Historical markers help preserve Riverton’s unique heritage

There’s that word again – UNIQUE.

How many times have you heard that word used to characterize Riverton?

Below, HSR Board Member Roger Prichard updates us on the Society’s Historical Marker Project – our effort to commemorate Riverton’s treasured past. – John McCormick, Editor

RFLibrary marker, June 2018, PHOTO: JMc

Our historical marker program has its next two markers in the ground, at Riverton Free Library and Riverton Public School.

John Laverty, Roger Prichard, RFL marker PHOTO: Bill Brown

Our volunteer Sub-Committee on Excavations (i.e. Pres. Bill Brown, John Laverty and Roger Prichard) planted them both on a recent Sunday morning.  Stop by and have a read!

The marker for the Library tells the story of the tiny cottage first occupied by a nationally known motivational preacher.  It was then for many decades the home of a lifelong bachelor who was a beloved figure in Riverton.  It was transformed into the home of the new Riverton Free Library and Reading Room Association, which has been a treasure for the town for about 110 years since then.

RPS historical marker, June 2018, PHOTO: JMc
Roger Prichard, John Laverty, RPS marker PHOTO: Bill Brown

Riverton Public School is actually the fourth public school attended by students of the area – the first being long before there even WAS a Riverton.  The marker tells of how its expansion paced the evolution of the whole concept of public education in America and includes a “then-and-now” graphic with groups of children from about 1915 and 2018.

Carlos Rogers directs the action at the 6th Annual HRCriterium, 2016, PHOTO: JMc

Carlos Rogers kickstarted our Historical Marker Program when in 2016,  he donated $4000 of the proceeds from his 2016 Historic Riverton Criterium to the HSR. We partnered with Riverton Free Library Association and the 2018 Class of Riverton Public School respectively to fund these historical markers. Previous markers installed under this program include those at the Caleb Clothier Home at 503 Bank Avenue and Riverton Yacht Club. – Roger Prichard

Riverton Free Library still a treasured asset for 118 years

R Bowden Shepherd c1882 Christ Church Rector 1894-1911

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.

Riverton Free Library

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.

Riverton Free Library October 2017

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.

Fine Box

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

 

 

RFL’s Candlelight House Tour Sat., Dec. 3 plus HSR’s Museum for a Day

 

candlelight-house-tour-2016-ticket-copyThis cherished Riverton holiday tradition returns after a cancellation in 2015.

The weather forecast for this Saturday’s Candlelight House Tour in Riverton calls for 51 degrees and partly sunny skies. A tenth home has just been added to the tour.

Extra tickets have just been printed and are still available at the Library, The New Leaf, Orange Blossom Cafe, and Fresh Produce of Palmyra for $15 in advance or $20 day of the tour.

During your rounds of the decorated homes stop by The New Leaf for refreshment and entertainment.

HSR archives entrance
HSR archives entrance

After a two-year absence, the Historical Society of Riverton’s Museum-for-a-Day returns, this time to the Library’s basement.

Maybe we should call it Mini-Museum-for-a-Day since the space is small. Still, if you can venture downstairs, it’s worth the price of admission, which is free for this one day. Who knows when we can do it again?

HSR Board members have prepared a number of exhibits of materials from our seldom seen archives.

hsr-museum-2016-pano-1

A remarkable highlight is Society member Dorothy Talavera’s own collection called A Family of Brides containing bridal gowns, photos, invitations, love letters, and mementos representing almost two centuries of brides in the same family.

a-family-of-brides-pano

romance-of-riverton-new-2016-copyUpstairs, in the Library’s meeting room, we will screen the 43-minute DVD Romance of Riverton, filmed in 1926. It is available again for $20 after a sellout in 2015.

Also available for sale upstairs will be reproduction prints of many of the postcards, photos, and maps plus historically themed mugs seen on our website. See more information about the DVD and the mugs here.  – JMc

2016-candlelight-house-tour-booklet-coverRev. 12/1/2016: This bulletin from Deb Lengyel  – Here is a link to the 8-page tour booklet for a sneak preview of the homes this year.  It includes a list of businesses and shops open for the event, a map, and provides descriptive information filled with architectural and local history details for the places on the tour. A history lesson in itself! Thanks to Deb and Idea Patio Creative Services for again generously donating her design expertise and a part of the printing costs to the project.

It’s win-win-win as the HRC brings family-fun, prizes for athletes, and aids the RFCo.

HRC_cowbellHRC graphicRiverton resident Carlos Rogers goes for the hat trick June 9, 2013, 1:00 p.m., as The Historic Riverton Criterium returns this year for the third time to the gaslamp-lined streets of this near-square mile borough.

In a crit, cyclists race a specified number of laps on a closed course over public roads closed to normal traffic. In this case, athletes pedal 20-50 laps (depending on ability), around an eight-tenths mile fixed loop circuit of the Borough’s thoroughfares during a typical hour-or-so long match.

Capitalizing on the success of the last two competitions, Carlos’ HRC Facebook page has already drawn pro and amateur contenders signing up for the USA Cycling sanctioned series of bicycle races, which includes USAC CATEGORIES 3/4, 45+, and Pro/1/2.

Find out more about registration, race categories, directions, the cash purses and cash premes, lots of photos and results of the past races, and all particulars on that Facebook page.

Contributors have opened their checkbooks, and several sponsors have returned to throw in their support behind this exciting community event that already has a history of giving back to the local area’s groups and organizations.  See the HRC Sponsorship Sheet here (Word .doc).

The popular Kids Race returns and you might want to get your cameras ready for the Fireman’s Fun Lap!

From Left:  Carlos and Adrienne Rogers , Karen Healey ( RFL President) Michael Robinson (RFL Manager)
From Left: Carlos and Adrienne Rogers , Karen Healey ( RFL President) Michael Robinson (RFL Manager)

Since 2011, the HRC has been committed to supporting Riverton and its surrounding communities by making financial contributions to various organizations to aid and benefit our friends and neighbors. See the HRC Missions Proceeds Sheet here. ( Word .docx) This year’s proceeds benefit the Riverton Fire Company.

Jeannie O’Sullivan, Staff writer for the Burlington County Times, wrote a great color piece on last year’s day at the races, and if you search “criterium” in our search box at the upper right of your screen, you will be directed to several other references to the 2011 and 2012 races as well as Riverton’s vintage bicycle races of the 1890s.

I am ready – I found my cowbell from last year. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

 

Riverton Museum for a Day on the Candlelight House Tour 2011

graphic credit: Bernard & Jean Markovitz

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 area to view the historic buildings all beautifully decorated for the holidays which included five private homes plus the Porch Club, Christ Churchand The New Leaf Tea Room and Gift Shoppe.

Click here for the PDF file of the Official 2011 Candlelight House Tour Brochure.

Curator Mrs. Cheryl Smekal welcomed scores of visitors to our limited-engagement museum.

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.

Can you guess the name or the use of these household items which might have been found in homes of the early 1900s?

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, Gaslight News editor, blogger, collector of Riverton objects and lore hopes to interest more people in contributing information and images to the Society.

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. 

 

A display includes photos and artifacts from various business enterprises and a vertical wall banner which outlines the history of the New Leaf building.

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.

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.

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