An afternoon tea fit for Lords and Ladies of Highclere Castle

Downton 3-2-14_01Some South Jersey Downton Abbey devotees held on to their Season Four Finale buzz a while longer as they enjoyed afternoon tea themed to the famous British television drama series at The New Leaf in Riverton, NJ.

Phyllis Rodgers, obviously meant to live at Downton Abbey
Phyllis Rodgers, obviously meant to live at Downton Abbey

Proprietor Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers and Historical Society of Riverton President planned the event as a fundraiser for the Society, and it drew a capacity crowd Sunday afternoon despite the expected arrival of another winter storm later that evening.

The Honorable William C. Brown took our coats. Where else but Riverton?
The Honorable William C. Brown took our coats. Where else but Riverton?

 

The New Leaf’s smartly attired butler hung up guests’ coats as Lady Phyllis invited arrivals to enjoy a champagne punch. (Riverton Mayor and HSR Board Member, Mr. William C. Brown, served as stand-in for Carson.)

Downton Abbey 101
Downton Abbey 101

 

Lady Phyllis warmed up the crowd, literally and figuratively, with trivia questions about the PBS hit series as Mrs.Hughes (played by Vicki) helped the maids serve Cook JoAnn’s piping-hot black currant tea and freshly baked lavender and golden raisin scones served with rose preserves and Devonshire cream.

Downton 3-2-14_11Ever-attentive wait staff delivered to each table towers of delectable sandwiches and savories, each menu item cleverly named after show characters.

 

Downton 3-2-14_14

 

The main course, however, was the grand entrance of actress/historian Alisa DuPuy as she channeled everyone’s favorite dowager countess.

Downton 3-2-14_16In her monologue, part English history lesson, part etiquette class, part stand-up routine, Lady Violet schooled all in attendance in the fine points of the British rules of male primogeniture and the lifestyles of the various social classes.

Downton 3-2-14_19Lady Violet presided over a bingo game and another about lines delivered by characters during the course of the series’ four season run.

Altogether it proved a pleasant fix for our Downton Sunday habit since we will probably have to wait until January 2015 for the US première of Season Five.

Photos by Susan Dechnik and John McCormick

Our Museum for a Day came and went

Aggie Kennedy
Aggie Kennedy clothes a dressmaker’s form.
Susan Dechnik
Susan Dechnik took most of the photos here.
Cheryl Smekal, closest;  Aggie Kennedy, at right; Susan Dechnik, back
Cheryl Smekal, closest; Aggie Kennedy, at right; Susan Dechnik, back

The reason for the recent inactivity here on the website is that we have prepared for our display of artifacts that we call our Museum for a Day at the New Leaf Tea Room in cooperation with the Riverton Free Library’s biennial Candlelight House Tour.

The items come out to play for a day, then are packed away until we get another offer for some free exhibit space.
The items come out to play for a day, then are packed away until we get another offer for some free exhibit space.

Once every two years we get to break out of storage some choice HSR treasures to exhibit to the public. Afterwards, the items get packed away, and until the next time, this online virtual museum will have to do until we get a real permanent one.

We brought out some familiar chestnuts such as some Dreer’s Nursery items, our vintage clothing, and the Riverton Gun Club history book.

New additions to our exhibit repertoire include displays about Riverton’s War Memorial and Riverton’s military veterans, Riverton Yacht Club, and Anne Knight Ruff.

museum for a day_37I only just found a box postmarked 2011 in our storage space full of donated items relevant to the Yacht Club, particularly the Duster, that former resident Marty Carhart donated.

More details of the remarkable contents will be forthcoming in a later post, but for now, blueprints for building a Duster and two reels of 16mm movie film taken of the 1949 Duster Championship race were just two of the more notable items.

RYC 100th Anniversary book 1965
RYC 100th Anniversary book 1965

Also in that box, a 1965 book published for the 100th anniversary of the Riverton Yacht Club now serves as a startling reminder that 2015 will be their 150th anniversary. I made a poster outlining some of the milestones in the RYC’s history to go with the table display.

“Tempus fugit,” as my Latin teacher used to say. Tempus fugit, indeed. I think time has even picked up more speed after I passed sixty.

HSR Board Member Bill McDermott also pitched in as a Museum Guide. Turns out he had never heard the story about how Ed Merrill built the Duster in a workshop on the third floor of a house at 301 Main Street. There are probably many things we could all learn from each other if we could pool our resources. We have the bandwidth here if you have something to share.

Readers, please search those boxes tucked away in attics and basements for anything you may have that would help to piece together a history of the RYC’s last half-century. Something spectacular is sure to be planned to commemorate that milestone, and with so many knowledgeable people now living far afield the internet is a great place to collaborate.

I made another poster that explained about Anne Knight Ruff’s book, hoping it would result in some sales, but no luck. This book is a treasury of Riverton history c.1890-late 1900s and should be required reading for anyone living in this zip code.

museum for a day_17An exhibit about Riverton’s veterans included a poster with all the original names plus the names added since 2011. Longtime Riverton resident Daniel Goffredo lent us his World War II service uniform for the day.

Earlier this year the HSR bought a presentation projector that we could use for just this type of situation, so we set it up with a screen to show the much expanded Riverton Veterans Album.

Those old hometown newspapers that we got online in late 2012 have yielded a lot of anecdotal information about the people mentioned on the original War Memorial Honor Roll. Additionally, the newspaper files have been the source of many more news clippings about military personnel whom they described as being from Riverton.

museum for a day_13museum for a day_02That might be the reason if you were to find a person mentioned in the pages of the Veterans Album, but their name is not on the War Memorial Honor Roll.

I showed the presentation to our own HSR Board members Nancy Hall and Elsie Waters, but the best part was listening to them give the color commentary as they watched.  – John McCormick

revised  12/22: added ten photos to gallery below

 

 

Don’t you just love British programs?

queen victoria_01Lady Sybil’s death on Downton Abbey Sunday night really had us depressed. We needed some cheering up.

A few of us Anglophiles tuned in on Thursday, January 31 to a program that was being shown for one night only. And we didn’t need cable to do it.

Fifty-one intrepid history lovers from the area braved the cold damp January evening to rub elbows with royalty as Alisa DuPuy, the cultivated first-person historical interpreter, brought her program about Queen Victoria to Riverton’s New Leaf Tea Room.

Her Highness shows a portrait of her beloved Prince Albert
Her Highness shows a portrait of her beloved Prince Albert

There could not have been a better venue for this intimate audience with Her Highness than in the century old Victorian building that is the home of Mrs. Phyllis Rogers’ elegant  yet cozy New Leaf Tea Room.

Guests at the Royal Reception helped themselves to an assortment of confections and cheese to accompany their freshly brewed tea.
Guests at the Royal Reception helped themselves to an assortment of confections and cheese to accompany their freshly brewed tea.

She spoke at length about her childhood, her life at court, her romance with Albert, and each of their nine children. I describe it so, because this was no talk given in the third person but an hour-long dramatically acted one woman play.

The performer so seamlessly incorporated solid historical research into her conversation that one could easily mistake the scene for a late 19th century lyceum lecture by a visiting head of state.

This one dressed to the nines and wore the family jewels. She brought family photos of Albert and the kids and her favorite dog. She utterly captivated everyone as she related so many dramatic stories in the life of England’s longest reigning monarch.

queen victoria_07

Find out more about Alisa DuPuy and the rest of the cast of characters that she portrays.

Check out The New Leaf Tea Room, a top ranked tea room by teaMap.com.

A Word from Gerald Weaber, President of the Society:

Our appreciation to Phyllis Rodgers and her New Leaf Tea Room and Gift Shoppe for hosting the Historical Society’s Tea with Queen Victoria program. The Society welcomed both members and visitors for tea from Claymont, Delanco, Moorestown, Hainesport, and Laurel Springs New Jersey including Sharon Paden, Rosemary Flatley, Patricia Iannucci, Christine Maiorano, and Rosemarie Milza and friends.

gerald at the acme sepia smKudos to Alisa DuPuy for her flawless portrayal of Queen Victoria to the delight of the fifty-one guests at the New Leaf Tea Room. Join the Society as a member and enjoy programs like this and a subscription to the Gaslight News our fascinatingly written and illustrated newsletter by Editor John McCormick.

Annual membership is $15 per person or $20 for a household. Send your check to Nancy Hall, Historical Society of Riverton, P.O. Box #112, Riverton, NJ 08077. Thank you all for making our tea such a fun event in Riverton!

There is a photo gallery below. Please add any comments or send a photo and I’ll post it. Or, if you have a Facebook account, please”like” us and consider posting pictures and comments there.  The New Leaf  would welcome your shout out as well. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

 

 

Let’s do this more often.

HSR Board Members Mrs. Cheryl Smekal (left) and Mrs. Nancy Hall (right) make displays ready for our Museum-for-a-Day

A longer entry follows than most, but it’s been awhile and I have some catching up to do.

A week ago Saturday (Dec. 3) evening from 4-9 p.m. the Historical Society set up shop at the New Leaf for a one day only exhibition of seldom seen treasures from its collections and the consensus among visitors was, “You should do this more often.” People stopping by during their Library sponsored six-stop Candlelight House Tour examined the various displays and often left us with as much information as they took away.

Daniel Goffredo as scanned and restored
I set up my laptop to run the Riverton Veterans Honor Roll Album which reminded our hostess, Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers to loan me a copy of her father’s service photo.

One woman who came through our Museum-for-a-Day found some vintage postcard reproductions that evoked a memory for her, and she paused by my laptop to look at the veterans’ photos, some of whom she knew.

McDermott Bros L-R – Bill, Paul Carl
The conversation drifted to Irish Row when we came to the photos of the McDermott brothers. (I only recently obtained these photos of Carl and his two late brothers when he answered our website appeal asking for veterans’ photos)

I have since updated the Riverton Veterans  Honor Roll Album to include the names added this past Veterans Day and scanned in several more photos of vets. If you can help by adding a photo or clipping to go with any name on the Memorial please contact me so that we can add it to the online album. Regular visitors will recall that eligibility for inclusion on the Honor Roll now reads:

Any present or former resident of the Borough of Riverton, living or deceased, who served on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States of America, during a time of war, is eligible to have their name placed on the memorial.

Charles Miller Biddle Residence, 207 Bank Ave., Riverton, NJ courtesy brynmawr.edu
Charles Miller Biddle Residence, 207 Bank Ave., Riverton, NJ courtesy brynmawr.edu

She casually mentioned that her mother had been a house maid for the Biddle household and that she had lived on Cinnaminson Street.

I showed her some of Joseph Yearly’s photos of Riverton’s own Irish Row stored on my computer and she became very animated, adding a running commentary. She pointed out people and places she knew in Mr. Yearly’s photos. I will have to get them posted after the New Year. We may hear some more from a Riverton Irish maid’s perspective in an upcoming post when the woman locates some of her late mother’s possessions.

Ezra Lippincott wedding party, Niagara Falls 1862

HSR Board Member Mrs. Nancy Hall is a granddaughter to Ezra Lippincott, one of Riverton’s founders. She brought a treasured family photo of granddad’s wedding party at Niagara Falls in 1892 to display.

Later at home, I scanned it and did some restoration on it, but I was a nervous wreck working on a glass photograph. The result is at left. Where are all the tourists and souvenir stands?

display of local antique bottles

Mr. Bill Hall, Nancy’s husband, related a story about his days selling Millside Farms milk. It seems that the creamtop bottles with many of us are familiar were not just a novelty but also served as a salesman’s pitch in the days before homogenized milk.

After witnessing Bill beat up some fresh real whipped cream from the few tablespoons of high-octane milkfat which he had poured of from the top of that cleverly designed bottle, the lady of the house was often convinced to try his product.

former location of Cole Dairy raw milk depot at 501 Main, three Cole bottles in foreground

The milk bottle display must have prompted Mrs. Helen Mack to ask about buying a copy of the remarkable interview we did with Mr. Francis Cole last year about his experiences as a young man working in his family’s raw milk business at 5th and Main right in Riverton during the 1930s.

I had none for sale, but she did motivate me to post the video which Mr. Cole so graciously recorded with us in August 2010, partly because it so perfectly illustrates why the oral histories of Riverton’s people are part of what makes Riverton’s history.

Francis “Franny” Cole August 2010

You can see the November 2010 Gaslight_News article about the interview, but until now I had difficulty posting the huge video file. So here it is in three parts, about 30 minutes total.  Mr. Francis Cole Remembers Cole Dairy Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. If you would like to leave a comment about Franny’s interview, I’ll be sure that he gets to see it.

Another woman visitor has her ancestor’s Civil War diaries and wants to know if the Society is interested and would we take care of them? WOULD WE? I pointed her toward Gerald and am hopeful that we can connect with her again.

Since the nation is observing the  Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, the HSR has made it a goal to try to document Riverton’s role in that conflict. Can any family historians out there with Riverton roots help with supplying individuals’ names, anecdotes, documents, etc. which might help us reconstruct what must have been varied responses of citizens? We are interested in Civil War veterans, of course, but also want to research the actions of women, Quakers, and how various groups and the business community contributed to the war effort.

One man spent at least two hours carefully examining the vintage postcard reproduction prints that we brought in to sell. Like a kid in a candy store, he pored over nearly every image category in the boxes until he settled on a handful of pictures to buy. During lulls in the museum traffic I went over and talked with him about his selections. He had a story about every picture.

What is it about these old photos and artifacts which induces us to reminisce and wax nostalgic? The times to which we look back may not be more comfortable or safer than now, but being in the past, at least they are known.  The recollections that I saw seemed more wistful and pleasurable and not melancholy, even though the holiday season can also a time for reflection and remembering those whom we miss.

At one point I heard Bryan Rodgers say emphatically, “I want it back,” as he gestured toward what was in his hand.

I looked at him puzzled since he obviously already had it, but he went on to explain.

“I want back what is in the picture – the town’s train station.”

Riverton, NJ PRR Station late1930s
Now I get it. Yeah, I know. Wouldn’t that have made a great permanent museum.  I do get jealous when I see that the Riverside and Moorestown stations have survived. Bryan and Gerald and I all agreed that it would be cool for Riverton to have an old train depot like those towns, and we wondered what happened to it.

Later, at home I consulted Betty, as I always do on such matters, and opened my file of Gaslight Newsback issues. The waaay back issues.

There on page 3 of the May 1980 issue was another one of Betty Hahle’s long-running and informative”Yesterday” columns. The answer is there if you care to look.

Business District of Palmyra, N.J., Broadway Theater marquee at left

In it, our first and only official Riverton Town Historian, the late Betty B. Hahle, also describes the Broadway Theater in Palmyra since the Society had recently shown the Romance of Riverton film to a capacity crowd at the Porch Club.

There are many more pearls of wisdom and historic information hidden away in those back issues. If there is interest among readers we can post more issues, perhaps scanned with some word recognition software so that readers can search the contents. What do you think?

The problems and dilemmas of historic preservation are not confined to Riverton, nor were they concluded decades ago. One person’s redevelopment and renewal is another’s demolition of culture and tradition; one’s preservation is another’s impeding modernization and dwelling on the past. It’s finding a balance which can prove elusive, and decisions once made may be regretted later. Staying informed about the history of one’s community is a step in the right direction.

Say, I really do wish we could do this more often.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

P.S. I’ll have many more photos of our Museum-for-a-Day displays posted shortly under the Programs & Events section.  As always, leave a comment, a question, or correct an error that you find.

 

Jos. F. Yearly’s photos recall the J.T. Evans Coal & Lumber business

001_1979-07-27 JT Evans Fire BCT - Paul W. Schopp Collection

The huge fire that taxed the firefighting resources of as many as six communities and destroyed the former J.T. Evans Coal and Lumber Building in 1979 closed the final chapter on a structure which had been a Main Street landmark since the late 19th century.

The J.T. Evans coal and lumber business had its origin sometime during the late 1800s as one of four locations of the I. W. Heulings’ Sons Lumber and Coal Dealers, later becoming A. C. Heulings & Bros. Lumber and Coal, changing ownership around 1900 to Riverton carpenter and builder Samuel Rudderow, who finally sold it to Mr. Evans in 1905. In its last days the property may be best remembered as the original site of The New Leaf plant shop run by Will Ann and Ray Szulczewski.

003_1895 Sanborn map detail - AC Heulings
004_1919 Sanborn Map JT Evans

These details from Sanborn Insurance maps show just how much Main Street real estate the J.T. Evans complex encompassed. (Note the railroad track on concrete piers that appears in the 1919 map which figures in photo #041.)

The Printing Shop indicated on the 1919 map at 607 Main Street was once the location of The New Era newspaper, now Freddy’s Shoe Repair. I thank Mr. Fred DeVece every time I refer to my treasured copy of the 1909 New Era Christmas issue which he gave me several years ago when I was teaching history at RPS.

005_1909 About Our Advertisers - JT Evans, Christmas New Era - courtesy Mr. DeVece

Case in point: Image #005  is a clipping from the “About Our Advertisers” page of the 1909 Christmas New Era gives a short history of the J.T. Evans enterprise, which at that point, was just four years old. “Thank you again, Freddy.” (Read more details about the 1909 New Era Christmas issue in Part One and Part Two.)

This early undated postcard from the Paul W. Schopp Collection shows the frame construction of the original building that lay underneath the red brick veneer that Joseph Evans added in 1937.

007_original frame Evans Bldg. - Paul W. Schopp Collection
An email from Mrs. Mary Yearly Flanagan with an invitation to view her grandfather’s photo album inspired this post about the Evans Building. Given the scarcity of picture postcards of that structure, the following scans made from the personal photographs of Joseph F. Yearly may be the best record we have of that establishment. Like the long gone Lyceum, the Lawn House, and the grandstand of the Riverton Athletic Association’s bicycle track, it is another part of life from Riverton’s yesteryears.

032_1947 Feb - J.F. Yearly photo

HSR member Mrs. Mary Yearly Flanagan, granddaughter of Joseph F. Yearly, has very generously provided these images for the enjoyment of our readers. She writes, “At least now, some of his photos are being shared – and that makes me feel good.  I passionately believe that old photos of historic significance should be shared & not just sit in someone’s attic – or worse.”

Future posts from the Joseph F. Yearly photo album will include more unique views of Dreer’s, Irish Row, and the riverbank — views which the tourists’ picture postcards missed.

My understanding about a person or a thing from Riverton’s past frequently emerges slowly as I gather bits and snippets of facts and information, often with the help of whomever else I can manage to enlist in my investigation. Joseph F. Yearly’s photographs, Mr. DeVece’s New Era issues, items from the Paul W. Schopp Collection, recollections of Mary Flanagan and her cousin, Joseph B. Yearly, and my own research have contributed to this article. As this examination is far from complete, you are invited to elaborate upon this essay.

Readers, please leave a comment with a memory, a question, or even a correction about this post.  If you have a related item such as a bill, product package, sign, advertisement, photo, or a scan of an item, that you wish to add to this growing archive, please contact us. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

P.S. 2/14/2012 Many thanks to reader Jerry Mooney for finding the caption error on photo #041 runaway railroad car. It is indeed a photo of the Collins Bldg., also no longer. If any reader can send more details on the Collins Building or that incident, please contact us. – JMc

Gaslight News – February 2011

  • GN_Feb2011 imageCole Dairy oral history video & Rivertonhistory.com Feb. 24
  • Eliza Dupree served up Titanic menu at the New Leaf Tea Room Nov. 30
  • Ladies’ & Gentlemen’s Accessories of Past Eras the topic of March 23 meet

Click here to view the newsletter.

 

Thank you, Mr. Daly.

Stiles Drug Store c.1916 606 Main Street
The building housing Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers’ New Leaf Tea Room and Gift Shop at 606 Main marked its 100th anniversary in 2010.  

Previous uses of the structure include a meat market for Ezra Perkins, a drug store, and a furniture store before Phyllis turned it into the highly regarded tea room that it is today. Seen below, the day after Christmas, the store looked like an icy confection, and the beribboned gaslight completed a picture which just as well might have been taken a several decades ago.  

Butcher Ezra Perkins had his shop at 606 Main Street
Probably few people realize that it is HSR member Paul Daly who has so faithfully hung the red bows on Riverton’s gas streetlights for so many years. 

I emailed him to tell him how much I appreciate it. I also asked how it was that he started to decorate the posts. He wrote back: 

1/17/2010 

I think it was …when I started (with the HSR) in 1988. Betty Hahle was our president and the Christmas (House) Tour was being held. She suggested that it would be nice if all of the gas lights were decorated. Somewhere along the way my hand went up and I said I would do my side of the tracks. …I got Harry Richman to help me… since he is tall he volunteered to put up the bows. 

The New Leaf Tea Room 12/26/2010
You should also know that Paul is our HSR treasurer and has been the go-to guy for so many essential tasks over the years. Despite setbacks caused by a serious operation in 2004, or a wrestling match with a ladder in which the ladder won, Paul has always returned to see that this tradition continues. A number of helpers over time have included Cathy, his wife, and various other persons whom could be persuaded to help. For the past several years, Paul’s neighbor, Grant Cole has shared the task. Paul continues: 

This year I asked for a dozen new bows to replace ones that were ripped off the posts and others that are worn. This did not happen and we were short six bows. Apparently, the other side of the tracks was not done at all. Is this one of the traditions that is going by the wayside? Thanks for asking.—PAUL 

A sincere Thank You to Paul and to all who have helped preserve this uniquely Riverton holiday tradition. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor 

P.S. There are more vintage images of 606 Main as well as many other places in and around Riverton. Click on the IMAGES tab near the top of the HOMEPAGE.