June 2023 Historical Society of Riverton vol. LIII, no. 2 (#195)
President William C. Brown, Jr’s Message
It was a very gratifying experience to serve as President of the Historical Society of Riverton these past seven years.
Together with the members of the Board of Directors, past and present, we accomplished much. We obtained much-needed space in the Library basement to organize our Archives. We made an effort to increase membership and contributions.
It has been my privilege to have helped make the Riverton War Memorial more inclusive by including names of Riverton’s members of the armed forces to members past and present.
And Carlos Rogers came through as usual with a generous donation from his Criterium Race that supported our Marker and Plaque programs.
Our Board, working with Arcadia Publishing Co., produced Images of America Riverton, a book with photographs and commentary that tells the story of our beautiful Town.
Our year-long effort, with the support of so many of our citizens, tried but failed to save the beautiful Groves Mansion on Lippincott St. The Board continues to work together with the Borough Council and Planning Board to organize a Historic Preservation Commission that will provide the protection needed for other such historic properties.
Our recent Annual Preservation and Recognition Awards Program acknowledged our townspeople who restored their beautiful rescued homes. We also recognized recently retired Police Chief John Shaw for his years of dedicated service.
Please welcome our new President, Faith Endicott, who is sharp, full of new ideas, and endless energy. She was such a great help to me this past year; I am forever grateful to her. I will remain a member of the Board and contribute to what is so special to me.
At Riverton Public School’s Special Awards School Board Meeting, Susan Dechnik, retired educator and HSR Board Member, presented the Betty B. Hahle Excellence in History Award to eighth-grader Ryan McComb and spoke briefly about the person for whom the award is named.
The Betty B. Hahle Excellence in History Award is given to an eighth-grade student each year at Riverton Public School. Betty Hahle’s many decades of historical research and writing as Town Historian and her interest in cultivating young people’s interest in studying history inspired the award.
Regretfully, there was no recipient this year of the $500 History Writing Prize for high school students that we announced in April, as no one submitted an essay.
HSR Awards Night at Calvary Church
The Historical Society of Riverton recognized some citizens for excellence in historic preservation and stewardship at a ceremony on May 24, 2023, at Calvary Presbyterian Church.
Phyllis Rodgers called it “A truly successful evening for the HSR and all Rivertonians who share the passion for preservation.”
All of the fine people who put so much effort into restoring these rescued properties really seemed pleased with the HSR’s efforts to recognize them. They include Riverton Steamboat Landing Foundation, Mark & Paula DiLeo, Tom & Beth Rafter, Joe and Maggie Fusco, and Jim Shae.
Board members set up the room and provided refreshments. Roger Prichard put together a PowerPoint presentation that provided an excellent visual of the homes and Yacht Club while the awards were being presented.
Thank you to past president and newsletter editor Dan Campbell for carving out time from his busy schedule to participate in presenting the awards.
At the end of our program, I was completely surprised by the recognition I received from the Board. It is something that I will never forget. The card contained such meaningful comments, the gift card, and that plaque that I can hardly wait to place on the front of my house.
If I made a difference, it was because of my board members. We accomplished so much because we communicate well, work together, have the same interest, and are friends. -Bill Brown
Editor’s note: Bill Brown served as President of the HSR from 2017-2023. Of thirteen presidents who have led the organization, Bill’s length of service is second only to Dan Campbell’s (1991-2003).
Ada E. Price, A New Woman Competes in a Man’s Realm
by Patricia Smith Solin and John McCormick
This article started with an email from Ms. Carolyn Mattern in Wisconsin to the HSR editor asking what seemed to be a simple question: Why did my relative move from Camden, NJ, to Riverton about 1908? The great-granddaughter of the former owner of 416 Lippincott Avenue wanted to know why her family moved from an already thriving business and home in Camden to Riverton.
The specific answer to Ms. Carolyn Mattern’s query involves some speculation but also demonstrates how greatly the endeavors of an individual can shape the character of Riverton. Like her realtor father, Charles Eaves Price, the activities of Ada E. Price helped determine the pace of property development in 19th-century to mid-20th-century Riverton.
The Price Family
Charles Eaves Price (1846-1905) lived with his wife, Arabella Hannah Eaves Price (1841-1917), in Camden, NJ, with his two daughters, Emma (1870-1959) and Ada (1872-1948). Charles established himself in the real estate profession in 1875. Note that they all reside at 665 North 36th Street, Camden.
Then 33-year-old Ada’s occupation is listed as a bookkeeper; Charles is listed as a builder; Emma is a music teacher.
The Philadelphia Inquirer published Charles’ obituary on July 25, 1905.
The clippings below trace Ada’s transition from occupation as a bookkeeper to a thriving independent realtor, a truly brave career choice for a woman in the male-dominated real estate market of early 20th-century America.
After her father’s passing, Ada conducted the realty business from her Camden home. Perhaps reluctant to divulge her female status, this December 1905 rental listing simply says “key at owner’s” without giving her name.
Oddly, this Sept 8, 1906 ad still uses the Camden office address but continues to allude to Charles Price.
Several more ads from 1906-1908 mention 336 N. 36th St. without giving the seller’s name. This is one of several 1907-1908 ads introducing the owner with the non-gender specific name “A. Price.”
Charles’ widow, Arabella Price, purchased the home at 416 Lippincott Avenue, Riverton, in January 1908. In short order, Ada transitioned her real estate enterprise to Riverton.
By 1910, the US Census has Arabella Price, widow, 64, as the house owner at 416 Lippincott Avenue, living there with her sister Cassandra Sarah Eaves 50, along with Emma, 39, and Ada Price, 37. Strangely, the column for trade or profession states “none” for all four women.
Emma, a music teacher, and Ada, still in real estate, had their workspace on the first floor, with the upper floors as the family living space.
Perhaps the move to Riverton prompted Ada to finally come out, so to speak, in 1910 and boldly declare her female appellation, a custom she kept in ads after that.
By 1911, advertisements for area properties prominently displayed the successful realtor’s name in all caps.
A 1912-1913 real estate directory includes her in a list of six prominent Riverton-based agents; the other five are men.
The Real Estate Landscape of Early Riverton
To circle back to the character of Riverton, the establishment of the village occurred in 1851. A string of Founders’ summer “cottages” set on broad lawns extended along the riverfront, perpendicular to Main Street. The Riverton Improvement Company, incorporated in 1852, established a general store at “the point” directly across from the railroad tracks where interested buyers could purchase lots. The town was thus poised for the growth that lay ahead.
An array of institutional and commercial buildings developed on or near Fourth Street, and within a generation, a “business district” grew near the railroad tracks.
Milton Cowperthwaite’s Pharmacy on the first floor at 304 Main Street, Wolfschmidt’s Barbershop at 513 Main Street, Jan’s Family Bakery at 408 Main Street, Dr. Alexander Marcy, Jr’s medical practice at 406 Main, and other establishments helped expand the economy of the unique suburb and contributed to the growth of the community.
Early development of Lippincott Avenue
In 1877 Riverton was expanding parallel to Main Street along Lippincott Avenue and Howard Street. This detail of the Hunter and Richards Map of Palmyra and Riverton attests to that growth.
By 1890, Riverton had grown to include some homes along Thomas Avenue.
Coinciding with this expansion, Charles E. Price produced a map of East Riverton, c1890, showing lots to sell as commercial and residential properties. Note the Riverton Gun Club grounds on the map.
Already organized in 1877, Riverton Gun Club was incorporated on May 26, 1891, to purchase land to build pigeon lofts.
The club leased land in East Riverton from Charles Price to stage its live-bird shooting competitions. The club ultimately purchased 30 acres in 1892.
Price had hoped East Riverton would be incorporated with Riverton, but voters rejected that option in 1913. This suggests that the family knew the area and did business here in Riverton for some years before moving their residence in 1908.
Why did the family move to Riverton, and where/when did Ada establish her real estate office?
Several factors may have affected the family’s decision to move from Camden to Riverton. Contemporary newspaper advertisements demonstrate that both Charles and his daughter Ada sold real estate in Palmyra, Riverton, East Riverton, and Camden.
The Adams Express Office, a gas fixture store, a bicycle repair, and a paint store each occupied office space for a time there. In 1892, The New Era moved to the third floor of the Price building. Later, the telephone exchange operated from the second and third floors. Ada Price converted the second floor into apartments in 1931.
John (Jonathan) Kirkbride Hibbs and Anna Waples Kirkpatrick lived with their four children in the home at 416 Lippincott Avenue before it was sold to Anabelle Price in 1908 after Charles’ death in July of 1905. Hibbs had lived in Camden, working as a salesman in the Carriage Trade since 1880.
Perhaps coincidentally, Jonathan Hibbs and Charles Price each lived in Camden and were members of different Camden masonic lodges, but we could not determine if the Price and Hibbs families knew one another there.
Charles Price belonged to the Camden Free Masons. Other Riverton members of his lodge were Edward Pancoast – builder, Jos. Roberts – merchant, Ogden Mattis – postmaster, Louis Corner – RYC member, and Wm. Faunce.
It is tempting to conclude that there was at least a nodding acquaintance among Charles Price and his Mason brethren who resided in Riverton that opened investment doors for him in this area.
Despite Charles Price having a real estate interest in the area before 1905, there is no evidence that he or his daughter Ada conducted any business out of a Riverton location before the 1908 purchase of 416 Lippincott.
Charles continued to use 665 N. 36th Street, Camden, as his business address until his death in July 1905.
That property was a farm in 1902. Once Charles passed, perhaps the women could not care for such a large property. They likely found their new Riverton home a manageable property in a well-planned community with many amenities. Speculation aside, on January 11, 1908, “…in consideration of the sum of nine-thousand dollars,” Arabella Price purchased 416 Lippincott Avenue.
As established, Ada had sold building lots and homes and rented properties from her Camden home from at least 1905 or perhaps earlier.
She wasted little time after the January 1908 conveyance of 416 Main in again diving into the waters of the local real estate market.
Newspaper ads of the day indicate that first tentative splash and the torrent of activity that followed through the next three decades.
Ada advertised extensively for years in the local newspapers: The New Era, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Morning Post (Camden, NJ), and Courier-Post selling land, fire insurance, and automobile insurance and acting as a commissioner of deeds.
The 1926 film, The Romance of Riverton, shows Ada Price at 416 Lippincott and illustrates one of her developments.
The pages of contemporary periodicals recorded her accomplishments and her social activities.
The idea of the “New Woman” in America emerged during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The New Woman was a response to the earlier limiting roles of domesticity of the Victorian Era. Independent, autonomous, and exercising control over their own personal, social, and economic lives, she was positioned to enjoy a degree of equality and freedom that would later become mainstream. The New Woman ventured into commercial pursuits, culture, and politics outside the home.
The confident woman in the passport picture did not need a man to prosper. That her considerable success allowed her to honorably provide for her family after her father’s death, wear fashionable clothing, and travel speaks to her resilience, determination, and talent.
Clearly, Ada was a “New Woman”
Readers: This was my last newsletter. Remarkable, if only for my longevity, I’ve been the editor under five HSR presidents since 2007 – the longest of any HSR editor. I hope that you have found the work here to occasionally be of consequence, informative, and maybe even entertaining.
I could only devote the considerable time that I did to this job because of the indulgence and understanding of Linda McCormick. (Coincidentally, we celebrate our 45th anniversary today.) New computer, software, Epson photo scanner, more software, portable hard drive – whatever I needed, no problem. Kept me out of bars, she says.
I thank former HSR President Gerald Weaber for having the vision to create a more robust and engaging website. I am indebted to Michael Solin for creating and continually tweaking the website that has been my playground since that first post twelve years ago.
Collaborating with Patricia Solin and Harlan Radford, my friend across the miles in Ohio, on several lengthy articles was a particularly gratifying part of this experience.
Thank you to Paul W. Schopp for occasionally providing expert guidance and damage control.
After 586 published posts and 10,117 media items uploaded, it is time to hand over the keys to this marvelous vehicle to the next editor. It has been a pleasure. -JMc