You may date yourself if you remember Hurricanes Hazel, Diane, or Gloria, but it is likely you or someone you know, can probably recall the effects of other tropical storms on our area.
Previously here, in August 2011, we reported on the effects of Hurricane Irene on our area. Only a year later, the Frankenstorm known as Hurricane Sandy resulted in the cancellation of classes for two days at Riverton School and pushed back the Palmyra Halloween Parade two days to November 1.
Time will only tell what effects this next hurricane has on our area.
Yesterday the National Weather Service upgraded Florence to a Category 4 storm, and governors of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina declared states of emergency. While a hurricane’s effects on New Jersey are rare, Hurricane Florence could bring its residual effects to New Jersey.
According to Newsweek, parts of the state may experience heavy rain, coastal flooding, and high surf as Florence’s tropical storm-force winds pound the shore.
Looking way back to September 1903, a hurricane dubbed “The Vagabond Hurricane” by the Atlantic City Press directly struck the state, making landfall on Atlantic City as an 80 mph hurricane.
The September 17, 1903 Philadelphia Inquirersummarized the destuction sustained in New Jersey communities by that storm. It reported that the Vagabond Hurricane had damaged a score of sailing craft at Riverton Yacht Club and almost cost John Bell his life.
The western edge of the New England Hurricane of 1938 caused tropical storm-force winds and high waves on its way to landfall on Long Island. Storm surge along the Jersey Shore destroyed much of the boardwalk in Atlantic City.
The path and ferocity of the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 echoed effects of the 1938 storm and inflicted heavy damage to the shore towns on Long Beach Island, Atlantic City, Ocean City, and Cape May.
Riverton’s The New Era newspaper described the toll taken on residents’ shore properties by the storm.
During World War II, military meteorologists working in the Pacific began to use women’s names for storms. In 1953, the National Hurricane Center adopted the method for use on storms originating in the Atlantic Ocean. Meteorologists for the Atlantic Ocean began using men’s names in 1979. Names for hurricanes are chosen from a list developed by the World Meteorological Organization.
Names of especially deadly and destructive hurricanes, like 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, are often retired, and will not be used again.
If you remember a year for a hurricane but not the name of it (or vice versa), this historical list of hurricanes that affected New Jersey may help.
Please share your recollection of a past hurricane’s effects on Riverton, and let us know how your neighborhood fares as we endure this latest tropical storm. Send text or photos to firstname.lastname@example.org or share a Facebook post to our Facebook page.
In addition to the presentation, the Society will again make available for purchase the historically themed mugs that have proven so popular since their introduction in 2015.
There have been other Riverton collectible mugs made available over the years, including the cream-colored ones depicting pen and ink scenes of several Riverton landmarks by artist R.C. (Richard) Moore. They remain treasured keepsakes in many homes today.
Including the most recent additions, our choice of mugs has grown to more than 60 different styles now. You are sure to find a few for gifting others or for treating yourself.
Dishwasher safe and microwave safe 11 oz. mugs are $15 each with proceeds benefiting the HSR. – JMc
PS: If you missed the September issue of The Gaslight News, click here.
We get questions – lots of questions – here at rivertonhistory.com, and most fall into one of two categories. Many website visitors are looking into family trees and finding clues to ancestors that lead them to the Historical Society of Riverton for answers. Another kind of question often comes from folks who want to know more about a home.
Such was the case with Rosalind Smith Edman, a reader from Williamstown, NJ, who grew up in Riverton, and inquired of us about her childhood home:
I grew up in Riverton. My parents owned 109 Bank Avenue from about 1948 to 1971. I am particularly interested in the history of our home… I love the Riverton History website. Thank you to you and all who give to it!
After sending Ms. Edman what we could about her former residence, she responded by writing the following first-person account on what she remembered about the home and growing up in Riverton. What we sent her about the property appears at the end.
I’ve just now been able to read the references and view the photo. I cannot tell you how appreciative I am of your having provided these for me! You may be interested in a little background from my vantage point – not of historical interest, but perhaps interesting – if you do not date back as far as I do in Riverton. I’ve attached a few pictures that give you an idea of the house when we lived there.
In 1948, my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph P.T. Smith, purchased 109 Bank Avenue as an entire package that included the small cottage, the pool, tennis courts (on which International Tennis Hall of Famer Bill Tilden is said to have seriously injured a finger, and the carriage house at the corner of Carriage House Lane and Thomas Avenues (all included in the references that you sent). The Biddles – descendants of the Biddles so often mentioned in Riverton histories – were our neighbors across the street.
As a very young child (about 5 or 6), I can remember being fascinated by the carriage house – which contained a large sleigh among other things. My parents sold the carriage house to the Devery’s who converted it into a duplex – their own and a second property. They did such a magnificent job on the conversion that it appeared in (I believe) Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.
I do not remember if the small cottage was occupied when my parents purchased the property. I do know that Marcy Lippincott and his wife (who may have been a Ruff), purchased it from my parents, along with the large area in front of the cottage that had been the tennis court. It took years to grow grass, since the tennis court had been constructed so well with layers of sand or gravel to prevent grass growing on the clay court!
My parents retained the large house and the pool. They had the home converted into 4 residences – 3 apartments and our own residence. There was a very large, lovely apartment that took up the entire third floor with beautiful views of the river. There was a smaller apartment on each of the other two floors – both facing Thomas Avenue and Carriage House Lane.
Our own living area – the front of both first and second floors – included the billiard room (a professional pool table had been found in the carriage house that my father had refurbished and moved into one of the two large front rooms on the first floor). I recall that Willie Mosconi(famous professional pool player) must have worked with the company that refurbished the pool table and he came to the house for the final touches. My Dad always enjoyed telling that story.
The other large room in the front of the first floor was our living room. In between the two was a hallway and a beautiful staircase. Behind the living room was the original dining room – I think 30′. We did lots of entertaining there! There were something like 7 fireplaces in the house. Our area had one each in the living room, billiard room, dining room, and an upstairs bedroom. Our kitchen was a bit small – having been converted from the original butler’s pantry. (I remember having great fun while the house was being converted – checking out all the bells (under the dining room table and in each of the rooms) that had been used to summon the servants. There was also a wonderful “dumb waiter” that went from the first to the second floor.
On the second floor, we had two large bedrooms in the front that corresponded to the billiard room and living room on the first floor. Each had large walk-in closets. The third bedroom corresponded to the dining room below – huge. Our two bathrooms had marble showers and, of course, large claw-foot bathtubs. One could get lost in the 7-room basement which included a wonderful wine cellar room. As you can tell, we kept the best of the house for ourselves. The large wrap-around porch was fabulous for entertaining – which, as I mentioned, we did quite a bit. In fact, my sister’s wedding reception was held under a large striped tent on the front lawn with dancing on the porch.
The porch extended from the porte cochère all the way around to about 10-15 feet on the side of the house. It had pillars and a slate roof on the half of the porch that wrapped around from the left of front door (as you are facing out) to the side of the house.
Around 1965, my mother and a friend had just gone inside the house, after having been sitting on the porch when they heard a huge sound. The entire slate roof had collapsed onto the porch! It was a miracle that they had not been killed. We have home movies of the roof being removed. The porch, however, was not damaged, or, if it was, it was repaired. We were sad to see that subsequent owners had the entire porch removed.
The pool provided hours and hours of fun. Hard to believe that it was installed for only $50 in 1920!! It required 40,000 gallons of water. In the early years before filters were available, my Dad would insist on emptying it and refilling it about every two weeks (in addition to, of course, keeping it chlorinated). It had two huge, magnificent long needle pine trees on either side which prevented it from getting a lot of warming sun. The water came from an artesian well and was, literally, about 50 degrees when it came into the pool. It took close to two weeks to reach a really comfortable temperature and at just about the perfect temperature, my Dad would say it was time to empty and refill it!! I think it took about 30 hours to fill. We were ecstatic when we were able to have the filter installed and leave the water in all season!!
Our views of the river, the sailboats, the famous Riverton 4th of July celebrations – our own sailing and boating on the river – could not have provided a more delightful place in which to grown up. We even named two subsequent, cruising sailboats that we owned “109” or “One-O-Nine”. As my parents were growing older and we three children had all grown and moved away, my parents decided the time had come to sell the house, which they did in 1971.
I’ve attached a few pictures that give you an idea of the house when we lived there. I have lots more, but the focus of most of my pictures is on the people in the pictures more than on the house or grounds. The attached pictures show the house with and without the roof on the porch, a view of the side lawn looking toward the pool (apparently after a storm took down a large branch on a tree near the pool), two of the pictures show my parents on the porch.
Anyhow, thank you so very much again for sending the interesting information. I just learned about a year ago that our home had been built in 1865. We had always thought that it had been built at the turn of the century.
Many wonderful memories! Appreciatively, Rosalind
We responded with…
It was my pleasure to find the house info for you. Receiving your first-person recollection of what it was like to live in that marvelous home when you did was a bonus.
What we sent to Ms. Edman about 109 Bank Avenue follows:
PAGE 7: …Where the original houses had been of frame, denoting their role as summer “cottages”, the later river front houses were more frequently of stone… The gray stone Gothic house built for William M. and Rebecca Lippincott Thomas at 109 Bank Avenue, in 1865… differ from their older cousins on the river bank in the permanence of their building materials both because their more imposing dimensions were enhanced by their stone construction and because several of them were intended to be used as year-round residences.
PAGE 17: …Gothic Revival influences would recur in Riverton as they did nationally through to the close of the century. …the 1865 William Thomas House at 109 Bank Avenue) incorporated gothic lines and motifs…
PAGE 60: 4 Thomas Avenue Date: c. 1910 Contributing Ownership: V. Gilbert and Ann K. Ruff Block/Lot: 204-13 Description: 1/2 story cottage History: A very small residence, once a part of the Thomas / Fitter estate (109 Bank Avenue). Property includes a swimming pool built c. 1920, the first one in Riverton. It was constructed by a local carpenter, following the directions of the owner, N. Myers Filler – and cost $50.00. The pool is still in use by the present owners. Mrs. Ruff is well-known for teaching children to swim here, as well as her work with blind and other handicapped children. (NOTE: The cottage described is gone now – replaced by new construction. Anne Knight Ruffpassed away in 2013. See more about the pool at 109 in this earlier post from 2015, Hot enough for ya?)
PAGE 64: 109 Bank Avenue Date: c. 1865 Contributing Ownership: Robert & Barbara Horner Block/Lot 204-4 Description: 2 1/2 story stone, gable front mansion, asphalt shingle roof, paneled rake boards and bracketed fly rafter, stone chimneys left and right, paired dormers with exposed rafter tails and fly rafter brackets. 1/1 replacement sash, porch removed, entrance door altered. Left side porte cochere on paired doric columns, partially glass enclosed. Right side 2 story octagonal bay. History: Residence of William S. and Rebecca Thomas, built soon after the land was devised to Rebecca from her father, Joseph Lippincott, and fifteen years before the Thomas farm was opened for development. The homestead area extended to Second Street. Dated photographs show at least three different front porches on this house during Thomas ownership. Purchased in 1905 by N. Myers Fitler, who a year later added a porte cochere and made other changes to the residence by architects Hewitt and Hewitt. Mrs. Fitler, grandaughter of Riverton founder Robert Biddle, was author of four books depicting life in Riverton between 1884 and the early 1900’s. Some estate buildings are now separate properties, including the large barn/stables at Thomas and Carriage House Lane.
Fellow HSR Board Member Roger Prichard sends along this 1927 real estate ad and adds:
…this is where our dear Mary Biddle Fitler raised her kids. She grew up across Thomas Ave. at 201 Bank, married N. Myers Fitler and they moved into 109. (They had already moved to Wynnewood when she wrote the books, though, I think.)… I attached an ad from when it was for sale in 1927… Porch was full width at that time. …this house is where Oliver G. Willits and his wife Margaret Fitler moved… They bought it from N. Myers Fitler, her brother, in the early 20s. They were still here in 1930, so apparently the ad for sale never resulted in a transaction. They were still there in the 1930 Census.
I thanked Rosalind saying, “It was my pleasure to find the house info for you. Receiving your first-person recollection of what it was like to live in that marvelous home when you did was a bonus.”
Two recent posts of old postcard scans to Facebook prompted several hundred views, a few dozen “likes,” a handful of “shares” and some comments. To help you get your bearings, I include a few more images here along with a History of 606-608 Main Street that was last revised in 2013.
Mary Honeyford is often counted among the names of those liking our posts on Facebook, and she said she did not know that the drugstore pictured in the old postcards was now The New Leaf Tea Room.
We are happy to dig deeper than that, Mary.
Dana Feigenbutz took over The New Leaf Tea Room from former owner Phyllis Rodgers who first conceived the idea in 2003, of starting a tea room and gift shop in the charming Victorian building at 606-608 Main Street. Prior to that, a plant and gift shop, a fine furniture store, two different drug stores, and a news agency occupied that address. See more details in the article below. We welcome more photographs, artifacts, and information about Riverton as we work to fulfill our mission “…to create an awareness of our heritage, to discover, restore, and preserve local objects and landmarks, and to continue to expand our knowledge of the history of the area.”
We invite you to join in this effort by supporting the Society with your membership. Look in the upcoming September issue of The Gaslight News for meeting announcements, a word from President Bill Brown, project updates, and details on events planned for September and November. We look forward to seeing you. – JMc
Last week Bob Kotcher of Hackensack, NJ, a researcher with an interest in New Jersey’s national banks and the currency they issued, called us after he saw this image on our website and he wanted to know if he could buy the original or get a better scan. This post is the result of an exchange of emails that turned out to be a win-win, as they say. Since we do not own the original postcard I sent him a high-resolution scan of the Palmyra National Bank real photo postcard and he gave me a history lesson on the practice of such banks to issue currency back in the day.
According to Mr. Kotcher, New Jersey’s 342 National Banks issued National Banknote Currency generally between 1863 up until May of 1935. The Palmyra National Bank, Charter #11793, started in business on July 2, 1920 and issued $157,270 in $5, $10 and $20 National Currency before it was placed into receivership on January 6, 1934. See the scan for the proof sheets below.
I did work for the Smithsonian back in 2003 along with a fellow collector and my mentor in this hobby. We wound up sorting all the New Jersey Proof Sheets putting them into Federal Charter number order. That took us 2 days, but in return, we were allowed to photo copy any of the New Jersey Proofs that we wanted.
This represents one proof for each of the bank’s printing plates. The proof sheets were pulled off the newly made printing plate to make sure that the plate accepted and transferred ink properly. Proofs were pulled prior to the plates being put into production to minimize any problems in production.
I am also attaching an index card that I use to show the progression of bank officers at the bank. The Cashier is on the left and the President on the right. The large size National Banknotes were produced at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing then sent to the Comptroller of Currency, who then distributed them to the bank itself.
The Large Size notes from this bank were shipped unsigned to the bank. Upon arrival at the bank, the Cashier would sign his name on the left and the President would sign on the right. Assistant Cashiers would sometimes sign for the Cashier, and Vice Presidents could sign for the President of the bank, as long as they noted their title on the note.
Curious about our own Cinnaminson National Bank, I asked Bob about it and he replied:
The Cinnaminson National Bank of Riverton, New Jersey. This National Bank Chartered in December of 1906, and issued $311,350. in large sized $10 and $20 National Currency before it was placed in voluntary liquidation on April 1, 1925. My records show that it was succeeded by “The Cinnaminson Bank and Trust Company, Riverton”. Once they dropped their National Bank Charter, I basically have no knowledge of them, as they would not have been able to issue their own currency.
Checking our archives yields a 1909 New Era Christmas Issue with some more information about Cinnaminson National Bank.
And to further illuminate the history and development of Cinnaminson National Bank and its successor Cinnaminson Bank and Trust Company, see Town Historian Paul W. Shopp‘s detailed article What’s Old is New Again at the Bank on Mainfrom a May 2011 post.
Now all we need are some scans of proofs or actual banknotes issued by Cinnaminson National Bank.
Turns out that the banknotes for these two hometown banks can be quite scarce.
Kathi Giden called us out of the blue and offered to give to the HSR an 8-page advertisement dated 1911 for Mrs. Alfred Smith’s store that residents once referred to as “Riverton’s John Wanamaker store.”
Riverton’s hometown newspaper, The New Era, profiled the thriving enterprise in its February 25, 1925 issue.
For you young’uns who don’t get the dated reference, John Wanamaker’s was the first department store in Philadelphia.
Like the much larger larger emporium at 13th and Market, Mrs. Alfred Smith’s dry goods and notions store stocked a large and varied stock of quality merchandise and built a fine reputation for its courtesy, integrity, and customer service. It served the community for more than fifty years.
The business grew and relocated about 1905 to the brick mansarded double at 412 Main Street.
The proprietress clearly understood the power of advertising when, in 1911, she published this 8-page advertisement for the business.
Click on the cover page below to see the PDF file for the entire ad.
The Historical Society of Riverton is indebted to Ms. Giden for her donation of this rare advertisement.
The store later moved to a one-story building erected for the purpose at 414 Main. (You might recognize 414 Main as the home of The Sharon Shop, a popular lunchtime eatery for students and teachers in the 1970s.)
Downsized in the mid-1940s, according to a report in The New Era, the store returned to the Smith home at 412 Main, but we have not determined how long it remained open.
Can a reader help? We welcome additional particulars and photos about Mrs. Alfred Smith’s store. – JMc
With apologies to Allan Sherman’s 1963 parody that complains about the terrible conditions at a fictional Camp Grenada, the following upbeat letters sent home by our contributor’s younger self recall his joyful stay at Camp Lenape, a Boy Scout camp.
Mosquitoes, merit badges, a menu of bug juice and burgers, plus a canoe trip along the Wading River from Chatsworth to Chip’s Folly had the makings of an unforgettable week-long wilderness adventure in 1956 at the camp once in the Pinelands of Medford Township, Burlington County, New Jersey.
What may sound like indentured servitude to us today was one 13-year-old boy’s relentless pursuit of merit badges to advance rank in scouting.
Some excerpts, as written:
July 29, 1956
Dear Mom, Dad, and John
We came back from the Wading River canoe trip at 3:45… there were three to a canoe and three canoes… We paddled on until about 6:30 pm and just as we got out of the canoe it began to rain like all heck, with lightning and thunder…
…finally we succeeded in getting the tent up… we were soaked to the skin.
At this point it was pitch dark and the rain ceased. The we ate supper, hamburgers, salad, bug juice, and oranges.
We hardly slept a wink because of the singing of the mosquitos.
…today we packed all our duffle, ate breakfast, and had a small morning worship service… breakfast was Rice Krispies, orange juice, bacon, coco and scrambled eggs.
We paddled on until 11:30 am and stopped for a small swim and at lunch… For lunch we had jelly sandwiches, bug juice, cookies and watermelon…
…we made it. We had canoed for close to 9-1/2 hours.
…Only about 40 boys in camp this week… Richard and me are going to try and get as many merit badges as possible.
July 31, 1956
Just got back from washing dishes for cooking merit badge… For our supper tonight we had chocolate pudding, coco, veal cutlet, diced carrots, homemade bread, and broth… For Cooking merit badge I have already made a fireplace and cook meals and build fire.
For Pioneering merit badge I have been working on [a] 100 foot bridge across Great Earth Dam… learn how to splice, lash, etc.
For Wildlife management merit badge we have to fill one side of the dams at the waterfront with fertilizer so… roots will take hold… and prevent erosion. Also we have to answer a couple of questions, write a report… not[e} ten animals we have seen…
…for First Aid we have to know some questions and demonstrate… Well, see you Saturday and I sure hope I’m Star…
Such was a scout’s summer adventure before housing development in the late 1980s swallowed up Medford’s 419-acre Camp Lenape, which once served thousands of Burlington County Boy Scouts.
Just recently we received feedback to our website in which Adele from Cinnaminson asked, “Do you have to be a resident of Riverton to join?”
If membership in the HSR were exclusive to Riverton, this interloper from Delran would not be editing the newsletter and managing the website. Plus, with declining membership, we need all the help we can get!
So, no, you do not have to be a Riverton resident.
As our constitution states, “The purpose of the Society shall be to bring together those people who are interested in history and especially the history of the Borough of Riverton, but not limited thereto.”
The topics on our IMAGES PAGE represent a number of places in the region plus Philadelphia and some shore points.
It should have occurred to me long ago to emphasize that one can join wherever one lives.
Crunching the numbers, of the 105 households on the Historical Society of Riverton newsletter mailing list…
•73 have Riverton addresses
•22 have other NJ addresses
•2 have PA addresses
•CA, CT, FL, ME, NC, OR, SC, and WI have one address each.
Without exaggeration we can claim members from the North to South and coast to coast.
Seriously, we would love to have you join the Historical Society of Riverton.
If you are able to print a membership form, here is the link to a PDF file. If, not, I will send you one by mail if you give me your address.
UPDATE: Today Adele emailed me, “I’ve printed out the form and mailed it in with a $25 check.”
Sweet! That’s 106 and counting.
Questions? Use the contact form or call 609-220-8040 and leave a message. -JMc