the home of Lambertville’s James Marshall, who of course discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill.

Part Two of this discussion to follow. 

For more information about the guided walking tour, visit this webpage.

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