Ben Small wins Historical Society of Riverton’s History Writing contest

This just in from Heather MacIntosh Huffnagle, the person who conceived the idea to hold our November 2019 House Party, the proceeds of which established cash prizes to encourage Riverton high-school student authors to use primary sources to write about local history.

Congratulations to Palmyra High School’s Benjamin Small, the first-ever winner of the Historical Society of Riverton’s History Writing contest. We announced the challenge on April 1 and asked high school students residing in Riverton to describe in 1000 words how the historic context of mid-19th century America figured into the founding of Riverton. Essays were due on May 15.

Benjamin will be recognized publicly at Riverton’s Fourth of July ceremonies in Riverton Park. He will also receive a $500 check and have his essay featured on our website.

Thanks also to Riverton School’s administrators, who gave us a list of schools their graduates attend. These include Palmyra High School, Moorestown Friends School, Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, Doane Academy, the Burlington County Institute of Technology, Paul VI School, St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, Camden Catholic School, and Bishop Eustace School. We reached out to each school, generally their counseling office, to share the contest news with their Riverton students.

We were extremely pleased with all of the essays we received. Many thanks to our members and supporters who have contributed to the Writing Prize fund. We raised about $4500 for this new program, the implementation of which was delayed by disruptions to education during COVID.

HSR Board Member and Borough Historian Roger Prichard also expressed his pleasure with the result:

Only just now had a chance to read the essays, and aren’t they a gratifying effort? And Ben’s is the clear choice as the winner – well-organized, engagingly written, amazingly free of errors – and he used endnotes! In Chicago Manual of Style format! Well done, indeed.

Oh, and nobody had mentioned Ben’s other connection with history. (Riverton’s ALL about connections!)

Ben appears on our HSR marker for Riverton School in the iPhone picture four years ago, updating the classic postcard view.

He’s second from the right in the red t-shirt, photo taken by our own Mrs. Dechnik on February 26, 2018.

All good stuff, makes me grin!

Thanks to Heather and her blue-ribbon committee for making this happen.


The HRC returns – is it a sporting match or a philanthropic endeavor? Emphatically YES!

The 11th Annual HRC is Sunday, June 12th!

This year it benefits the Riverton Steamboat Landing Foundation, an effort to raise money to ensure the pier, which holds the Riverton Yacht Club, remains safe and intact for years to come.

USA Cycling races (Women’s Novice/4, Men Masters 40+, Men 3/4, Women P/1/2/3, men P/1/2), kids races 7-9yrs.

Tee shirts, cowbells, Mama’s Meatballs, Mobile Madison, Tricycle Cafe, Dj Big Daddy Blake and crew!

Please leave your comments below and give some loves on Facebook to Carlos Rogers, the originator of the Historic Riverton Criterium, for bringing this exciting family-friendly event to Riverton in 2011. (We don’t talk about 2020.)

Carlos Rogers has quite literally made history in Riverton in more ways than one. Besides bringing back a new era of competitive bicycling to Riverton after more than a century’s absence, perhaps no other individual in Borough history has proven to be a more generous donor to worthy local causes than he has – over $40,000 so far.

Just search “criterium” in the box at the lower left and see more posts about the race and the extraordinary generosity of Carlos Rogers.

RPS 8th grader Ian Polaneczky earns the 2022 Betty B. Hahle History Achievement Award

Ian Polaneczky, 2022 Betty Hahle History Achievement Award recipient

At a special meeting on May 24, 2022, the Riverton School Board Meeting presented the 2022 Betty B. Hahle History Achievement Award to eighth-grade student Ian Polaneczky.

The Historical Society of Riverton has sponsored the award each year since 2007 in memory of Riverton’s First Town Historian, former HSR President, editor of its newsletter, and relentless champion of historic preservationist battles, Mrs. Betty B. Hahle.

Betty B. Hahle award plaque

Ian received a $150 check and a certificate.

His name will be added to a plaque on display in a showcase near the school entrance.

Well done, Ian!

Honor Recognition Awards resumed after absence during COVID

What a wonderful evening was had by all at last night’s Awards Presentation (May 19). It was held in the activities room of the Presbyterian Church, with a delicious cake from L&M bakery & iced tea. Thank you Phyllis and Pat for the preparation.

The recipients, T. Robins Brown, Tracey Foedisch, Nancy Grimes, Joe Rainer, Paul Schopp, and Steve & Sue Schwering, all seemed very pleased and thanked HSR for the honor that they received.

Thank you,
Bill Brown, HSR President

Board Members Pat Brunker, Iris Gaughan, Roger Prichard, Phyllis Rodgers, and Bill Brown each expressed our gratitude to the individuals and presented them with a framed certificate, a historically themed mug, and a copy of Riverton’s just published Images of America book. Their edited remarks follow.

Bill Brown: Riverton for approximately 30 years Nancy Grimes has been a member of the 4th of July Committee, where she coordinates the Cocktail party.

She instituted a wreath program two years ago and donated the profits to the Historical Society of Riverton (2020) and to the Riverton Fire Department (2021). She fielded a small army of volunteers (with well-organized lists) who got them all hung in no time.

She was very active in the Riverton school as a member of the PTO. Nancy is community-oriented with a give-back attitude to help make Riverton a better place to live.

John Laverty: Joe Rainer has been up since 1 AM this morning handling the situation with the fire at his building at Broad and Main. He intends to get restoration work started immediately so that the affected business and apartments can be back in use as soon as possible…

…Joe started investing in properties in Riverton in 1986. He now owns 18 properties in Riverton, including nearly all of the commercial/mixed-use properties on the North side of the intersection of Broad and Main…

Joe is the Founder of Rainer Painting Company. Rainer Painting has… done charitable work in repainting the homes of military veterans in this area… painted Riverton Public School, The Riverton Fire Company Building, and the Riverton Police Station, and donated the materials needed for these projects…

We are very fortunate for the presence of his investments in our Town. So with the above in mind, I hereby present to Joseph Rainer this Recognition from the Historical Society of Riverton.

Iris Gaughan: Just about 100 years ago on September 25, 1922, Schwering’s Hardware store, then called Schwering’s Wayside Hardware opened its door for business. Steve’s grandfather was the first owner/proprietor. Schwering’s stock has changed many times over in the last 100 years, but what hasn’t changed is the professional and sincere service one always gets as a Schwering customer.

In the Gaughan household, it is a very rare week that goes by without at least 3 trips to Schwering’s.

Steve and Sue Schwering, congratulations on this Historical Society of Riverton recognition. You have continued to make Schwering’s Hardware a tri-boro community treasure. It is my honor to present you with this award.

Pat Brunker: T. Robins Brown has worked on the HSR archives since January 2019, approximately once a week for a few hours at a time, cataloging our collection of artifacts. She has nearly completed the 300 items in our clothing archives and is waiting to put them into an accessible database when we get one.

She will move on to catalog the other artifacts in our collection. She has also researched the people who donated items and come up with a comprehensive story of their connections to Riverton…

We are indeed fortunate to have the expertise of this retired professional architectural historian and historic preservationist.

What she has done is amazing.

Phyllis Rodgers: It is my pleasure to introduce Tracy Foedisch as a recipient of the HSR Recognition Award. For the past 25 years, Tracy has devoted her time to making Riverton a very special place to live by serving as chairperson of Riverton’s Fourth of July Committee.

Each year she spends countless hours to ensure that Riverton’s Fourth of July encompasses numerous memorable activities. Her idea of working with Circle of Friends to produce the Concert in the Park added yet another layer of festivities to an already awesome holiday…

As Tracy plans her last year as Fourth of July chairperson, we wish her the best and are forever grateful for her dedication and service to Riverton.

Roger Prichard: Paul Schopp has been researching and collecting information all his life about South Jersey, and specifically Riverton. He shares this passion for South Jersey professionally in his position as Assistant Director of the South Jersey Culture & History Center at Stockton University, where his work with their regional history publication SoJourn brings fascinating aspects of our past to life.

As a prolific contributor to our Gaslight News… his encyclopedic knowledge of these and many other subjects has been invaluable.

Even more than facts and context, Paul’s most lasting contribution has been to bring a professional’s skill at documenting HOW we know these things, an approach that has helped raised HSR’s activities well above those one might expect of the typical small, local historical society…

Paul has always insisted that we know what we’re talking about and we can document how we know that. The ring of truth always makes stories that much more engaging.

Until 2023, when we hope to acknowledge another group of people who have been instrumental in furthering our mission to preserve Riverton’s history.

“Research Your House” page revised

We added a new menu item to this website in 2016 to help folks find answers to one of the questions we get most: How do I find out about the history of my house, when it was built, who lived there, and when?

The centerpiece of the “Research Your House” page is a slideshow presentation that Patricia Smith Solin presented at a February 2016 meeting of the Society.

Pat has updated that work to present this May 2022 revision. In it, Pat walks you through the process by explaining basic research techniques utilizing HSR archives and online resources that will reveal the history of your Riverton home.


May 2022 Gaslight News #191

President’s Message

This has been an exceptional year for the HSR Board and its members. The citizens of Riverton and we were united and concerned about the possible demolition of the Grove’s Mansion, located 409-413 Lippincott Ave. Attendance was considerable for the Zoom meeting hearings conducted by the Planning Board, with four straight months of evidence and legal arguments presented on our behalf. Thanks to the Planning Board’s decision not to demolish this beautiful historic home, we were successful. (See more details later in this issue.)

Also, the HSR had entered into an agreement with Arcadia Publishing Company to prepare a book titled “Images of America – Riverton.” Congratulations to Faith Endicott, Roger Prichard, and John McCormick for their hard work and efforts. What an impressive achievement! When they submitted the completed draft, the publisher called Faith to tell her that it was the best one they had ever produced.

HSR Board member and Borough Historian Roger Prichard has completed the research and layout for another splendid historical marker for a cherished Riverton landmark that will be installed later this summer.

If you find the articles, images, and historic hometown newspaper archive on our website of value to you, if you support our efforts to research and promote local history, please consider this an invitation to partner with us in our efforts with your membership or a cash donation.

Warm regards,
William C. Brown Jr
President, Historical Society of Riverton

Spunky historic town bucks national “teardown” trend

At less than one square mile, Riverton is a small town known for its distinctive older homes, most of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Citizen volunteers from all walks of life take on many roles here. Twenty-five years ago, Riverton volunteers inventoried and researched all historic properties and successfully placed Riverton on the National Register of Historic Places. Riverton’s Planning Board consists of unpaid public officials and volunteers who are charged with balancing the public good with private rights and interests as they guide the orderly growth and development of the community. Historical Society of Riverton volunteers research and celebrate the historic structures and advocate for their preservation.

This grand Edwardian home was built for the owner of the
Baltimore and Philadelphia Steamboat Company.

In this roaring real estate market, a developer targeted Groves Mansion, a historic residence on a large lot with mature trees, originally the home of the president of a steamboat company. He applied to the Planning Board to tear it down and squeeze in three new vinyl-clad houses on Riverton’s prettiest historic street.

It was an unusual test of Riverton’s strong Demolition Ordinance and this volunteer community’s resolve to protect and enhance it. The town has prevailed – for now.

The developer tried hard to demolish the mansion over four lengthy hearings but failed by a vote of six to three. Dozens of residents attended Zoom meetings, and many spoke passionately about the homes they had restored, believing that the historic area around them would be defended.

Ultimately, the developer could not prove what he needed to under the law. When pressed, he refused to make his engineer available to testify and even denied access to an independent engineer hired by the Historical Society to make a thorough, unbiased examination.

The developer bought the property even though it is not zoned for what he wanted. He took a business risk that he could get an exception to the historic protections. Not all business risks pay off.

This is one historic house teardown that didn’t happen.

– Roger Prichard

Reflections on our Arcadia Images of America book cover image

How appropriate it is that our long-awaited Images of America book about Riverton will be on sale during Riverton’s Glorious Fourth this year!

There are over a hundred vintages with illuminating captions, many seen by the public for the first time.

Consider the cover illustration showing the start of the very first Duster Nationals at Riverton Yacht Club that The Philadelphia Inquirer ran on Sunday, September 8, 1946.

See the snappy guy in the suit out in the center of the pier?

He’s a press photographer, probably from the Bulletin, since our photo is from the Inquirer.

Here is a wonderful amateur shot of this dashing man taken by an unknown RYC member the same day.

I wish we knew his name. Don’t you love it – two newspapers covering a sailboat race in Riverton. Our man has his classic Speed Graphic camera at the ready.

This is how the shot appeared in the Sunday sports section of the Inquirer:

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 08 Sep 1946, p35

There is lots more going on in the crowd, and notice the group of ships across the river.

detail from photo published in The Philadelphia Inquirer Sept. 8, 1946

They are ex-WWII vessels in a scrap line. They were cut into pieces right there on the river’s edge at a scrapyard named Northern Metal.

Over the years, they cut up freighters, destroyer escorts, landing ships, and many other types of vessels. Later, a tanker built for the Navy for WWI arrived, but they didn’t cut it up.

2016 Northern Metals pier aerial Bing Maps

Instead, they made it into a pier by sinking it. It’s still there, right across from RYC (the pier with the pointy end!). This was the 1917 USS George G. Henry. See her Wikipedia article under her later name, USS Victoria.

Because it was a bizarre operation, it was a major source of water pollution here, with all the residue of crankcase oil and fuel going right into the river.

Barb Smyth vividly remembers sailing Dusters as a kid and always wearing her oldest clothes because if you capsized, you’d have smears of tarballs on yourself that were impossible to get out.

And in that context, consider that some considered the Clean Water Act of 1972 a controversial “overreach” by the government.

River pilots and tugboat captains still refer to this spot on the river as “Northern Metals” when communicating on the radio, even though that company went out of business as a scrap yard over 40 years ago (and its actual name was singular, “Northern Metal”). The current scrapyard that appeared in the last five or six years is unrelated to the old one.

Some RYC kids of that generation who are now well along in years yearningly recall rowing over there at night to see what they could “liberate” from the ships while the night watchman slept.

It was a different world.

1946-09-07 Duster Nationals start at RYC, by The Philadelphia Inquirer (ran in 1946-09-08 edition)

On July 4, 2022, our new 128-page Arcadia Images of America paperback book about Riverton will be available for $23.99 in front of Riverton Free Library at 306 Main Street. Richly illustrated with captioned vintage postcards and photos from our archives, the volume is sure to become a cherished keepsake for all Rivertonians.

– Roger Prichard

Memorial service for Bill Probsting at the Porch Club of Riverton, 11:30-1:30, July 4, 2022

We understand from Bill’s family that there will be a memorial service for him at the Porch Club on the Fourth of July. We reprint below our post from Oct. 9, 2021.

William C. Probsting, a valued member of the HSR Board, passed away at his home in Riverton on Monday, September 20, 2021.  A life-long resident of Riverton, Bill Probsting lived in the house on Howard Street that has been in his family for three generations. Bill was headmaster of Westfield Friends School from 1974 to 2013. After his retirement,  Bill continued to serve his community through membership on the board of the Riverton Historical Society and through involvement with other non-profit organizations in the area. Donations in his honor can be made to the Riverton Historical Society and to Westfield Friends School.

We will miss him.

Our annual Recognition Awards Meeting will be held on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at 7 PM in the Presbyterian Church meeting room.

Early Bird, 519 Main Street

We sincerely thank Nicole Rafter, proprietor of The Early Bird, the new eatery at 519 Howard Street, for selling our exclusive historically themed mugs that display images from our extensive archive.

She promptly sold out all 16 mugs and ordered another 16.

Milanese Pizza previously occupied that location and waaaayy before that, Silas J. Coddington moved his retail business there from the Price Building in 1919. You can catch a glimpse of the place in a scene from the 1926 Romance of Riverton film.

screen capture Romance of Riverton, Coddington Estate, 519 Main St

Isn’t it amazing how there is history everywhere in Riverton?

100 Years Ago

1922 Palmyra High School Football Team, PHOTO CREDIT: Harry Richman






top row: Carl Latch/ 2-? /3-?/ Roy Kersey/ Frank Probsting/ Richard Graham/ Joe Joyce Coach Harry Ivory
row 2: English / 2-?/ Wally Sullivan / Calvin Boal / Horace Richman / Wagner / Carl Lutz
front row: Baxter / Gil Palphyman / George Becton / Harold Wood

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Two photos fill in more bits of Riverton history

Pat Solin is still cataloging items in our collection, and she just sent me two scans of bands marching in the July 4th Parades of 1944 and 1945, respectively.

Please let us know if you can identify the band in the 1945 photo or can spot a family member in the Palmyra High School Band.

Now, if we just had a 1945 Tillicum Yearbook… hint-hint.

Click on that 1944 photo for a larger view and note the American Store next to Sparks and Keating’s Drugstore farther down, at the corner.

When you click on a photo for a larger view, look for the information icon, and click on that to reveal the “view full-size” link below for an even larger view.

We still have a wish list of long-gone businesses for which we’d like to have photos. Two examples: Mrs. Alfred Smith’s Store and The Sharon Shop operated out of 414 Main, albeit at different times. Look through those old family albums and see what more history you can find.

But the real bonus for this master of minutiae is that in the 1944 photo, we finally have a street view that shows the Carvel Sparks auto dealership that I wrote about two years ago – an essay sparked by an old matchbook.

See more about the Carvel Sparks Dodge/Plymouth auto dealership in the April 2020 post below.

Got a match, buddy?

Added 4/26/2022: A problem with Facebook is that comments, likes, and loves, made there don’t add to the historical record we are trying to create here.

This Facebook post earned much better reader engagement numbers than our usual and one comment, in particular, is worth preserving here.

Air Force veteran Scott Gilmore, a former Cinnaminson resident now living in Wichita Falls, TX, tells us that his father, Robert Gilmore, was the drum major in the 1944 Palmyra High School Band.


July Fourth Programs give us a glimpse into Riverton’s favorite day

We are still taking stock of items in our archive. Not the least among them are the July Fourth Program booklets. Pat Solin asked that we pass along a request that we’re seeking missing copies of the program booklets, especially those from the early days.

The following table indicates the number of booklets we have for each year. Where a year is missing, even a photocopy or scan would help. The goal is to have two originals for each year so please drop off any you care to donate at the library or mail to: Historical Society of Riverton, PO Box 112, Riverton, NJ 08077.