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.


Another Riverton Snow Day – 1896 style

1896 Snow House

1896 Snow House

There must be more to this story, but all I have to offer is this photo and caption card I found in the HSR files.  The card reads:

1896 SNOW HOUSE
BUILT BY JOE ROLAND OF ST. CATHERINES, CANADA
ON SLED – MARIE WRIGHT
AT LEFT – REX SHOWELL       THE HOUSE WAS CUT OUT OF A SNOW DRIFT
3RD FROM TOP – EDDIE B. SHOWELL
2ND FROM TOP – EDDIE P. SHOWELL
TOP OF HOUSE – WALTER WRIGHT
BEHIND HOUSE – ALLEN EARNSHAW
INSIDE HOUSE – FLORENCE SHARP
AT RIGHT – LAURA WHITE

1896 Snow House - full view of original cabinet card.

1896 Snow House – full view of original cabinet card.

1896 Snow House caption card

1896 Snow House caption card

Click on the thumbnails at left to view the entire cabinet card and the index card.

Do you think those kids knew they were making Riverton history when they carved that fort out of a snowdrift?

Why don’t you look though your family archives and see what you could add to these pages of Riverton history?

In completely unrelated news, the Society’s Board met last night at President Phyllis Rodgers’ home and, despite falling short of a quorum, planned details for the upcoming Antique and Collectible Appraisal on Sat., March 28, and the Second Annual Preservation  Awards Night in mid-April.

Also in our job jar is preparing our recently enlarged area in the basement of Riverton Free Library to better store our documents, photos, and artifacts and to one day receive visitors.

What would you hope to see when you get there? You Riverton ex-patriates now living across the miles – what would you like to see displayed here online? – JMc

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Walt Whitman – I finally heard him singing, thanks to Ed Centeno

Back in January, website visitor Ed Centeno wrote to us:

Many thanks for posting great postcards…. have several postcards not in your collection…. would love to share please email and will send….

postcard scans courtesy of Ed Centeno

postcard scans courtesy of Ed Centeno

This was remarkable since lots of people come by to view, but few actually stop back to drop off something. Ed sent a few scans of Camden postcards as email attachments, and I could see this serious collector had a theme right away – Walt Whitman.

There was his Camden home and his gravesite in Harleigh Cemetery plus statues and commemorative stamps.

Like other collectors I know, Centeno did not have just one version of the sought after image, but he had collected every iteration he could find.

(I suffer from that same collector’s addiction myself and always have room for another rendition of the RYC.)

Centeno Collection

Centeno Collection

Ultimately, Mr. Centeno sent in a few dozen scans and photos of the many items of philately, ephemera, commissioned art, collectibles, and commercial products related to the controversial and influential American poet, essayist and journalist.

Since then I have learned that admitted Whitmaniac, Mr. Centeno, has exhibited his still growing assemblage of Whitman artifacts at the Whitman Birthplace in Huntington Station, New York and elsewhere.

Here is a bit of Mr. Centeno’s massive collection displayed in a 45-page Walt Whitman Virtual Scrapbook and you don’t even need a ticket.WW scrapbook screenshot 01

(Click here for a 34MB PowerPoint or here for a 11MB PDF)

In related developments, Will Valentino of Palmyra Historical and Cultural Society sends us this timely and informative piece he wrote on the Whitman House in Camden (click here for PDF link) and reminds us that Mickle Street, a new drama inspired by a meeting between Oscar Wilde and Whitman, has opened at the Walnut Street Theater.

I confess that except for high school memories of Cliff-Noting my way through studying “I Hear America Singing” and recalling many crossings of the Walt Whitman Bridge to South Philly, I have taken little notice of the “father of free verse.”

I never really got it – the lack of rhyme.

Had I read decades ago his “Blab of the Pave,” a vibrant catalog of urban sights and sounds, I would not have missed the rhyme.

Today, however, for a man who received little public acclaim for his poems during his lifetime, it seems Whitman is everywhere.

Over a century since Whitman’s passing, countless books and articles interpret his life and work, and commercials invoke his name. Libraries, schools, roads, and parks across the USA plus a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop bear his designation, and frequent popular cultural references to him in movies, television,  music, and plays serve as proof of his  abiding appeal to today’s fans.

He’s been here all around me the whole time, but I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Even growing up in Camden, Whitman’s words were literally under my nose, or perhaps above it, on the south face of Camden’s City Hall tower which bears the engraving  “In a dream I saw a city invincible,”  an excerpt from his poem “I Dream’d in a Dream.”)

Years later I find it hard to believe these powerfully insightful nuggets were not just penned by a 21st century motivational guru.

“Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.”

“Be curious, not judgmental.”

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

“Either define the moment, or the moment will define you.”

No wonder his message resonates with so many today. Of course, there is waaaay more to Whitman than is teased at here. Enjoy Ed Centeno’s collection and possibly find more to explore in the links you find there. – JMc

 

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Hopefully the last of the season’s Code Blue Alerts

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 24 2015 01

Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 24 2015 01

The folks are alright, kids.

With sub-zero wind-chill temps of late and threats of historic snowstorms I actually received emails and phone calls from friends in California, Virginia, and Ohio asking if we were OK.

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 24 2015 02

Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 24 2015 02

Yes, thank you for checking on the elderly – we are fine.

For any of you Riverton snowbirds temporarily billeted in a sunbelt state or expatriates currently living elsewhere, here are some recent photos of your old hometown.

Our HSR stringer Dick Paladino shot these with his point-and-shoot camera on Feb. 24 and 27.

He writes:

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 27 2015 02

Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 27 2015 02

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 27 2015 01

Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 27 2015 01

I took them a few days ago when the ice was piled up along the river bank, then while driving by last night shortly after sunset, I picked up a few more in the dusky rose sky-glow.

 

FYI to any photogs hoping to replicate one of these moonlit views on the old postcards – you can never position yourself so the sunset or moon is behind the Yacht Club as it is in this scan of a vintage lithograph postcard sent in by Nick Mortgu.

vintage postcard of Riverton Yacht Club  scan contributed by Nick Mortgu

vintage postcard of Riverton Yacht Club
scan contributed by Nick Mortgu

 

Maybe some sailor can give us our bearings.

Light at the end of the tunnel – Accuweather is forecasting mid-fifties and rain for Weds. and spring arrives March 20.

Stop snickering, Murrietta, CA, I know it’s 75 degrees there. – JMc

 

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Mrs. Tilmont, retired Riverton School teacher, turns 99

Eleanor Tilmont 99th bd (Copy)It was a Girls’ Day Out last Thursday when retired Riverton School teacher Mrs. Eleanor Tilmont celebrated her 99th birthday with friends at Due Amici (her actual birthdate, Feb. 11, 1916).

Father Michael Doyle read Eleanor a moving poem and gave everyone a blessing.

This is one lady who does tell her age and is looking forward to her 100th birthday bash. – JMc

 

 

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Town Historian Paul Schopp comments on “Summering In Riverton”

Mrs. Patricia Solin and I collaborated on “Summering In Riverton” which appeared in the November GN. Shortly afterward, my friend Paul Schopp sent us a wonderful commentary which gives added context to several of our remarks and makes a couple of corrections.

John:

Okay, here are my comments on the “Summering in Riverton” article:

I do not believe the steamboat landing predated the town. No wharf appears on any pre-1851 maps. In addition, the founders and early residents had no regard for the railroad at all. The steamboat was the preferred method of travel. This is why the Camden & Amboy Railroad did not build a station at Riverton until the 1860s.

Regarding the Riverton Journal, I recall that the editors and publishers were a couple of teenage boys, hence the “frankness” and prose.

Riverton, NJ map 1859

Riverton, NJ map 1859

Attached is an 1859 map of Riverton; you will see the “Riverton House” next to C.P. Miller or Main Street. I believe this is the same as the Cinnaminson House that Charles Hall operated.

The 1877 map attached indicates that Pancoast had already built his house at 404 Main, but the lot where 402 would be built is still vacant.

Riverton, NJ map 1877

Riverton, NJ map 1877

As I indicated to you at the Memorial, the Kern’s Tourist Home was out along Route 25 (Route 130) and served the traveling public moving to and from New York City and should not really be included in your article.

In 1860, Pancoast was a farmer, but following the Civil War, I think he moved into Riverton and constructed 404 Main. He listed himself as “Palmyra, NJ” because the Riverton post office did not open until 1871 and he probably built 404 either in 1868 or 1869.

In 1890, the Pennsylvania Railroad published a guide to Suburban Homes within a radius of 30 miles around Philadelphia. This what it contains for Riverton:

“One of the most charming spots on the river is this favorite, conservative little town. Its population consists of seven-hundred, who are mainly property-owners, and the exceptional summer-boarding opportunities as presented here are usually captured a long time in advance. By a town ordinance no buildings are allowed on the river front, and now, extending for a  good mile in length, and running from the river wall to the artistic houses set back a goodly distance, is a green, velvet-like lawn, without fence or party-line, a perfect landscape garden, which has become one of the distinctive features pointed out to the boat travelers steaming by. It is a haven for yachtsmen, canoeists, lovers of the rod, cricketers, ball and tennis players, and its sandy beach is well dotted in the warm summer afternoons with numbers of bathers. Its shaded walks and drives bestow enticing coolness, even on the warmest day, and almost every evening some means of private entertainment or dance is improvised in the little theatre for the pleasure of the summer guest. From a sanitary standpoint it is very healthful, and the theory of malaria existing about these river-front resorts has long been exploded—as no better proof is needed than the return, season after season, of the same people, or by the length of years enjoyed by the permanent  New Jersey inhabitants. There are several churches (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Catholic) in the village. Telegraphic, express, and mail service.

Lawn House.”—Miss E.S. Bell. Three squares from station. Accommodates seventy-five guests. Open May 31st to October 15th. Rates, $10 to $25 per week. Large mansion; situated on the river bank; unobstructed view of river scenery. Good boating, bathing, and fishing.

“Private Mansion.” Miss Sallie Sickel. Few minutes’ walk from station. Accommodates thirty guests. Open all the year. Rates, $10 to 15 per week. Large porch and lawn.

Home Mansion.” Mrs. E.H. Pancoast. One square from station. Accommodates ten guests. Open June to October. Rates, $8 to $15 per week.”

I hope you find these comments helpful.

Best regards,

Paul

 Our thanks to Paul Schopp for his comprehensive fact-checking of our article.  – JMc

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