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.


Summer winds down and the Society revs up

201 River Bank

201 River Bank

These remarkable photos from Nancy and Bill Steel’s family album offer a rare glimpse into early 20th century Riverton.

Porch Club (Copy)Do you recognize this Riverton landmark in its earlier days?

Built in 1909 as the clubhouse for an organization celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2015, it has a much different look here than in a later postcard view.

In an August 3rd post called Hot enough for ya? candid shots of the Fitler family of 109 Bank Avenue cavorting in a homemade swimming drew possibly the most traffic ever to this website and rekindled memories of those who later learned to swim in Bay Ruff’s pool. These scans came from that same album.

RYC biplane - no caption
RYC biplane – no caption

 

This photo had no caption or date, but you can see the Yacht Club in the background. Somewhere I have the name of a pilot who flew passengers around Riverton for a fee. But who is the woman?

We are often asked here what we have on file about the history of a house. Except for a few founders’ homes, we have precious little, I am afraid.

However, the 1999 Riverton National Register Historic District Inventory has short summary descriptions for over 500 structures. Mrs. Patricia Solin, a frequent contributor to the Gaslight News, reports that she will have some helps to publish here later this fall for those wishing to research the history of their home.

212 Thomas 1905

212 Thomas 1905

212 Thomas 1905

212 Thomas 1905

A new homeowner once told me how much they appreciated receiving from their seller a box of documents and old photos about the history of their just purchased house.

These photos taken in 1905 would be invaluable to a person trying to recreate original architectural details.

Note the oil lamp on the post that predates the Welsbach gaslamps. Do you have any photos of your home back in the day you could send in?

In a year in which we have a woman candidate running for president, an intriguing sequence of photos about suffragettes marching to gain the right to vote prompted me google some of the names I read in the captions.

Col. Ida Kraft speaking at Bridgeboro

Col. Ida Kraft speaking at Bridgeboro

I learned Col. Ida Kraft (also spelled Craft) and her army of Pilgrims were actually a real thing and a very big deal. But are the pictures in this album because a family member was involved in the march?

The captions do not say and the Steels do not know.

I couldn’t wait for cold weather to share this next one. I have heard of people walking on the river ice way back when, but a wind powered iceboat must be something to see.

Delving into the Steel family album remind us that there are still some surprises to be found in Riverton history, but sometimes they present more questions than answers.

H. McIlvain Biddle's iceboat

H. McIlvain Biddle’s iceboat

If you have any more surprises to throw into the mix, or can help connect the dots to some of these random bits, please join the conversation here at rivertonhistory.com.

Won’t you support the Historical Society of Riverton’s efforts to preserve and promote the history of this “unique” town in the only way that matters with your membership?

The Society gets an earlier than usual start on the season this time with its first event on September 10. Read more about it and other calendar events in our SUMMER EXTRA Gaslight News, a two-page late August summary of upcoming events and recap of summer web posts. – JMc

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103 years old this week!

Boardwalk and Beach, looking North from 8th St., Ocean City, NJ

Boardwalk and Beach, looking North from 8th St., Ocean City, NJ

A lot of people find their way here to look at old postcard images.

This scan of a 103 year old postcard is not the oldest one we display, but it may be one of the most rare.

This highly collectable philatelic find is one of very few surviving pieces of air mail flown in a Wright Brothers built biplane during a short-lived experiment from August 3-10, 1912 between Ocean City and Stone Harbor, New Jersey.

Postcard with handwritten notation VIA AEROPLANE

Postcard with handwritten notation VIA AEROPLANE

“The First Air Mail Flights in South Jersey – 1912,”  Harlan B. Radford, Jr.’s authoritative 3-page story of those historic pioneer flights of the early “AERIAL U.S. MAIL SERVICE” is liberally illustrated with items from his philatelic collection.

(The printable PDF file here contains links to larger image files.) – JMc

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Hot enough for ya?

First Fitler pool 02

First Fitler swimming pool

In the throes of one of New  Jersey’s infamous humidity drenched August heat waves we have to admire the ingenuity of these Rivertonians of old who found a way to keep cool.

Way before postwar prosperity and innovative construction methods of builders such as Phil Anthony and Herman Silverman, respective founders of Anthony and Sylvan Pools, enabled mainstream America to construct swimming pools in their own backyards, the Fitler family of 109 Bank Avenue made one in theirs.

This may be the “first swimming pool in Riverton” described by Mrs. Barbara Page Bartholomew during an interview conducted by former HSR President Gerald Weaber in when he was researching his feature, “The Fascinating Fitlers,” for the November 2009 Gaslight News. Gerald recorded:

Miss Barbara was fond of her aunt’s husband, Nathan Myers Fitler, whom she affectionately called Uncle Myers and who she said built the first swimming pool in Riverton. Nathan Myers and Mary Biddle Fitler lived in the home known as Graystone at 109 Bank Avenue. The first swimming pool in town was on the same property where the Fitler playhouse once stood. The playhouse, where Miss Barbara played as a youngster, was later the home to Anne Knight-Ruff, author of Ruff Copy, located at 4 Thomas Avenue behind Graystone.

first fitler pool 01 (Copy)

first fitler pool 04 (Copy)

These adorable century-old candid shots of kids at play are from a family album loaned to us for scanning by Mr. and Mrs. William Steel of Cinnaminson.

In it were a number of other photos of historical interest that will be shared here and, since some photos had no captions, we may need your help with names or guessing dates.

first fitler pool 06 (Copy)first fitler pool 03 (Copy)first fitler pool 05 (Copy)

 

 

 

 

Below is a preview of coming attractions. One wonders how many other glimpses into Riverton’s past lie waiting to be discovered and shudders at the thought of the history that is often discarded. – JMc

undated photo, presumably July 4th

undated photo, presumably July 4th

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Christmas in July at the HSR

image courtesy Moore's Postcard Museum

image courtesy Moore’s Postcard Museum

No, not really, and it’s not a sale at your favorite discount store either.

But I do feel like I just got a big present to open when I find in my email these scans gifted to us by a postcard collector friend and frequent contributor to our archives.

Find nine new additions to our vintage postcard image collection below.

Regular visitors here know that the Society owns very few real postcards and that much of our virtual catalog of vintage postcards consists of scans, or digital files, contributed by collectors who have shared their prized images here.

Perhaps no images have elicited more comments from visitors than the many picture postcards of the Jersey Shore. The views often launch a reverie that compels them to leave a comment like the ones below.

  • Thank you for posting the wonderful (Avalon) images. My very happiest childhood memories are of my family’s two-week vacations to Avalon from 1964 to 1969. – Gregory G.
  • … I worked at the Harbor Theatre for several summers. It was fun to see what it used to look like. Also did not realize that St. Paul’s had such a long history in Stone Harbor. I still attend Mass there. This was a wonderful treat to see these pictures. – Eileen P.
  • I will be 70 in April and for a few hours of looking at your pictures I was a kid again. – Margaret S.
  • I was a lifeguard at Beach Haven in 1958 and 1959….We used to go to the Baldwin (Hotel) in the evenings… – Robert B.
  • Love it! I always featured Lucy (the Elephant Hotel) when teaching about New Jersey in fourth grade. The good old days! – Susan D.
  • Thanks for posting all the pics…My first trip to Stone Harbor was 1959, the last year of the old Shelter Haven. Spent many fun summers working there. McClures gulf, short stop restaurant, hahns…still remember pizza alley and the old wooden freds tavern. Haven’t been in SH since 2000, but think about it alot. agasin, thanks for the memories. stayed at Carolyn hotel and later the Sherwood house, both long gone. – Jim A.

Browse for a while in the many categories of our IMAGES section and see to where and when the pictures transport you. Leave a note if you wish. Please contact us if you have vintage postcards or ephemera of the South Jersey/Delaware Valley region to donate or wish to send us scans. – JMc

 

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Lucy celebrates her 134th next Saturday

A certain lady we know is celebrating her 134th birthday next Saturday, July 18, and as we have reported on her advancing years before, we thought it time to provide an update.

Lucy_bday-poster2015Lucy is as gorgeous as ever and you may want to attend her party if you’re in the neighborhood.

Find more info about the festivities here  at the Save Lucy Committee website and read about her fascinating history here.

The slideshow below consolidates Lucy images seen elsewhere on rivertonhistory.com.

Do you have another? There’s always room for one more! Please contact us by email (rivertonhistory@gmail.com) to arrange to send a scan. – JMc

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