How the Fortuna shipwreck became an icon for Ship Bottom, NJ

by Harlan Radford, Jr

The maritime history of New Jersey’s eastern seaboard has been punctuated with over 4,800 shipwrecks. Covering the span of some 400 years, the New Jersey Shipwreck Database compiled by Beach Haven’s New Jersey Maritime Museum chronicles pertinent details about those many shipwrecks.

Bird’s-Eye View, Ship Bottom, NJ, IMAGE CREDIT: Deb Whitcraft

One such shipwreck, the Fortuna, became an emblem for the Jersey Shore town that became its graveyard.

Fortuna, IMAGE CREDIT: Six Miles At Sea

The ill-fated Italian bark Fortuna ran aground at what is now Ship Bottom, NJ in 1910.

The grounding of the Fortuna was not the shipwreck that gave the borough of Ship Bottom its name – that is another story.

Fortuna, IMAGE CREDIT: Six Miles At Sea

The arresting Fortuna hulk became one of the most widely photographed wrecks on the Jersey coast and numerous photos depicted people actually climbing the masts, hanging from the bowsprit, and standing on the underside of the ship’s hull.

 

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Fortuna remained visible only during most of 1910 until wreckers cut it up for salvage.

Skelton of steel bark, Fortuna from the Radford Collection

As memories of the wreck faded, vintage postcards and old photographs served as the only testimony as to the evidence of this tragic maritime event.

Barnegat Lighthouse Near Surf City, NJ, commissioned  January 1, 1859

While violent storms provoked many shipwrecks, incessant coastal fog and darkness also caused many shipwrecks before New Jersey lighthouses were constructed in the latter half of the 1800s.

The heavily traveled shipping traffic to North American cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston saw many travelers and cargoes sailing along the Jersey Shore.

Because of the treacherous shifting shoals, numerous inlets, and dangerous sandbars, this area off the Jersey coast earned the ominous name “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

On January 18, 1910, the three-masted, steel-hulled vessel with a gross tonnage of 924 and measuring 193 feet long, was transporting a cargo of coal from Montevideo, Uruguay bound for the port of New York City.

RPPC, USCG Station, Ship Bottom, NJ, Built: 1871, IMAGE CREDIT: JMc

Built in 1869 in Hamburg, Germany, and sailing under the flag of Italy, the ill-fated final voyage of the Fortuna ran aground at the 16th Street beach at Ship Bottom during rough seas and thick fog.

USLSS Launching the Life Boat, IMAGE CREDIT: Deb Whitcraft

Members of the Ship Bottom U.S. Life Saving Service saved all 18 persons without casualty including Captain Giovan Adragna, his wife, two children, and a newborn Adragna baby, along with a crew of 13.

That Fortuna has now become associated with the iconography, lore, and history of the seashore town which became its final resting place, has been largely due to the efforts of Brant Beach summer resident Carole Bradshaw.

While walking the beach, Bradshaw came upon some pieces of the ship in 1983. She also discovered Fortuna’s anchor protruding from the sand which was recovered, authenticated, and currently resides on the lawn at the Ship Bottom Borough Hall.

IMAGE CREDIT Jan. 17, 2010, pressofatlanticcity.com

Later, on a frigid but sunny Saturday in January 2010, about 100 persons gathered on the 16th Street beach to witness a historic re-enactment of the wreck of the Fortuna led by Carole Bradshaw.

A scale model replica of the Fortuna sporting white improvised sails, rigging, and an Italian flag atop the three-masted hull bore the name “FORTUNA” in white letters.

Now known as “The Anchor Lady,” Carole Bradshaw authored Fortuna in 2010, an engaging account of how her discovery in the surf drove her to research how the wreck affected Captain Giovan Adragna’s family by tracking down the now-grown newborn.

Bradshaw has presented the Fortuna story to many organizations throughout New Jersey, including the NJ Maritime Museum in Beach Haven.

We invite readers of this intriguing story to share additional insights and information about their memories of the Fortuna shipwreck.

So now you know…

 

 

Photos used with permission from Six Miles At Sea: A Pictorial History of Long Beach Island, New Jersey by John Bailey Lloyd – Down The Shore Publishing, Box 353, Harvey Cedars, NJ 08008 – Copyright 1990 and Two Centuries of History on Long Beach Island by John Bailey Lloyd – Down The Shore Publishing, Box 353, Harvey Cedars, NJ 08008 – Copyright 2005.

Snow pix wanted

I took this gaslamp by the Yacht Club photo in 2019.

Hearing the forecast for snow on Sunday, I asked on our Facebook page if anyone could please take some photos that I could post on our page.

Mark Still kindly sent in this misty photo of the Tacony Palmyra Bridge. A brilliant photo of the same bridge taken by Mark in 2017 serves to introduce the PALMYRA, NJ section of our IMAGES page.

Tacony Palmyra Bridge, by Mark Still 1-31-2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We should wake up to a beautiful snowscape on Tuesday morning. We have more room.

Just sayin’. -JMc, Editor

by Susan Dechnik 2-7-2021

2-8-2021: This just in from my former grade partner,  monarch butterfly enthusiast, and avid gardener, Mrs. Susan Dechnik.

 

 

Things that aren’t there anymore

Olds Community, Broad St. Riverton, NJ – later Stan’s Auto, now Marty’s Auto

All of this time secluded at home during COVID has caused a proliferation of FaceBook groups with a nostalgic look back at places and experiences of our past.

One such group I found recently is About South Jersey. The stated aims of admins Rick and Denise Grenda is to provide… “A place to post photos, information or recollections of about the southern part of the State of New Jersey and close by areas.”

Another is Things that aren’t there anymore – South Jersey edition, which has the goal of connecting… “A group of friendly folks who want to remember people /places/ things from South Jersey ‘way back when.'”

It happened in New Jersey “…makes an effort to post current and big stories from the past that are part of the Great State of New Jersey and surrounding areas.”

The best part – none of them tolerate any posts with current politics, controversial views, spam, or selling.

The Eagle, The Grand Court, John Wanamaker, Philadelphia
TTATA WHYY YouTube

For those with a soft spot in their heart for Philadelphia, a look at the 1993 WHYY production of Things That Aren’t There Anymore and its sequel in 1994 will take you back to Connie Mack Stadium, grand movie theaters, and Willow Grove Park.

Heck, play it on your TV and show your kids what you did back in the day.

Inspired by the TTATA theme, many of our earliest posts were about places that have disappeared in Riverton such as the Lyceum, the Lawn House, Klipple’s Bakery, Dreer’s Nursery, the train station, the bicycle track, Wolfschmitt’s Barbershop, even a dairy and an Acme Market on Main Street, and much more.

Some places are not gone so much as they have transitioned to something else, like the former Olds Community dealership at the start of this post.

Riverton is fortunate to have a historical society and a community that supports its efforts. History speaks to us from the pages of old 19th and 20th-century hometown newspapers, from many collected vintage postcards and photographs, and the collected historical research found in 185 newsletters from 1974 to the present.

The late Town Historian, Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, 10-06-09, age 90

Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, former Riverton Town Historian, HSR President, and editor of our newsletter once advised me to not forget to record the history that is happening today.

Our interpretation of local history has depended so long on these analog artifacts of the past, we wonder what primary source material future historians will turn to in order to chronicle Riverton’s events today.

Stay safe, kids, and please support the goals of the Society with your membership dues and donations of items.  -JMc

A deep dive into our archives III

Just so you know, we are still on the job of discovering and preserving local history during this COVID-19 epidemic. Our board members are each working remotely from our respective homes on exciting projects that will help bring more of the extensive holdings we have collected over fifty years to light. More details will be forthcoming in later posts.

Speaking of fifty years, we missed out on celebrating our birthday party last June!

On June 4th, 1970, 54 persons attended the first meeting of the Historical Society of Riverton held at the Porch Club.

We hope to celebrate with you when the coast is clear.

With so many folks leading reclusive lives during this crisis, a nostalgia for the experiences of our younger years has perhaps prompted a flurry of comments and feedback to many former posts. Thank you for your continuing interest and support.

Unlike the last set of unidentified Riverton School photos, the donors of these photos kindly supplied the year taken and some had the names of people in the photos on the back.

Let us know if you see someone you know.

Click on each image for a larger view. When that opens, scroll down a bit and note the link that opens the full-size image.

If, during your own seclusion, you find something that can add to our collection, please contact us.  Stay safe, kids. -JMc, Editor

A deep dive into our archives II

Another one of those folders that I mentioned in our last post held these four mystery cabinet cards without dates.

Riverton Public School, constructed 1892
1905 Sanborn map detail, Riverton Public School

I believe that the first three photos show students in front of the Riverton Public School that was at the corner of 4th and Howard Streets as shown in this detail of a 1905 Sanborn Insurance Map.

Click on an image to enlarge it. Then scroll down a bit and note the option to view the full-size image.

Riverton Public School, built 1910

This next undated photo probably was taken by the current brick school that was built in 1910. Other additions followed in 1935, 1955, and 1974.

None of the photos have any dates or names. If you have any ideas, please contact us. -JMc, Editor

undated RPS school photo 004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A deep dive into our archives

Archives

With no meetings or presentations for the past several months and with none on the horizon, board members of the Historical Society of Riverton have been reorganizing and cataloging the multitude of items in our archives.

No, that’s not our stuff; that’s a secret archive at the Vatican.

Keith Betten Feb.19, 2020

Here’s Archives Committee Chairperson, Keith Betten wrestling our shelving into place in the basement of the Riverton Free Library last February. We are using it to store our collections of documents, books, photos, objects, maps, vintage clothing, and other such historical records.

Some people binge Netflix; you might say that we binge the collection and preservation of artifacts.

Riverton School class photos

“Riverton Organizations” is one of the twelve major Record Groups developed by the Archives Committee from the many, varied documents collected by the Historical Society of Riverton over the course of the past fifty years. Within that group are subgroups, such as “Riverton School,” and within that are more categories.

Among the many items coming to light from doing this inventory and cataloging are a number of folders of Riverton School photos.

Mrs. Mabel Kloos, July 4th Parade 2010, John Kloos at the wheel
Tracey and Nancy Brown, 2010 parade

I have scanned Riverton School class photos before. The last time was when I helped Mrs. Mabel Kloos prepare a History of Riverton School presentation for the school’s 100th birthday.

However, there are some fantastic photos in these folders that didn’t make it into that presentation.

Here is a taste. This series of small photos captures a May Day history pageant showing milestones in Riverton’s history, year unknown. Can a car buff date any of the automobiles in the photos, know when Mrs. Bush taught, or recognize anyone?

Click on any image for a larger view. There is room below each photo to leave a comment. Click through two more times for the largest view.

Please contact us if you have something to give or loan for the archives.

Until the next dive into our archives… JMc, Editor

Talkies come to Palmyra’s Broadway Palace Theater 91 years ago

July 1930, Marching past the Broadway Theater in Palmyra, IMAGE CREDIT: Joseph and Mary Yearly

As most of us can only enjoy our movies today as streaming content on our tvs, who remembers a real hometown movie theater?

For me, as a kid in Camden in the 1950s, I recall spending Saturdays at the Arlo on Westfield Avenue where I could see a newsreel, a few cartoons, and a feature film for a whole quarter.

Talkies open at Broadway Theater, The New Era, Jan 9, 1930, p1

Imagine the excitement when the talkies came to Palmyra! For Riverton, that was only a brisk walk or a bike ride away.

Palmyra Business District 1954, IMAGE CREDIT: Wm Downs

Bonus question: What business is in its place now?

See the whole Talkies article here.

Please enter a comment below if you can add your recollection of the Broadway Palace to this brief record of another thing that isn’t there anymore. Contact us if you have a photo we could post.

Added 1/22/2021:

Lowell Doerr checked in to contribute this: I remember going to the Saturday kids matinee…cost a dime to get in and after all the seats were full the owner lined up the additional kids and sat them in the runways and exit lanes!!! Money first…Safety last!….LOL

ML DiPietro guessed that a church – Holy Spirit Cathedral – is now in that spot. I said that she was warm, but no.

Added 1/23/2021:

M Gilbert also guessed that the former site of Palmyra’s Broadway Palace Theater is now Holy Spirit Cathedral. I thank MGilbert for persisting with an explanation even though I had mistakenly attributed today’s location to a place two blocks away.

MGilbert points out: I also thought that this was the Holy Spirit Cathedral (corner of Leconey and Broad). The rooflines of the other buildings in the photo look very similar to the ones seen today on that block and on the Palmyra Pharmacy on the next block.

google street view, Oct 2019, former site of Broadway Palace Theater
Broad Street, Palmyra, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

Well, sure, when you explain it like that. No, kidding, thank you for the correction.

-Editor, JMc

An Ocean City landmark played a vital defense role during World War II

Hello from Ocean City

By Harlan B. Radford, Jr.

The origins of today’s Ocean City Music Pier emerged from the ruins of a catastrophic fire that occurred on October 11, 1927, and destroyed a large part of the boardwalk along with some homes and many business establishments, including the elegant Hotel Normandie, the Hippodrome Amusement Pier, the Traymore Hotel and the Colonial Theatre.

While the actual cause of the fire was never determined, more than 400  firefighters from numerous communities in the area were called in to fight Ocean City’s Great Fire of 1927. Fortunately, there was no loss of life.

Interior, Music Pier, Ocean City, NJ

By the spring of 1928, a major project began with re-constructing the Ocean City boardwalk between 6th and 12th Streets.

An important part of that construction project included building a grand concert hall that would originally be christened the Municipal Pavilion in 1928, actually undergo construction in 1928-29, and soon thereafter became popularly known as the Music Pier and provided live entertainment for the public. Mayor Joseph Champion was instrumental in dedicating this new facility and before long, the Music Pier was the site of frequent conventions, bazaars, dances, and daily free summer concerts.

Music Pier, Ocean City, NJ 1929

As one of the most iconic buildings in the seashore resort, this distinctive structure with its oceanside location at Moorlyn Terrace and the Boardwalk reflects the architectural style of the Spanish Revival period.

Two days after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Ocean City’s Daily Sentinel-Ledger reported a lookout tower was to be built on the top of the Music Pier. Its sole purpose was to provide a means of coastal defense as a “look-out” point for protecting a portion of the Jersey seaboard from enemy submarines or U-boats in the water as well as enemy aircraft in the skies. Kelly Tjoumakaris, wrote of it in  “Making Music,” which appeared in Ocean City, NJ Magazine in August 2013 (p47):

In the immediate wake of the Pearl Harbor tragedy, December 1941, the first structure in the country built especially for aircraft spotters was erected atop the Music Pier. Volunteers consisting of teenage boys from Ocean City High School to retired residents from the island kept watch 24 hours a day.

 

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The observation tower was operated and manned 24 hours every day of the year and played a vital role in the war effort from 1942 to the end of the war in 1945. It appears the American Legion was responsible for most of the recruitment as well as the scheduling of the plane and sub spotters. It took considerable effort to establish a network of civilian observers and to train them to be able to recognize and differentiate all types of aircraft.

According to one source, Ocean City’s 147 spotters were comprised of some high school-aged youth and many adult volunteers including some retired persons. These spotters are said to have spent two hours a week observing and reporting all aircraft activity along the Ocean City shoreline. In his 1999 book, Ocean City, NJ by Arcadia Publishing, p87, Mark McLaughlin wrote, “…there were a few U-boat sightings and that one was actually captured by the Coast Guard north near Atlantic City.”

Ocean City Sentinel Ledger, Feb 5, 1943, p2

The civilian volunteers who were trained to act as airplane spotters were organized as a unit of the Aircraft Warning Service. The rare article at left mentions the Music Pier observation tower and praises the high-efficiency rating of the tower.

Ocean City, NJ 1969 – observation tower gone

The little-known tower with its observation windows can easily be seen on the Music Pier roof in most of the preceding postcard images. The tower remained in place until 1968 when it was dismantled.

The next time you should happen to venture to the Jersey Shore and visit Ocean City and the popular Music Pier on the boardwalk, think about the brief but nevertheless important role this building played in our history.

In observance of Pearl Harbor Day 2016, Ocean City Magazine published “December 7, 1941 – A Day That Will Live in Infamy!” by Fred Miller. The article describes other ways in which the barrier island community mobilized civil and government resources to defend itself from attack.

Few people today know of the vital role that Jersey Shore towns played in America’s defense during World War II. John DeRosier, Staff Writer for The Press of Atlantic City, wrote “How a German submarine attack forever changed Cape May” in 2017.

We look forward to readers’ comments and recollections on the topic.

Jan. 25, 2021, William Thorpe writes: I have very fond memories of singing with the Ocean City Pops on the Music Pier in the 1980s and 90s, but had never heard about the watch tower. It was gone by the time I sang there. What an interesting story about the important role it played at a time when the entire country was united against a common enemy! I wish I had known that history when I sang WWII-era Cole Porter songs there. I’m very happy to see that the building is still there. Thanks for this story.

A generous gesture by the Grimes Family brings holiday cheer

L-R: Gary Grimes, Nancy Grimes

Many thanks to Nancy and Gary Grimes for a great idea to brighten up Riverton. Nancy organized donations to purchase 80 (yes, eighty) natural wreaths with ribbons and greeting tags for many of our gaslights.

Last Sunday she fielded a small army of volunteers (with well-organized lists) who got them all hung in no time. She’s donating the profits to the Historical Society of Riverton, for which we are very grateful.

Today, Nancy Grimes just dropped off $500 to our Treasurer, Pat Brunker!

Special thanks to The Barclay Group for the kindness of an extra donation!

Just super, everything about it. It was great to meet Nancy and Gary on Sunday. They put a huge amount of effort into it and she was already talking about how to make it better next year!

It’s a fine effort that will make a lot of folks smile during a time when we need all the smiles we can get. Thank you! – Roger Prichard, HSR Board Member