Walking Tour of Historic Riverton brochures are available at the New Leaf

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.

The link for the PowerPoint slide show is here.

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, at left, directs the HSR flock along the Walking Tour route
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.

Mr. Renn at 410 Main
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.

This post is a reproduction – not original to the home.
Jan and Dennis DeVries–their information helped to avoid errors on the Walking Tour brochure

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.

404 Main (top) and 402 Main (bottom) have the same floor plan; 402 is oriented at a right angle to 404

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.

301 Main, the house where the Duster was born
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






Treasure Day 2012 and revising the Riverton Walking Tour

If you picked up a cool collectible or Riverton related artifact at Treasure Day, please tell us about it by email or facebook. Send a scan or a photo so that we can at least share vicariously in enjoying your bargain.

While browsing through the great yearly Riverton town-wide yard sale that is aptly named “Treasure Day,” a man selling flowers by a table in front of Christ Church told me a visitor had asked him about the Riverton Walking Tour leaflet .

1989 Riverton Walking Tour pamphlet

Funny you should ask. We’re working on revising the 1989 publication. But first, some history.

In a blog entry for January 2011, called Betty’s Sage Advice I posted scans of the informative Riverton Walking Tour leaflet that has been available for many years at the Riverton Free Library for a quarter. The suggestion to produce a self-guided walking tour first grew out of an October 1979 Society meeting. HSR members Lenore Probsting and Louise Vaughn collaborated on producing the straightforward guide that debuted in May 1981.

By 1989, Betty Hahle weighed in with additional research and that revised edition has served our purposes well, but after more than twenty years, it too needs an update.

Betty wrote in 1981 that the Walking Tour “…. is by no means a complete list of all there is to be seen, but it is a good place to begin…”

After some discussion, several interested members met to discuss revising the Walking Tour. Still a work in progress, we have a draft of the text for the first tour and could use some input about what other information we could include.

Betty once told me to not forget to record the history that is happening today. Accordingly,  we would like to include some facts about these properties and their occupants for the times in which we live as well as for the times of their construction and original occupants. If you know of a feature not listed in a place’s description, or a tradition, event, anecdote, or a famous or infamous person connected to an address, please submit your suggestions  by email.

1. Historical Marker, Broad & Main Sts. (This will have a brief general history of Riverton.) Proceed along Main St.

2. 501 Main Street c.1860. Who would guess that this charming Gothic style home was once the site of F.C. Cole Dairy c. 1903-1940?

3. 410-412 Main Street c.1874. Second Empire brick dwelling with mansard roof. Front bay has round-top windows with ironwork cresting. Elaborate cornice with rosettes between brackets. Note the iron fence.

4. 408 Main Street c.1856. Italianate style, Eastlake front porch.  First floor had been doctors’ offices from 1909.  In 1930s the upper floors had a “lying-in” hospital in which many local births occurred. Now a private residence undergoing renovations.

5. 406 Main Street c.1855. Clapboard house with mansard roof.  Turret with conical roof and curved windows on left side was originally an open porch. It was converted to office/waiting room when Dr. Marcy purchased it in 1887 (for $7500.!) Later it became a music room. Notice the use of narrow clapboard and shingles, complimenting each other. On right side is an oriel window, with scrolled brackets beneath. Notice also the chimney—it is wider at top than at bottom. Brick walk, herringbone pattern.  Res. of Dr. Alexander Marcy starting 1887; remained in the family for almost a century.

6. 404 Main Street 1868. Italianate style, clapboard house.  This house and its next door neighbor – No. 402 – are “sister” houses; both designed and built by local entrepreneur/ realtor/census taker/Civil War veteran, Edward Hackney Pancoast in 1868.  Front door has fan-light and sidelights.  Floor to ceiling windows with small iron balconies, added when veranda was removed.

7. 402 Main Street c.1868. Second Empire style. Concave mansard roof; floor to ceiling front windows; paneled shutters. For many years the Pancoast lived at 404 Main and operated this popular boarding house that was known as the “Home Mansion.”

8. 400 Main Street c.1853. Late Georgian style, clapboard home; mortise and tenon construction; front porch removed. Built for home of Squire Louis Ourt.

9. 305 Main St., Christ Episcopal Church 1884. Gothic style, Trenton brownstone, slate roof. Architect, John Fraser. Note genuine Tiffany window, west wall, given in memory of Louis A. Godey, publisher of Godey’s Lady’s Book, seven different iron and stone Celtic crosses on roof, boot scrapers on step, and wrought iron fence. (Electrified replica gaslights are new). Christ Church Rectory 1868. Second Empire style, Trenton brownstone, mansard roof and dormers. John Eraser, architect. Porch added 1883. (Parish House behind rectory by Fraser’s son, 1895.)

10. 308 Main Street c.1870. Second Empire architecture. Mmmm..good! From 1872, until his death in 1900 it was the home of Joseph Campbell, founder of Campbell’s Soup Company. Beautiful frame house with mansard roof covered with hexagon shaped tiles and edged with elaborate iron cresting. Notice carriage mounting block and hitching post at the curb.

11. 306 Main St., Riverton Library 1855. Small Carpenter-Gothic board and batten style cottage. Built for Dr. A. Willits; res. of George Senat 1863 to c.1900. Mrs. Sarah Morris Ogden purchased it in 1907, and donated it the next year to the Riverton Library Assn. in memory of her late husband, Riverton’s first mayor, Edward H. Ogden (1894).

12. 304 Main Street 1858. Victorian home of indeterminate style. Eastlake style decorative woodwork added to front porch in recent years. The town’s first telephone (1886) was installed there. Sara and Milton Cowperthwaite purchased the home in 1888 and promptly opened a combined drugstore and US Post Office in a room on the first floor.

13. 301 Main Street c.1852. Italianate style. One of Riverton’s earliest homes. In the 1930’s, owner Owen Merrill designed and built a simple sailboat in a room on the 3rd floor. He and some friends lowered the craft from a window, took it down to the river, and christened it a “Duster”. It became a world class sailboat.

14. 207 Main Street 1884. Queen Anne style 2½ story frame residence with hipped roof and cross gables. Note patterned shingles over clapboard, elaborate projecting bay windows, floor length windows on first floor, right side, and sweeping veranda. This house won an award in 1992 Burl. Co Freeholders for restoration,, rehabilitation, and preservation and planning.

15. 213 Howard St., PORCH CLUB  1909. This is the Adirondack style clubhouse of the Porch Club of Riverton, formed in 1890 by eight young women. Today it has about 170 members. The name was suggested because of the earliest meeting places; it is one of the oldest women’s clubs in NJ. The Club’s interest in the health and education of children brought about many positive changes.

16. 600 Fifth St., RIVERTON PUBLIC SCHOOL 1910. Riverton’s first one-room frame public school was built in 1865 on the site of the present school’s blacktop; a larger one replaced that in 1892. This brick structure was erected for $40,000. Additions came about in 1933, 1955, 1973.

17. 505 Howard Street, Riverton Fire Company 1890. In 1886 volunteers from Palmyra and Riverton formed Independence Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 of Riverton and Palmyra, headquartered in Palmyra.  After a disastrous fire destroyed Roberts General Store at Howard & Main Sts. and consumed several homes along Main Street in 1890, Riverton saw the need to form its own fire company— Riverton Fire Company No. 1.

Yes, this list has fewer items than the original Walking Tour, but we want to include a little more content for each place on the tour. A tour with ten fewer stops might be completed in less time. It looks like we’ll need to plan for at least one or two more tours and have a separate Children’s Tour. This first set of Walking Tour stops are mostly along Main and Broad from Broad to Third Street.  Remember, it is a work in progress, and suggestions, corrections, and criticism are invited.

John McCormick, Gaslight News editor