Our boardwalks and beaches are still open

Some NJ shore towns recently banned short-term rentals and closed beaches and boardwalks in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but housebound thalassophiles* will find our postcard views of the Jersey Shore are still open.

Our postcard collector friend Harlan, who obviously has too much time on his hands, has scrutinized his vintage postcard collection and noticed something. He speculates that the same photographer took all 3 of these photos at the same time period one sunny, summer day at Stone Harbor.

Beach view, Stone Harbor, NJ

The first postcard above is our starting point. Note the persons assembled up on the boardwalk. Slowly scan left to right starting with the baby carriage, bench #1, person holding an umbrella, and last, the 2nd bench. (Curiously this photo has had the lamp posts up on the board removed.)

96th St. and boardwalk, Stone Harbor, NJ

What do you see in the above slide that you saw before?

Boardwalk, Stone Harbor, NJ

In the scan above, we are on the other side of the boardwalk facing the beach and the ocean. Do you see umbrellas and two benches? And most importantly, there’s that baby stroller.

Harlan’s SH postcard map

Only a guy who sequentially orders his collection and indicates their subjects’ locations on a town map would connect the dots and notice this.

Do you think that Harlan got it right?

Have time for another postcard oddity?

What is going on with these two postcards?

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Abracadabra – the boardwalk’s now gone! The reason?

It would appear that the Hurricane of 1944 took out the entire boardwalk but left everything else intact including people, the lady’s beach hat is still nicely in place on her head and the beach umbrellas (see polka-dotted one in center) are all intact and not even affected by the terrific winds of that mighty storm!

We are thankful to collectors like Harlan Radford and others who have generously shared scans of their vintage postcard collections so that we may display the hundreds of scenes of the region on our IMAGES page.

*A lover of the sea, someone who loves the sea/ocean.

What would you have given for a crystal ball in January?

If only I had known in January what 2020 would hold!
Here’s a Top Forty list of stuff I wish I had known lay ahead.

Variations of this have been going around the internet for a few days. I copied and pasted a list that Tiffany Marie posted on April 2 and modified it.

Just so I NEVER forget….. April 4, 2020

  1. This is the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic, declared March 11th, 2020
  2. NJ reported first coronavirus case March 4
  3. A total of 34,124 cases in NJ reported so far; 846 deaths
  4. Today, April 4: Coronavirus Outbreak’s Worst Day In NJ: 4,331 New Cases, 200 Die
  5. Coronavirus cases in and near Riverton: Beverly 4, Cinnaminson 6 (and 1 death), Delanco 4, Delran 17, Moorestown 21 (3 cleared from quarantine), Mount Laurel 31 (with 4 deaths and 1 cleared from quarantine), Palmyra 3, Riverside 6 (with 1 death), Riverton 9
  6. Gas price at Sam’s Club 1.99
  7. All 42 Burlington County school districts closed March 16 – April 17
  8. Social-distancing rules
  9. Tape on grocery stores floors help distance shoppers (6 ft) from each other
  10. Stores limit number of people inside stores creating queues outside
  11. Non-essential stores and businesses ordered closed
  12. Parks, trails, children’s outdoor play parks closed to the public
  13. All municipal court sessions suspended for two weeks; new jury trials halted indefinitely
  14. Entire sports seasons canceled
  15. Flags in NJ flying at half-mast until further notice
  16. Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events – canceled
  17. Weddings, family celebrations, religious services, holiday gatherings, funerals – canceled
  18. No gatherings of 50 or more, then 20 or more, now 10 or more
  19. Don’t socialize with anyone outside of your home
  20. State-wide stay at home order, effective March 21 at 9 p.m.
  21. Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for front-line workers
  22. Panic buying causes shortages of toilet paper, disinfecting supplies, paper towels, hand sanitizer
  23. NJ governor previously shut down malls, amusement parks, casinos, gyms, movie theaters, hair salons, spas, tattoo parlors, and other establishments
  24. Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitizer, and PPE
  25. Liquor store and firearm store sales are up
  26. Coronavirus lockdown has a staggering impact on the economy; unemployment up; jobs and stocks down
  27. US borders closed to all but essential travel
  28. Some 700 inmates released from county jails in NJ
  29. Sit-down restaurant service banned; pick-up and delivery allowed
  30. Stadiums, recreation facilities, tent hospitals, two hospital ships open up for the overflow of covid-19 patients
  31. Pop-up sites established for coronavirus testing
  32. NJ governor activates National Guard
  33. FBI seized, bought, and distributed to healthcare workers “hoarded” masks, gowns, and other equipment
  34. Daily press conferences by President and governors of PA, NY, and NJ
  35. Stimulus bills and government incentives to aid businesses and people
  36. People wear masks and gloves outside and shopping
  37. Medical field workers make up a disproportionate number of cases
  38. Americans count on essential workers who are risking their health
  39. Governors warn of dire ventilator shortages; Trump says some are playing ‘politics’; Trump tells Pence not to call ‘unappreciative’ governors
  40. Will President Trump’s late March approval bump last? Will the public accept his branding of journalists as “fake news” and “the enemy of the people”? Will voters think he is doing “a great job” in this crisis or blame him for mismanaging the outbreak play a part in the 2020 Presidential Election?

History will be the judge.

Why do I write this status? Because anyone in the future who hasn’t lived through this would not believe it.

Add to this list if you wish by adding remarks to the “Leave a comment” link below. -JMc

More “lost” Riverton history surfaces. There’s more out there.

(Visitors, please know that underlined words in the story below link to more content on the topic found on rivertonhistory.com and elsewhere on the web. Click on pictures for a larger view.)

This post is proof positive that preserving Riverton history is not simply the exclusive domain of this historical society but works best when it taps into new community resources and becomes a collaborative effort.

This bit of Riverton history is owner Willanne Szulczewski‘s first-hand origin story for the original New Leaf and Plant and Gift Store at 606-608 Main Street.

1950s Collins Building, Main Street, c1950s, color slide donated by Bruce Gunn

Some months ago I posted a color slide image of the Collins Building and asked for “A little help…” with tracking down some more information about the brick building that dominates the intersection of Broad & Main Sts.

(Eventually, Pat Smith Solin and I wrote an article about the Collins Building for the April 2019 Gaslight News.)

Bill Moore, the administrator of Riverton Public School in the Wonder Years, a private Facebook group, was one who responded by sharing detailed recollections of some businesses that were headquartered there.

Curious, Bill wrote to Diane Pahl, sister-in-law of Willanne Szulczewski, the former proprietress of the original New Leaf, hoping to get some inside info on how the original plant and gift store started. But he heard nothing.

No judgment – people are busy, or at least, we all were before many of us were told to stay at home. Remember those days? If you are one who still works on the front lines of this crisis, “Thank You!”

Fast-forward to now – with COVID-19 social-distancing guidelines resulting in many people being hunkered down in their homes – and possibly feeling a bit nostalgic.

The old email gets rediscovered and is forwarded to Willanne; she responds with a torrent of information and two dozen heretofore unseen photos – at least not seen here!

front of the store at 603 Main St. after we added the garden center

Her origin story for The New Leaf follows.

When we started The New Leaf it was in the old J.T. Evans building at 603 Main Street.

Jack Laverty and his partner John Shea owned it at the time. Shea’s business was Center Motors. He had mostly old cars behind the building.

Harvey and Mary Hortmann had a gift store called The Loft in the building on the second floor of one of the sections near the war memorial. They were very nice people, and they helped us to get started and put us in touch with Jack Laverty.

The original section where we started The New Leaf was up for rent and Jack Laverty was kind enough to give us a chance when really most people thought we would fail. Mr. Laverty was a man who loved Riverton, and he liked the idea of what we wanted to do. We really give him a lot of credit for giving us a chance. He had other options.

Hortmann’s store sold general gifts. We opened The New Leaf in 1976 as a plant store with really no connection to them. We did not buy their store, and we carried merchandise that was totally different so as not to compete with each other. They closed at some point, not too long after we opened.

When we first opened Mr. Laverty had offices in the same building for his business. We started in one large room that fronted Main Street, and eventually expanded into a back room for greeting cards, and then into the garage next store when we opened our garden center section.

Other businesses that were there at the same time included a beauty salon, a dress shop, and a furniture store. Gary and Mary Chiaccio were the owners of the furniture store.

front of the store showing the rental next to us…Burlington County chapter of The March of Dimes. This was after Florence the hairdresser left.

A lady named Florence owned the beauty shop. There also was an office that was not retail. I forget what the man’s business was. He was a salesman and often on the road. The beauty shop and the salesman’s office were there before us. The dress shop and the furniture store came after we started up.

As our business expanded, we were running out of room, and at the same time, Jack Laverty and his partner had the building up for sale.

The New Era, Oct 21, 1948

Across the street was Freeman Hunter‘s furniture store. He had run the store for many years but passed away, and the building was for sale. That was 606-608 Main Street. With the building we were in up for sale, and the need for more room, we decided to look into buying Freeman Hunter’s property.

The story with that is interesting. His heirs were particular about who bought the building. They did not want someone coming in from out of town, buying it, and turning it into something that would make a profit, but perhaps not be the best thing for the town.

606 and 608 Main St. at the time we purchased it

So along with a bid for the property, anyone who was interested had to submit a detailed description of what you were going to do with the building. The description played a large part in who they would choose to be able to purchase the building.

It actually was basically two buildings that were joined together. One side was the store, and the other side was a house. As a part of their stipulations for getting the property, we also had to promise that we would live in the house.

608 Main Street at the time we purchased it. This is the house part of the property.

The buildings had great bones but were in need of lots of work…..really an incredible amount of work. But we were young and energetic and a little naïve, and we put in a bid and proposal. We were fortunate to be the ones they chose to buy the property. At some point in the spring or summer of 1979, they allowed us to go into the building and start working on it even before we purchased it.

In the meantime, Mr. Laverty and his partner sold the old J.T. Evans building and were to have settlement on our building. I believe that the settlement was set for July or August. Our store was still up and fully running in that building and the new owners were happy to have us there until we moved, and they had plans for what they wanted to do.

In the early morning hours of the settlement day, we got a phone call from a friend that the J.T. Evans building was on fire. By the time we got there, the building was engulfed in flames.

It was a huge fire, and the building and everything in it was destroyed. I can still picture standing across the street, and feeling the incredible heat from it.

We and several other people, along with the owners, lost everything, The fire was suspicious, but that is another story, and nothing was ever proved.

We were scheduled to go away that day for a few days for a sailing regatta, and go we did. By the time we got back, everything was bulldozed and gone.

My mother Anne Pahl and husband Ray working inside the store at 606 Main Street. Mostly work was being done on the tin ceiling at the time.

We started in working to get the store at 606 Main up and running. The work was overwhelming.

The New Leaf reopens…look at that beautiful ceiling!

The tin ceiling alone took hundreds of hours to restore. It was beautiful, but the paint was hanging off it everywhere, and the scraping and repainting were physically grueling.

We had no money, so everything we had to do ourselves with the help of family and some friends. It was a very difficult time and as I said before, we also had to move into the house next store at 608. That was in worse shape than the store.

We lived in very bad conditions for a couple of years. BUT, we were able to reopen the store in November or December of that same year -1979- and slowly started to build up the business again.

There are so many great stories tied in with The New Leaf. We were always incredibly grateful to the people of Riverton and the surrounding towns who supported us and allowed us to have a successful business where really no one thought we could. We owed it all to the loyalty and kindness of our customers.

Twenty-seven years after we first started, we sold the business and properties, hoping we fulfilled the trust that people like the Hortmanns, John Laverty, and the heirs of Freeman Hunter had put in us.

many years later after a complete restoration

Ray and Willanne Szulczewski

We at the Historical Society of Riverton hope that you enjoyed this nostalgic look back to a Main Street business that remains a fond memory for many residents.

Today, Dana Feigenbutz owns and operates The New Leaf Tea Room and Gift & Gift Shoppe, which Phyllis Rodgers started previously.

We welcome reader submissions and comments. Please draw our attention to any errors.

While you are here, see over 450 posts, browse through over 180 past Gaslight News newsletters and old Riverton and Palmyra hometown newspapers, or look through hundreds of vintage views of Riverton and the region.

Curious about a topic? Use the SEARCH box at left to see what we know about it. And if you have something to add to the conversation, please do not hesitate to contact us.

You kids of all ages, stay safe. – JMc

Note of thanks to Town Historian Paul Schopp for clarifying for me the timeline for the Collins Lumber and J.T. Evans Co.

Easter 1991

Revised 4/4/2020: corrected a couple errors this editor made in transposing the original story and changed a sentence to improve clarity

Added 4-4-20: Years ago our friend Celeste Kuensel had an Easter tree decorated with wooden ornaments she had bought at The New Leaf. We decided to start one for our kids. Who else still has something that was bought at Willanne and Ray’s New Leaf?

Hardships of an earlier era

When Keith Betten served as Church Warden at Riverton’s Christ Episcopal Church about twenty-five years ago, he wrote The Story of the Family of Christ Church, Riverton. Adapted from Chapter 5 of that work, this article holds some detail about the impact of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic on services at the church in November of that year.

Chapter 5 1915-1945
War
and Peace
by Keith W. Betten, Warden

Christ Church and Rectory

In the research which has been undertaken to prepare this short, serialized history of the Parish Family of Christ Church, this chapter has proven to be the most difficult to write for the very good reason that precious little has been unearthed in the way of source material. There are no detailed vestry minutes for this period and no historical sermons have been discovered to shed light on the 1920s and ’30s, decades which differed so very much, one from the other.

I think, however, that the experiences of the Parish Family over the course of the First World War, and during the bitter-sweet peace which came at its close may be used to capture the essence of the period under discussion. The Christ Church News (which seems to have ceased publication after 1920) has been used as a source of this description of the life of the Parish Family between 1915 and 1920.

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 27, 1914, p1

The commencement of hostilities in far off Sarajevo in 1914 had attracted little attention at home. There was no official reference, at first, to the conflict in the pages of The News  – only a poem entitled “War” appeared. It read, in part:

In This World which Christ died to ransom
Two thousand long years ago,
The fruit of our peaceful progress
Shall War’s bloody sickle mow?
O ye, who trust still His promise
And long for His peace in our day
By the Christ who died in torment,
Let us fall on our knees and pray!

WWI Roll of Honor, Palmyra Record, Oct 26, 1917

Through 1915 and 1916 there was little hint of disruption in that “peaceful progress.” The practice of celebrating the Holy Eucharist twice each Sunday was introduced, a new organ was purchased, installed and dedicated and the Sunday School boasted a staff of fifteen to tend its 129 scholars. By October 1917, however, the names of 18 members of the Parish who were ”serving with the colors” were posted on the Church porch and all members of the Parish Family were asked to commend them to earnest prayer.

The winter of 1917-18 was a bitter one (the coldest it was reported, in 98 years), forcing the closure of the Parish House to conserve coal. The Girls’ Friendly Society, which was wrapping bandages for the Red Cross, met in a private home, and the Rector of the Parish traveled to “Camp Dix” two days each week to minister to the departing troops and the injured, returned.

Riverton Red Cross, Evening Public Ledger, Oct 25, 1917, p10

By Easter 1918, twenty-seven of the Parish Family were serving their country; none to that date had been killed or wounded. A great patriotic Service was held in the Church on May 30th, a day that President Wilson and the Bishop had requested be observed as a day of “humiliation, prayer, and fasting.”

An overflow crowd, including the Mayor and Council, the Home Guards, the Boy Scouts, and the Red Cross, the latter all in uniform” filled the Church and spilled out onto the front lawn. “The procession, headed by the Cross and flag, filled all with a deep sense of pride and abiding hope” that the war would soon end, with Christian democracy triumphant. But at what price?

WWI Gold Star Boy Thomas Roberts Reath service photo

In June came the news that Thomas Roberts Reath, a son of the Parish and the grandson of long-time vestryman and warden Thomas Roberts had been killed in France; he was not yet 21. By fall, two others, Walter M. Kennedy and Raymond Pratt were likewise reported killed in action. The Parish Family, in deep mourning over these losses, was further traumatized by the onset of the great influenza epidemic of the autumn of 1918: the church was obliged to remain closed on three consecutive Sundays in October, a dreadful month which witnessed the death of eight of our communicants.

Thomas Roberts Reath WWI brass tablet Christ Church

The anguish came, mercifully, to an abrupt end in November when Riverton was awakened at 4:30 on the morning of November 11, 1918, by the ringing of our Parish bell–the first in town to announce that the armistice had been signed. The war, at last, was over. Tears of joy and sorrow surely flowed together as the Parish Family gathered one Sunday that month to honor their dead and to dedicate the brass tablet which adorns the wall behind the eagle lectern to this day. It is a memorial to the late Thomas Roberts for his half-century of service to the Parish and “to his well-loved grandson, Thomas Roberts Reath, 1897-1918. Born and baptized in this Parish, Sergeant, U.S. Marines; killed in action, Bois de Belleau, France, June 12, 1918.”

[Surprisingly, and regretfully, little has been found concerning the experience of the Parish Family during the course of the Second World War; of the sons and daughters of the Parish who went off to defend the nation; or of the efforts, hopes and fears on the home front. Should it be discovered that written documentation of this aspect of our history cannot be found, an oral history, drawn from the recollections of those who remember those days would prove to be both an interesting and valuable venture and addition to our Parish story.]

Keith Betten 3-23-2020: The chapter above was one in a series of articles presented in serial form to the parishioners of Christ Episcopal Church weekly from July to October 1994, as a novel approach to increase our “stewardship (pledging) program.  Its object was to enhance people’s commitment to the church by understanding the ways in which the church family had first come together and how it had evolved over the course of nearly a century-and-a-half.  The six chapters were ultimately combined in a booklet entitled The Story of the Family of Christ Church, Riverton.

Coronavirus writes a new page of Riverton history

 

Palmyra Record, Oct 6, 1916, p1

Visitors here may recall that we have published local historical information about pandemic outbreaks twice before in January 20, 2018 and January 29, 2018.

Riverton social media – 1895

 

The pages of hometown newspapers such as The New Era (1894 – 1949), The Riverton Journal (1880 – 1882), The Palmyra Record (1913 – 1918), and The Weekly News (Palmyra) (1887 – 1922) were the social media of their day.

Palmyra Record, March 29, 1918,

In 1918, the news in those pages filled its readers with dread as the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 took hold of the community.

 

However, this covid-19 virus is writing a new page of history for us every day.

The first two presumptive positive cases of new coronavirus were reported in Burlington County on Tuesday, officials say, striking a couple in Riverton.

In addition, social distancing, postponements, shutdowns, and cancellations have affected us all.

On March 10, Mayor Suzanne Cairns Wells published a Coronavirus Update in which she suggested common sense precautions and said that there are “…no implications for Riverton School or any school in Burlington County at this time.”

Nevertheless, Riverton teachers are working on contingency plans and all after school activities and programs and field trips are canceled, including a planned Arbor Day presentation.

Principal/Superintendent Mary Ellen Eck answers some concerns on the school website that parents may have in a letter dated March 10.

Some news sources, including the Burlington County Times are providing content online for free as a public service to their readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to the Burlington County Times at burlingtoncountytimes.com/subscribenow.

According to the Burlington County Times:

The New Jersey Department of Education has directed schools to update plans for outbreaks or pandemics. The state called for schools to identify leadership teams, outline communications plans, establish flexible attendance and sick-leave policies and have students and staff avoid travel to areas with advisories. The state also told school districts to prepare plans for home instruction in case they need to close.

Obviously, the situation is fluid and recommendations will change as government and institutions respond to suit conditions.

For our part, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities has asked that we cancel all programs for March, April and May. This includes “Before & After: Discoveries in Historic Preservation” by Dan Campbell scheduled for March 26, as well as our “Hamilton vs Jefferson” program scheduled for April 23rd.

Our advice – check with reliable news sources and government agencies rather than joining the speculation on Facebook. We welcome your comments, photos, and reader submissions on the topic that is evolving as we write.

As I write this I see a news alert that the President is about to address the Nation. Stay tuned to the New York Times for Live Coronavirus Updates. -JMc

Show the resolute RFCo members some love for 130 years of service

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Riverton Fire Company will mark 130 years of service for the town in March 2020.

Given its important role in Riverton’s history, dedicating a page of our website to the organization was one of the first things we did when we built it in 2011.

I just added the above three images scanned from slides that I won recently on eBay auctions to the Riverton Fire Company page along with several other photos and documents. Use the contact form below to contact us if you have something to add to our virtual museum.

After you check out our expanded Riverton Fire Company page, go to their FaceBook page and show the crew your appreciation.   -JMc

A Riverton connection to the saga of Henry Box Brown

detail from Plan of the New Town of Riverton map

Regular visitors and certainly, members of this Historical Society, will recall former Town Historian Mrs. Betty B. Hahle’s now familiar explanation that a group of Philadelphia merchants seeking a place to build their summer homes away from the City’s problems, yet close enough to commute to their Center City places of business, founded Riverton in 1851.

Whether that number of investors was 10, or 7, or 9 is a matter of some uncertainty that Roger Prichard will undertake at a later date. Even the names change, depending on what map, document, or newspaper clipping one references.

The resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia CREDIT: Library Company of Philadelphia

But did you know that two of the oft mentioned investment partners, James Miller McKim and Professor Charles D.Cleveland, were also part of the remarkable and inspiring story of how Henry “Box” Brown, who was born enslaved on a Virginia plantation, mailed himself to freedom in 1849?

Both were right there unpacking Brown’s shipping crate when he arrived at 5th and Arch in Philadelphia. This was less than two years before they helped found Riverton.

Although the anti-slavery lithograph above depicts the climax of an audacious story that may be familiar to many today, some abolitionists of the era feared that publicity would only make it harder for other slaves to adopt a similar scheme with which to emancipate themselves.

The Library Company of Philadelphia’s website describes the above lithograph thus:

Antislavery print celebrating the moment fugitive slave Henry Box Brown emerged from his crate in Philadelphia. Brown, with the assistance of the Vigilance Committee of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, escaped slavery by having himself shipped to Philadelphia where he emerged in the presence of abolitionists C.D. Cleveland, J. Miller M’Kim, William Still, and Lewis Thompson. Depicts Brown just emerging from his box with Still holding the crate’s lid labeled, “Wm. Johnson, Arch St. Philadelphia, This side up with Care;” Cleveland with a saw in his right hand; M’Kim with a hatchet in one hand and using his other hand to help Still hold the lid; and Thompson pointing to Brown with his right hand as he holds in his free hand a walking stick.

Mr. Brown adopted the moniker “Box” for obvious reasons and wrote a book, The Narrative of Henry Box Brown. He went on to became an abolitionist speaker and performer, touring the US, Canada, and England. His heroic escape from bondage has been the subject of many books, television shows, and newspaper, magazine, and web articles.

His bold escape was so popular that this lithograph was printed and sold to the public. And look – the two men on the left are our Charles Cleveland and J. Miller McKim!

James Miller McKim, 1810-1874

In 2010, the New York Times featured one such article, “When Special Delivery Meant Deliverance for a Fugitive Slave,” that vividly details how Brown escaped and it features an eyewitness account written by the very man who accepted delivery of the precious cargo in Philadelphia – James Miller McKim.

The very same J. Miller McKim and Charles Cleveland who unpacked the exhausted but exhilarated Henry Brown from his crate would, within two years, be part of the establishment of Riverton in 1851.

Both men were key figures in the anti-slavery community, James Miller McKim served as lecturer, organizer, and corresponding secretary for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, and Professor Charles Dexter Cleveland courageously assisted fugitive slaves by operating as an “agent,” or coordinator, who plotted courses of escape and made contacts to help them connect to the Underground Railroad.

Famous African-American abolitionist William Still devoted over nine pages of his 1871 book, The Underground Railroad, to the work of James Miller McKim (pgs. 654-659), another ten pages to Charles D. Cleveland (pgs. 723-734), and six pages (pgs. 81-86) on his account of the deliverance of Henry Box Brown.

For the ways that these gentlemen connected to Riverton, we turn to the research conducted by Mrs. Betty B. Hahle who often wrote of Riverton’s founders in her signature “Yesterday” columns in the Gaslight News and temper it with a bit of our current understanding. Gaining access to Betty’s original research notes may well clear up discrepancies.

This is a detail of the earliest known map to exist of Riverton, undated, but consistent with where things stood before the end of 1851.

Plan of the New Town of Riverton, NJ, detail
first mention of Riverton founders, Public Ledger, 9 Apr 1851, Page 2

On this map, J. Miller McKim’s name appears on the house at the far right. It still exists today, beautifully restored, at 102 Penn Street, after a move in the 1940s.

An April 9, 1851 newspaper article in the Philadelphia Public Ledger also counts him as one of a number of “our most respected citizens” who “…have had plans prepared by Samuel Sloan, Architect, for tasty villas, and the work is now under contract and in progress.”

Tasty, indeed.

However, he never technically owned that house in Riverton. Prof. Charles D. Cleveland took over McKim’s interest before January of 1852. Fellow HSR Board Member Roger Prichard surmises that perhaps the other founders chose to include the esteemed abolitionist for the cachet of prestige that his name might convey to the group’s capitalist venture.

Charles Dexter Cleveland, 1802-1869 CREDIT: Dickinson College

Author and schoolmaster Prof. Charles D. Cleveland headed a girls’ school called the School for Young Ladies at 903 Clinton Street in Philadelphia, a house that stands today. It wasn’t far from the business establishments of the other Riverton founders. Betty Hahle wrote that he served as director and officer of the Riverton Improvement Company.

 

So, now you know.

– John McCormick and Roger Prichard

Sept 1979 GN, Sept 1999 GN

When in doubt… DON’T throw it out.

Probably not the best advice for someone trying to move or declutter, but we have gotten some of the best stuff that some folks would have relegated to the trash bin.

Regular visitors to this online virtual museum that we call rivertonhistory.com know that much of it is comprised of photos and scans of items that we don’t actually have; folks often send us files or loan the item for copying. Sometimes a generous donor gives us printed material, an artifact, or a collectible related to Riverton’s history.

We have the space, if you have something to give or loan that will illuminate another bit of Riverton history.

This collaboration between the Society, its members, and visitors to the website has resulted in this ever-growing community resource. Here are some examples.

football team in pieces

In 2008, J. Edward Gilmore, a former HSR Board Member and former Borough Councilman, showed me a cabinet card depicting a Riverton football team.

Well, pieces of a cabinet card, anyway.

football team photo-restored

To shorten the story, just know that spending several hours with PhotoShop resulted in a usable photo.  Cloning a leg from one player and and applying it to another to make up for a missing piece was the tricky part.

Ed Gilmore has been a frequent contributor to this online repository of local history. He has loaned or donated several dozen items, including many old hometown newspapers, vintage postcards, and irreplaceable photos.

It’s not like we can go back and take them again.

Woolston Carriage Works, Riverton, NJ photo

Lorraine Gambone quite literally trash-picked these two cabinet cards from curbside collection in 2007.

This is the only known photo of the Woolston Carriage Works that once stood at 7th and Lippincott Sts., seen restored here.

Butcher Ezra Perkins had his shop at 606 Main Street

Lorraine also plucked from the same rubbish the photo at right of butcher Ezra Perkins who had a meat store in the same building that is now The New Leaf. See a restored photo here.

For every one of these successes there are many, many times more discouraging stories of discarded items that, once lost, we can’t get back.

Like the person who told me that he threw out stacks of old New Era newspapers that were in the attic of the home when he moved in.

Or the too common story of a person’s belongings being disposed of by heirs who don’t understand their historic importance.

I often wonder how some of the items I see on eBay made their way across the miles to locations across the nation and even overseas.

1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program

In 2013, after I lost out on a winning bid for a 1920 Riverton July 4th Program, HSR member Gerald Blaney generously allowed us to scan his rare eBay find and display it here.

Such indispensable primary source material helps us flesh out the details of Riverton’s past. (Click on the thumbnail image at right to see a PDF file showing 4 pages.)

Main St Riverton postcard, c1910, printed in Germany with a menu for an Amsterdam restaurant

Here’s a puzzle – an eBay auction listing from a seller in Britain had a c1910 postcard of Main Street Riverton with a menu printed on the back for a restaurant in Amsterdam.  I also had a Lawn House postcard with a Dutch distillery ad, but I neglected to scan the back before I sold it.

So… to summarize the lesson, kids, here is a list of the kinds of things that the Historical Society of Riverton collects (underlined terms link to examples of content; skip them if you do not want to see the images.) :

The primary purpose of the Historical Society of Riverton is 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.

Won’t you please help us keep it going.

–  JMc, Editor

Proceeds of successful Historic House Party will encourage student writing

Great Party, Great Cause

On November 23, 2019 the Historical Society of Riverton hosted our first ever Historic House Party to raise funds to expand our Betty B. Hahle Excellence in History Award, a cash prize we have granted for over a decade to Riverton School’s most exceptional history students. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary this year, we’re looking to build on our past successes. Thanks to our members and friends, we have raised $4,000 to seed an expanded award program that supports excellence in history writing using the HSR’s archives.

The Historic House

Sociable at Coales’ May 4, 1889

The event took place at the historic Coale House, located at 100 Lippincott Avenue in Riverton. The house, built in 1878, has seen a lot of parties. We used a photo of one of these in our publicity for the November 23 event. Before 1910, parties would have taken place in the drawing room where this 1889 photo was taken.

In 1910, Hetty Coale commissioned designs for a renovation of the Second Empire style house at the corner of Lippincott Avenue and Carriage House Lane. This update included the house’s distinctive wraparound porch.  The 1910 plan also included a new stable/carriage house, fireplaces, front façade windows, and a substantial reorganization of rooms which make the house’s interior feel more like a four square of the early 20th century than a conventional Victorian house.

100 Lippincott 11-23-2019

The original façade and porch looked very similar to those on other Victorians on Lippincott Avenue. To achieve a more contemporary look, the architects of the 1910 remodel chose round, simple Tuscan columns for the porch, as well as pine decking. In 2019, current owners Henry and Heather Huffnagle replaced the rotting porch with mahogany decking and synthetic columns identical to those in the 1910 scheme.

Pat Brunker greets Astrid Caruso and Roger Prichard 11-23-2019

The 1910 porch is the perfect spot for a Riverton party most months of the year. For our fundraiser, strings of Edison lights festooned the front and back porches. People flowed in and out of the house all night. Nearly 90 people took part in the event, and many helped with finishing touches.

Nick in carriage house 11-23-2019

HSR member and sound and light expert Nick Condadina volunteered to help make our event truly spectacular. The newly painted interior of the 1910 carriage house glowed in electric blue and purple light thanks to his professional grade event lighting. Kids in attendance enjoyed this heated space and the backyard bounce house.

We were delighted with the returns. Even HSR members and neighbors who were not able to attend the event donated to the cause. This overwhelming support will help as we work through the next stage of expanding the scope of the Betty B. Hahle Excellence in History Award.

The Cause

The HSR board has been thinking about improving our family and kid-friendly programming for some time. The Betty B. Hahle Excellence in History Award has supported this goal for over a decade, as have a number of programs such last year’s presentation on suffragist Alice Paul that was well attended by students. At the same time, retired New Jersey State Assistant Archivist Keith Betten has been working with members of the board to improve our archives. Our space in the library’s basement has been a huge boon to this effort.

As we’re looking ahead to the future of the organization, and past successes, the Betty Hahle Award seemed like a great idea that relatively few people know about. And something that could grow to support use of our archives, especially as more and more materials become available on our website.

Writing has been one of the HSR’s strong suits since our inception half a century ago. Mrs. Betty B. Hahle was a past president and newsletter editor of the Society, as well as Town Historian, who wrote extensively about Riverton history – why not honor that legacy by rewarding students who follow her tradition and help tell local history with primary documents?

A committee made up of educators and granting specialists will help iron out the details of this program this year. We will keep you up to date as this award program comes together. Thanks to everyone who made our event a huge success!

Heather Macintosh Huffnagle, House Party Chair, Membership Chair