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.


Many hands contribute to the success of the fifth Historic Riverton Criterium

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Under the sweltering heat of today’s sun, the fifth running of the Historic Riverton Criterium was exciting for spectators, punishing for competitors, and all the excuse many needed to throw a porch or backyard party. Those arriving just in time for such events may have missed this.  Below, a crew erects the framework that holds the photo finish camera. It’s just one of the many heavy lifting jobs, literally and figuratively, that get done before the first race starts. – JMc

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Remembering Tom Palermo

Perhaps you read a newspaper account on December 27, 2014, about Tom Palermo, killed by a hit and run driver outside of Baltimore while riding his bike in a dedicated bike lane. The news received national attention because the driver, Heather Cook, at the time of the accident was the second ranking member among Episcopalian clergy in the Diocese of Maryland.

My Riverton School Kindergarten Class, Spring 1979

My Riverton School Kindergarten Class, Spring 1979, Tom in back row, left, plaid shirt

It got my attention because of a Riverton connection. Tom Palermo was a Riverton kid, and I was his kindergarten teacher. Riverton School is a kindergarten through eighth grade school, and teachers, especially kindergarten teachers, have the opportunity to watch the students grow from five-year olds to students entering high school.

1987-Tom Palermo and Jill Dechnik, after an 8th Grade Graduation Party at my house

1987-Tom Palermo and Jill Dechnik, after an 8th Grade Graduation Party at my house

After their high school graduation, they scatter and move on, move away, or sometimes the student moves back to Riverton with a family, and their children attend Riverton School. That happens a lot.

I hadn’t heard about Tom Palermo for many years. Facebook allows people to reconnect, to catch up, to share. My daughter reconnected with Tom (I still think of him as Tommy) a while ago and sent me information about his life. The photograph of the grown man had the same smile I remembered from years ago.

Tom Palermo

Tom Palermo

And then Facebook spread the tragic news of how he died. The news spread and garnered an outpouring of shock and sadness. Television and newspaper accounts told the story of Tom’s life and how he died.

Here is a summary that I provided for people to share the news:

Tom Palermo, age 41, a senior Johns Hopkins Hospital software engineer, died after a vehicle struck him as he was cycling on the 500 block of Roland Avenue near Baltimore on December 27, 2014. Tom was married and the father of a six-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.

Tom grew up in Riverton, New Jersey, and attended Riverton Public School from kindergarten through eighth grade. He graduated St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia and earned a history degree from the University of Maryland. Family members describe Tom as a “seasoned cyclist who had a passion for mountain biking as well as logging countless miles on the road.” He was an advocate for bike access and bike safety. In 2002, Tom began making custom bike frames at his workshop.

Bishop Heather Cook of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is facing more than a dozen charges, including manslaughter, driving under the influence while driving, texting while driving, and leaving the scene of an accident. She had previously been arrested on a DUI charge. The trial date set for June 4 has been postponed until September.

A Palermo Children’s Education Trust has been established on the youcaring.com website. Donations may also be sent to:

Palermo Children’s Education Trust
℅ Molloy Investment Group
One South Street
30th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202

The Riverton connection remains. Six months after his death, his hometown remembers Tom as the Historic Riverton Criterium returns. Promoted by Riverton resident Carlos Rogers, attention will be focused on the sport of cycling, a perfect tie-in to Tom.

This account from Carlos:

“When Sue Dechnik approached me about memorializing the life of Tom Palermo I could tell how much of an impact he must have had on people given Sue’s sincere emotion during our conversation. I had actually read about his death as the news made national headlines, but had no idea he was from Riverton. It was a simple decision to do what I could to embrace his life and the circumstances surrounding his death. Given some of the feedback I’ve gotten from Riverton residents who knew Tom, it seems like he certainly made a lasting mark on people’s lives. Since he was a bicycle aficionado, and a builder himself, I’m sure he would have loved to have seen the Historic Riverton Criterium in person. Unfortunately, he will never get that chance. Even though I didn’t know Tom, I am glad to play a part, however small, in celebrating his life. Tragically, it ties together. One, Palermo was from Riverton, and two, he was riding his bike.”

Since 2011, the HRC has contributed over $15,000 to local Riverton and Palmyra organizations and individual causes. Carlos met with Tom’s father and arranged to donate part of the proceeds of the HRC to the Palermo Children’s Education Trust. In addition, in the HRC handbook there is a piece written about Tom.

In speaking with Mr. Palermo, I found him to be grateful for the recognition Tom is getting, but profoundly sad and shocked about the tragedy that took Tom from his family.

Personally, I remember Tom as a friendly, kind-hearted kid. From all accounts, he grew up to be a special man.

SDechnik (Copy)

 

by Mrs. Susan Dechnik

HRC 2015 poster

HRC 2015 poster

The Historic Riverton Criterium will thread through the gaslamp lined streets of Riverton for the fifth time tomorrow, June 14, 2015, 1-6 p.m. For more information, click on thumbnail at right, or visit https://www.facebook.com/historicrivertoncriterium

Find more information and photos about Tom Palermo at these links:

https://www.baltimorebrew.com/2014/12/28/grief-and-anger-at-scene-of-fatal-bike-crash/

http://www.wbaltv.com/news/Hundreds-of-cyclists-ride-to-honor-Thomas-Palermo/30492528

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/An_unfinished_ride.html

http://www.bikeleague.org/content/statement-death-thomas-Palermo

 

 

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Congrats to the RYC on the 66th running of their classic Governor’s Cup Regatta

Governor's Cup Regatta here, New Era, June 30, 1949, p.1.

Governor’s Cup Regatta here, New Era, June 30, 1949, p.1.

Governor Driscoll presents cup, New Era, July 7, 1949, p.1.

Governor Driscoll presents cup, New Era, July 7, 1949, p.1.

Congratulations to the members of Riverton Yacht Club on 66th running of the Governor’s Cup Regatta at Riverton Yacht Club as they celebrate their sesquicentennial – that’s their 150th anniversary, in case you don’t have a dictionary.

Here, Roy Vollmer narrates a short BCT video about the classic boat race established in 1949. http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/videos/local/video-governor-s-cup-regatta-in-riverton/html_d570d7c9-7496-5a24-9bf8-5a05bc75857f.html?mode=jqm&m=topstoriesnow

The clipping at left is from the pages of Riverton’s now defunct hometown newspaper, The New Era, which announced in late June 1949, the events planned around the first Governor’s Cup Regatta planned for the following July 2 and 3.

A week later The New Era provided coverage of the regatta in the clipping at right. In his remarks that day Governor Driscoll congratulated the Yacht Club for its part in teaching the youth of America the meaning of sportsmanship.

Today, no doubt, countless sailors far and wide have many memories and much to be grateful toward the RYC. Why not thank them or share a memory here?info@rivertonyachtclub.org  https://www.facebook.com/rivertonyachtclub?fref=ts – JMc

 

 

 

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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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