Riverton Led Riverfront With First Telephone

Riverton led riverfront with first telephone

Following up on a January 4, 2018 post about telephone numbers, here is a scan of a New Era article, possibly from the 1939 Anniversary Issue,  which explains the early days of telecommunication in Riverton.  -JMc

1909 Christmas Issue, The New Era, p23.

rev. 2/4/2018: Rummaging through our records, I found this history of Riverton’s telephone service from The New Era.

Well, ya got trouble, my friend, …right here in River City*

An ordinance adopted by the Borough Council in December permits a “limited brewery” as an acceptable use in the borough’s business districts.

“You’ve come a long way, Baby,” springs to mind.

In 1851, ten 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 businesses, founded Riverton.

In 1852, the State Legislature granted a charter to The Riverton Improvement Company which, among other things, issued deeds that included a clause restricting the sale or manufacture of liquor, which read as follows:

Shall not at any time hereafter manufacture or cause to be manufactured, sell or cause, or knowingly permit to be sold, directly or indirectly, in or upon the premises hereby conveyed, or any part thereof, any spiritous, vinous, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors, except as a medicine, or for medicinal purposes in case of sickness

Thirty years later, a  column in the Riverton Journal reinforced that decision with this opinion:

…the wise restriction of the Riverton Improvement Company… has saved us much of the intemperance, ill-feeling and brutality, which are the inseparable companions of the tavern and saloon. A drunkard is rather a curiosity on our streets.

Palmyra Weekly News, May 15, 1897

News of temperance movement meetings, conferences, and sermons, fictional stories with a temperance theme, and appeals to pledge abstinence peppered pages of the local periodicals of the day.

Today, over 160 years later, Riverton remains one of only three dry towns in Burlington County (Delanco and Pemberton are also dry towns in the county.)

Those Quaker founders must have thought the language was iron-clad and unbreakable.

As reported last October and November in the Burlington County Times, Courier-Post, and patch.com, that longstanding restriction of Riverton’s founders was about to give way as Borough  Council considered amending its zoning laws to allow a limited brewery to be a permitted use in the neighborhood business zoning district.

Now, that truly would turn a new page in Riverton’s history.

*lyric from “Ya Got Trouble” from The Music Man Soundtrack

By late December 2017, Borough Council did indeed adopt an ordinance which permits a “limited brewery” as an acceptable use in the borough’s business districts.

While the Borough has not yet granted a liquor license, the door is now open to allow a brewery as a potential use.

In a January 14 philly.com piece, columnist Kevin Riordan says he expects Riverton will embrace the idea.

What do you think, Riverton?

Will allowing a brewery bring trouble and ruin to our River City or will it bring enjoyment and an economic shot in the arm?   -JMc

Riverton Free Library still a treasured asset for 118 years

R Bowden Shepherd c1882 Christ Church Rector 1894-1911

The genesis for the formation of the Riverton Free Library Association originated at a meeting in January 1899, called for by the rector of Christ Church, Rev. R. Bowden Shepherd, for the purpose of forming a free library for local residents.

Within months, a group formally organized, adopted a constitution and bylaws, chose a board, elected officers, and opened in May 1899, in the Parish House with 800 books donated by Christ Church.

Riverton Free Library

The permanent home at 306 Main Street came in 1908, a gift from Mrs. Sarah Ogden in memory of her husband, Edward H. Ogden.

Riverton Free Library, now housed in the Victorian cottage on Main Street, has survived and flourished for more than a century due to the devotion of scores of people who have acted as its stewards, including board members, officers and staff, volunteers, and supporters.

Riverton Free Library October 2017

In researching to prepare for a historical marker commemorating the landmark, Patricia Solin and Roger Prichard have written a feature article for the January 2018 Gaslight News chronicling the history of the RFLA and the building that now serves as its home.

I revisited the building last week and met with Nancy Fort, the new Director. After getting a fresh exterior paint scheme last fall, workers had turned to paint the Library’s altered interior. The spirited conversation of adult card players enjoying a game filtered in from the next room.

Fine Box

Nancy Fort placed this antique wooden box on an old round oak table displaying the worn patina of decades of use. I had to wonder. What changes – not only to the building but also in its operation – had it witnessed over the years?

Please tell us about your memory of Riverton Free Library.    -JMc



Frozen again


Hey, I saw that movie Frozen. I just didn’t expect to experience it. What “act of true love” will break this icy spell and thaw our magic kingdom?

Popular Science explains here the weather phenomenon with the scary name bombogenesis, or “bomb cyclone” that put us in its grip. Winter Storm Grayson pounded us with high winds, coastal flooding, and punishing low wind-chill temperatures. In its wake, the jet stream aligned to deliver even more numbing frigid air from the area encircling the North Pole known as the polar vortex.

News accounts of yesteryear found in our Historical Local Newspapers remind us that Riverton has frozen and eventually thawed many times.

On New Year’s Day 1881, as Philadelphia recorded a low temperature of 4 degrees, no doubt Riverton residents suffered a similar condition. The January 15 Riverton Journal reported “snow ploughs have rendered sufficient service these past weeks” and “heavy snowfalls and the intensely cold weather” had suspended building activity in the developing town. The monthly periodical advised “the  sloop Addie C. Horner… is fast in the ice at Riverton pier” and that “sleighing promises to be in demand for some time to come.”

Business District of Palmyra, N.J., Broadway Theater marquee at left

Another cold spell occurred in early 1918. Philadelphia recorded 2 degrees on January 4. The January 11, 1911 issue of The Palmyra Record told citizens that a bad fall on ice caused Miss Emma Johnson to sustain a broken arm. Trains resumed a normal schedule after two weeks of “abnormal activity.” Mr. Powell Thatcher rendered assistance when Frank E. Chambers received a “cold plunge” as he was skating on the Delaware River. Water pipes had frozen in Palmyra’s Broadway Palace Theater and management advised: “repairs have been completed.”

Here is hoping that you and yours have been bearing up in this cold. If you have any pix of the recent storm, please send to rivertonhistory@gmail.com.  Look in our Historical Local Newspapers for more old news from the past and let us know what you uncover. -JMc

rev. 1-8-2018: Added photo. Click here for full view of the historical marker.

frozen Delaware River, RYC historical marker in foreground by Susan Dechnik 1-7-2018



What was your childhood phone number?

Can you recall your childhood telephone number?

Over sixty years ago in East Camden, my mother drummed it into my head – WOodlawn 4-0502. The word provided a mnemonic to help remember the phone number. Later, the letters were phased out and replaced by numerals.

In 2011, Carl McDermott shared with readers here a scan of his c.1928-1929 Riverton-Palmyra telephone book.

Jersey Journal, July 12, 1960, p4

Riverton Yacht Club’s number was Rivertn-444, and Rivertn-87 rang the school.  Back then, a caller rang for the operator and they told her the number for whom they were calling and she manually matched a cord to a jack to connect the parties.

In November 1960, Riverton was the first community in the state to substitute numerals for letters which increased the quantity of usable numeral combinations. The 10-digit number also permitted automated routing of long-distance calls, gradually rendering switchboard operators obsolete.

(Being first in the state to adopt all-numeral telephone numbers is at least better than being known as the place where Japanese beetles entered the United States.)

Area code 201 originally covered all of New Jersey when it was established in 1947. Within just ten years, a growing New Jersey population would need an extra area code. Area code 201 was split to form area code 609. Then 609 split to spawn 856. Over time, other area codes were put into service, and today New Jersey has nine telephone area codes.

In another option, the new area code overlays and covers the same geographic area as the existing area code, which allows existing customers keep their existing phone number. Look for area code 640 to overlay area code 609 later in 2018. NJ.gov predicts that the new area code will last for 46 years.

Who knows where it will end?

We sympathize with today’s parents trying to send their kindergartener off to school knowing their 10-digit home phone number. Then there is Mom’s cell, Dad’s, their work numbers, and more.

Although I still uselessly recall an old phone number, I remember few of today’s without looking at the contact list stored on my phone.  -JMc

Our New Year’s Eve Surprise – a map of Camp Lenape

Camp Lenape, undated map submitted by Michael Abbott

Urban sprawl and housing development in the late 1980s ended the existence of Medford’s 419-acre Camp Lenape that once served thousands of area Boy Scouts.

A June 2016 post here at rivertonhistory.com seems to be the reason that Google first directs anyone searching for Camp Lenape, Medford, NJ to this website. (Click here to see the illustrated article and readers’ comments.)

Since then, several visitors have added their own experiences to the narrative started last summer by Harlan Radford, a veteran of several summers at Camp Lenape in the 1950s.

Harlan has sought for years to find a map of the old campsite, and late this past New Year’s Eve, Michael Abbott dropped this one in our collective lap via email.

If seeing it stirs a memory about Camp Lenape or you can share further information or images, please leave a comment or email rivertonhistory@gmail.com. – JMc

RPS Class of ’81 booklet courtesy of Mary Pat

RPS Class of ’81 booklet

I recently noticed a Facebook post by George Longbottom on Riverton Public School in the Wonder Years in which there was a discussion about yearbooks.

Here is something Historical Society of Riverton member Mary Pat Laverty Peters sent to the Historical Society last May that will add to the dialogue.

Not a yearbook per se, but it does represent a moment captured in time for Riverton School eighth-graders almost thirty-seven years ago.

I can still smell that volatile duplicating fluid from making probably hundreds of handwritten and typed stencils to produce such mimeographed copies of worksheets during my years at RPS (1974-2009).

Pages in the Class of ’81 booklet display the characteristic hit-or-miss reproduction quality that is typical of the process now made obsolete by photocopiers and computers.

I increased the contrast when I scanned the pages in black and white.

Click on the link below for a 27 page PDF file (2.41MB) below to see every page from George McShea’s cover to a class list, a class history for each k-8 year, the Last Will & Testament, Class Prophesy, and staff signatures.

RPS_ Class_of_’81_Mary_Pat_Laverty_Peters

Thank you, Mary Pat, for taking your old, er…, former fifth-grade teachers, and perhaps a few classmates, down Memory Lane.

Warm regards,
John and Linda McCormick


The home of HSR Members, Mary Louise and Ken Smith, is rich in Riverton lore

Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan designed the Italianate Villa now standing at 503 Bank Avenue for Caleb Clothier, one of Riverton’s original founders. Later, Edward H. Ogden and Sarah Morris Perot Ogden owned the home. Both the Clothiers and the Ogdens had a transformative effect on the development of early Riverton.
On Sunday, July 30, 2017, Mary Louise and Ken Smith hosted a reunion at their historic Bank Avenue home for Ogden descendants.
This video documents the event and serves to illustrate much of the Riverton history witnessed by the home.
Mrs. Mary Louise Bianco-Smith narrates this informative video production that Colin Cattell, our youngest Society member, created.
See our 2011 post that describes a Clothier family reunion held at the Smith home.
In the March 2009 Gaslight News Mrs. Pat Brunker outlined Mrs. Ogden’s many accomplishments as a tireless leader of many Philadelphia social, civic, and philanthropic organizations and as the second president of Riverton’s Porch Club.
The May 2009 Gaslight News Mrs. Pat Brunker traced the life of Edward H. Ogden, the prominent Philadelphia businessman who was elected as Riverton’s first mayor and played key roles in the establishment of several local institutions, including the Riverton Yacht Club and Riverton Golf Club.
View the report by Nora Muchanic, NJ home of Strawbridge & Clothier co-founder spotlights Underground Railroad broadcast on Action News Aug 3, 2017.

– JMc

136 year-old Lucy the Elephant still amazes

In summer our thoughts turn to trips to the Jersey Shore, and if there is one place that families are sure to enjoy, it is visiting the only elephant in the world “you can walk through and come out alive!”

This weekend, Margate’s famous Lucy the Elephant celebrates its 136th birthday on Saturday, July 22. Once a home, a tavern, and now designated as a National Historic Landmark, the unusual six-story high structure is listed on the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks.

Find more details about Lucy’s birthday here.

See links below for earlier posts about this prodigious pachyderm.

A collector’s postcards stir memories of his lifelong link to Lucy

Boardwalk Empire scenes and old postcards recall shore visits

We always have room for another Lucy postcard. Contact us at rivertonhistory@gmail.com