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.


Will the Floyd L. Moreland Dentzel/Looff Carousel come home to Burlington?

old carousel11

Island Beach Amusement Park Carousel, IMAGE CREDIT: PWS Collection

Following up on the Seaside Heights Carousel post from last week, my friend Paul Schopp forwards this undated image of that same attraction in an earlier incarnation when it started delighting riders in 1901, at Burlington Island, at the Island Beach Amusement Park.

Events today can turn on a dime, and the emotions aroused by the impending auction of the Seaside Heights Carousel have given rise to a new effort to bring the carousel back to its hometown, Burlington.

Guernsey’s Auctioneers posts a press release and many photos accompanied by a tune from the carousel’s Wurlitzer here. No telling how long that will be available.

Connor Newman. a Doane Academy senior, created “Bring Burlington Island Carousel Home” July 14, at gofundme.com.

It doesn’t cost anything to hear about his crusade to save the historic amusement from being relocated elsewhere or sold off piecemeal. Large Letter Greetings from Burlington, NJ [800x506]And his passion for the cause might just inspire you to even sign up to give a buck toward the $2.7 million goal or make a comment on Facebook.

Cheryl Baldorossi-Painter provides this description for the FB group she started to  compliment Newman’s crowdfunding appeal.

Casino Pier, of Seaside Heights, is selling their historic carousel, most likely in pieces. This isn’t just any carousel though, this one of the only four original, hand-carved, working carousel’s left in the world. It started its life on Burlington Island, at the Island Beach Amusement Park, in 1901. It then survived the park’s two fires and its eventual close. It was then sent to Casino Pier and has remained there, one of the only rides to survive both Hurricane Sandy, and the 2012 Seaside Heights fire. What we want to do is bring this carousel back to its hometown, Burlington. This is a historic piece full of life, spirit, and memories, of many people of both Seaside Heights and Burlington. It would be a shame to let it dissapear from the world. That’s why we need your help. We need to raise a lot of funds to save the carousel from destruction. Connor Newmann has started a go fund me campaign to save the carousel up now for auction by Seaside Heights. Support him and his efforts to bring the carousel back to where it originated, historic Burlington City, NJ. Please add friends to this group so we can bring the carousel back home.

Watch as the social network members post news of the latest developments, “exploring every avenue to keep it from being dismantled”, including forming a non-profit and praying for a “Hail, Mary” assist from Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen.

For those interested in pursuing further the origin story of the historic carousel whose survival has now captured the attention of so many people, read about the Floyd L. Moreland Dentzel/Looff Carousel at discoverseasideheights.com. Since there is every likelihood that the webpage will be taken down, we reluctantly quote a portion of it here:

The Historic Seaside Heights’ Carouselthe carousel at the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights

The Casino Pier carousel has, like many storied carousels, an interesting history. The machine was originally part of a trolley park called Island Beach Park. Oddly enough this was not the Island Beach found just miles from Seaside Heights but was located in Burlington, NJ. In 1928 the park burned and the fire damaged the carousel. An area resident, Linus Gilbert, rescued and rebuilt the machine. He bought and added carved figures that were not part of the original. This resulted in a carousel with a mixture of animals from a few different revered carvers, some of whom had worked from different carousel manufacturers. The work of William Dentzel, Marcus Illions, Charles Carmel, and Charles Looff are all represented in this one carousel. The carousel was brought from Burlington to Seaside Heights in 1932. It was placed in an open frame building and was still under the care and management of Linus Gilbert. This first building was the beginnings of what would later become the Casino Arcade and Casino Pier. When the carousel building was first built there was a fishing pier located a short distance away. The pier then had nothing to do with what was soon to become a growing amusement area. Eventually the “Seaside Heights Casino” was built to house the carousel and to add more attractions around it. This same building is still in place today. The most recent large scale change to the structure took place in the 1980′s. The building was made smaller to keep it from blocking Ocean Boulevard, which is the main street paralleling the western side of the boardwalk. The Casino Pier carousel was almost lost to another disaster – selling off the animals to collectors. The owners of the carousel seriously considered dismantling their machine in the 1980s. Some animals fetched more than $100,000 at auction during that decade. The selling off of the animals met strong opposition from an unlikely corner, Dr. Floyd Moreland. At the time he was Professor of Classics and Dean at the City University of New York. He had ridden the carousel as a child and later operated the ride as an employee of the Casino Pier. Dr. Moreland convinced the owners they should let him restore the carousel. This project took a number of years and involved numerous people chipping in their time or money to help Dr. Moreland. Their collective efforts helped bring back the vibrancy and beauty of the carousel.

Riverton Yacht Club & Columbia 1905

Riverton Yacht Club & Columbia 1905

For more history of Island Park on Burlington Island and truly rare old images see the scans and information our expert Town Historian has posted here (scroll about halfway down the page).

You have seen before on this website here  several image variations of the steamer Columbia.

Mr. Schopp reveals more details about the amenities of the boat that “…became the queen of the excursion trade, operating innumerable trips to the various picnic groves along the river shore, moonlight dance cruises and, beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, to the many amusement parks that dotted the Delaware River shore.”

Waiting for my Columbia ticket

Waiting for my Columbia ticket

Actually makes me wish I could go back in time.   - John McCormick

P.S. To further illuminate the topic for extreme carousel devotees Paul explains that the terms merry-go-round and carousel are not synonymous – “A carousel features a menagerie of different hand-carved animals while a merry-go-round only carries horses.

Pride of London Carousel, IMAGE CREDIT Flickr

Pride of London Carousel, IMAGE CREDIT Flickr

Another tidbit of information concerning these wonderful amusement rides: American carousels and merry-go-rounds travel in a cyclonic or counterclockwise direction while those in Great Britain go around clockwise.”

Remember you read it here. You know you’ll use this bit of minutiae in a conversation soon. Thank you, Paul.

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Don’t try this these stunts today, kids.

New Era, July 20, 1920, pg. 2

The New Era, July 20, 1920, pg. 2

As Labor day approached in late August 1920, Riverton’s hometown weekly gazette, The New Era, reported, “It is astonishing the great number of children from 12 to 14 years of age who have swam across the river and back. At least 30 have made the one-way journey, and over a dozen both ways.”

Just as it was once a Riverton rite of passage to walk across the frozen Delaware and touch the Pennsy shore (see GN 2013), so too, was it the custom for youngsters to swim across and back in summer months.

Mrs. Elsie S. Waters, Oct. 2013

Mrs. Elsie S. Waters, Oct. 2013

You can take Elsie Waters’ word for it.

She recalled learning to swim at five years of age and making the crossing at twelve in 1930, in this 2013 interview.

With safety in mind, Riverton Yacht Club’s Secretary and Treasurer and famous distance swimmer, Charles Durborow (see Mar 7, 2014 post), accompanied the juvenile tadpoles as they paddled into adulthood.

The New Era article noted that swimming had “…risen rapidly in popular favor in Riverton of late and the Yacht Club has been kept busy handing out bronze and silver medals to its members.”

Riverton Yacht Club - View opposite Lawn House, from Nick Mortgu's collection

Riverton Yacht Club – View opposite Lawn House, from Nick Mortgu’s collection

A week later, The New Era described how Riverton’s Miss Harriet Holder swam from Riverton Yacht Club to Race Street, Philadelphia in three hours and twelve minutes.

And I get winded backstroking across to the other side of my swimming pool!

Do you have more to add to this chapter of Riverton history? If anyone has a photo of one of those swimming awards or additional information, we would like to publish it.  – John McCormick

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Effort to save historic Seaside Heights Carousel gaining traction online

Carousel News Cover, Sept 2007 IMAGE CREDIT antiquecarousels.com

Carousel News Cover, Sept 2007 IMAGE CREDIT antiquecarousels.com

Who doesn’t love a merry-go-round? Dr. Floyd L. Moreland once described the “magic” of riding these “awesome machines.” His 2007 cover article for Carousel News and Trader is reprinted in a recent post at Antique Carousel News.

Also see Dr. Moreland’s photo slide show for the historic Seaside Heights carousel at the National Carousel Association’s carousel.org.

The toll taken by Jersey storms, boardwalk fires, and economic downturns has increasingly turned old seaside amusement parks into endangered species.

Soon, the joy of experiencing a ride astride one of these magnificently restored hand-carved carousel creatures,  surrounded by the sound of an authentic Wurlitzer Military Band organ, may be a thing of the past.

A July 29 NY Times piece (Auction Could be Undoing of Carousel That Survived Hurricane and Fire) details the developments which have led to this sad plight, and the Asbury Press has some luminous photos posted online.

It was a distraught Sunbelt State resident leaving feedback here who first alerted me to the effort to save the historic 1910 Casino Pier Carousel in Seaside Heights, NJ from being auctioned off.

Will you please email me? I am interested in saving the Seaside Heights Carousel and am wondering if you and the community are trying to get donations to save it, instead of dismantling it as I have been told. I live in Arizona now, but grew up on the Jersey Shore and was very sad when I heard the Asbury Park Carousel was auctioned and dismantled. I have signed an online petition but feel there needs to be more done. Thank you, Carol J Mann

We can only add our voice to the intensifying movement to preserve this rare seashore treasure that is now approaching critical mass.

Beach Scene at Seaside Heights, NJ

Beach Scene at Seaside Heights, NJ

Doubtless, Ms. Mann arrived here at rivertonhistory.com searching for Seaside Heights images. While we have a few SSH images, we have none of the carousel. (If anyone cares to send us a card or a scanned image of one we can add it to our exhibit. Send me your info below and we can make arrangements.)

Speaking of postcards, cardcow.com, a reputable online seller from whom I have made purchases, posts two examples of already-sold vintage postcards showing the Seaside Heights carousel. The description below comes from one.

The famous 1910 Dr. Floyd L. Moreland Carousel at Casino Pier, Seaside Heights, N. J. this hand-carved landmark on the boardwalk, which received an Historic Preservation Award in 1991, is one of only two surviving American-made classic carousels in the State of New Jersey.

You can see them here. Among my favorites are the large letter postcards.

The Seaside Heights Carousel IMAGE CREDIT casinopiernj.com

The Seaside Heights Carousel IMAGE CREDIT casinopiernj.com

Why is it that the mere glimpse of an image, or the whiff of a scent such as that familiar sea air as you approach one of the Garden State’s barrier islands, can release a flood of memories transporting one, at least for a while, back to an earlier time?

If you think this classic seashore attraction is worth preserving, you might check out the FB page, or possibly add your name to the 5000+ signatures already on the petition at Save the Antique Carousel.

Don’t feel left out if you live elsewhere. Use the features of Google Maps to find carousels from coast to coast at The National Carousel Assn. website.

Cherish these last days of Summer 2014, wherever you are, and make some more memories. Remember, these will be tomorrow’s “good ol’ days.” - John McCormick

 

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“The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad.” – A.K. Best

Here is video of some very persevering fishermen and resolute sailors of the Riverton Yacht Club who carried on despite a light rain this evening from about 7 pm through 8:15.  About an hour and a quarter is compressed into this 1 min., 17 sec. clip.  – John McCormick

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Read the history that inspired this summer’s cycling events

Historic Riverton Century riders 2014

Historic Riverton Century riders 2014

The cyclists who took part in The Historic Riverton Century 100+ mile New York to Riverton bike ride on June 7 have moved on, but the memories remain here and a tangible dividend resulted for the town – the installation of a permanent historic marker at the former site of the track at the corner of South Broad Street and Thomas Avenue.

Riverton Bicycle Track sign, 8-1-2014

Riverton Bicycle Track sign, 8-1-2014

Riverton enjoyed another “fifteen minutes of fame” and media attention as a result of this June’s Bicycle Weekend that included the Historic Riverton Century riders’ arrival Saturday evening, June 7, the dedication of the Bicycle Track Historic Marker Sunday morning, June 8, and the Fourth Annual Historic Riverton Criterium Sunday afternoon.

Rob Gusky, the originator and planner of the grueling cycling odyssey that approximately recreates the route of the 1895 NY Times Tri-State Relay Race, continues to post photos and updates on Facebook since he returned to his Wisconsin home.

Particularly interesting is the first-person report of Randy “Wheels” Jackson, one of the riders, who gives his impressions of the hundred-mile trek from the steps of the New York Times Building to the site where Riverton’s quarter-mile bicycle track once stood near South Broad, behind the Riverline Station.

That endorphin-fueled high experienced by endurance athletes had barely worn off when Rob announced plans for the 2015 Historic Riverton Century that include a 15-mile ride from the Burlington Riverline station back to Riverton on Saturday, June 13, 2015.

l. Bill Hall; r. Rob Gusky

l. Bill Hall; r. Rob Gusky

Doubtless, these exciting new Riverton traditions owe at least a nod to events in our past for their inspiration.HSR Purpose

We pause here for a commercial message from our sponsor – the Historical Society of Riverton.

In the address he gave for the dedication of the Historic Marker, Town Historian Paul W. Schopp provided much needed historical context to Riverton’s decision to build a bicycle track in 1894.

Borough Historian, Paul W. Schopp

Borough Historian, Paul W. Schopp

In addition, Mr. Schopp’s remarks explain the broader implications of the Golden Age of Cycling and the influence that the League of American Wheelmen had on the development of better roads.

Then, there is the obvious question – what happened to the track?

It’s all here in Paul Schopp’s very fitting and customarily meticulous report on the Riverton Bicycle Track. – John McCormick

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