Betty’s Sage Advice

Riverton Yacht Club 12/26/2010
On December 26, 2010, I was driving through Riverton on my way to a post-Christmas celebration when I recalled Betty Hahle’s description of how spectacular gaslight-lined Elm Terrace looks when snow falls, so I decided to take a detour and snap some photos along the way. She once told me to not forget to record the history that is happening today.

21st Century Currier & Ives - 404 Main Street
I drove to the river to capture this wintry portrait of the Riverton Yacht Club rendered in murky shades of grey standing where it has weathered the elements on this pier in the Delaware River since 1880.

On the way back, I paused at the home at 404 Main Street which looked like it had the makings of a souvenir postcard, if only anyone still produced them.

According to the four-fold leaflet published by the Historical Society in 1989, “A Walking Tour of Historic Riverton,” researched and written by Betty Hahle, there are floor to ceiling windows with small iron balconies in the Italianate style house, built circa 1855. It was once called the “Home Mansion” and was a popular boarding house.

Riverton Walking Tour - side b
Riverton Walking Tour - side a

It's a Wonderful Life on Thomas Ave. 12/26/2010
Daylight was fading fast on Thomas even though it was still only late afternoon, and through my camera viewfinder I pretty much just saw a haze of white-on-white. With numb fingers I snapped this photo of a lucky kid being pulled up the street on a sled.

You can step back in time and view many vintage photos and postcards of the Riverton Yacht Club and much more by clicking on the IMAGES tab above. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor

Thank you, Mr. Daly.

Stiles Drug Store c.1916 606 Main Street
The building housing Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers’ New Leaf Tea Room and Gift Shop at 606 Main marked its 100th anniversary in 2010.  

Previous uses of the structure include a meat market for Ezra Perkins, a drug store, and a furniture store before Phyllis turned it into the highly regarded tea room that it is today. Seen below, the day after Christmas, the store looked like an icy confection, and the beribboned gaslight completed a picture which just as well might have been taken a several decades ago.  

Butcher Ezra Perkins had his shop at 606 Main Street
Probably few people realize that it is HSR member Paul Daly who has so faithfully hung the red bows on Riverton’s gas streetlights for so many years. 

I emailed him to tell him how much I appreciate it. I also asked how it was that he started to decorate the posts. He wrote back: 

1/17/2010 

I think it was …when I started (with the HSR) in 1988. Betty Hahle was our president and the Christmas (House) Tour was being held. She suggested that it would be nice if all of the gas lights were decorated. Somewhere along the way my hand went up and I said I would do my side of the tracks. …I got Harry Richman to help me… since he is tall he volunteered to put up the bows. 

The New Leaf Tea Room 12/26/2010
You should also know that Paul is our HSR treasurer and has been the go-to guy for so many essential tasks over the years. Despite setbacks caused by a serious operation in 2004, or a wrestling match with a ladder in which the ladder won, Paul has always returned to see that this tradition continues. A number of helpers over time have included Cathy, his wife, and various other persons whom could be persuaded to help. For the past several years, Paul’s neighbor, Grant Cole has shared the task. Paul continues: 

This year I asked for a dozen new bows to replace ones that were ripped off the posts and others that are worn. This did not happen and we were short six bows. Apparently, the other side of the tracks was not done at all. Is this one of the traditions that is going by the wayside? Thanks for asking.—PAUL 

A sincere Thank You to Paul and to all who have helped preserve this uniquely Riverton holiday tradition. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor 

P.S. There are more vintage images of 606 Main as well as many other places in and around Riverton. Click on the IMAGES tab near the top of the HOMEPAGE.

It’s déjà vu all over again

Dear Reader,

My wife Linda and I were each having a slice and diet Coke at Brothers Pizza a few days ago when Mrs. Susan Dechnik saw us through the window and came in to say “hi.” The subject of the impending February closing of the Cinnaminson Acme came up. Tsk-tsk. Where else can we shop for groceries and catch up on the local news?

Rivertonians must be used to it, because history has repeated itself once again. Mrs. Maureen Miller, one of the owners of the nostalgically decorated Nellie Bly Olde Tyme Ice Cream Parlour (http://nellieblys.com/), loaned me this photo to scan in May 2005, shortly after the store opened. A gentleman had come into the store and, realizing the possible connection, offered to let her copy it. I made her a print to hang on her wall and she let me retain the scan.

Pennylvania Railroad Nellie Bly schedule

Since then, professional historian Paul Schopp has confirmed that there was indeed an Acme store at 529 Main Street, the very same address now occupied by the Nellie Bly ice cream shop. The store, of course, takes its name from the famous “stunt reporter” and investigative journalist, Elizabeth Cochran who took the pen name Nellie Bly. Some area residents still recall the express train between New York and Atlantic City that bore the name, Nellie Bly, that Pennsylvania Railroad operated from early in the twentieth century until 1961. It regularly sped through Riverton during its journey.

Nellie Bly Express leaving Riverton

There are many vintage photos and postcards of Riverton, but any image of the Nellie Bly train remained elusive to me until Mr. and Mrs. Don Deitz found the negative for the photo below.  Pam’s father, Benjamin Percival, now passed, was an avid photographer who chronicled many of the milestones for the clan. Mr. Percival must have snapped the perfectly timed image just as the Nellie Bly passed the Riverton Station. The negative was in an envelope with the caption, “Nellie Bly” but no date.  Mr. William Harris, estimated that it was possibly taken about 1948 or 1949. At the far right is a ‘48 to ‘49 model Buick. The cars in the center are 1939 and earlier.

Today, the NJ Transit River Line runs along the same tracks as the Nellie Bly once did. Passengers can cross the street to enjoy a “Train Wreck” sundae at the Nellie Bly Olde Tyme Ice Cream Parlour and relax in the Victorian setting decorated with many vintage photos which is a tribute to the dare-devil female reporter.

Cinnaminson Acme 1/22/2011
Along with a long list of other “Things That Aren’t There Anymore”  such as the Cinnaminson Children’s Home, the 1940 Riverton Post Office, the bank at Main and Harrison which went through a number of incarnations, the Lyceum, and Dreer’s Nursery, we mark this passage of the Cinnaminson Acme even as we anticipate what will come in its place or wonder where we will discuss the latest local issues with neighbors. I took a last photo of the Acme before it becomes history. We can always shop elsewhere, but the “grapevine” will never be the same. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor

Illuminating Riverton’s Past

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the inaugural post of this blog for the Historical Society of Riverton. This new HSR website has much of the same content as the old one plus quite a bit more.

Much of the physical material upon which we depend for understanding Riverton’s past, such as maps, photos, postcards, documents, and text from various primary sources, is often in the hands of a few private collectors or securely locked away in the Society’s archives where few people can see them. People move away taking their collections with them, and historically important items may later be discarded. With the passage of time, history may be more dimly lit rather than more clearly revealed. Here, with your help, I hope to better illuminate some of those incomplete parts of our historical record.

A primary goal of this website is to educate and inform by making this physical collection available as a virtual collection to be accessed online. Vital to the growth of the size of the virtual archive that can be made available is your participation in this process. Here we can tap into that social network of present and former Rivertonians, wherever they may be now, in order to better “connect the dots” in our efforts to understand Riverton’s history.

There will be more additions in the coming months as I learn how to make use of the cool features of this WordPress template that Mike Solin customized for us, so check back to see what’s new. This will be no fun at all if no one out there is listening. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor

Titanic “Survivor” Speaks

Alisa DuPuy, historical re-enactor
Alisa DuPuy is a historical re-enactor and middle school French teacher who joined the HSR for an entertaining evening at the New Leaf Tea Room on Tuesday, November 30th at 7:30 PM.  Channeling the carefully researched personna of a fictional survivor of the 1912 Titanic sinking, Ms. DuPuy used authentic costume and the Victorian-themed decor of the tearoom to transport the audience back to the scene of the tragic sinking.

100th Anniversary of Riverton Public School

John McCormick created a Power Point presentation of the history of the current building, as well as previous school buildings here in Riverton.

The presentation, held at Riverton School’s gym/all purpose room, invited current and former alumni and staff to share in the celebration.  Special events are planned throughout the year at the school district.

Afternoon Tea with Mrs. Lincoln’s Coterie

Riverton welcomed Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Lincoln, to the New Leaf Tea Room for a special afternoon.  Guests were treated to an exquisite lunch tea, complete with a Civil War reenactment by actor Joann Tufo who protrayed a compelling Mrs. Lincoln.  The historically accurate and emotionally moving performance by Ms. Tufo brought rears to the eyes of guests upon hearing the tale of personal loss by the President’s wife who outlived three  of  her four sons and lost her husband to an assassin’s bullet.  The public education program was jointly sponsored by the HSR, and the New Leaf Tea Room and Gift Shoppe.  A special note of thanks to Phyllis Rodgers for hosting the program at her tea room in Riverton.