The HSR sends a heartfelt Thank-You to Carlos Rogers

L-R. John McCormick, Carlos Rogers, Phyllis Rodgers
L-R. John McCormick, Carlos Rogers, Phyllis Rodgers

HSR President Phyllis Rodgers and newsletter editor John McCormick verrry gratefully accepted a check this afternoon on behalf of the Society from Carlos Rogers, creator of the Historic Riverton Criterium  – our biggest contribution ever!

THANK YOU, Carlos!!
THANK YOU, Carlos!!

This evening, Phyllis messaged her fellow Board members the awesome news:

Hello Board Members,
Carlos just brought a check for his Criterium Donation—-$4,000!!!
Many thanks to Carlos for all his efforts.
The HSR is so lucky. Life is good in Riverton!
Best to all,
Phyllis

Yes, it is good, and Carlos Rogers is one citizen who helps makes this town the great hometown it is.

Carlos Rogers directs the action at the 6th Annual HRCriterium
Carlos Rogers directs the action at the 6th Annual HRCriterium

He has devoted hundreds of hours over the past year to stage and promote the biggest and best Historic Riverton Criterium yet, drawing competitors and spectators from all over.

The Historical Society of Riverton is pleased to have again supported the event this year and truly honored to benefit from Criterium proceeds.

Thank you, Carlos, for your tireless efforts in continuing to bring such an exciting cycling event to our town. Your incredible generosity toward the many individuals and local organizations you have given to since its inception has just been a bonus! – JMc

With a little help from a lot of friends

Rob Gusky HRCentury/ Community Ride 2016 by Carlos Rogers
Rob Gusky HRCentury/ Community Ride 2016 by Carlos Rogers

Tethered to my workplace until 5PM that day I knew I would be unable to catch the arrival of the HRCentury riders, so I appealed to the Universe and it delivered in the form of this great pic of HRCentury creator Rob Gusky from Carlos Rogers.

Rob looks pretty fresh after biking a hundred miles from Millburn, NJ to Riverton.

Susan Dechnik sent in most of the following photos.

The ride took longer than anticipated since the cyclists ran into a punishing headwind for much of it.

Also conceived by Rob Gusky, the 3-Mile Community Ride was to follow the conclusion of this second realization of the Historic Riverton Century, and many residents of all ages awaited in the former District parking lot.

HRCentury 2016 button
HRCentury 2016 button

Meanwhile, HSR member Susan Dechnik handed out souvenir buttons bearing Anne Racioppi‘s imaginative logo and explained the connection to the 1895 NYC-Riverton Relay Race to those who were unaware.

Carlos Rogers commends the HRCentury riders
Carlos Rogers commends the HRCentury riders

The arduous trip caused the bicyclists to converge on the parking lot from different directions and not all at once.

Carlos Rogers congratulated Rob and the other riders. A cheer arose from the crowd as the Community Ride began led by the Century riders.

The ride ended with a ceremony at Memorial Park.

Mayor Cairns Wells at left, President Phyllis Rodgers, Town Historian Paul Schopp
Mayor Cairns Wells at left, President Phyllis Rodgers, Town Historian Paul Schopp

Mayor Suzanne Cairns Wells, Lifelong Wheelman Gary Sanderson and Riverton’s Town Historian Paul W. Schopp each addressed the audience and congratulated the athletes on their achievement.

In his address Mr.Schopp acknowledged that “…women have always maintained a keen interest in cycling and the mix of riders in today’s Riverton Century uphold the long legacy of female cyclists,” and described the 1895 Tri-State Relay Race which inspired Rob to create the Historic Riverton Century in 2014. Find a text file of his address here.

Gary Sanderson
Gary Sanderson

Attired in vintage wheelman gear and displaying his restored 1895 Indian Racer bicycle, Gary Sanderson described the adversity experienced by the riders in 1895 with traveling miserable roads on failure-prone single-speed bicycles. Read Gary Sanderson’s remarks here.

Bill Hall at left, Rob Gusky, Carlos Rogers at right
Bill Hall at left, Rob Gusky, Carlos Rogers at right

Mr. Gusky cited nonagenarian Bill Hall for his dedication to bicycling, and recognized Carlos Rogers for creating in 2011 the Historic Riverton Criterium which every year contributes money to local organizations and individuals. To date Carlos has distributed over $20,000!

Rob recognizes the women athletes
Rob recognizes the women athletes

Gusky called up the women participants in this year’s HRCentury and Phyllis Rodgers and Pat Brunker presented them and the men with sashes reminiscent of those worn by riders in 1895.

Later, many in the group met at Riverton’s Orange Blossom Cafe to eat and to recount details of their experience.

Everyone agreed that the two big bike spectacles now associated with the second weekend in June are community assets which combine to promote the sport of bicycling as well as provide family fun.

Rob recaps the day for Bill Brown
Rob recaps the day for Bill Brown

Perhaps it was the influence of the euphoria of a bicyclist’s high, but Gusky and Crew were already heard scheming to recreate the next ride.

Are you up for it?

Later on Facebook, Rob Gusky generously thanked the many people and organizations that made this year’s Riverton Century and Community Ride a success.

Century route planner Randy “Wheels” Jackson of the Major Taylor Cycling Club also wrote a lengthy Facebook piece recognizing those who had made it possible for him to “…relax and enjoy the ride.”

The creation of the Historic Riverton Century Ride by Rob Gusky and the Historic Riverton Criterium by Carlos Rogers now rank among the most treasured traditions of the Borough. The Historical Society of Riverton is privileged to be associated with them both.

Please add your own photos or submit comments. – JMc

 

 

 

 

 

Annie Londonderry’s legacy

Miss Londonderry
Miss Londonderry

These webpages have recounted the exploits of the riders of the 1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race more than a few times. As that event unfolded in June 1895, Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky, a young mother of three children, was just three months from completing her goal of bicycling around the world  – a remarkable achievement she supposedly undertook on a wager between two wealthy Boston club men.

Seemingly impossible conditions imposed on the bet was that she start penniless, not accept handouts, earn $5,000 along the way, and complete the journey in fifteen months.

annie_londonderryMrs. Kopchovsky financed her adventure with income earned through product endorsements, by displaying advertising banners on herself and on her bike, by giving riding demonstrations, selling photos and souvenirs, and by making personal appearances.

August 12, 1895, Denver Rocky Mountain News, p.3
August 12, 1895, Denver Rocky Mountain News, p.3

Not far into her trip, newspapers dubbed her Annie “Londonderry,” a sobriquet earned when she started to display a placard for the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company on her bike as a promotion.

It would be generous to say that she was given to tall-tales and embellishment in telling of her exploits. In interviews and later wrings the natural entrepreneur and master of self-promotion constantly reinvented her own back story and told sensational tales of hunting Bengal tigers with a German prince, close calls with encountering highwaymen in France, and of time spent in a Japanese prison. She may have even fabricated her claim that a wager inspired her.

Press and Horticulturist, June 8, 1895, p.1
Press and Horticulturist, June 8, 1895, p.1

Periodicals of the era chronicled her adventures much as they followed the travels of Nellie Bly in her successful attempt in 1889, to break the record of Phileas Fogg, the fictional character from Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days.

Annie completed her circumnavigation in just under fifteen months.

But unlike the her globe-trotting counterpart Nellie Bly, the exploits of Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, which advanced women’s bicycling in the United States and made her one of the most celebrated women the 1890s, were largely forgotten until author Peter Zheutlin penned Around the World on Two Wheels in 2007.

Since then, Londonderry’s remarkable story has been the subject of dozens of blogs, magazine articles, a 2011 musical play by Evalyn Parry called SPIN, and a 2013 documentary film produced by Gillian Klempner Willman titled The New Woman – Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky

In 2006, filmmaker Gillian Klempner Willman sought to recreate the leg of Annie’s 1894 trip from New York City to Boston with the help of Gary Sanderson, antique bicycle enthusiast and current editor American Bicyclist Magazine, and others.

Ms. Willman’s described Mr. Sanderson’s contribution in her April 15, 2006 blog entry.

Gary Sanderson, image credit: spokeswomanproductions.com
Gary Sanderson, image credit: spokeswomanproductions.com

The Society is most fortunate to have Gary Sanderson appear with his c.1895 Indian Racer at the Historic Riverton Century and 3-Mile Community Ride Ceremony on June 11.

Rob Gusky, originator of the June 11 event reports that at least six women athletes have registered to ride at eventbrite.com.

Carlos Rogers’ Historic Riverton Criterium on June 12 features a Women’s Cat 1/2/3 event that promises a $500 purse, neutral support, beauty and haircare gift baskets for the top 3 places, and cash primes!

HRC_cowbell

When you watch those women athletes next weekend remember the debt owed to the legacy of Annie Londonderry which has helped make their participation possible.

And make some noise with those cowbells. – JMc

Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. – Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106 BC – 43 BC

Gear up, Rivertonians. The Great Riverton Cycling Weekend looms

Bicycle News, 1895-04-15 Phila InquirerThe Great Riverton Cycling Weekend is coming up in just ten weeks, and the HSR is on board to help promote and support both events.

HRC riders in NYC large edit (Copy)
Here are the riders before they departed from NYC in 2014.

Rob Gusky, Riverton Favorite Son and organizer, is planning now from his home in Wisconsin for the second running of the Historic Riverton Century (NYC-Riverton) on June 11, culminating with a 3-Mile Community Ride when the athletes arrive from New York.

 

Riverton Bicycle Track sign
Riverton Bicycle Track sign

The first time, in 2014, Rob also started an indiegogo crowdfunding effort and secured additional sponsors that resulted in the Borough scoring an awesome historical marker near the site of Riverton’s old bicycle track.

 

Carlos rocks a HRCriterium t-shirt at the 2015 race
Carlos rocks a HRCriterium t-shirt at the 2015 race

Carlos Rogers‘ 6th Annual Historic Riverton Criterium, follows on Sunday, June 12, and consists of a number of races ranging from a 200 meter kids’ race to a 35 mile professional race over a 0.8mile, 6 turn, technical flat and fast course through the center of Riverton.

What can we say about a guy who has the vision to originate and bring to the normally quiet streets of old Riverton a frenzied fun event to kick off the Summer, and then proceeds to give away twenty-grand to community organizations over five years?

Each of these guys had me at “Historic Riverton” as they not only conceived of new Riverton traditions, but also managed to “give back” to everybody’s favorite hometown in impactful ways.

How about you? – JMc

Many hands contribute to the success of the fifth Historic Riverton Criterium

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Under the sweltering heat of today’s sun, the fifth running of the Historic Riverton Criterium was exciting for spectators, punishing for competitors, and all the excuse many needed to throw a porch or backyard party. Those arriving just in time for such events may have missed this.  Below, a crew erects the framework that holds the photo finish camera. It’s just one of the many heavy lifting jobs, literally and figuratively, that get done before the first race starts. – JMc

 

 

Remembering Tom Palermo

Perhaps you read a newspaper account on December 27, 2014, about Tom Palermo, killed by a hit and run driver outside of Baltimore while riding his bike in a dedicated bike lane. The news received national attention because the driver, Heather Cook, at the time of the accident was the second ranking member among Episcopalian clergy in the Diocese of Maryland.

My Riverton School Kindergarten Class, Spring 1979
My Riverton School Kindergarten Class, Spring 1979, Tom in back row, left, plaid shirt

It got my attention because of a Riverton connection. Tom Palermo was a Riverton kid, and I was his kindergarten teacher. Riverton School is a kindergarten through eighth grade school, and teachers, especially kindergarten teachers, have the opportunity to watch the students grow from five-year olds to students entering high school.

1987-Tom Palermo and Jill Dechnik, after an 8th Grade Graduation Party at my house
1987-Tom Palermo and Jill Dechnik, after an 8th Grade Graduation Party at my house

After their high school graduation, they scatter and move on, move away, or sometimes the student moves back to Riverton with a family, and their children attend Riverton School. That happens a lot.

I hadn’t heard about Tom Palermo for many years. Facebook allows people to reconnect, to catch up, to share. My daughter reconnected with Tom (I still think of him as Tommy) a while ago and sent me information about his life. The photograph of the grown man had the same smile I remembered from years ago.

Tom Palermo
Tom Palermo

And then Facebook spread the tragic news of how he died. The news spread and garnered an outpouring of shock and sadness. Television and newspaper accounts told the story of Tom’s life and how he died.

Here is a summary that I provided for people to share the news:

Tom Palermo, age 41, a senior Johns Hopkins Hospital software engineer, died after a vehicle struck him as he was cycling on the 500 block of Roland Avenue near Baltimore on December 27, 2014. Tom was married and the father of a six-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.

Tom grew up in Riverton, New Jersey, and attended Riverton Public School from kindergarten through eighth grade. He graduated St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia and earned a history degree from the University of Maryland. Family members describe Tom as a “seasoned cyclist who had a passion for mountain biking as well as logging countless miles on the road.” He was an advocate for bike access and bike safety. In 2002, Tom began making custom bike frames at his workshop.

Bishop Heather Cook of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is facing more than a dozen charges, including manslaughter, driving under the influence while driving, texting while driving, and leaving the scene of an accident. She had previously been arrested on a DUI charge. The trial date set for June 4 has been postponed until September.

A Palermo Children’s Education Trust has been established on the youcaring.com website. Donations may also be sent to:

Palermo Children’s Education Trust
℅ Molloy Investment Group
One South Street
30th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202

The Riverton connection remains. Six months after his death, his hometown remembers Tom as the Historic Riverton Criterium returns. Promoted by Riverton resident Carlos Rogers, attention will be focused on the sport of cycling, a perfect tie-in to Tom.

This account from Carlos:

“When Sue Dechnik approached me about memorializing the life of Tom Palermo I could tell how much of an impact he must have had on people given Sue’s sincere emotion during our conversation. I had actually read about his death as the news made national headlines, but had no idea he was from Riverton. It was a simple decision to do what I could to embrace his life and the circumstances surrounding his death. Given some of the feedback I’ve gotten from Riverton residents who knew Tom, it seems like he certainly made a lasting mark on people’s lives. Since he was a bicycle aficionado, and a builder himself, I’m sure he would have loved to have seen the Historic Riverton Criterium in person. Unfortunately, he will never get that chance. Even though I didn’t know Tom, I am glad to play a part, however small, in celebrating his life. Tragically, it ties together. One, Palermo was from Riverton, and two, he was riding his bike.”

Since 2011, the HRC has contributed over $15,000 to local Riverton and Palmyra organizations and individual causes. Carlos met with Tom’s father and arranged to donate part of the proceeds of the HRC to the Palermo Children’s Education Trust. In addition, in the HRC handbook there is a piece written about Tom.

In speaking with Mr. Palermo, I found him to be grateful for the recognition Tom is getting, but profoundly sad and shocked about the tragedy that took Tom from his family.

Personally, I remember Tom as a friendly, kind-hearted kid. From all accounts, he grew up to be a special man.

SDechnik (Copy)

 

by Mrs. Susan Dechnik

HRC 2015 poster
HRC 2015 poster

The Historic Riverton Criterium will thread through the gaslamp lined streets of Riverton for the fifth time tomorrow, June 14, 2015, 1-6 p.m. For more information, click on thumbnail at right, or visit https://www.facebook.com/historicrivertoncriterium

Find more information and photos about Tom Palermo at these links:

https://www.baltimorebrew.com/2014/12/28/grief-and-anger-at-scene-of-fatal-bike-crash/

http://www.wbaltv.com/news/Hundreds-of-cyclists-ride-to-honor-Thomas-Palermo/30492528

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/An_unfinished_ride.html

http://www.bikeleague.org/content/statement-death-thomas-Palermo

 

 

Read the history that inspired this summer’s cycling events

Historic Riverton Century riders 2014
Historic Riverton Century riders 2014

The cyclists who took part in The Historic Riverton Century 100+ mile New York to Riverton bike ride on June 7 have moved on, but the memories remain here and a tangible dividend resulted for the town – the installation of a permanent historic marker at the former site of the track at the corner of South Broad Street and Thomas Avenue.

Riverton Bicycle Track sign, 8-1-2014
Riverton Bicycle Track sign, 8-1-2014

Riverton enjoyed another “fifteen minutes of fame” and media attention as a result of this June’s Bicycle Weekend that included the Historic Riverton Century riders’ arrival Saturday evening, June 7, the dedication of the Bicycle Track Historic Marker Sunday morning, June 8, and the Fourth Annual Historic Riverton Criterium Sunday afternoon.

Rob Gusky, the originator and planner of the grueling cycling odyssey that approximately recreates the route of the 1895 NY Times Tri-State Relay Race, continues to post photos and updates on Facebook since he returned to his Wisconsin home.

Particularly interesting is the first-person report of Randy “Wheels” Jackson, one of the riders, who gives his impressions of the hundred-mile trek from the steps of the New York Times Building to the site where Riverton’s quarter-mile bicycle track once stood near South Broad, behind the Riverline Station.

That endorphin-fueled high experienced by endurance athletes had barely worn off when Rob announced plans for the 2015 Historic Riverton Century that include a 15-mile ride from the Burlington Riverline station back to Riverton on Saturday, June 13, 2015.

l. Bill Hall; r. Rob Gusky
l. Bill Hall; r. Rob Gusky

Doubtless, these exciting new Riverton traditions owe at least a nod to events in our past for their inspiration.HSR Purpose

We pause here for a commercial message from our sponsor – the Historical Society of Riverton.

In the address he gave for the dedication of the Historic Marker, Town Historian Paul W. Schopp provided much needed historical context to Riverton’s decision to build a bicycle track in 1894.

Borough Historian, Paul W. Schopp
Borough Historian, Paul W. Schopp

In addition, Mr. Schopp’s remarks explain the broader implications of the Golden Age of Cycling and the influence that the League of American Wheelmen had on the development of better roads.

Then, there is the obvious question – what happened to the track?

It’s all here in Paul Schopp’s very fitting and customarily meticulous report on the Riverton Bicycle Track. – John McCormick

Carlos Rogers made Riverton history again June 8, 2014

criterium jerseysHistory records the names and deeds of Riverton’s founders along with achievements of many citizens who have contributed to the Borough’s development. Know that these movers and shakers, these difference makers, who influence, inspire, energize, and improve us are not just mentioned in dusty old archives but that each age has its champions who leave a lasting legacy. Carlos Rogers, originator of the Historic Riverton Criterium, is a Riverton champion of the age in which we live.

The Historic Riverton Criterium, now in its fourth year, really is historic in that it is important, significant, consequential, and memorable. Riverton resident and race promoter Carlos Rogers has created an event, according to the HRC Facebook page, with a threefold mission, namely:

To promote the sport of bicycle racing, increase the visibility of Riverton as a historic residential and business community, and provide charitable contributions from proceeds of the race to local organizations.

He has succeeded famously on all three counts.

Participants and spectators alike now have many memories of how Carlos Roger’s dream to bring the excitement of a competitive cycling event to Riverton has come to herald the beginning of Riverton’s summer season. As the contest has grown in popularity, it has gained prestige among the racing community; success begets success.

For a compelling description of the phenomenon that has become the Historic Riverton Criterium from an athlete’s perspective (read that as, not from a geriatric newsletter editor’s view), see cyclist Mark Featherman’s personal account in The Featherman Chronicles. (He relates a bit of Carlos’ back story and includes a streaming ten-minute video shot from his bike during the race that takes you along for the ride.)

Dave Casale, another athlete who knows the deal with the HRC, describes his experience in the 2014 race in his blog:

The Historic Riverton Criterium is a top notch local race. It takes place on beautiful tree lined streets in South Jersey’s Riverton, passing the local police department, library, middle school, a church, and the promoter’s own house, all in a quick 1:36 lap. It’s local while it still has the feel of a much bigger race; it’s homey enough that you don’t mind setting up your beach chair on one of the neighbor’s front lawns, but you’ll likely target it as a priority race during the season. The prize money is very good, the competition can be fierce, yet all the kids running around the neighborhood still manages to keep the event feeling stress free, at least until you clip in.

For evidence that visibility of Riverton has increased as a result of the HRC, one need only to pick up a newspaper, turn on a TV, or check one’s newsfeed. Local newspapers, as well as a mention in May’s South Jersey Magazine publicized the event. (Most links to newspaper stories require a subscription to view.)

The unexpected bonus for the community has been the philanthropic aspect that has been part of each Historic Riverton Criterium since the first one launched in 2011. Various area organizations have directly benefited as a result of Carlos’ altruism including Riverton Free Library, Riverton Memorial ParkPolice Unity Bike Tour – Patrolman Jeff WalkerPalmyra Ambulance AssociationRiverton Shade Tree CommissionBoy Scouts of America Troop 9, Christ Episcopal Church (Riverton), Historical Society of Riverton, and Palmyra-Riverton Athletic Association.

So while the athletes have come here each second Sunday in June since 2011 for the chance to win recognition, rewards, and bragging rights, many thousands of dollars in contributions from race proceeds have had a big impact on the treasuries of local community groups.

Carlos’ success with this modern race caused another consequence by influencing ex-Riverton resident Rob Gusky to organize the recent Historic Riverton Century bicycle ride in 2014 to commemorate the 1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race from New York City to Riverton.

By definition then, Carlos Rogers and his Historic Riverton Criterium are now part of the pages of history recorded on rivertonhistory.com as well as here and elsewhere. We congratulate Carlos for his leap of faith in Riverton’s ability to embrace a new tradition and thank him for his extraordinary generosity in contributing thousands of dollars of race proceeds to area causes and organizations.

We wish to see the Historic Riverton Criterium continue for years to come and hope you enjoy these glimpses of some of the good times and excitement the 2014 event generated.

Slide show photos by John McCormick. Featuring Joshua Matisoff, the Balloon Guy, Wade’s Snooo Train, appearances by The Wheelmen, and music by Package Goods

 

Proposed ride recreates an 1895 NYC-Riverton bicycle race

Bicycle News, 1895-04-15 Phila Inquirer

Cedar Street  2-15-2014
Cedar Street 2-15-2014

With snow on the ground in Riverton for going on a month now, the humid heat of a Jersey summer seems a long way off, but plans are afoot now to shape the first weekend of June into a two-day celebration of competitive cycling with a nod to local history.

This past December Carlos Rodgers, already a Riverton history-maker as the originator and promoter of the Historic Riverton Criterium, emailed me and explained that an ex-Riverton resident, Rob Gusky, had reached out to him with a proposal for organizing a bicycle ride in 2014.

1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race medal
1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race medal

Since it will commemorate the 1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race from New York City to Riverton, Carlos drafted me to help with research as part of the team he was getting together to “set the wheels in motion to help make this happen.”

HRC winged wheelDo you see what he did there? An apt metaphor, Carlos!

Research, yes. I’m in.

Just don’t ask me to bike a hundred miles from NYC to Riverton.

Rob has christened Riverton’s newest bicycle race The Historic Riverton Century. A hundred-mile bike race is known as a “century.” Also cool is that he plans for it to fall on Saturday, June 7, the day before the Historic Riverton Criterium on Sunday, June 8.

As you can imagine, the logistics of pulling off a successful bike race over roads and highways from Manhattan to Riverton in today’s traffic are considerable.

To fast-forward to developments up to this point, through conference calls, emails, texts, and phone calls, Rob Gusky soon enlisted a cadre of amateur cyclists (and one amateur historian) to strategize a plan for overcoming the many obstacles to completing such a grueling race. Too, he began to also think of ways the event might benefit Riverton and promote its image to the region.

What started as Rob Gusky’s one-man quest to recreate the 1895 New York Times Tri-State Race in June 2014 has captured the imagination of everyone who visits the Facebook page he established less than a month ago. It serves as a kind of information-central showing the organization and planning for all aspects of the race as well as to promote public support for it.

Riverton historical marker, Broad & Main
Riverton historical marker, Broad & Main

It is absolutely the best place to keep up with all the progress as various team players do their part to ensure the success of this venture. Community approval and backing builds with every day as visitors drawn in by Rob’s infectious enthusiasm affirm their support with every webpage’s coveted “like”

Riverton Athletic Assn. bicycle track, New York Times, June 4, 1895
Riverton Athletic Assn. bicycle track, New York Times, June 4, 1895

A separate piece of this ambitious undertaking is the dedication of a historical marker sign, similar to the one by the gazebo at Broad and Main.

The proposed sign will describe particulars of the Riverton Bicycle Track constructed on the old baseball field between Lippincott and Thomas Avenues and note the original 1895 race.

A foremost racing venue of its day, the Riverton track was dedicated on — what else– the Glorious Fourth of July, 1894.

Riverton's Bicycle track - undated photo from Ed Gilmore
Riverton’s Bicycle track – undated photo from Ed Gilmore

It featured a ticket office, a club-house with separate apartments and all conveniences for both men and women, bleachers, a grandstand with a 3,000 person capacity, and twelve arc-lights to illuminate night races.

(Past the fence in the distance you can see the rooftop of the old passenger train station. And through the trees, do you recognize the building that will later be home to Klipple’s Bakery, Zena’s Patisserie, and now the Orange Blossom Café?)

New York Times Bldg c1895
New York Times Building c1895

In June 1895, the Hudson County Wheelmen of Jersey City organized a spectacular 150-mile race pitting relay teams of the best amateur cyclists from New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey against each other.

The contest began on the steps of the New York Times Building (then at Park Row) and climaxed with racers crossing the finish line at Riverton’s own quarter-mile track.  In addition, five distance cyclists who competed for special prizes by going the entire 150-mile distance left New York two hours before the first relay racers started.

GN Sep 2009
GN Sep 2009

Rob found out about the 1895 race that ended right here in his old hometown by browsing through the pages here at rivertonhistory.com.

In 2009, my colleague Patricia Solin authored an article for the Society newsletter, “The Fine Grounds of the Riverton Athletic Association,” which described the 1895 race and the Riverton bicycle race track, characterized by experts as “the finest quarter-mile track in the country.”

Grand Bicycle Meet, 1894-07-04, Philadelphia Inquirer, pg. 8
Grand Bicycle Meet, 1894-07-04, Philadelphia Inquirer, pg. 8

The debut of the Historic Riverton Criterium in 2011, and its return in June 2012 and 2013 triggered several more visits to the HSR archives to report on Riverton’s cycling legacy.

Rob started an online effort to fund the installation of a historic marker at the site of the Riverton’s Bicycle Track where the Tri-State Relay Race finished on June 8, 1895.

Any tax-deductible amount that anyone contributes on the secure website will move the campaign closer to its goal of preserving this milestone in Riverton’s history.

Have I mentioned that Rob lives in Wisconsin? You have to tune in to this story, if only to see how he pulls it off.

There is so much more to know about this exciting enterprise, but discover for yourself what is going on behind the scenes now so that we might all play a small part in actually making Riverton history.

I urge you to visit The Historic Riverton Century Facebook Page  and JMc05the Preserve Riverton’s History by Installing a Marker at the Bicycle Track Site Website  and throw your support behind the establishment of the race as well as the installation of the sign. – John McCormick

PS: In case you missed it, the Programs & Event Tab directs you to the summary of the recent Feb. 12, 2014 meeting that featured a presentation by actor/historian Bob Gleason as Abraham Lincoln.

Our Museum for a Day came and went

Aggie Kennedy
Aggie Kennedy clothes a dressmaker’s form.
Susan Dechnik
Susan Dechnik took most of the photos here.
Cheryl Smekal, closest;  Aggie Kennedy, at right; Susan Dechnik, back
Cheryl Smekal, closest; Aggie Kennedy, at right; Susan Dechnik, back

The reason for the recent inactivity here on the website is that we have prepared for our display of artifacts that we call our Museum for a Day at the New Leaf Tea Room in cooperation with the Riverton Free Library’s biennial Candlelight House Tour.

The items come out to play for a day, then are packed away until we get another offer for some free exhibit space.
The items come out to play for a day, then are packed away until we get another offer for some free exhibit space.

Once every two years we get to break out of storage some choice HSR treasures to exhibit to the public. Afterwards, the items get packed away, and until the next time, this online virtual museum will have to do until we get a real permanent one.

We brought out some familiar chestnuts such as some Dreer’s Nursery items, our vintage clothing, and the Riverton Gun Club history book.

New additions to our exhibit repertoire include displays about Riverton’s War Memorial and Riverton’s military veterans, Riverton Yacht Club, and Anne Knight Ruff.

museum for a day_37I only just found a box postmarked 2011 in our storage space full of donated items relevant to the Yacht Club, particularly the Duster, that former resident Marty Carhart donated.

More details of the remarkable contents will be forthcoming in a later post, but for now, blueprints for building a Duster and two reels of 16mm movie film taken of the 1949 Duster Championship race were just two of the more notable items.

RYC 100th Anniversary book 1965
RYC 100th Anniversary book 1965

Also in that box, a 1965 book published for the 100th anniversary of the Riverton Yacht Club now serves as a startling reminder that 2015 will be their 150th anniversary. I made a poster outlining some of the milestones in the RYC’s history to go with the table display.

“Tempus fugit,” as my Latin teacher used to say. Tempus fugit, indeed. I think time has even picked up more speed after I passed sixty.

HSR Board Member Bill McDermott also pitched in as a Museum Guide. Turns out he had never heard the story about how Ed Merrill built the Duster in a workshop on the third floor of a house at 301 Main Street. There are probably many things we could all learn from each other if we could pool our resources. We have the bandwidth here if you have something to share.

Readers, please search those boxes tucked away in attics and basements for anything you may have that would help to piece together a history of the RYC’s last half-century. Something spectacular is sure to be planned to commemorate that milestone, and with so many knowledgeable people now living far afield the internet is a great place to collaborate.

I made another poster that explained about Anne Knight Ruff’s book, hoping it would result in some sales, but no luck. This book is a treasury of Riverton history c.1890-late 1900s and should be required reading for anyone living in this zip code.

museum for a day_17An exhibit about Riverton’s veterans included a poster with all the original names plus the names added since 2011. Longtime Riverton resident Daniel Goffredo lent us his World War II service uniform for the day.

Earlier this year the HSR bought a presentation projector that we could use for just this type of situation, so we set it up with a screen to show the much expanded Riverton Veterans Album.

Those old hometown newspapers that we got online in late 2012 have yielded a lot of anecdotal information about the people mentioned on the original War Memorial Honor Roll. Additionally, the newspaper files have been the source of many more news clippings about military personnel whom they described as being from Riverton.

museum for a day_13museum for a day_02That might be the reason if you were to find a person mentioned in the pages of the Veterans Album, but their name is not on the War Memorial Honor Roll.

I showed the presentation to our own HSR Board members Nancy Hall and Elsie Waters, but the best part was listening to them give the color commentary as they watched.  – John McCormick

revised  12/22: added ten photos to gallery below