Greetings, and welcome to the Historical Society of Riverton's website for our town, founded in 1851, by a group of ten Philadelphians for summer homes for their families. Displayed within its scant square mile area of Victorian-flavored neighborhoods and gaslamp-lined streets are more than 150 years of American architectural styles. More than half of Riverton's buildings are included in the State and National Directories of Historic Places.

Here is the venerable Porch Club, birthplace of the PTA; Riverton Yacht Club, one of the oldest and still active yacht clubs in the country; the beloved Riverton Public School which just turned one hundred; treasured churches and other institutions, as well as businesses and a hometown to almost 3,000 proud Rivertonians.

Our masthead banner, derived from a delightful folk art painting by Riverton author and artist, Anne Knight Ruff, evokes the charm and vitality of our richly historic borough and serves as your invitation to explore it further with us.


Riverton’s 118th July 4th Parade is history now; HSR Archives & Museum underway

HSR propagandists Bill Hall, Susan Dechnik

HSR propagandists Bill Hall, Susan Dechnik

2015 palm card A

click on image to view other side

HSR member Susan Dechnik shares these photos below she took July 4th.

She and Bill Hall and several other proselytizers were passing out our Glorious Fourth Palm Cards among the revelers bearing bits of borough history on one side and a pitch to become a member on the other.

Although recently retired as HSR treasurer, our goodwill ambassador Paul Daly also distributed the cards as he has for many years. The practice seems to have been started around 1987, possibly by Dan Campbell.

I have cards from 1987 thru this year except for 1992 and 1996. Maybe they were skipped for those years, but if any still survive in a kitchen drawer somewhere, please advise.

You’re thinking, “Shouldn’t you guys know? You are the historical society.”

HSR wants you1 (Copy)Uh…no. And you would be surprised how often our capability is over estimated. But we would like to improve that and, in numbers there is strength.

Kindly consider adding your name to our number.

HSR archives and museum logo (Copy)These are heady times indeed for the Society as renovations in the Library basement will soon enable us for the first time to set up a physical museum of sorts.

The Historical Society of Riverton invites you to join in our effort to make Riverton history more accessible by helping to underwrite the expense of this worthwhile project with your membership.

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Find the complete Riverton 4th of July Committee’s 2015 Program booklet here.

Find waaaay more pix and some video on the Riverton 4th of July Committee’s Facebook page.

Find Christian Hochenberger’s photos here, but know that the display is not permanent. Enjoy while you can. – JMc

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Mayor Brown fashions a new July 4th parade baton

Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2

Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2

The July 3rd, 1865 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer announced “The Democratic citizens of the beautiful and flourishing town of Riverton… intend celebrating the Fourth of July in grand style.”

Children's Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu

Children’s Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu

As the Great Day approaches, some may wonder how some of our July Fourth traditions started. Here is a sequel to the origin story of the mayor’s parade staff.

The subject of the parade baton that the mayor wields as the July Fourth Parade traverses Main Street has been touched on in these pages before.

Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth

Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth, July 2011

We reprinted here the findings of former Town Historian Betty Hahle and learned there were not one, but two staffs.

And it seems she reached a different conclusion from what been reached earlier in the 1965 Riverton Yacht Club Centennial Booklet – that the staffs had come from India. Admitting that history is not static, and the discovery of new materials can change the our interpretation of events, she reasoned that they instead originated from Switzerland.

Whatever the ancestry of those first two staffs, we can be certain of the provenance of the most recent addition to the Borough’s collection of parade batons.

This past November, I was talking about the parade baton with Mayor William C. Brown and he mentioned in passing that he had to fashion a new staff himself for the 2014 July 4th promenade.

Wait…what?

That is the very definition of Riverton history so I pressed the former marine for details of the news that was already several months old.

Mayor Brown explains:

Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35

Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35

The Mayor of Riverton’s tradition of carrying a staff during the Annual Fourth of July Parade, was started by Mayor E.C. Stroughton in 1897.

So that every year since then, a metal plate was added with the current mayor’s name, the year, and the number of children that marched in the parade.

There are three staffs in the Borough office, and legend has it that they came from trees located in Riverton. I’ve not found anything written about the first two, however I can state that the current staff did come from a Riverton tree.

I searched the wooded area along the park till I found a tree floating in the Pompeston Creek. I cut it loose, trimmed it out, and took it home, where I stripped, sanded, stained and applied two coats of varnish to preserve it.

Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014

Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014

One has to admire Mayor Brown’s unpretentious and no-nonsense account of how he humbly came to add another page to Riverton lore. And to think that we would have missed it if I had not brought it up.

History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1

History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1

This column from a June 28, 1934 New Era outlines the history of the Flag Parade Staff and lists the number of children participation from 1897 through 1933.

The  loss of those old hometown newspapers left such a gap in our historical record. If you have not yet explored them, browse though some pages. You might find someone mentioned you know.

If you have any issues we do not have, please donate them or allow us to scan the pages.

July 4th Parade batons

July 4th Parade batons

While Riverton history of old is worth preserving, so too, it is worth recording events of today. The approach of our Glorious Fourth is sure to cause much reminiscing and retelling of family tales.

Leave one below in the comments box, or let us know what draws so many to return to this “unique” place each July Fourth.

Have a great holiday! – JMc

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Many hands contribute to the success of the fifth Historic Riverton Criterium

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Under the sweltering heat of today’s sun, the fifth running of the Historic Riverton Criterium was exciting for spectators, punishing for competitors, and all the excuse many needed to throw a porch or backyard party. Those arriving just in time for such events may have missed this.  Below, a crew erects the framework that holds the photo finish camera. It’s just one of the many heavy lifting jobs, literally and figuratively, that get done before the first race starts. – JMc

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Remembering Tom Palermo

Perhaps you read a newspaper account on December 27, 2014, about Tom Palermo, killed by a hit and run driver outside of Baltimore while riding his bike in a dedicated bike lane. The news received national attention because the driver, Heather Cook, at the time of the accident was the second ranking member among Episcopalian clergy in the Diocese of Maryland.

My Riverton School Kindergarten Class, Spring 1979

My Riverton School Kindergarten Class, Spring 1979, Tom in back row, left, plaid shirt

It got my attention because of a Riverton connection. Tom Palermo was a Riverton kid, and I was his kindergarten teacher. Riverton School is a kindergarten through eighth grade school, and teachers, especially kindergarten teachers, have the opportunity to watch the students grow from five-year olds to students entering high school.

1987-Tom Palermo and Jill Dechnik, after an 8th Grade Graduation Party at my house

1987-Tom Palermo and Jill Dechnik, after an 8th Grade Graduation Party at my house

After their high school graduation, they scatter and move on, move away, or sometimes the student moves back to Riverton with a family, and their children attend Riverton School. That happens a lot.

I hadn’t heard about Tom Palermo for many years. Facebook allows people to reconnect, to catch up, to share. My daughter reconnected with Tom (I still think of him as Tommy) a while ago and sent me information about his life. The photograph of the grown man had the same smile I remembered from years ago.

Tom Palermo

Tom Palermo

And then Facebook spread the tragic news of how he died. The news spread and garnered an outpouring of shock and sadness. Television and newspaper accounts told the story of Tom’s life and how he died.

Here is a summary that I provided for people to share the news:

Tom Palermo, age 41, a senior Johns Hopkins Hospital software engineer, died after a vehicle struck him as he was cycling on the 500 block of Roland Avenue near Baltimore on December 27, 2014. Tom was married and the father of a six-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.

Tom grew up in Riverton, New Jersey, and attended Riverton Public School from kindergarten through eighth grade. He graduated St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia and earned a history degree from the University of Maryland. Family members describe Tom as a “seasoned cyclist who had a passion for mountain biking as well as logging countless miles on the road.” He was an advocate for bike access and bike safety. In 2002, Tom began making custom bike frames at his workshop.

Bishop Heather Cook of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is facing more than a dozen charges, including manslaughter, driving under the influence while driving, texting while driving, and leaving the scene of an accident. She had previously been arrested on a DUI charge. The trial date set for June 4 has been postponed until September.

A Palermo Children’s Education Trust has been established on the youcaring.com website. Donations may also be sent to:

Palermo Children’s Education Trust
℅ Molloy Investment Group
One South Street
30th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202

The Riverton connection remains. Six months after his death, his hometown remembers Tom as the Historic Riverton Criterium returns. Promoted by Riverton resident Carlos Rogers, attention will be focused on the sport of cycling, a perfect tie-in to Tom.

This account from Carlos:

“When Sue Dechnik approached me about memorializing the life of Tom Palermo I could tell how much of an impact he must have had on people given Sue’s sincere emotion during our conversation. I had actually read about his death as the news made national headlines, but had no idea he was from Riverton. It was a simple decision to do what I could to embrace his life and the circumstances surrounding his death. Given some of the feedback I’ve gotten from Riverton residents who knew Tom, it seems like he certainly made a lasting mark on people’s lives. Since he was a bicycle aficionado, and a builder himself, I’m sure he would have loved to have seen the Historic Riverton Criterium in person. Unfortunately, he will never get that chance. Even though I didn’t know Tom, I am glad to play a part, however small, in celebrating his life. Tragically, it ties together. One, Palermo was from Riverton, and two, he was riding his bike.”

Since 2011, the HRC has contributed over $15,000 to local Riverton and Palmyra organizations and individual causes. Carlos met with Tom’s father and arranged to donate part of the proceeds of the HRC to the Palermo Children’s Education Trust. In addition, in the HRC handbook there is a piece written about Tom.

In speaking with Mr. Palermo, I found him to be grateful for the recognition Tom is getting, but profoundly sad and shocked about the tragedy that took Tom from his family.

Personally, I remember Tom as a friendly, kind-hearted kid. From all accounts, he grew up to be a special man.

SDechnik (Copy)

 

by Mrs. Susan Dechnik

HRC 2015 poster

HRC 2015 poster

The Historic Riverton Criterium will thread through the gaslamp lined streets of Riverton for the fifth time tomorrow, June 14, 2015, 1-6 p.m. For more information, click on thumbnail at right, or visit https://www.facebook.com/historicrivertoncriterium

Find more information and photos about Tom Palermo at these links:

https://www.baltimorebrew.com/2014/12/28/grief-and-anger-at-scene-of-fatal-bike-crash/

http://www.wbaltv.com/news/Hundreds-of-cyclists-ride-to-honor-Thomas-Palermo/30492528

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/An_unfinished_ride.html

http://www.bikeleague.org/content/statement-death-thomas-Palermo

 

 

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Congrats to the RYC on the 66th running of their classic Governor’s Cup Regatta

Governor's Cup Regatta here, New Era, June 30, 1949, p.1.

Governor’s Cup Regatta here, New Era, June 30, 1949, p.1.

Governor Driscoll presents cup, New Era, July 7, 1949, p.1.

Governor Driscoll presents cup, New Era, July 7, 1949, p.1.

Congratulations to the members of Riverton Yacht Club on 66th running of the Governor’s Cup Regatta at Riverton Yacht Club as they celebrate their sesquicentennial – that’s their 150th anniversary, in case you don’t have a dictionary.

Here, Roy Vollmer narrates a short BCT video about the classic boat race established in 1949. http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/videos/local/video-governor-s-cup-regatta-in-riverton/html_d570d7c9-7496-5a24-9bf8-5a05bc75857f.html?mode=jqm&m=topstoriesnow

The clipping at left is from the pages of Riverton’s now defunct hometown newspaper, The New Era, which announced in late June 1949, the events planned around the first Governor’s Cup Regatta planned for the following July 2 and 3.

A week later The New Era provided coverage of the regatta in the clipping at right. In his remarks that day Governor Driscoll congratulated the Yacht Club for its part in teaching the youth of America the meaning of sportsmanship.

Today, no doubt, countless sailors far and wide have many memories and much to be grateful toward the RYC. Why not thank them or share a memory here?info@rivertonyachtclub.org  https://www.facebook.com/rivertonyachtclub?fref=ts – JMc

 

 

 

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