And now, a word from Heather MacIntosh Huffnagle, our Membership Chair…
As a Riverton resident and Historical Society of Riverton (HSR) board member, I am extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in 2020, thanks to your support. Here are some of the highlights.
We continue to expand our excellent quarterly, Gaslight News, which is now digital. Our Facebook page receives between 500 and 1000 views each month and we have produced 35 new articles on our website’s blog this past year, and 14 more just since January.
Our board helped realtors understand the history, architectural significance, and zoning restrictions for the amazing mansion at 106 Lippincott. This extraordinary house, attributed to architect Frank Furness, now has new owners with experience renovating historic houses. The previous owners, Bob and Aggie Kennedy, now deceased, were great supporters of the HSR and generously included the Society in their wills.
We also commissioned a high-resolution scan of the original 1890 birds-eye view of Riverton so that residents can once again it can soon be available to residents to display in their homes.
We assisted the Porch Club in commissioning a similarly high-quality scan of their large, ca. 1851 map of Riverton, the earliest known map of the town.
This year, the 1926 film, The Romance of Riverton, will receive a high-quality digital scan as well.
Thanks to your donations in 2020 and an unexpected but welcomed wreath fundraiser, we will have 19 beautiful glass plate negatives from 1910 professionally scanned at high resolution.
Board members have been extensively researching two upcoming interpretative markers for early Riverton houses. One of these houses was built for the man who ran the Antislavery Society in Philadelphia for 25 years. This abolitionist opened the crate in which celebrated slave Henry “Box” Brown shipped from slavery in Richmond, VA to freedom in Philadelphia. The full history of that house is now over 200 pages. I can’t wait to see what else they will turn up!
On behalf of the board, I hope you will continue to support us in the new year!
Heather MacIntosh Huffnagle
If you find something of value in the nearly 500 posts and over 8,500 media items on display here and wish to help illuminate Riverton’s past and preserve its history, please support the Historical Society of Riverton with your membership or a donation (see PayPal DONATE button at lower left.) -JMc, Editor
We finally get a sunny day and a break in the temps and folks start to have visions of the Jersey Shore dancing in their heads. Nothing could be more emblematic of the beach than a lighthouse – in this case, the Cape May Lighthouse, constructed in 1859. Fully restored and open to the public since 1988, this stalwart sentinel of the Jersey Cape is the very epitome of a historic preservation success story. -JMc, Editor
CAPE MAY LIGHTHOUSE, CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY
by Harlan B. Radford, Jr.
One of the largest lighthouses on the Atlantic Coast standing at 157 feet, Cape May Lighthouse still serves as an active aid to navigation. It was built in 1859, succeeding two previous lighthouses that were lost to the sea by erosion. The lighthouse is located at the southern-most tip of Cape May Peninsula in Cape May County, New Jersey, and is geographically positioned where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.
The early attempts to build lasting lighthouses along New Jersey’s coast have proved costly and unsuccessful. As we have seen in the case of the Barnegat Lighthouse, the Cape May Lighthouse was no different. Erosion, lack of proper maintenance, and poor construction have been among the culprits that have thwarted the early efforts to build these navigational beacons.
The first known lighthouse at Cape May was built in 1822 and came to life the following year. Standing 70 feet tall, this particular sentinel did not last beyond 1847 when it was decommissioned due to its collapse into the ocean.
Then a second tower was constructed a bit further inland and was operational between 1847 and 1859 whereupon it too was overcome by storms and the constant battering of waves.
A third lighthouse which is the present lighthouse was built in 1859 and this time It was set back considerably further from the ocean. In addition to the erosion, the wind at Cape May Point was considered a major problem. To combat the wind this third structure was constructed of double brick masonry walls. Added strength was accomplished by building two concentric walls with the outer wall more than 3 feet thick at the base and the inner wall a foot and a half at its base with a space left between the two.
Shortly after this tower was built, two keepers’ houses were constructed. In 1893, and in order to reduce the risk of fire in the tower, a brick oil house was built for the safe storage of all-important oil supply. By 1902, one of the keepers’ houses was expanded and was able to house three keepers and their families.
Cape May Light House N.J. 1908
Cape May Lighthouse
The routine for the keepers consisted of their nightly 4-hour watches spent in the watch room situated just below the lantern. During a watch the keepers were responsible for rewinding the clockwork weight mechanism, trimming the wicks when needed, replenishing the fuel or the oil level in the lamps, actually lighting the lamp a half-hour before sunset, and extinguishing the lamp a half-hour after sunrise. When there was limited visibility, the lamps had to be lit.
There were numerous other duties such as carefully and frequently cleaning the lamp as well as general maintenance of the property to keep everything in good working order. Clearly, being a lighthouse keeper back in the day carried a great deal of responsibility.
Another important feature of the lighthouse is the lantern which is the enclosed or roofed-over room completely surrounded by windows. This housing most importantly protected the entire light apparatus including the lens and the lamp. The lantern itself was 12 feet high with 16 large glass windows and a diameter of 12 feet.
The actual lens originally was a first-order revolving Fresnel lens and this was state-of-the-art for that time period. Seacoast lights of this era stood 7 feet 10 inches tall with a six-foot diameter which enabled the keeper to actually access the inside and service the lamp itself. Today that very Fresnel lens is on display at the Cape May County Historical Museum, which is located a short distance in the nearby community of Cape May Court House.
Today, Cape May Lighthouse bears its characteristic solid white daymark paint job in order to serve as a daytime identification aid allowing mariners to distinguish between the lighthouses.
The beacon flashes every 15 seconds with a range of 24 nautical miles. There are 217 steps from the ground to the top and access can be made by a cast-iron spiral staircase.
In 1938, the lighthouse was updated and electrified and when World War II commenced in 1941, the light was extinguished for the duration of the war. In 1946 the Fresnel lens was dismantled and replaced by another but updated light unit. After 56 years of service yet another more modern and efficient light beacon device was installed in 2002. That light continues in operation today thanks mainly to ongoing maintenance by the U. S. Coast Guard.
In 1973 the Cape May Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Then, in 1986, the Cape May Lighthouse underwent a much needed major restoration project. Presently the lighthouse is owned by the State of New Jersey after ownership was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1992. The State, in turn, leases the structure and grounds to the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), a non-profit which raised funds to restore the tower and open it to the public in 1988.
Last April 2020, MAC announced that COVID-19 restrictions had canceled its tours, activities, and events until further notice. Since its budget is largely dependent upon admissions, memberships, and donationsthey will appreciate your support.
Starting March 13, 2021, the lighthouse is open on Saturdays and Sundays for an admission charge from noon-3pm and is open daily beginning March 26 at reduced capacity. Climbs to the top are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. If you can’t go in person, take MAC’s virtual climb.The Oil House on the grounds contains a fully accessible Visitors’ Orientation Center and Museum Shop.
Get the latest on their activities and hours open on the official Facebook page for Cape May MAC. No matter where you are, you can celebrate Cape May with the virtual tours and educational lecture series on Cape May MAC’s YouTube Channel.
The following selection of picture postcards shows the important role and the prominence of this lighthouse to Cape May, New Jersey. It certainly can be said that this is a place where memories last a lifetime!
Lighthouse, Cape May Point, hand-colored
Light House, Cape May Point, Cape May, N.J., hand-colored, prior to 1920
message side of Light House, Cape May Point, Cape May, N.J., prior to 1920
Cape May Light, Cape May Point, N.J.
Cape Point Lighthouse, Cape May, N.J.
Light House, Cape May N.J.
Light House, Cape May, N.J.
Cape May Light, 1906
U.S. Life Saving Station and Cape May Light House
U.S. Life Saving Station, Cape May Point, N.J.
U.S. Life Saving Station, Cape May, N.J.
Souvenir of Cape May, 1901
message side of Souvenir of Cape May, 1901
Greetings from Cool Cape May, 1904
U.S. Life Saving Station and Light House
U.S. Coast Guard Life Saving Station and Light House, Cape May Point, N.J.
Recently we heard from Wisconsin visitor Keith Buchert who commented on one of our oldest posts – one from 2010. He was looking for the book on the history 1877-1906 of the Riverton Gun Club so he could buy one.
The catch up on the uninformed, the famous Riverton Gun Club (RGC) held trapshooting contests by releasing and shooting live pigeons. Members paid entry fees to compete for prizes. (The RGC was covered briefly in Slides #103-106 in a PowerPoint I presented to a meeting in 2011 called “Do You Remember?“)
The trophy pictured on the site I once owned and sold 3 or 4 years ago. I am an advanced sporting collector and would like to know more about the historical part of the Riverton Gun Club. I have a gunning box that belonged to T. Dando and has the date of 1885. The Riverton Gun Club must have been a well-respected club because of the shooters that shot there and the quality of trophies that were given out.
After another email exchange with Keith, I revised that 2010 post and added more information on the organization: a scanned Riverton Gun Club History 1877-1906 book and two other publications by the Club.
He responded with more information that adds to our understanding of the RGC:
Thank you for providing all that information. I acquired the gunning box from a collector friend that purchased it at an auction in Maryland years ago. I will send you pictures of the gunning box. He definitely used it and it looks like a prize won at the Riverton Gun Club.
What is also interesting to me is the association T.J. Dando had with Sporting Life magazine as I did not know this. I also collect advertising smalls which include advertising pins from Sporting Life. Sporting life was the Magazine that covered both trap shooting and baseball.
Trap shooting two words signifies pigeon shooting. Trapshooting one word is used for clay pigeon shooting. But you probably knew this.
(He gave me too much credit – I did not know the distinction)
Sporting Life used celluloid pinbacks to advertise the magazine…
I would appreciate any help you could provide locating Dando’s Book on the Riverton Gun Club.
Well, we have one of the 100 limited copies and we are not parting with it, but maybe someone else seeing this can respond.
More Gun Club minutiae, if you can persevere…
Seeing that gunning box roused me to search the RGC book for Thomas Dando; it received over 400 results.
One was this high-stakes match that he won in March 1896. It required a $100 entry fee and awarded $1,300 first prize. The shooters killed 485 pigeons in this one match.
(According to officialdata.org, $1,300 in 1883 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $33,668.97 today!)
In 1883, the Club secured bragging rights when The New York Times reported that New York backers of a British shooter retreated from a $5,000 bet on a match with Riverton’s Charles Macalester and Westmin
American sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, Annie Oakley refereed a contest on the grounds of the RGC between a New York marksman and Riverton’s crack shot, Charles Macalester.
Who wants to see more about the Riverton Gun Club? -JM, Editor
I just took a closer look at this postcard I bought on eBay and see that there is a mark on the picture.
There, in the street about halfway down the street, on the right.
Is that something that was in the photo or some schmutz from the printing process?
The message side reads: Our house is at the white post where I have put a cross. It is a very pretty ave. in summer. Best regards from all. Florence E.
OK, but when? And who’s this Florence E. messing with my postcard?
First thing to check – look for a postmark.
None. And no copyright either.
Just Published by the Brick Stores, Riverton and Palmyra, NJ, and this NEWVOCHROME logo printed in Germany.
According to metropostcard.com‘s glossary of postcard terms, NEWVOCHROME is “…a trade name for postcards distributed by the American News Company that were printed in black collotype over broad areas of red, yellow, and blue lithography. These cards, printed on paper with a light embossed pattern are characterized by a sharp look and a dull finish. They were promoted as the best made of all German cards.”
Googling for “how to date a postcard” led me to chicagopostcardmuseum.org where I learned that the postal service started allowing the use of divided back postcards in March of 1907.
Except for a wartime increase in 1917 to 2 cents, the postage rate for postcards was one cent from 1872-1919. That narrows it down.
Another clue from postcardvalues.com says that the German cards were of outstanding quality, but WWI shut down the presses and cut off that source before 1915.
I decided to take a chance at finding a Florence E. living on Lippincott Avenue in the 1920 US Census.
There is Florence E. Peterson at 209 Lippincott with her husband Lawrence C. Peterson, a tailor, and their daughter Florraine J.
Checking our newspaper archive, I found that there was an attempted robbery of the home in June 1922 and that Florraine made 3rd Grade Honor Roll at Riverton School in 1923.
In 1935, the home of Lawrence Peterson won a prize in the Borough’s House Christmas decoration project.
1999 Riverton National Register Historic District Inventory, page 25, 209 Lippincott detail
1999 Historic Riverton District Application, sec 8, p10 detail
Entries in 1943 and 1957New Era showed that other families lived in the home.
Folks still come and go in Riverton and questions about the history of a home are one of the most frequent question topics we receive.
There are more 100+ year old postcards on our website. See if you can find your street or house, and if you have a vintage image of your Riverton home that we don’t have, please contact us if you are able to share it.
From the pages of The New Era, Riverton’s hometown newspaper, December 1, 1938, p10.
The New Era was a weekly newspaper published in Riverton, NJ commencing in 1889 and believed to have ceased publication in 1975. It focused its coverage on Riverton, Palmyra, and Cinnaminson, but often included stories from other townships in Burlington County.
Why not open an issue on this snowbound day and see if you find someone you know?
And if you have any issue or even just clippings that we don’t have that you could donate or lend for scanning PULLLLLEEESE contact us.
Looking for a particular topic? There’s a Search This Site button on the lower left side of this page.
It searches the whole site, including the papers, but the results may be repetitive and it misses a lot because of poor text recognition on the old microfilm from which most of our digital copies were made.
Still, “For better is half a loaf than no bread.” – 1546 book of proverbs. -JMc, Editor
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.
One such shipwreck, the Fortuna, became an emblem for the Jersey Shore town that became its graveyard.
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.
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.
Fortuna remained visible only during most of 1910 until wreckers cut it up for salvage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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