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.
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.
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.
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
One Society member commented that the homes on the December 3rd Candlelight House Tour December were “…historic and all quite beautiful.” This extraordinary biennial event invites the public inside some of the most distinctive homes and buildings in historic Riverton to raise funds for the Riverton Free Library.Hundreds of admirers of 19th century architecture came from throughout the greater Philadelphia and South Jersey areato view the historic buildings all beautifully decorated for the holidays which included five private homes plus the Porch Club, Christ Church, and TheNew Leaf Tea Room and Gift Shoppe.
Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers, proprietor of The New Leaf, generously offered space to the Historical Society of Riverton (HSR) to host its popular Museum for a Day exhibition, a traveling display of local Riverton artifacts, photographs and ephemera from its archives.
The showing offered a special opportunity for its exhibit curator, Mrs. Cheryl Smekal, to display women’s period clothing and furnishings as well as rare objects belonging to prominent Riverton families. Mrs. Smekal organized the event with assistance and guidance from Society Board members Mrs. Pat Brunker, Mrs. Nancy Hall, Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers and Mr. John McCormick.
A table covered with 16 household objects common to the earlier 1900s which beckoned to onlookers, “Can You Guess…?” sometimes created traffic gridlock as museum visitors seriously debated the various uses to which some of the more puzzling objects might be put.
John McCormick was on hand to answer questions from collectors and the public about memorabilia and collectible ephemera. John, a retired educator and local historian, offered reproductions from his vast collection of local historic images with street views from local Burlington County towns.
John devoted a section of the show of artifacts to The New Leaf at 606 Main Street since that address has played a number of roles in Riverton’s business section since it first was the location of Ezra Perkins’ butcher shop about 1900.
Always of special interest to collectors are the vintage post card reproductions photo-restored by John McCormick featuring Dreer’s Nursery, New Jersey shore resort towns like Long Beach Island, Ocean City, Stone Harbor, and other locales like Burlington, Trenton, Moorestown, Mount Holly, Palmyra, and Riverside.
One collector visiting the Society’s Museum for a Day was delighted to see that John had added considerably to what he had available at Victorian Day 2007, and he pulled up a chair and devoted over two hours to browsing the vintage postcard reproductions.
The Society appreciates Mr. McCormick’s generosity in sharing his collection on the HSR web site and blog for people of all ages to enjoy.
While an adult visitor may recall and perhaps even reminisce with the website’s content, a child seeing those same images and stories may see for the first time how life in his or her hometown was so different a hundred or more years ago.
We commend The Friends of the Riverton Free Library for their successful house tour program which reminds us that our magnificent, historic homes in Riverton can be restored to their past splendor rather than sold as apartment conversions.
The Candlelight House Tour significantly contributes to the rediscovery of Riverton by visitors and homeowners as a special place to live. The following photo gallery of our Road Show Museum will suffice until the HSR can secure a permanent solution to display the wonderful collection to which so many Rivertonians have contributed over the years.
– Gerald Weaber, President Historical Society of Riverton