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.


Proposed ride recreates an 1895 NYC-Riverton bicycle race

Bicycle News, 1895-04-15 Phila Inquirer

Cedar Street  2-15-2014
Cedar Street 2-15-2014

With snow on the ground in Riverton for going on a month now, the humid heat of a Jersey summer seems a long way off, but plans are afoot now to shape the first weekend of June into a two-day celebration of competitive cycling with a nod to local history.

This past December Carlos Rodgers, already a Riverton history-maker as the originator and promoter of the Historic Riverton Criterium, emailed me and explained that an ex-Riverton resident, Rob Gusky, had reached out to him with a proposal for organizing a bicycle ride in 2014.

1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race medal
1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race medal

Since it will commemorate the 1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race from New York City to Riverton, Carlos drafted me to help with research as part of the team he was getting together to “set the wheels in motion to help make this happen.”

HRC winged wheelDo you see what he did there? An apt metaphor, Carlos!

Research, yes. I’m in.

Just don’t ask me to bike a hundred miles from NYC to Riverton.

Rob has christened Riverton’s newest bicycle race The Historic Riverton Century. A hundred-mile bike race is known as a “century.” Also cool is that he plans for it to fall on Saturday, June 7, the day before the Historic Riverton Criterium on Sunday, June 8.

As you can imagine, the logistics of pulling off a successful bike race over roads and highways from Manhattan to Riverton in today’s traffic are considerable.

To fast-forward to developments up to this point, through conference calls, emails, texts, and phone calls, Rob Gusky soon enlisted a cadre of amateur cyclists (and one amateur historian) to strategize a plan for overcoming the many obstacles to completing such a grueling race. Too, he began to also think of ways the event might benefit Riverton and promote its image to the region.

What started as Rob Gusky’s one-man quest to recreate the 1895 New York Times Tri-State Race in June 2014 has captured the imagination of everyone who visits the Facebook page he established less than a month ago. It serves as a kind of information-central showing the organization and planning for all aspects of the race as well as to promote public support for it.

Riverton historical marker, Broad & Main

Riverton historical marker, Broad & Main

It is absolutely the best place to keep up with all the progress as various team players do their part to ensure the success of this venture. Community approval and backing builds with every day as visitors drawn in by Rob’s infectious enthusiasm affirm their support with every webpage’s coveted “like”

Riverton Athletic Assn. bicycle track, New York Times, June 4, 1895

Riverton Athletic Assn. bicycle track, New York Times, June 4, 1895

A separate piece of this ambitious undertaking is the dedication of a historical marker sign, similar to the one by the gazebo at Broad and Main.

The proposed sign will describe particulars of the Riverton Bicycle Track constructed on the old baseball field between Lippincott and Thomas Avenues and note the original 1895 race.

A foremost racing venue of its day, the Riverton track was dedicated on — what else– the Glorious Fourth of July, 1894.

Riverton's Bicycle track - undated photo from Ed Gilmore

Riverton’s Bicycle track – undated photo from Ed Gilmore

It featured a ticket office, a club-house with separate apartments and all conveniences for both men and women, bleachers, a grandstand with a 3,000 person capacity, and twelve arc-lights to illuminate night races.

(Past the fence in the distance you can see the rooftop of the old passenger train station. And through the trees, do you recognize the building that will later be home to Klipple’s Bakery, Zena’s Patisserie, and now the Orange Blossom Café?)

New York Times Bldg c1895

New York Times Building c1895

In June 1895, the Hudson County Wheelmen of Jersey City organized a spectacular 150-mile race pitting relay teams of the best amateur cyclists from New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey against each other.

The contest began on the steps of the New York Times Building (then at Park Row) and climaxed with racers crossing the finish line at Riverton’s own quarter-mile track.  In addition, five distance cyclists who competed for special prizes by going the entire 150-mile distance left New York two hours before the first relay racers started.

GN Sep 2009

GN Sep 2009

Rob found out about the 1895 race that ended right here in his old hometown by browsing through the pages here at rivertonhistory.com.

In 2009, my colleague Patricia Solin authored an article for the Society newsletter, “The Fine Grounds of the Riverton Athletic Association,” which described the 1895 race and the Riverton bicycle race track, characterized by experts as “the finest quarter-mile track in the country.”

Grand Bicycle Meet, 1894-07-04, Philadelphia Inquirer, pg. 8
Grand Bicycle Meet, 1894-07-04, Philadelphia Inquirer, pg. 8

The debut of the Historic Riverton Criterium in 2011, and its return in June 2012 and 2013 triggered several more visits to the HSR archives to report on Riverton’s cycling legacy.

Rob started an online effort to fund the installation of a historic marker at the site of the Riverton’s Bicycle Track where the Tri-State Relay Race finished on June 8, 1895.

Any tax-deductible amount that anyone contributes on the secure website will move the campaign closer to its goal of preserving this milestone in Riverton’s history.

Have I mentioned that Rob lives in Wisconsin? You have to tune in to this story, if only to see how he pulls it off.

There is so much more to know about this exciting enterprise, but discover for yourself what is going on behind the scenes now so that we might all play a small part in actually making Riverton history.

I urge you to visit The Historic Riverton Century Facebook Page  and JMc05the Preserve Riverton’s History by Installing a Marker at the Bicycle Track Site Website  and throw your support behind the establishment of the race as well as the installation of the sign. – John McCormick

PS: In case you missed it, the Programs & Event Tab directs you to the summary of the recent Feb. 12, 2014 meeting that featured a presentation by actor/historian Bob Gleason as Abraham Lincoln.

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Diaries donated to PH&CS illuminate Cinnaminson’s Civil War era

Jay Howard presents his findings to a well-attended meeting

Jay Howard presents his findings to a well-attended meeting

The Palmyra Cultural and Historical Society had a huge turnout for its free presentation on the Civil War at the Palmyra Community Center on January 9, 2014.

The publicity blurb promised material history archives and comprehensive research on the socioeconomic impacts of the war specific to Palmyra.

Jay Howard of the Palmyra Cultural and Historical Society delivered on that promise and gave a detailed analysis of Palmyra’s social and economic condition during the 1860s.

He based his conclusions on an incredible present that a very generous Cinnaminson resident gave them–a set of Civil War diaries.

one of Capt. Hall's Civil War diary volumes

one of Capt. Hall’s Civil War diary volumes

We could look at, but not touch, one ledger of the multi-volume diary written by Capt. Charles Hall, Fourth New Jersey Volunteers, which was passed down through his family. His great-great-granddaughter Virginia Harding donated it to the Palmyra organization a few months ago. .

Muster sheets list names of Union soldiers

Muster sheets list names of Union soldiers

Jay Howard, who is also a professor at the Community College of Philadelphia, has been engrossed with their contents since. He coordinated the names mentioned in the diaries with names listed on local Civil War muster sheets and consulted Adjutant General William S. Stryker’s two-volume Record of Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865.

I confess that I went hoping to freeload some information about Riverton’s involvement in the War between the States because at that time, the towns of Riverton and Palmyra were still part of Cinnaminson Township.

While the focus that evening was definitely on Palmyra, there may be some Civil War vets from Riverton we’ll hear about later when the PH&CS finishes transcribing the diaries. We have a short list of Riverton Civil War vets complied, but part of the difficulty is sorting out names of Riverton residents from the Cinnaminson records.

Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer Edward Colimore interviewed Mr. Howard about the author of diaries, their donor Virginia Harding, and the information he has gleaned from them.  You can find the philly.com article here.

PHCS screenshot

Palmyra & the Civil War screenshot

Here is a link to his a PDF file for Jay’s slide presentation in which he examines Palmyra society of the Civil War era. Note slide #7 which gives a general overview of the economic situation in Riverton. You’ll want to see this separate  Word .doc which includes Jay’s explanations of the slides.

This is a perfect example of the tremendous value that primary source materials serve in documenting local history. We thank Ms. Harding for her extraordinary generosity to the community and Mr. Howard and his research team at the Palmyra Cultural and Historical Society for their contribution to our understanding of the region’s history.

I certainly look forward to the next chapter in Jay’s investigation. Let us know what you think and we’ll pass it along to Jay. – John McCormick

Revised 2/10/2014: Note that the Word file explaining Mr. Howard’s slides has been revised, and if you visited earlier, you may want to see his much amplified version.

CIVILW01b

CIVILW01b

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Get used to it – more on the way

Riverton eagle surveys Broad Street

Riverton eagle surveys Broad Street

So thoughtful of you to check on the elderly here at the Society during today’s snowstorm.

I’m fine, thank, you.

Just be careful if you’re shoveling this heavy snow.

I had to go out, so on the way I took a few pictures with my phone just in case our members in California and Florida are missing the snow.HSR mailing list graph

Membership Chairperson Pat Brunker sent me the latest membership list on an Excel file and it shows 154 addresses for 11 different states – Florida to Maine and New Jersey to California. About 2/3 of the addresses are in the 08077 zip code, which includes Riverton and Cinnaminson.

Here’s a few more pictures.

You don’t have to be a Society member to check out the website or send us a comment. There must be some better photos out there, folks. We’d love to post your snow scene pix, new or old.   - John McCormick

ice - WmMcDermott

Icy Riverton Yacht Club – Bill McDermott

Added 2/8/2014: Thanks to Bill McDermott for this photo and a poem, first published in December 1920 Harper’s Magazine.

Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
- Robert Frost

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Meeting notice – March 2, 2014

Downton publicity graphic 1Animation Downton publicity graphic 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See the January 2014 Gaslight News for more details.

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Meeting notice – February 12, 7 p.m. at The Bank on Main

Lincoln PublicitySee the January 2014 Gaslight News for more details.

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