The idea to recognize remarkable examples of historic preservation of Riverton homes with an award in honor of Daniel Campbell originated with former HSR President Mr. Gerald Weaber, and this meeting now bears the fruit of his research efforts last year.
In succeeding him as HSR President, Phyllis Rodgers and an expanded HSR Board followed through this season to launch a new Preservation Award Night,held April 10 at the Porch Club, in which The Society recognized a number of people for their noteworthy home renovation projects. (The March 2014 Gaslight News previously profiled the homes and briefly explained the award. )
HSR President Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers called the meeting to order and a short requisite business portion of the meeting included various announcements as well as a customarily thorough treasurer’s report by Paul Daly, our own esteemed CPA on the job.
Phyllis introduced Paul W. Schopp and congratulated him on his recent (March 5) designation by Riverton Borough Council as Borough Historian. Mrs. Rodgers noted Mr. Schopp’s vast knowledge of local history as well as contributing his invaluable expertise to the Society to past projects.
Mr. Schopp said that it is “hard to fill the shoes” of the former Town Historian, Betty Hahle, but he would do his best. (The position of Town Historian has been vacant since Mrs. Hahle passed in April 2011.)
Paul has certainly been my go-to guy for fact-checking stories and getting hard-to-find resources during my tenure as editor of the Gaslight News. Our former HSR President, Gerald Weaber, concurs saying, “No one else comes close to his encyclopedic knowledge of all things Riverton.
At the meeting Mrs. JoAnn DiNoia, Porch Club President, and Phyllis Rodgers displayed the Porch Club’s new sign, a cooperative project of the HSR and The Porch Club.
The sign was erected at a later date near the Club’s entrance.
Mrs. Rodgers then turned attention to our honored guest, former Riverton resident, Mr. Daniel T. Campbell, AIA. A distinguished past president of the Historical Society of Riverton and editor of the Gaslight News, Daniel Campbell is a Historic Architect widely recognized for his experience in restoration and preservation of historic architecture.
Citing his past preservation projects and honors, she explained “…it is therefore fitting” that the new HSR Preservation Award be named for him. Read more about Dan Campbell here and see more details about the award named in his honor here.
Then matters moved on to the main event – the presentation of five 2014 Daniel Campbell Preservation Award certificates and crystal diamond paperweights etched with the Society logo.
At the meeting we heard from Dr. and Mrs. Horn, Helen Hughes, John Laverty, and Michael Spinelli as they recounted the pleasures and pitfalls of renovating an old house.
Ummm… I think I saw that movie before.
Some of us even remember the original 1948 Cary Grant/Myrna Loy comedy film, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, in which a hapless couple purchases a 200 year-old farmhouse only to meet a long litany of unforeseen troubles and setbacks.
But these Riverton characters had studied their parts and each story had a happy ending, resulting in homes absolutely transformed from their former states.
Check out the continuing saga of Helen Hughes’ renovation of the Biddle Mansion at 207 Bank Ave., and another about John Laverty’s home at 616 Main.
Here’s a few more snaps from the meeting.
Mayor William C. Brown
L-R, Mrs. Bea Horn, Dr. Michael Horn, Daniel Campbell
John McCormick at projector, John Laverty standing
Dan Campbell at left, John Laverty at right
The refreshments alone are worth the price of membership
Above photos by Susan Dechnik, John Laverty, and John McCormick
Start looking around your neighborhood for some potential Preservation Award nominees for 2015. – John McCormick
This post is a follow-up to our very successful Riverton Antique and Collectible Fair co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Riverton and Riverview Estates back on March 2.
I just could not seem to get the piece done until today.
As advertised, expert personal property appraiser, Ronald Shaffer, ISA really was witty and informed – extremely well-informed. He not only evaluated heirlooms and offered a Verbal Opinion of Value, he often knew some relevant anecdote about a similar item or offered hints on how to care for the item. A few times he referred the owner to another person with expertise in a specific area, such a furniture repair expert.
Mr. Schaffer informed and entertained as he carefully considered the value of each possession and coaxed from the person what details of provenance they could give. Often the article had come from an ancestor, and the present owner probably would not part with it for any price. Still, good to know.
By all accounts the affair was such a success that we expect to repeat it in the future.
Here is a 3 min., 40 sec. highlight reel of the 2013 antique fair. We have not progressed to the point of streaming video yet, so the best we can offer is for you to download and open the 48.7MB Windows Media file on your computer.
HSR President Gerald Weaber checks in people with appraisal items.
The careful planning of Donna Maratea, Director of Activities at Riverview Estates, was critical to the venture’s success.
This circa 1900 wagon has iron wheels.
The music box is a family heirloom for Nancy Hall.
Mike Maratea (r.) describes details on a family ancestor’s sampler.
Cheryl Smekal brought this child’s chair
Cheryl Smekal’s unique Civil War collectible
Linda McCormick’s hot chocolate set once belonged to Theresa Rock, her grandmother.
Gary Ford brought some cut glass
This wind-up toy still works.
Many thanks to all who came and helped support the work of the Society.
What prized possession would you bring to the next Riverton Antique and Collectible Fair? – John McCormick
Lady Sybil’s death on Downton Abbey Sunday night really had us depressed. We needed some cheering up.
A few of us Anglophiles tuned in on Thursday, January 31 to a program that was being shown for one night only. And we didn’t need cable to do it.
Fifty-one intrepid history lovers from the area braved the cold damp January evening to rub elbows with royalty as Alisa DuPuy, the cultivated first-person historical interpreter, brought her program about Queen Victoria to Riverton’s New Leaf Tea Room.
There could not have been a better venue for this intimate audience with Her Highness than in the century old Victorian building that is the home of Mrs. Phyllis Rogers’ elegant yet cozy New Leaf Tea Room.
She spoke at length about her childhood, her life at court, her romance with Albert, and each of their nine children. I describe it so, because this was no talk given in the third person but an hour-long dramatically acted one woman play.
The performer so seamlessly incorporated solid historical research into her conversation that one could easily mistake the scene for a late 19th century lyceum lecture by a visiting head of state.
This one dressed to the nines and wore the family jewels. She brought family photos of Albert and the kids and her favorite dog. She utterly captivated everyone as she related so many dramatic stories in the life of England’s longest reigning monarch.
Find out more about Alisa DuPuy and the rest of the cast of characters that she portrays.
Check out The New Leaf Tea Room, a top ranked tea room by teaMap.com.
A Word from Gerald Weaber, President of the Society:
Our appreciation to Phyllis Rodgers and her New Leaf Tea Room and Gift Shoppe for hosting the Historical Society’s Tea with Queen Victoria program. The Society welcomed both members and visitors for tea from Claymont, Delanco, Moorestown, Hainesport, and Laurel Springs New Jersey including Sharon Paden, Rosemary Flatley, Patricia Iannucci, Christine Maiorano, and Rosemarie Milza and friends.
Kudos to Alisa DuPuy for her flawless portrayal of Queen Victoria to the delight of the fifty-one guests at the New Leaf Tea Room. Join the Society as a member and enjoy programs like this and a subscription to the Gaslight News our fascinatingly written and illustrated newsletter by Editor John McCormick.
Annual membership is $15 per person or $20 for a household. Send your check to Nancy Hall, Historical Society of Riverton, P.O. Box #112, Riverton, NJ 08077. Thank you all for making our tea such a fun event in Riverton!
There is a photo gallery below. Please add any comments or send a photo and I’ll post it. Or, if you have a Facebook account, please”like” us and consider posting pictures and comments there.The New Leaf would welcome your shout out as well. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
The New Leaf, 606 Main Street, Riverton, NJ
Proprietor, Mrs. Phyllis Rogers, set out tablecloths and china teacups for this royal reception.
Her Highness made her entrance through a door with a prophetic message.
Jaws dropped at the sight of that stunning gown with its authentic details.
Ahhhh. At last, a cuppa’ tea,
Her Highness meets Gerald Weaber, our President – of the Historical Society, that is.
Phyllis and Em kept the hot pots of tea coming as Queen Victoria engaged each table in conversation.
Bill Hall, left, is enjoying his fame as author of a recent Gaslight News article.
Many remarked at the the Queen’s incredible memory for facts, names, and dates.
Everybody wanted to get a picture of Queen Victoria and she graciously obliged.
HSR members Nancy Hall, left, and Linda McCormick, middle, compliment our guest. Look at the rich detail of the hair ornamentation.
Please send us some of these photos.
Donald Deitz became a fan of Queen Victoria when he saw Irene Dunne play her role in the 1950 film, The Mudlark.
The Grandmother of Europe denied saying, “We are not amused.” In fact, her comments this evening evoked laughter from the audience several times – and at other times, melancholy.
Bouquets of patriotic red, white, and blue decorations have burst into bloom this past week as Riverton readies for its 115th “Glorious Fourth.”
Now if the predicted thunderstorms will just hold off, the shoreline (shown above on July 2) should be awash in a flood of spectators viewing the Sixth Annual Great Riverton Raft Race at about 5:30 p.m. tomorrow.
You can see the entire schedule of events in the 2012 July 4th Program found here. Click here for the official website of the July 4th Committee.
The cover illustration from this year’s July Fourth Program shows an image of the famous “Riverton Nine” baseball team of 1872 taken from the baseball memorabilia collection of Bob Beishline of Palmyra.
In 2002, Bob, Mike Robinson, Betty Hahle and a few others were among the first to help me start what has eventually grown into a huge virtual online collection of vintage images by kindly letting me scan their postcard collections.
Later, Bill Hall provided me with a Sporting Life magazine clipping showing the same team. When I showed the photos during a presentation at a Society meeting, it was William Harris who explained the caption in the photo. FREDERICK K. MOORE CENTER simply meant that Moore was in the center.
All of this concern about baseball is because Mr. Fran Cole, HSR member and lifetime resident of Riverton, who is Parade Marshall this year, used to be quite a baseball athlete and remains among the most fanatic of Phillies fans. He was even inducted into the Palmyra High School Sports Hall of Fame.
As a result of interviewing Mr. Cole about his memories as a young man working for his grandparents’ Cole Dairy during the 1930s, I had several photos of Fran from his baseball playing days. (See related 2010 Gaslight News story here and his oral history interview in three segments here: Mr. Francis Cole Remembers Cole Dairy Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. )
So by an extraordinary amount of luck and best laid plans we here at the Society just happened to be able to help out July Fourth Committee Chairperson, Mrs. Tracy Hansen Foedisch, when she asked for a hand with supplying some images for this year’s program booklet. It’s nice when we can help reveal some part of Riverton’s past with what we have collected. In a past post I compared the task to completing a jigsaw puzzle.
It is an extraordinary privilege, and no small responsibility, to be able to curate the archives of the Historical Society of Riverton for the use of Rivertonians. As family and friends congregate during this July Fourth celebration, may I interrupt for a commercial message?
Please help preserve Riverton history by donating your Riverton related photos, collectibles, documents, and memorabilia, or at least send us a scan or photo. If you can help us in this endeavor, please contact us.
During the parade HSR members Paul Daly, Gerald Weaber, and myself will be distributing this year’s edition of the Historical Society’s July 4th Palm Cards. The earliest one I have of these is from 1987. Former HSR President Dan Campbell may have started the tradition which seems to have continued through 2004 when it apparently stopped.
We resumed the tradition again last year when HSR Treasurer Paul Daly wondered out loud, ” How come we don’t give out those cards on July Fourth anymore?” (See more July 4th Palm Cards here.) If you have any cards for years not shown in this list, please send us a scan of both sides. July 4th Palm Cards: 1987-1990, 1993-1995, 1997, 1999, 2000-2004.
If you have some time to kill, type “July 4” or “July Fourth” in the search box at the top right of the home page. That should result in many hits for earlier posts and images related to the holiday.
Have a Glorious and Safe Fourth of July wherever you find yourself. Check back here later for more July Fourth posts. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
The Historical Society of Riverton’s June meeting ended with a stop at Nellie Bly’s Ice Cream Parlour. By the time members had covered on foot the route of a seventeen-stop walking tour, they were ready to sit down and relax with one of the shop’s refreshing treats.
We planned that last meeting before our summer hiatus as a practice run for the recently revised Walking Tour of Historic Riverton. (See related story here.) President Gerald Weaber called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Riverton School Media Center and dealt with several Society matters before adjourning to the outdoors.
The group watched a short slide show to introduce the planned activity–with a draft copy of the Walking Tour in hand, we were to hike the course and scrutinize it for errors of any kind so that we can get copies printed and make them available.
Gerald hosted a parallel tour on a bus provided by Riverview Estates for the convenience of Riverview residents and any Society members who did not care to walk. Among the thirteen passengers was a 102 year-old former employee of Campbell’s Soup, a fact volunteered when the bus stopped in front of 308 Main, the former home of Joseph Campbell who founded that company.
Mrs. Pat Brunker directed the group on foot as we completed the circuit of seventeen locations that went along Main toward the river to Third, then went back toward Broad along Howard Street.
As our small but ardent force of curious sight-seers trekked from pillar to post, we were sometimes met by a quizzical homeowner who came out to see why all these nosy people were gesturing toward their house.
It was definitely an asset to have several new faces at this Walking Tour rehearsal because much of the history of these homes and structures in Riverton is oral history– stories and anecdotes passed down by word of mouth, that may or may not remain accurate with each retelling, and are seldom found in books or documents.
You know the danger when one assumes? Homeowner Mr. Dennis DeVries explained that although the carriage mounting block at the curb was original to the house, the cast iron hitching post and fence posts were modern reproductions. Mrs. Jan DeVries pointed out that Joseph Campbell built other homes for his children close to this one.
Mr. and Mrs. DeVries then invited us for an impromptu tour of their garden, a gesture most appreciated by anyone who missed seeing it on the recent Porch Club Garden Tour. (See related post here.)
This illustrates why the best authorities about these homes are the residents themselves as I found out when I spoke to Mr. Keith Betten previously while I tried to reconcile some contradictions between dates on house signs and dates on the old Walking Tour brochure.
Mr. Betten, the current owner of 404 Main Street, explained how he researched his deed and that he had found the signature of Edward Pancoast, the home’s first owner, scrawled on a wall inside an upstairs closet. I knew that Pancoast had designed and built 404 and 402 Main, but Keith showed me why his home and 402 Main, next door, are “sister” houses–the exteriors and roof lines may seem different, but the floor plans are identical. I had not seen that before.
As Mr. Betten invited me to see the splendid English garden at the rear of the home he explained that the driveway just outside the gate afforded Charles Flanagan, a later owner of the home, access to the Riverton Lyceum which once stood at Fourth and Main where he served as secretary and treasurer.
Surely there are many more stories about Riverton’s people and institutions that are not well-known or recorded. When our tour patrol got to 301 Main someone in the group said that they thought a photo exists of that Duster being hoisted out of the third floor window. Now, that’s one I’d like to see!
Another one I heard the night of the meeting that I must try to verify was about a Riverton homeowner who cut into an interior wall in his house because he was perplexed that the wall dimensions did not make sense with the room, only to find a hidden liquor still within the space. Whaaaat???
Such stories only grow more faint with the passage of time. If you would care to share any facts or stories which may help us in compiling information for other walking tours, please contact us with your ideas.
It turns out that the group did catch a few errors. After a few minor fixes to the text and renumbering several map locations we were ready to go to press.
You can see the finished result at the New Leaf where copies of this first Walking Tour of Historic Riverton are available for $1.00. Other tours in the series will include Riverton Yacht Club and homes along the river, homes along Carriage House Lane, as well as locations south of the railroad tracks. We hope to design a separate children’s version and possibly offer a means for smartphone owners to access additional information from our website. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
Rev. Feb. 2016: The New Leaf no longer has copies. Check Riverton Library. Four years later, no more progress has been achieved on this since 2012. Big plans, not enough hands. – JMc
In case you missed the bi-annual Garden Tour on June 2nd, sponsored by the Porch Club, you don’t have to wait two years for the next one because HSR President Gerald Weaber took these photos.
In advance of the Garden Tour, Christina Paciolla, a local journalist connected with CinnaminsonPatch, interviewed Rita Vittese and June Emens, co-chairs of this year’s event, about the eight private gardens on the tour. Her article, along with a map and descriptions of the garden locations, is found at this link.
Kristen Coppock, staff writer for phillyBurbs.com, questioned the Porch Club co-chairs about the prize-winning Ladies Garden Quilt being raffled off, and she also previewed three of the gardens and posted several photos. Find that complete article at this link.
As always, we welcome your comments and contributions. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
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.
You can view a PDF file of that banner that outlines the history of 606-608 Main Street here.
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
Curator Mrs. Cheryl Smekal welcomed scores of visitors to our limited-engagement museum
Lippincott family Bible on stand at left
page from Lippincott family Bible
caption for next photo of Ezra Lippincott group photo
Ezra Lippincott family on porch of Bank Ave. home, now part of Riverview Estates
caption for next group photo of Riverton tourists on way to CA
hockey and baseball display
caption for previous photo of hockey equipment
scan of letter from Charles Flanagan to H. McIlvain Biddle regarding the famous 1872 Riverton baseball team
caption for next photo of dress
John McCormick, Gaslight News editor, blogger, collector of Riverton objects and lore hopes to interest more people in contributing information and images to the Society.
A display includes photos and artifacts from various business enterprises and a vertical wall banner which outlines the history of the New Leaf building.
display of original Dreer’s catalogs and postcards, reproductions in frame and at far left
reproductions from Dreer’s Garden Book color plates
caption follows next
caption for previous photo of dress
Quaker bonnets – Nancy Hall
caption follows next
caption for previous photo of coat
HSR President Gerald Weaber hopes that the One Day Museum results in more interest in local history.
Pat Lynch and Nancy Hall peruse the gifts available for the history enthusiast – Ruff Copy, Historic Riverton, History of Riverton Fire Co., Romance of Riverton, back issues of Gaslight News, History of Palmyra, repro maps and photos.
Can you guess the name or the use of these household items which might have been found in homes of the early 1900s?
Since this is the website for the Historical Society of Riverton, the operative word being ‘historical,’ it is worth noting some remarkable facts which we shall record for August 2011. A rare 5.8 earthquake struck NJ August 23rd, followed closely by a hurricane, tornado warnings, and floods. And according to the yesterday’s Courier-Post, it is now official: For the Philadelphia/South Jersey region, August is already the wettest month in recorded history, breaking a century-old record.
I wondered how Riverton would fare after the white-capped Delaware finished slamming that riverwall at high tide and hurricane winds ripped through the streets and avenues of our favorite Tree City. So I emailed my stringers (actually two other HSR Board members) and they checked in with this report.
My friend and former teaching partner at RPS, Susan Dechnik accompanies her Facebook photos of Irene’s effects on the riverbank with an àpropos quote from Seinfeld, her favorite TV show. It’s from the classic “Marine Biologist” episode.
She reports that winds blew down a large part of a tree near 8th & Main, blocking the sidewalk.
She adds, “The river was wild, didn’t breach the bank, but was splashing over. The wind was incredible and a little scary.”
HSR President Gerald Weaber reports that the river rose above the riverwall and winds had strewn about some limbs and branches, but he did not hear of any major damage from the storm.
That was not the case for all the surrounding communities, however.
Just five minutes away at Riverton Road and Rte. 130, Irene’s capricious winds toppled a large tree in front of Bayard’s Chocolate House, and her relentless rains flooded some Cinnaminson homes and streets.
Our HSR website gets dozens, sometimes even over a hundred visits daily. True, most of them were probably googling for Rivertons in CT, CA, IL, UT, VA, WY, or even AU and wound up here by mistake. Nonetheless, inquiring readers want to know, Rivertonians. What happened in your neighborhood?
You can click on the Facebook link at the bottom of this page to visit the HSR wall where Susan Dechnik and a varied, albeit short, cast of characters “liked” us in a moment of lapsed judgment. Please join in.
Also, that CinnaminsonPatch is a cool community-specific news, events, and information website that I never heard of, but one which I’ll certainly look up again. You’ll find more photo galleries by Ivrie Myhre and other local photographers along with news stories written by the local Patch Team.
It’s a young and growing website, but if the amount of Riverton coverage continues to expand they may have to change the name. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
Last week HSR President Gerald Weaber and I went to our History Faire tent at the Burlington County Farm Fair prepared to preach a litany of Riverton history sermons to the multitudes. There was some proselytizing on our part, to be sure, but I had the best time listening to the recollections of members of our own and other historical societies.
Too, there were visits from other local history buffs such as Nick Mortgu and wife Beth Lippincott who came hoping to find a source for searching some family genealogical information, which I believe, they found in County Historian Joe Laufer. They’ve been trying to find the burial site of one of Beth’s 17th century Quaker ancestors.
While Beth and Joe were talking, Nick told me that Beth’s first ancestors to immigrate to the US, the Lovecott family, decided to rebadge the clan as Lippincotts.
I did not know that.
Then, Kim, one of my former students (so sweet that she didn’t introduce me to her young man as “my old teacher”) stopped by hoping to find a picture of her house or street in with the box of reproduction prints of vintage postcards that we had brought. No luck, but if you have looked for a particular street in our images collection, and don’t see it, ask for it at the end of this article and maybe the Universe will hear you.
Recently, Ms. Lois Gorbe, now residing in Florida, sent us two snapshots of the burned remains of the schooner Lucy Evelyn that once served as a one-of-a-kind gift shop in Beach Haven. She has fond memories of visiting the ship/shop as a child during the 1940s. It’s so cool for me to be able to help her and others remember the good ol’ days back in the neighborhood.
Now gone, like so many other landmarks and buildings in our Images compilation, perhaps the entire collection might better be called, “Things That Aren’t There Anymore.” You can find them under Long Beach Island, NJ Images under the Images tab. Such unexpected bonus finds from across the miles were never possible for us before the launch of this website. Thank you, Lois.
Readers, wherever you are, please know that we would like to hear from you about your memories and images of Riverton and the region. We wish for this website to be a virtual meeting place for anyone who wants to know more about this region’s local history or has something to bring to our readers’ attention. What could we in the HSR do to help you?
Historical societies from each corner of this largest of New Jersey’s 21 counties exhibited displays celebrating the founders, landmarks, and various movers and shakers throughout their respective histories which have made each community so unique. HSR President Gerald Weaber and I viewed the affair as a kind of mini-convention in which we could network with colleagues at other tables, as well as showcase our organization’s preservation efforts to the public.
I so thoroughly enjoyed David Smith’s PowerPoint presentation summarizing his four-year long research project on the Rancocas Stud Farm owned by Gilded Age tobacco millionaire Pierre Lorillard IV that I listened to it twice.
David’s account of the life of this extraordinary entrepreneur and sportsman who traveled in the same rich and famous social circles as the Astors and Vanderbilts intrigued me, and it left me wondering how I hadn’t heard of him before.
I mean, the Lorillard Tobacco Company is older than the United States! And it “invented” the cigar store Indian in order to advertise its products. According to one school of thought, the tuxedo was invented by Pierre Lorillard IV and named after Tuxedo Park, a sportsman’s preserve and enclave of mansions he created out of 2,200 acres of mountain wilderness 40 miles outside New York City.
Certainly Pierre Lorillard IV had a head start when he inherited a large fortune from his father which included one of the most extensive tobacco companies in the world, but under his shrewd stewardship he shortly further increased his fortune at least tenfold.
Such history bits initially drew me in, but the tobacco magnate’s lofty triumphs in the sporting world coupled with his unimaginably extravagant lifestyle and colorful character makes for a compelling story of achievement and, at times, head-shaking disbelief.
David Smith hopes to write a book that begins with the tobacco company’s 1760 founding which created such fabulous wealth for the Lorillard dynasty that they could engage in horse breeding and horse racing, dog breeding, yacht racing, financing excavations of Mayan ruins in Central America, the building of incredibly lavish homes and estates, and the development of a country club and luxury retreat for the super rich.
Lorillard died at 67 in 1901, and willed Rancocas Stud Farm, now known as Helis Stock Farm, to his mistress Lily Livingston (AKA Lily Allien), and the sensational scandal that resulted played out in the pages of theNew York Times for all to see. A book that could tell the epic story of the tobacco heir’s bigger than life bio along with all of his diverse sporting and commercial interests plus include the development of his company would be weighty, indeed.
I’m thinking a blockbuster movie or maybe an HBO mini-series a lá the glitz and glam of Boardwalk Empire (without the gunplay) would be the way to tell this story. Who could play Young Pierre? Who would you cast for Mrs. Lorillard, Older Pierre, and Lily?
Each of our historical societies has colorful characters and persons of achievement perhaps just as compelling Pierre Lorillard, even if not as rich. For our diminutive borough, it’s the Ogdens, Grices, Dreers, Lippincotts, and Dorrances of years past, with new names of people who have effected recent change such as Betty Hahle now added to that honored roll. Who’s on your town’s list?
We are always looking to expand our virtual image collection and add to our knowledge base. The latest plea was for information from anyone with a Riverton Civil War veteran tucked back in one of those branches of their family tree.
Ultimately, we hope to investigate the position taken by Riverton women, area Quakers, the general public, the business community, and various Riverton institutions toward the Civil War, so please let us know what you can. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor