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.


The wettest summer on record dampens construction deadlines

Grandstand construction rained out today

Grandstand construction rained out today again

Looks like we’re in a rut.

With almost an inch of rain falling in Moorestown, the nearest weather station, our weather for August first may continue this trending pattern of wet weather for the rest of the summer.

According to NOAA‘s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s) National Weather Service this has been the wettest summer on record in the Philadelphia region. Official climate records for Philadelphia date back to 1872.

How many times have you heard someone compare our weather to Florida’s recently?

Blue skies and fair weather mean meeting project timelines

Blue skies and fair weather mean meeting project timelines

Although today was a washout, that was not the case yesterday as courses of cinderblock walls rose to trace the outline of Riverton’s new grandstand.

I have stalked, er… visited the crew so often, they may soon get me a union card.

Through summer heat and mud, Mark (r.) and his nephew Korey have toiled to build Riverton’s new grandstand.

Some days have had more or fewer workers depending on the task at hand, but this pair have worked most days under the searing sun of several heat waves as well as laboring ankle-deep in the mud rendered by these frequent rainstorms.

The current projects page of the J.H. Williams Enterprises, Inc. website displays a 16-picture slideshow of the work that company is doing. Some of their photos show building milestones that I missed when I recorded the construction progress here.

What are your thoughts on the demolition of the old grandstand or the anticipation of getting a new one? – John McCormick

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The tax bills cometh… and so doth a pressing HSR membership appeal

desktop publishing 101

desktop publishing 101

This slim Historical Society membership appeal hitched a ride in the property tax bill envelopes which should already have arrived in Riverton Borough mailboxes. Delays with the adoption of Burlington County’s budget caused the delay of many local property tax bills, including Riverton’s.

True, asking for residents to shell out another twenty bucks to join the Historical Society may be a hard sell when they have just been invoiced for a large sum over which they have little choice.

Animation town wide membership 2014 1However, we sincerely hope that a dozen or so of the near one thousand households receiving bills will choose to endorse the work of the Society by becoming members of the only organization that strives to preserve and promote our local history through research, special events and public education programs.

Those of you seeing this from across the miles who find this site worthwhile may also consider this a solicitation for your membership.

The support of the Society by members with their dues determines the very nature of programs, events, and projects the Board may plan as it allocates resources for the upcoming season. Quite literally, Every Member Counts, not only for their financial stake, but the group benefits when individuals bring their unique skills, knowledge, and perspective to the organization.

The pages of Riverton history abound with intriguing authors, artists, inventors,  entrepreneurs, innovators, industrialists, abolitionists, and social and political activists who have influenced the outcomes of events here and elsewhere.

Please help us continue to serve this great community of local history fans with compelling content about new discoveries, be they found within these scant square-mile borders or across the nation.

For more information, email us at rivertonhistory@usa.com – John McCormick

 

 

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Work progresses on Riverton’s new grandstand

Riverton Grandstand Sept. 17, 2011

Riverton Grandstand Sept. 17, 2011

1954 Riverton Little League, picture credit: Benjamin Percival

1954 Riverton Little League, picture credit: Benjamin Percival

Longtime residents of Riverton will recognize this photo of a structure which generations of area families came to think of as an integral part of the Riverton landscape.

 

Now gone, the Riverton Grandstand witnessed not only countless league baseball games played by adults and children, but it also served many years as the backdrop for Riverton School Field Day events, and other community activities.

May Queen ceremony - photo credit Pam Deitz

May Queen ceremony – photo credit Pam Deitz

Just the reminder of it can evoke strong memories of one’s life milestones passed within sight of the iconic landmark. Countless friendships forged there have outlived its demolished cinderblock walls.

 

1938 Riverton Athletic Assn. Baseball Team - picture credit Francis C. Cole

1938 Riverton Athletic Assn. Baseball Team – picture credit Francis C. Cole

So it was not without much debate and study of alternatives that Borough Council decided the best course was to raze the deteriorated Grandstand earlier this year and build a new one.

 

New Grandstand groundbreaking, April 13, 2013

New Grandstand groundbreaking, April 13, 2013

HSR members followed developments in the September 2011 Gaslight News and local newspaper, and occasional updates have appeared on this website here, and here.

The new grandstand scheduled for completion in late September, holds the promise of again becoming a venue for many future athletic events and Borough functions. Rising in the same footprint as the original, it may also soon help build some new memories as well as become a symbol of community pride that echoes the legacy of its predecessor.

These recent snapshots illustrate the progress of construction thus far and hint at the considerable scope of the job.

Please add your recollections about the original structure or your thoughts on the new one to this growing account of past and present information on Riverton’s Grandstand. – John McCormick

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Riverton’s 116th Children’s Parade – a classic that never gets old

Elsie and John Showell, July 4, 1920

Elsie and John Showell, July 4, 1920

As families and friends again congregated on Independence Day in Riverton, inevitably many paused to reflect on other Fourths of days gone by.

No doubt this year’s Parade Marshal Mrs. Elsie Waters has stored up many memories since that photo was taken of her and brother John sitting in wonderment at the 1920 July Fourth celebration.

1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program

1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program

Previous posts have addressed the origin and changes in Riverton’s Glorious Fourth over the past 116 years since the parade began in 1897, much of it gleaned from the research of Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, Town Historian, now passed. More than 100 of her signature “Yesterday” columns written for the Historical Society of Riverton’s newsletter, the Gaslight News still serve as the most authoritative record of our town’s early days.

July 4, 1920 program details, New Era 7-2-1920, pg2This previously posted four-page 1920 Program (above, right) details the activities enjoyed that day. HSR member Gerald Blaney generously allowed us to scan his rare eBay find and display it here.

The July 1920  New Era issues, just digitalized through a joint Riverton Free Library and HSR project late in 2012, provide new insights into Independence Day festivities for that year.

WWI signet ring top

WWI signet ring top

The clipping at left from the July 2, 1920 New Era newspaper advises readers of two added features to the program that included a presentation of gold rings to veterans of World War I.

Later, the New Era recapped the results of the many  games and summarized the patriotic observances witnessed by “fully five-thousand men, women, and children.”  The Children’s Parade had 792 kids vying for prizes such as best decorated baby coach, velocipede, or kiddie car.

July 4, 2013 Palm Card

Children gathered on the riverbank and scrambled as a Curtiss F. Boat hydroplane brought over for the occasion showered them with hundreds of tickets good for merchandise at either one of hree local stores.

You can see the issue as a PDF file just as it appeared to Rivertonians 93 years ago. (You will need the free Adobe Reader program if you do not have Adobe Acrobat.) Scroll down see a two columns on page two of the July 9, 1920 issue.

Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader – photo by Susan Dechnik

Were they the good ol’ days? Absolutely.

However, we do not dwell on the past, but simply acknowledge it as we value the contributions of those countless citizens who have helped Riverton develop into the unique place it is today.

The following photos and video demonstrate that for many, the experiences of this July 4, 2013 may just as well be recalled in the not too distant future as “the good ol’ days.” Absolutely!

 

Photographer Richard W. Pringle, Jr. kindly sent these photos that include a few great close-ups.

 

Here is a 4min:11sec, 239MB Windows Media Video File showing some highlights of the parade.

Wade McDaniels, the Snow Cone Man, brings cool treats and cheer to the Riverton Parade.

Wade McDaniels, the Snow Cone Man, brings cool treats and cheer to the Riverton Parade.

You never know who you will meet on the Fourth. Here is my former Riverton School colleague and snow cone entrepreneur, Wade McDaniels. After selling the frosty confections here for over twenty years, I guess that feat qualifies Mr. McDaniels to be included in the record of Riverton history.

Read more about my friend Wade in the phillyburbs.com  post by Burlington County Times Staff Writer Peg Quann. She interviewed the coolest Riverton School maintenance supervisor who has been moonlighting on this summer job since his first gig selling at a Beach Boys concert in Philadelphia during the 1976 Bicentennial. Chilly treats a tradition on Riverton’s Fourth by Peg Quann

The image gallery below illustrates what we remember in any typical Riverton Fourth of July observance: family, friends, flags, festivities, fire engines, fun, and food. What does a Classic Riverton Fourth of July mean to you?

The Fourth is often a time for reconnecting with others who have put some miles and years between themselves and their old hometown. Palmyra native and PHS alum Gary Weart stopped by to see Phyllis Rodgers and family while vacationing from his home in South Carolina. Here he is talking to Phyllis as she tallies the 320 children participating in this year’s parade.

Gary Weart, standing, pauses from taking photos to talk to Phyllis Rodgers, HSR President.

Gary Weart, standing, pauses from taking photos to talk to Phyllis Rodgers, HSR President.

It turns out the former teacher, whose great-grandfather James Taylor Weart served as Palmyra’s first mayor from 1923-1928, is a keen photo enthusiast who captures images with a truly memorable perspective.

Enjoy this slideshow by Mr. Gary Weart, book author, former social studies teacher, administrator, and athletic coach who founded Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), and received the Presidential Service Award from President Bill Clinton.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is still a little room left here for your own memories and recollections of July Fourth – actually for any year at all that you wish to share. Just contact us at rivertonhistory@usa.com – John McCormick

P.S.: This just in from Tracy Hansen Foedisch – more photos at http://riverton4thofjuly.com/photo_gallery2013.html

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YOUR PHOTO GOES HERE

2013 Parade Marshal Elsie Waters

2013 Parade Marshal Elsie Waters

Just a short note to show you the picture that I wish I had taken.

Arriving just before ten and parking way out on Elm, I missed the start of the parade and Parade Marshal Elsie Waters’ grand entrance on a carriage.

Actually, I probably missed a lot. Hence the reason for this appeal for some of our HSR peeps to please send us some photos and commentary about your July Fourth celebration.

Luckily for me, my friend Susan Dechnik captured this photo.

In a day or two I will post some more of my own very uneven coverage of the Parade along with some more people may send in by email (rivertonhistory@gmail.com) or that I may find through our Facebook friends. We would love to see any and all aspects of the celebration – the Bill Oliver 5K Run, the Downhill Race, Raft Races, family get-togethers, etc. – John McCormick

 

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