Category Archives: Blog

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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We go in with Palmyra on a bigger, better Antique & Collectible Appraisal

Expert Personal Property Appraiser, Ronald Shaffer, ISA assesses Nancy and Bill Hall's music box.

Ronald Shaffer assesses Nancy and Bill Hall’s music box in 2013

Saturday, March 28, 2015, from noon to 4 p.m. will see the return of the popular Antique & Collectible Appraisal with the affable and very knowledgeable appraiser Ronald E. Shaffer, but with a  few upgrades.

The spacious Palmyra Community Center will serve as the venue for an enlarged event which the Palmyra Historical & Cultural Society is co-sponsoring with the Historical Society of Riverton.

Well-known Philadelphia antiques expert, Mr. Ronald E. Shaffer, ISA, is a frequent speaker on the subject of Fakes, Frauds & Flimflams, and he directs many such Heirloom Discovery Day events for historical societies and civic groups.

You are certain to be informed and entertained by Mr. Shaffer’s witty and informed banter as he speaks about each piece, about his profession, and offers his opinions of value for items brought to the event.

In addition, we are very fortunate to have available at this same event Mr. Nicholas Fratto, Accredited Master Gemologist and CEO of Anthony Jewelers, to evaluate your vintage fine jewelry. Anthony Jewelers, of course, is a 3rd Generation family business serving the Riverfront region and beyond since 1953.

Muster sheets listing names of local area Union soldiers on display in 2014

Muster sheets listing names of local area Union soldiers on display in 2014

Last January 2014, we reported on the fine PH&CS presentation of its recently acquired Civil War diaries written by Capt. Charles Hall and muster sheets of local soldiers in Company E, 4th Regiment NJ Volunteers of the Union Army. The Civil War muster sheets will also be on display at this appraisal event.

The popularity of Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and other such reality shows has us all dreaming of finding buried treasure in our attic or finding a bargain in that local flea market. Whether it has been in the family for generations or you just picked up a vintage item on eBay, find out what it’s worth at this rare special event.

Admission is free. Each expert’s verbal opinion of value is $5 per item with a limit of two per person. No written appraisals will be issued. No reservation needed.

PLEASE NOTE— so you will not be disappointed — Mr.Shaffer claims no general knowledge of firearms, swords, or modern-day collectibles. He specializes in American, English and Continental furniture, glassware, silver, china, American art, textiles, and needlework. Furniture items are always welcome — if they are easily transportable by the owner. Photographs of items, too large to carry, are acceptable as long as they are clear, true views with sufficient detail. Mr. Fratto’s specialty is fine estate jewelry. – JMcAntique Collectible Appraisal publicity 2015

 

 

 

 

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Blizzard fizzles; Editor looks back to actual historic snows

Snowblowing in Delran 1-27-2015

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the so-called “Historic Snowstorm” left two inches of soft powder in Delran (5 miles north of Riverton).

But it may have been enough to turn the late-January issue of the Gaslight News into a Post-Groundhog Day Issue, so I posted the PDF today. I will stuff envelopes and mail the newsletters as soon as I get them from Joie Budget Printing in Cinnaminson.

I do recall some historic snow storms. Well, maybe not in the meteorological sense.

Years ago, I waited for the KYW Radio announcement or the phone call from the colleague a step up from me on the Riverton School phone tree (and then I, in turn, called the next teacher) to give me the word, “No school.”

Upon returning to school the next day, students were all a-buzz with stories of snowball fights and sledding at Double Bunkers.

Historic or not, Riverton kids (and a teacher or two) enjoyed the day off. Often, though, a Spring Break would be adjusted or the school calendar extended farther into June to make up the day.

Skaters at RYC, c.1888

Skaters at RYC, c.1888

Each generation seems to define its own version of The Good Old Days and it amazing how the sight of an old photo or the scent of wet socks drying by the heater grate can reboot those memories.

What will the kids of 2015 regard as their Good Old Days?

Snow and ice have certainly caused their share of fun as well as commotion here over the years.

In 1900, the steamer Twilight became icebound near Trenton, and Charles Biddle rescued fifteen ice skaters with his boat when they got caught on a Delaware River ice that was breaking up.  In 1903, two young Riverton men saved another skating party from drifting ice, again by boat.

sleigh in snow, New Era, Feb 8, 1934, p3

sleigh in snow, New Era, Feb 8, 1934, p3

The Feb. 8, 1934 New Era, Riverton’s now defunct hometown newspaper, described how Benjamin Lippincott’s mule-drawn wicker sleigh thrilled “the younger generation of Riverton” when  it came into town.

In 1979, former HSR President and Town Historian Betty B. Hahle wrote in the Gaslight News:

In 1888 “Receipt Book” of Wm. F. Morgan …”The Great Blizzard occurred March 12th 1888.” (added) “The second occurred Feb. 12 and 13th 1899. It snowed for 52 hours.”

In researching his excellent Nov. 2009 GN article, The Fascinating Fitlers, former HSR President Gerald Weaber found:

Dale Baker Fitler was born in Riverton  exactly nine months after the famous snow blizzard in March 1888. Drifts reached  fifteen to thirty feet high along the riverbank.

Joseph F. Yearly - shoveling snow in front of J.T. Evans sheds 1940

Joseph F. Yearly – shoveling snow in front of J.T. Evans sheds 1940

Now, that blizzard really was historic. The Blizzard of 1888 was of the most famous snowstorms in American history, it hit the eastern United States March 11th and 12th 1888. The Great White Hurricane paralyzed communities from Maine to Chesapeake Bay. Cities became isolated when telephone and telegraph wires snapped, trains stopped, and roads became impassable. The National Weather service estimated that 40 inches of snow-covered New York and New Jersey. Philadelphia claimed high winds blew up to 60 miles an hour, creating snowdrifts 40 to 50 feet high.

It’s a good thing we missed out on that kind of historic snowstorm this time.

Riverton Readers of all ages, what historic, or just plain memorable, snowfalls do you recall? -JMc

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Year changes proposed to the Constitution and Bylaws

Constitution-b

No, not that Constitution – the HSR constitution. Patricia Solin, our Society’s secretary, explains below.

This past year the Board of the Historical Society of Riverton reviewed the its constitution and bylaws.

After careful consideration, an Ad Hoc committee suggested changes. The Executive Board voted to accept those changes, which now require review by the full membership.

proposed changes screenshotThe attached document describes those changes and the rationale for making the changes.

If you are a member of the Society, please review the document and be prepared to vote on it at our next General Membership meeting on January 21 (details forthcoming in the next newsletter and on this website).

Open the PDF here to read the proposed changes and the reasons for those changes. – JMc

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Winterthur’s Downton Costume Exhibit a hit with HSR

downton tixHSR President Phyllis Rodgers sends this short review of our recent trip to Winterthur Museum.

On Friday, December 5, thirty-nine HSR members and guests enjoyed a Holiday excursion to Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, DE.

First treated to a guided tour of the Historic Dupont Mansion, all were enthralled with the spectacular furnishings and Holiday décor.

After a leisurely lunch and visit to the outstanding gift shops it was time for the much anticipated viewing of the Costumes of Downton Abbey.

The vast variety of the collection from the hit series did not disappoint as samples of clothing from the upstairs and downstairs characters made one feel as if they were visiting with the actors themselves.

All made for a perfect day with good weather, good company, and a memorable Downton experience.

Downton Abbey returns for its fifth season starting Sunday, January 4th.

If anyone who went can send more photos, I will gladly include them. JMc

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Our Homemade Riverton Holiday Greeting

cyberattackNorth Korean strike in Riverton? Not-so-funny story — My 1 yr., 9 mos. old Dell computer suffered a complete nervous breakdown at the end of November and I had to replace the hard drive – lost everything on it.

Olds Community, Broad St. Riverton, NJ - now Stan's Auto

Olds Community, Broad St. Riverton, NJ – now Stan’s Auto

Like they say at the auto dealer – it isn’t the years; it’s the mileage. This baby has a lot on the odometer. Mostly from doing newsletter layouts, managing this website, and other HSR related work.

I am only just now getting it back into fighting form. I had backed it up with an external Western Digital hard drive, but it was missing the last two weeks of work from mid-November to first week of December.

What it did save was a jumble when I transferred it to the new hard drive. Nothing is where I expected it to be. Some files arrived in multiples and some not at all. Also lost many other folders, emails, my address book, files and settings that the backup drive did not save, plus some programs I had downloaded. It has been a colossal chore trying to get things back so I can work on the newsletter and website.

It’s a good thing I am paid by the hour. Just kidding – from President on down, we all volunteer for this duty.

So with just four days left until Christmas I am a bit behind schedule on getting out this Homemade Holiday Greeting.

12-20-2014_00

Mrs. McC and I went for a drive around Lippincott, Thomas, and Linden Avenues last night and snapped some pix of the light displays.

Now, I now we missed a lot, and probably left out your favorite, but it was c-c-c-cold and getting late. A particularly vigilant dog on Thomas convinced us to head home where I went to work on this Riverton Christmas Light Greeting Card from the Historical Society of Riverton.

You can leave a comment about an individual photo if you click on it to enlarge it and enter your comment in the “Leave a reply” box under the photo.

Nancy Hall remembers her Lippincott grandparents in Riverton having a Christmas tree with real lit candles. What is your recollection of a Riverton Christmas?

If you have a another photo to contribute or a memory of Christmas Past, please contact us below, or at rivertonhistory@gmail.com, or post it on Facebook.

Gotta go – I still have shopping to do. – JMc

 

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