East Riverton – Then & Now

Q: What do Riverton Gun Club, a stud bull named Pinochle Prince, a 1990s Halloween hayride, and the Villages at Cinnaminson Harbour have in common?

A: They all occurred at the same place but at different times. Here’s how.

In July 2020, my wife and I moved from Delran to a townhouse in East Riverton, within the Township of Cinnaminson. It’s a stone’s throw from Riverton, just across the Pompeston Creek.

Philadelphia_Inquirer, Feb 28, 1913, p3

If not for a defeated 1913 bill in the New Jersey Legislature that would have allowed its annexation, East Riverton might have been part of Riverton.

For the history of the early development of Riverton, I refer to three of Betty Hahle’s “Yesterday” columns.

Chester Twp detail, Map of Burlington County, Otley and Whiteford, 1849 (2.31MB map)

When the founders established the village in 1851, it was a few streets within the larger township of Cinnaminson, which was itself within the much larger township of Chester. Cinnaminson separated from Chester in 1860.

The village grew. In 1877, it added a section from Cottage Ave. to Thomas, from the river to the railroad. The” ‘Thomas Extension” c1882 moved the border down to Elm, and then after 1900, the land above the railroad opened up. Lippincott land began to be developed from the present upper boundaries toward the center of town. (GN 021, Feb 1981)

In December 1893, Riverton separated from Cinnaminson, as a borough. (GN 062, May 1991)

Courier-Post, Camden, NJ, May 17, 1902, p2

Above the (Pompeston) Creek is East Riverton, largely developed by realtor Charles Price, with the expectation that it would, when developed, become a part of Riverton.

Charles E. Price Map of East Riverton, c1890

However, in 1913 voters rejected the proposal, and so East Riverton has remained a part of Cinnaminson. Early in this (20th) century, the Riverton Gun Club (RGC) had its grounds along the riverfront there. (GN #088, March 1998)

The competitors at RGC shot live birds; hundreds perished during a typical day of shooting.

Sporting Life Magazine, Oct. 8, 1904

In 1904, the NJ Legislature passed a law making it illegal to shoot live birds so two club members decided to test the law’s constitutionality by shooting one in the presence of a constable.

Short story – the club lost.

Trenton Evening Times, May 9, 1907, p14

Pat Brunker catches us up on the disbanding of the club from a newsletter article she wrote on the history of the RGC.

A Special Meeting of the Riverton Gun Club was held at the Club House on July 18, 1906. The club decided to carry out the sale of the Club real estate and the Club property.

All household effects were sold (to David H. Wright), and the amount realized was in the neighborhood of $700. (GN #121, March 2006)

David Wright had opposed the shooting of live birds for sport, and after his purchase of the land, Wright renamed the gun club grounds Peace and Plenty Farm.

Advertisements in The New Era indicate that Wright sold milk and hatching eggs and offered the stud services of Pinochle Prince, a registered bull, for a fee of $5.00.

Wright later sold the farm to Joseph Rieder, who operated a cafe and inn on the premises as the Great Depression loomed. (Online inflation calculators claim that $1 in 1932 had the same purchasing power as $20.71 today.)

Rieder passed in 1932, and presumably, the land passed into the hands of another party. The use of that part of East Riverton for the next few decades is unknown. If a reader knows, please send us details, and we will revise this article.

The next time we hear of use for farmland in that area is for a Halloween hayride that existed from about 1993 to 2005.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug 20, 2004, pR01 illustration

The hayride’s days were numbered as Cinnaminson Township held a hearing in 1998 for a proposed development of 1,000 townhomes.

However, construction did not get underway until 2004.

Sales of the initial phase of homes began in January 2005, and the last haunted hayride occurred in October 2005.

It took about a century for suburban sprawl – the spread of urbanized areas into the rural landscape – to overtake what once had been Cinnaminson farmland.

Of course, suburban sprawl can negatively affect the environment. Realize, however, that when those men founded Riverton in 1851, they not only originated “…the first wholly planned residential subdivision in America” – they simultaneously started suburban sprawl.

No doubt, the Lenni-Lenape of the 17th century thought, “There goes the neighborhood,” as European settlers encroached upon the lands they had lived on for 12,000 years.

Finally, this last “show and tell” sprang from my curiosity about how a map of the old gun club might align with a present-day map.

Charles E. Price Map of East Riverton, c1890
East Riverton satellite google map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View an 18MB video clip that shows how the Riverton Gun Club location compares to that of Cinnaminson Harbour.

 

Groves demolition threat still looms

HSR President (and former Riverton Mayor) Bill Brown has delivered a letter to the Riverton Planning Board which details the many “questions about perceived serious procedural irregularities” HSR has received regarding hearings on the Groves Mansion at 411 Lippincott Avenue. Read the letter HERE.

For more information about the fascinating history of the Groves Mansion, see its Statement of Historical Significance by Borough Historian Roger Prichard HERE.

The next Planning Board hearing will be critical to its fate. It will be Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at 7:00, via Zoom at this link: https://zoom.us/j/99667220214?pwd=egmyc1ncm0tmtwruajb6b29dak9zut09

(If it asks for a Passcode, use 813512)

March 2022 GN #190 conclusion

Porch Club 2-16-2022 PHOTO: Bill McDermott

RIV101: History of Riverton 101
prerequisites: NONE
LECTURE HOURS/CREDITS: 1½/0

Roger Prichard PHOTO: Susan Dechnik

Borough Historian Roger Prichard presented a slideshow that might  well have been titled “History of Riverton 101” at the Porch Club on February 16 to an audience of about eighty appreciative HSR members and Porch Club members.

The central premise of the illuminating presentation is that the founders were almost all wealthy Quaker merchants from the Philadelphia area who were deeply committed to the abolition of slavery.

Roger’s extensive use of old photos, maps, newspaper clippings, and documents, many of which had not been seen by an audience before, delivered a very factual, vivid, and engaging picture of the birth of Riverton.

We hope to reprise this program for the general public sometime in the fall.


 

Membership Report from Heather MacIntosh Huffnagle

The Historical Society of Riverton welcomes new members Stephanie Brown of Riverton, Robert Lundstedt Jr of Mount Laurel, NJ, and Nicole Rafter of Riverton!

Thanks to those members who have already renewed. If you haven’t already, please send your dues via mail or by PayPal on our website (scroll down left side to find the PayPal button).

In addition to renewing their memberships, many members have made additional donations. As of March 16, 2022, we have collected $2,560 in extra contributions! Many thanks to those members: C. William and Joan Biddle, Pat Brunker, Steve Cawley, William and Jo Ann Corbi, Ed and Joann Costigan, Hank and Jill Croft, Joseph and Michele Daniel, Donald and Pamela Dietz, Joe and Eileen DellaPenna, Dennis and Janet DeVries, Jeffrey DiFrancesco and Stephanie Zarus, Eileen Gilbert, Paul Grena, James Griffin, Henry Parrish Hackett, William and Nancy Hall, George and Mary Honeyford, Helen Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Michael and Mary Kate Kearney, Alan and Helene Lilholt, Robert Lundstedt, William and Mary Markiewicz, William and Patricia McDermott, Eleanor Paladino, John and Barbara Palko, Mary Pat Peters, Paul Schopp, Michael Spinelli, Dorothy Talavera, and Richard H. Winans Jr.


Writing Prize for High School Students

Pre-COVID November 2019 seems like a lifetime ago.

100 Lippincott Ave. 11-21-2019

Huffnagle hosted a brilliant House Party at the historic Coales’ home with the goal to establish cash awards to encourage students to author local history articles using primary source material.

The event raised over $4,000, but we are only now able to discuss how to frame the program. At an HSR Board meeting on March 15, the group talked about the writing prize and targeted April 1 as the day to announce details regarding our inaugural award. Stay tuned!


 

Riverton Arcadia book is coming July 4

Arcadia Book Project Manager Faith Endicott reports that our illustrated 128-page paperback Arcadia Images of America book about Riverton is on the way to the presses. It will contain several images not previously seen by the public. We expect to receive our 300 pre-ordered books in time to sell on July 4.

The price is $23.99. We are preparing to accept payment in cash, Venmo, and PayPal. We plan to set up in front of the library. More details to follow.

 


Before & After: Discoveries in Historic Preservation, a presentation by Dan Campbell, 7pm on Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Gaslight News #182 published in January 2020 an announcement of Dan Campbell’s March 26 presentation.

Meanwhile, a scientist in China confirmed that a mysterious new pneumonia-like illness identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, could be transmitted from human to human. The US saw its first case of the disease, later named COVID-19. By February, cases of COVID-19 multiplied around the world, and by March, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

The presentation never happened, and we haven’t held a General Membership Meeting since.

After a 25-month delay caused by COVID restrictions, we are pleased to announce that Dan has graciously agreed to give his talk on April 21, 2022, at Riverton Free Library.

Daniel Campbell, AIA, is a widely recognized multi-state licensed architect whose specialty is the restoration and preservation of historic architecture. He is also a past HSR president and former Gaslight News editor.

During his eighteen years in Riverton, Mr. Campbell restored and rehabilitated his residence at 16 Carriage House Lane while designing four new residences.

Dan was part of the Riverton Steamboat Landing Foundation Project Team that completed the restoration of the Riverton Yacht Club. The project won a 2001 NJ State Historic Preservation Project Award.

In 1999, after several years of careful and exhaustive research by Society members and the Borough led by Daniel Campbell, Keith Betten, and Betty Hahle, the National Register of Historic Places designated Riverton Historic District.

Mr. Campbell’s 40-slide PowerPoint incorporates many detailed drawings and photos of projects he has executed over his career in PA, NJ (including Riverton), DE, MD, & SC.

A Gaslight News article on organizing our archives

We really need to clean up this place more often.

Funny what turns up when you just turn over a couch cushion. Well, not really – we don’t actually have a couch. Or a clubhouse, for that matter.

But metaphorically speaking, the housecleaning in our storage area these past few months has turned up more than just loose change.

For more than a year, our HSR Archives Committee has taken advantage of our COVID-induced meeting inactivity to organize, catalog, and archivally store items in our collection. In taking stock, they have found some happy surprises. (See more in GN #186 May 2021, GN #187 Aug 2021, GN #188 Oct 2021, GN #189 Dec 2021)

Four recent cases in point:

#1. New glass plate negative
Archivist Keith Betten turned up an orphaned glass plate negative that he figured was of Bank and Main and gave it to Board Member and Borough Historian Roger Prichard to see if he could get a scan of it.

Roger reports that indeed it is – and quite a wonderful little time machine. He explains:

Scanning glass plates isn’t entirely successful unless you have the advanced equipment that the Conservation Center does, which we used for the collection of 19 plates last year. (See Issue #186, May 2021)

407 Bank Glass Plate neg. coll. HSR

But I was able to get a usable scan from my flatbed, and here it is. (It is a passable web-resolution scan; the Conservation Center will do better.)

The date is unknown and could be in quite a range, though generally turn-of-the-century. It can’t be any earlier than 1882 when the Fitler family bought the house and rebuilt it, as you see here.

Not sure what’s the latest it could be… the town had dirt streets well into the 20th century, and I don’t know how late the last oil-burning street lamp was removed (see at extreme right).

In his book, Tale of Three Towns, Lloyd Griscom wrote, “In 1880 some fifty oil street lamps were installed on the few streets constituting Riverton at that time. Lemuel H. Davis organized this project, which was supported by popular subscription. Ann Holvick was named as a lamplighter at $7.50 annually per lamp. These lamps survived until 1908 when the Borough replaced them with picturesque gas lights.”

Former HSR President, newsletter editor, and Borough Historian Betty Hahle wrote that the first gas street lamp was installed on Lippincott Avenue, near Broad, in 1908, as a test, or exhibition piece. Shortly after that, inspired by the success of the new lighting system, Riverton installed 51 lights and Palmyra, 60.

Dietz #3 Tubular Street Lamp

Here’s a crop of just the street lamp (a Dietz #3 Tubular Street Lamp model later renamed the Pioneer).

Who was the photographer? That’s a mystery to me. The whole feel of it is different than the collection in the box, but it’s about the same era. It’s also about the same era as the 5×7 album prints we got from eBay that I suspect were taken by W.R. Ellison (next door at 403 Bank).

Weekly News (Palmyra) Feb 26, 1898, p2

Photographer David Lothrop (who lived in Iris and Rich Gaughan’s house) was also very active at this time and did take photos of Bank Avenue houses. We got several among the great things that Miller Biddle gave us back in the Fall and I have yet to scan), but those were much more formal, not artistic/atmospheric like these.

There’s more detail on the plate than my scanner can pick up because of haloing on the thick glass plate so we should plan on paying the Conservation Center to scan it one of these days.

Thought you’d all enjoy this little excursion! -Rog

Yes, Roger, thank you for a step back in time. It must be cool for a homeowner to see a photo of their house from 100+ years ago. If you have a 50plus-year-old picture of your home that we could add to our collection, please send it to rivertonhistory@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, your Gaslight News Editor looked back to other times we wrote about the gas street lamps. Here’s a summary:

In his book, Tale of Three Towns, Lloyd Griscom wrote, “In 1880 some fifty oil street lamps were installed on the few streets constituting Riverton at that time. Lemuel H. Davis organized this project, which was supported by popular subscription. Ann Holvick was named as a lamplighter at $7.50 annually per lamp. These lamps survived until 1908 when the Borough replaced them with picturesque gas lights.”

Former HSR President, newsletter editor, and Borough Historian Betty Hahle wrote that the first gas street lamp was installed on Lippincott Avenue, near Broad, in 1908, as a test, or exhibition piece. Shortly thereafter, inspired by the success of the new lighting system, Riverton installed 51 lights and Palmyra, 60. (Also see March 30, 2011 post Welsbach Gaslamps Are Century-Old Fixtures Here)

#2 An Early Map Finds Its Way Home, Archivist Keith Betten explains:

At the very end of January this year a curious document found its way to the “desk” in the HSR’s Archival Area. A note which accompanied it indicated that it had somehow been included with the used books and media items regularly offered for sale on Sunday afternoons in the basement of the Riverton Free Library.

When a patron offered to purchase the item, which appeared to be an old, hand-drawn map, the sales volunteer on duty, Janice Pappenberg, indicated that she didn’t know how that particular document had wound up on the bookshelves there but was pretty sure that “we don’t sell old maps”. She set it aside, and that is how it eventually found its way to the “Archives Desk.”

Great save, Janice!

When it was carefully unfolded, from right to left (south to north), the hand-drawn images at first held the possibility of an important link to Riverton’s early history; featuring a side-wheeler plying the Delaware River close to the shore, and a steam locomotive, with billowing smoke approaching a railway station, but when fully unfurled, it revealed that it depicted the confluence of the Rancocas “River or Creek” and the Delaware River.

It, in fact, depicted properties “adjoining the town of Progress” (now Riverside, NJ) based on a survey of the area made by Benjamin H. Lippincott, on October 6th, 1853. Because the document did not conform with “Riverton only” accessions policy developed by the Archives Committee, and approved by the HSR board, it was presented, to and was gratefully received by Riverside Historical Society president, Alice Smith, at their archives and museum on February 10th. That society intends to have it restored and prominently displayed.

Ed. note: We hope to get a better image than this cellphone snapshot.)

Riverton Free Library, undated
Riverton Free Library original scan

#3 A “new” photo of RFL (Appeared previously in GN #186, May 2021)
Former RPS Librarian Mrs. Pat Solin actually relished the job of delving into the Library’s catacombs to inventory items. So it was with a certain glee that she sent us a hi-resolution scan of an undated and uncaptioned photo that she found. (See the original at left; photo-edited at right)

While a group email among Board Members awaited a consensus about its origin and date this Editor was motivated to post it along with a number of other vintage and modern views of our favorite library. (See them all here.)

#4 Riverton Laundry 1944 Calendar Keith Betten explains:

Pat Solin has completed a masterful organization of the extensive files of the Historical Society of Riverton, ranging over the course of more than fifty years since its founding, and I continue to organize our “Images of Riverton” collection, which includes vintage and contemporary photographs, slides, video and digital formats of people, places, and events.

Riverton Laundry Calendar, c1940s

In early February, I happened upon a relic from a Riverton business, probably issued in the 1940s. During that time, the Riverton Laundry, a fairly extensive operation located in East Riverton, seems to have produced what has to be termed “rather risqué” calendars for selected customers and maybe for the boys overseas.

The calendar page is gone, but the image, in vivid color, was saved. Typical of the (pardon the expression) “girlie calendars” popular at the time, it will become a part of the HSR’s “Private Riverton Businesses” archival collection.

1943 Riverton Laundry Calendar, Jerry Mooney PG edit

Ed. note: Keith says “…probably issued in the 1940s” because coincidentally, HSR member Jerry Mooney brought to our attention a 1943 pinup calendar of his that also advertises the Riverton Laundry.

Riverton Laundry ad, 1939 New Era Anniversary Issue

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some Riverton Laundry ads from The New Era.

Thanks to our ability to search through 50+ years of our newsletters, I found this acknowledgment on page 4 of GN #125 Jan 2007.

Trish and Geno Mori recently donated a calendar from the Riverton Laundry. The date is unknown as the calendar part has been removed, but the top portion of the calendar has a lovely nude female figure on it.”

Mystery solved!

Should you find any Riverton-related items during your spring cleaning, please consider donating them to the Society. I am weary of hearing someone say, “Oh, I had one of those. Threw it out.” Some of our best finds have been rescued from the trash.

 

A Gaslight News article on Changes at “The Point” 1851-Present

Changes at the Point
1851-Present
Patricia Smith Solin and John McCormick

The Point at Main & Howard Sts., Riverton, NJ

The Point at Main and Howard Sts. in Riverton has been a town feature since its founding in 1851. Using information in our archives, maps, and new research, we compile several changes the location has seen over the years and invite our readers to add more material to amplify the story.

detail, Map of Burlington County, Otley and Whiteford, 1849

Before Riverton was a new town, the Lippincott, Toy, Thomas, and Morgan families owned most of the farmland in the area. Riverton’s Quaker founders, members of the urban mercantile aristocracy, sought to establish a picturesque refuge in a rural setting removed from the pressures of city life.

The founders wanted it to be more than just a summer haven for their families; they envisioned a community with other families and services to enhance their proposed village. The founders purchased 120 acres from Joseph Lippincott, and they engaged Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan to develop the town plan and design Riverton’s first buildings.

Plan of the New Town of Riverton c1851

A map, likely published in early 1851, with the cumbersome title of Plan of the New Town of Riverton, NJ, beautifully situated on Cinnaminson shore on the River Delaware, Eight miles above Philada. shows the early street and plot plans in what was once all farmland.

American architect Henry Russell Hitchcock declared that Riverton was “the first wholly planned subdivision in America.” The town would not simply be a row of grand villas along a waterfront, but the founders also planned to include spaces for churches, schools, and businesses.

Porch Club large map – Plan of the New Town of Riverton c1851
PC New Plan of Riverton map GWShinn Store c1851 detail

A similar but much larger map on display at the Porch Club, likely published later in 1851, clearly shows a practical building with the auspicious central location at the point of Main and Howard Streets – Riverton’s first general store.

First Store
The Riverton Improvement Company (RICo) thoughtfully recognized that with most of the early founders living in Philadelphia, they needed a local community agent to help manage inquiries as well as provide “licenses and limited supplies.” (“Robert’s Brick Store,” July 4th Program, BBH, 1998).

RICo built the store directly across the street from the Camden & Amboy Railroad station, already located on Broad Street, and designated two men as contacts for the new community: George W. Shinn and Chalkley Gillingham.

PC New Plan of Riverton map c1851, lots for sale GWShinn detail

George Wolfe Shinn (abt. 1835 – after 1920)
The Riverton Improvement Company hired sixteen-year-old George W. Shinn, a local farmer, to manage the store when it opened in 1851. As agents, he and Chalkley Gillingham (1807-1881), who lived near Moorestown on a large farm that he managed, provided information about the town. Gillingham was one of the founding investors of the village but chose not to live in Riverton.

Public Ledger (Philadelphia) May 7, 1851, p4

A carpenter, Shinn may have helped build the store, and from the map caption, we may infer that he lived in a room on the premises. Shinn was an employee of the RICo, not the owner of the property or the business. Shinn also acted as a rental agent for homes in town, such as Rodman Wharton’s home on Main Street.

Chalkley Gillingham, c1870

Chalkley Gillingham (1807-1881)
Chalkley Gillingham was a Quaker minister whose ancestors came to this country with William Penn. He moved from Frankford, PA to manage the Benjamin Warrington farm in Moorestown. Chalkley married, as they say, the farmer’s daughter; he and Keziah Warrington met here in NJ at her father’s farm. Quaker Meeting Records show that he wed her in 1833 when he was about 26.

As one of Riverton’s ten founders, the plan earmarked the lot at 100 Main Street for Chalkley Gillingham. He chose not to move to the new village but remained a stockholder for several years.

Founders homes, Plan of the New Town of Riverton, 1851

The US Census records them in Moorestown in 1840 and 1850. However, they moved in December 1852 to Virginia to seek hardwood forestry opportunities and run a slave-free farm during the Civil War. He established Quaker Meeting Houses and schools for white and black children. On January 22, 1881, he died and was interred at Woodlawn, VA.

New Map of Burl Co, Parry, Sykes, and Earl, 1859 Riverton detail

Business District
Just eight years after its founding, a detail from the 1859 New Map of Burlington County by Parry, Sykes, and Earl shows houses scattered throughout the town from the railroad to the river and several buildings including the store managed by G.W. Shinn.  

Riverton, Hopkins, 1877

By 1870, James Brown (1839-1894) managed the store. The 1880 US Census shows him as immigrating from England with his wife, Alice, whose occupation was grocery storekeeper.

In 1872 the RICo’s incorporation ended, and “the Biddle brothers” purchased all unsold Riverton properties, including the store.

Around 1878 William M. Thomas (1846-1920) and Howard H. Thomas (1850-1907) purchased the business and property. They were the sons of William S. (1808-1888) and Rebecca Thomas (1810-1881), owners of the farmland that extended from Thomas Avenue to Elm and from the river bank to the south line of the original County Club property.

Riverton Journal, August 16, 1882, p2

In 1882 the Thomas brothers later sold the general store to Joseph M. Roberts. The manager, Henry Roberts (1845-1916) (no relation), a bookkeeper, worked in the store.

Riverton Journal, September 15, 1882, p3

Joseph Middleton Roberts (October 15, 1855 – June 28, 1932)
Born in Chester, NJ, Roberts married Anna Margaret Shaw (1857-1942) on December 25, 1878, in a Quaker Sealing and had four children: Anna Shaw Roberts (1881-1968); Gertrude Shaw Roberts (1885-1976); Eugene Walton Roberts (1888-1964)-dentist; and Joseph Middleton Roberts, Jr. (1894-1984)-farmer.

After purchasing the general store, Joseph M. Roberts purchased a plot of land from Edward Lippincott’s undeveloped farmland parallel to Main Street. There, he built a house in 1885 at 407 Lippincott Avenue, next door to the Groves Mansion. He and his family lived there for 62 years before his heirs sold it in 1946.

Kate McGlindon, Ezra Lippincott family cook

A side note: HSR Board Member Mrs. Nancy Hall recalled for the Gaslight News (#139, March 2010, p. 5) a family story about Robert’s Store and her Great-Grandfather Ezra Lippincott’s Irish cook named Kate McGlinden.

Ezra Lippincott and his son J. Lawrence Lippincott developed much of the enlarged town of Riverton at the turn of the 20th century. Ezra built the house that is today the central building of the Baptist Home, now Riverview Estates.

It seems that Kate purchased for the household from Robert’s Store a box of Strike-Anywhere matches—and they wouldn’t!

She returned them to the store owner, who promptly took one of the wooden sticks from the box and, to prove the performance of his merchandise, he struck it on the rear of his pants.

Kate the Cook responded, “Sure’n I should be carryin’ Joe Roberts’ arse around all day.”

Kate returned to her kitchen with a new box of matches.

1886 Hunter and Richards Map of Palmyra and Riverton, Roberts Store detail

Fire, 1890
Segway to a spectacular fire for which the village was not prepared. It destroyed the store and led to the formation of the Riverton Fire Company.

Philadelphia Inquirer, January 13, 1890, p1

From Lloyd Griscom’s Tales of Three Towns (p.48):
“On January 11, 1890, a disastrous fire broke out in the stable adjoining the old Shinn store operated by Joseph M. Roberts in the center of town, destroying the store, William Wolfschmidt’s barbershop, and the home of Rebecca Faunce. A bucket brigade concentrated on saving Louis Corner’s home nearby, the fire in other buildings being out of control.”

The inferno destroyed the 1851 store and other buildings because the fire hose was too short of reaching it from the hydrants.

The loss of property was estimated at $12,000, or $368,000 in today’s dollars.

New Era 1939 Anniv Issue, Sec 2, p1, First quarters of Riverton Fire Co

Within the next two months, the volunteers purchased a small hose shed at 5th & Main Sts., adopted a constitution and bylaws, elected officers, and became incorporated as The Riverton Fire Company of Riverton, NJ.

Meanwhile, the undaunted 26-year-old merchant continued to sell goods from a temporary structure on the site while builder Edward Pancoast promptly replaced the old store by the fall of the same year with a large, multi-story brick building.

Wolfschmidt’s Barbershop, Riverton, NJ, 1894 photo

Barber Wolfschmidt also replaced his structure with one of brick. It remains there today as a residence.

1909 New Era Christmas Issue, p3

Roberts named his new modern beauty, The Brick Store, as he also had another brick store in Palmyra.

Roberts’ new “Flat Iron” store at The Point in Riverton provided fresh and canned fruits and vegetables, “satisfaction guaranteed.”

Roberts Store receipt, 1908

He offered a wide variety of groceries, meats, and dry goods such as notions, chinaware, hardware, tinware, paint, glass, and other general merchandise. Camden’s Morning Post said of the store, “…you could get anything from a safety pin to a sewing machine at his store.”

Postcard detail: Riverton’s second railroad station opened in 1887, replacing the first one that once stood on the lot now occupied by the Riverton War Memorial. Note Roberts Store, built 1890 on point. The view is toward the river at Broad & Main.

The second floor had a large room that served as a meeting place for local organizations and a venue for entertainment and athletic events.

Roberts Store, Broad and Main, 1907, postcard detail
1905 Sanborn Insurance Map, Roberts Store detail

Shopkeepers rented several smaller rooms and a third floor served as storage—an upholsterer, clothing retailer, and clothing cleaner each rented space in the building for a time. The New Era newspaper and the Cinnaminson Bank conducted business there before moving to other quarters.

 

1939 New Era Anniversary Issue

Mt. Zion AME Church began as a missionary society in 1896, meeting in the Roberts Store second floor. The congregation moved to its present location at 3rd & Penn Sts. in 1909.

Shortly after its late-1890 opening, local citizens raised money to install “a fine drinking fountain for man and beast . . . a welcome addition until cars replaced horses.”

Weekly News (Palmyra), July 2, 1898 p2

The origin of the July 4th Parade traces to 1897 when  Charles W. Davis and Alfred J. Briggs organized the first Children’s Flag Parade. The procession formed at Roberts Store on the Point, each child received a silk flag, and all marched to the riverbank, where singing and oration followed. Aquatic events and then fireworks ended the day.

 

Jos. M. Roberts store ad, New Era, February 2, 1928, p8

Roberts conducted the store until 1927 when he sold out to the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, or the A&P.

He maintained a smaller store out of the same building until his death.

 

New Era, June 30, 1932, p1

Joseph Roberts died from complications of a stroke in 1932 and was buried in Westfield Friends Burial Ground.

The Roberts Store: Just a Memory
Upon Roberts’ death, the family closed his small store and sold the inventory.

A&P, 528 Main St., Riverton, NJ, undated photo

When the A&P struggled to meet its expenses, the store moved across the street to 528 Main in November 1935.

Joseph Roberts’ heirs found out that they owed back taxes. Amid the Great Depression, they had to choose from dire alternatives—raze the building or sell it to a developer. Discussions arose between the heirs and the town about converting the space into a park.

Roberts Bldg. razed, July 1938, scan courtesy of Mary Flanagan

Negotiations between the family and the borough to create a park broke down, and the building came down in 1938.

New Era, June 4, 1936, p2

The Woolston family, former carriage makers, purchased the property and constructed a gas and service station at 515 Main Street to complement their automobile agency on Howard St.

Another incarnation was Reynolds’ Service Station. Oddly, because of our access to old Riverton newspapers, it is easier to research the older events than it is the newer ones.

Please contact us if you have any photos or information about that chapter of the property.

Joseph Rainer bought the property in 1994 and for a time used it for his painting business. In 2002 he tore down the structure to three walls and transformed it into the Victorian ornamented structure that stands there today. Various businesses have since rented the building, the most recent being Haven Hair Design Studio.

Marcus Tullius Cicero famously said, “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” A major purpose of our Society is to create an awareness of our heritage by explaining how individuals and groups throughout our history have shaped the town of today that we cherish.

ADDED 4/20/2022: We are so pleased when a reader contributes images or information that further develops a story. We just received this email from HSR member Mary M. Flanagan:

I saw an article in the Gaslight News recently asking for information on the former service station at 515 Main St. after it passed to John “Jack” Reynolds. I contacted Allen Reynolds who is a son of Jack’s to see if he could contribute any information. Below is what Allen sent to me.

Reynolds Service Station photo from Mary Flanagan
  • Prior to 1947 – Charles T. Woolston was the original owner. My father was  employee.
  • Sept 1947 – Woolston and my father went into partnership (Woolston and Reynolds Service Station).
  • Sept 1959 – Woolston opted out of partnership. My father bought Woolston out (Reynolds Service Center).
  • However, Woolston continued to own the building, leasing it to my father.
  • Jan 1980 – My father dies. I keep business. With my father’s death, building lease expires. I have to purchase it to keep business operating.
  • 1986 – Business closed. Building sold to Robert S. Moccia Enterprises, Inc.

That was wonderful of Mary to track down this photo and information. I had to look carefully at that photo in case our old Ford Torino was in there as I often dropped off our car there for service on my way to Riverton School.

Regular visitors may recall Mary’s contribution of scans of remarkable family photos and postcards that I have previously used to illustrate website and newsletter articles. She gave us images of some people, things, and places that literally have no other representation in our records, so in that regard they are priceless. Here are three:

If you persevered to the end, how does viewing the article in this blog format compare to viewing the usual newsletter PDF?

 

Groves Mansion UPDATE: Planning Board hearing scheduled for THIS Tues. 1/25.

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

James Brandenburger’s JRB Property Group, the owner of the Frederick S. Groves Mansion at 411 Lippincott Avenue, now wants to tear down this 1901 home of a steamboat company president after telling everyone for the past 10 months that he was going to sell it for restoration (without its side yards, on which he wanted to build new houses) and that he had a qualified buyer under agreement.

The Historical Society of Riverton and many neighbors have followed this situation closely and with growing concern, as that qualified buyer seems to have disappeared and the current owner has done no visible maintenance all year. Now it is listed on the Planning Board’s website for a hearing for a “Demolition Permit.”

Anyone can attend the hearing via Zoom here: https://zoom.us/j/99667220214?pwd=egmyc1ncm0tmtwruajb6b29dak9zut09 PASSCODE: 813512

Documents filed so far are available here.

The home is a “contributing resource” to our Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Riverton Zoning Code zones the Mansion for preservation with a solid demolition ordinance. You’ll see that it flatly says you cannot demolish for the purposes of subdivision, and otherwise, the owner must prove that it can’t economically be made “safe for habitation or use” and that costs relating to “normal maintenance” cannot be considered in that calculation.

Brandenburger has not yet revealed what his arguments in favor of demolition might be. It will be interesting to see, considering that we have heard from several folks interested in buying the whole place to restore, not just “make safe for habitation.”

This developer has a history of teardowns, including a similar situation in Haddon Township in 2017. Riverton, though, is a National Register Historic District and has a Master Plan that sets strong public policy against projects such as this.

This article is a follow-up to previously published columns in the May 2021 and August 2021 issues of the Gaslight News as well as in these website posts – A unique Riverton restoration opportunity! April 13, 2021 and Save the Groves Mansion and grounds; Save the neighborhood Aug. 20, 2021

Riverton School Class Photo Day – 100 years ago

Look closely, you might find great-great grandpop or grandmom in these Riverton School class photos for kindergarten, first, and second grades from 1921.

Riverton Public School class photos

Don’t imagine that Riverton School has class photos going back to 1910.

The Historical Society doesn’t either but we have a few that people have either donated to us or loaned and scanned.

RPS 1921 Grade 3, thank you to former Riverton teacher Mrs. Kloos

Added 11/9/2021: A question across the miles from Mary Pat (Laverty) Peters prompted me to look for more 1921 pix. I found this one I scanned in 2007, on loan from Mrs. Mabel Kloos. It’s her father’s 3rd grade class.

RPS 1921 Grade 4 Albert F. Yearly, first row, 2nd from right

One more – it is a low-resolution scan that was sent to me by the Yearly family.

If you have any old Riverton photos to give or loan please contact us. If you scan any yourself, please scan at 600dpi or better and send it to rivertonhistory@gmail.com. Names and dates are always a bonus. -JMc

 

 

No tricks; the treats are on us

Riverton Walking Tour brochures at Riverton Library

Fall is a brilliant time to walk the village and discover the local history displayed in eight historical markers.

There’s more to come, thanks to a generous donation in 2016 from Carlos Rogers’ Historical Riverton Criterium that established the program which shares expenses between the HSR and the property owners.

Pick up your Walking Tour brochures for a $1 donation at Riverton Free Library or Tillie’s Trinkets & Treasures.  Also,  free printable copies of each are available by clicking on the links below. -JMc

Riverton Walking Tour #1 -download printable 3.24MB PDF

Riverton Walking Tour #2- download printable 2.46MB PDF

 

Help Wanted: We need some House Tour booklets

2016

Regular readers of this website know that we are a bit obsessive-compulsive about finding lost history and completing collections.  Ok, really a lot of OCD.

Many hundreds, perhaps a few thousand, of folks have attended the Candlelight House Tours sponsored by Friends of the Riverton Library over the years. If you have a booklet for a year that we are missing, please either give it to us, send us scans, or lend it so we could scan it for our files.

We already have these booklets: 1976; 1978; 1980; 1984; 1986; 1988; 1990; 1992; 1994; 1996; 1998; 2001; 2003; 2005; 2007; 2009; 2011; 2013

So you’re wondering if they were held every other year, why did years switch from even to odd after 1998. And, was 1976 the first House Tour?

Inquiring minds want to know. Please comment below if you can help bring this bit of Riverton history up to date.