Direction To School
The Riverton Project, created by students in 1998, is a source of information about the history of our Victorian Town, Riverton
Originally created by our 5th grade and other students in our school in 1998, we collated historical and current information about our town in the form of a timeline.
We gratefully acknowledge many local sources for our information and images, among them Betty B. Hahle, town historian, The Historical Society of Riverton and its Gaslight News and The Romance of Riverton, and the Riverton 4th of July Committee and its annual parade newsletter.
Many of the images in this timeline are digital reproductions of postcards provided as a service by one of our retired staff, John McCormick.
Click on the link below to see a slide show presentation for each town listed.
Pre 1851: Delaware River
Long before there was a Riverton, there was the river. Arising in the Catskill Mountains in New York, the sparkling waters of the two branches of the Delaware River hurry their separate ways, then join, slow, broaden and flow as one to Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
The ocean’s rising and falling tides blend saltwater with the fresh water of the river to create an estuary. The web of life in and around the water is as varied as the water itself – fresh or salty, tidal or no tidal, deep or shallow. As the river changes, it creates different habitats that support different forms of life. The swift water of the Delaware is alive with small-mouth bass, trout, and shad, while in the slower, non-tidal stretches, perch, sunfish, and white catfish can be found. The tidal areas of the lower Delaware are home to white perch, large mouth bass, and striped bass. Although shad, herring, and sturgeon live along the Atlantic coast, they travel far up the Delaware to spawn.
Consider the horseshoe crab. Older than the dinosaurs, these strange creatures live along the Delaware estuary and the ocean floor. Each spring over a million horseshoe crabs move up to the beaches to lay their eggs and so provide food for countless birds migrating to Canada. The Delaware estuary is the world’s largest breeding site for horseshoe crabs.
A highly successful cleanup of the river is undoing 300 years of misuse by humans. Peregrine falcons, long banished by indiscriminate use of the river, and reintroduced in a captive release program, are thriving, and can be found perched atop all the bridges that span the Delaware.
In its 300-mile journey past country vistas, past cities, and past industry, the Delaware flows along a small New Jersey town of 2,700 named Riverton or town on the river. In a way, the river is also home to the men, women and children of Riverton.
Watching young people learning to sail at the Riverton Yacht Club, many a senior citizen recalls fondly when as youths they handled a Duster or Comet. Children skip stones across the river’s waves. Armed with binoculars, birdwatchers scan the sky and the riverbank. People of all ages watch the rays of the setting sun reflect in dancing gold. But, oh, how the wintry winds can whip down the frozen river and rattle the windows of the stately Victorian homes along its banks.
Riverton without the river would be unthinkable. But it’s the children of Riverton who probably best experience the river, their minds free of burdensome facts and statistics.
Source: “Delaware River: A Question of Balance”
Pre 1851: A History of the Land
The Delaware River forms the western boundary of New Jersey. In early years, travel by water was the preferred route and brought both explorers and settlers to the Province’s shores.
In 1673, the Province of New Jersey was divided into East and West Jersey by a diagonal line. John Fenwick purchased West Jersey and divided it into “tenths,” offering it to English Quakers who sought escape from persecution in their own lands.
The first “tenth,” or Yorkshire tenth, ran from the Falls of Trenton, south, to the Rancocas Creek. The second, or London tenth, began at that point and ended at the Pennsauken Creek. In 1694, these two tenths joined to form Burlington County, one of the original counties of New Jersey, and its largest one.
Chester Township was established in the London tenth in 1688, and in 1708, Quaker Thomas Lippincott purchased 1,034 acres of land there. The land had wooded areas with red and white oak, walnut, maple, and other trees.
Cleared land produced fine vegetables and orchards of apples, pears, and peaches. Berries were cultivated and became noted New Jersey products, especially blueberries and cranberries. New Jersey became known as The Garden State. Dairies and merino sheep were also a part of the rural scene in this area.
In 1702, East and West Jersey united, and in 1776, the Province became a state. Burlington had long become a large and important city, and had been a capital of West Jersey. In 1790, Trenton became the state capital, with the State House being built two years later.
The Lippincott farms changed size as sons acquired parts of the original farm and other acres were sold or additional tracts were purchased. Lower Chester, the section toward the Delaware River, was often called Cinnaminson, the English conversion of an Indian name that had been used for the area long before Englishmen had settled it. In 1860, when Lower Chester separated from the home township, it became Cinnaminson Township. Within it were several small villages, Riverton being one of them.
In 1791 the Quakers started a small school in the schoolmaster’s home in Cinnaminson. A few years later, a schoolhouse was built on a plot of land donated by Thomas Lippincott, a direct descendant of the early Lippincott settler. Because the plot was located in his west field, the school’s name became Westfield, as did its Meeting House that followed a few years later. That small settlement was located at the crossroads of the Burlington Pike (now Route 130) and the road from the Delaware River to Moorestown. The section of that road in Riverton is now called Main Street.
In 1851, Riverton was founded on 120 acres of Joseph Lippincott’s farm that fronted on the Delaware River. Joseph Lippincott was a direct descendant of the Thomas Lippincott who had purchased land in Chester Township almost 300 years earlier. All around the tiny village were fields still being farmed – corn and cabbages were most popular in the immediate area. Forty years later, a new borough had replaced crops; Riverton had grown to contain three-quarters of one square mile within its boundaries – all on former Lippincott farmland.
The Founding of Riverton, New Jersey
Riverton was founded by 10 Philadelphia merchants who wanted to build summer homes away from the city. Architect Samuel Sloan designed the new village.
For an historical description by Betty Hahle, click here.
Riverton has the distinction of being the first wholly planned residential subdivision in America.
Shops in Riverton began to appear in 1880, in front rooms, or porches, then renovated homes, until around the turn of the century when a few substantial commercial buildings were erected.
Main Street shops, c.1910
Yacht Club, c. 1880
Riverton Yacht Club
The Riverton Yacht Club was formed in 1865. The clubhouse in the center, was constructed in 1880.
The Riverton Yacht Club is the oldest yacht club on the Delaware River.
The Riverton Yacht club is located in the borough of Riverton at the foot of Main Street.
Viewed from the entire length of Bank Avenue, the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, Pennsylvania, and passing boat traffic on the Delaware River, it is easily one of the most recognizable landmarks of the area.
More Yacht Club photos . . .
Yacht Club in Winter
Photos probably taken during the blizzard of 1888 or 1889
The Christ Episcopal Church
Riverton’s first church was established in 1855. The first Episcopal Church and its Sunday School building were designed by John Fraser.
The buildings, with cemetery, were located on Broad Street at Church Alley (now Lane), near Main Street. The church was moved to a lot in 1871, then moved again to Parry Avenue in Palmyra in 1884. The cemetery was vacated in 1890. The Price Building was erected in 1891 on the area nearest to Church Alley. In 1900, the Gas Company erected the building facing Broad Street, now a bakery. The old church can still be seen in Palmyra today as the Palmyra Episcopal Church.
A new, larger, beautiful church was planned. First built was the Rectory in 1868, then a stone church in 1883. The Parish House, designed by J. Fraser’s son, A. A. Fraser, was built in 1895.
A beautiful Tiffany window can be seen from the Main Street entrance!
Riverton Public School
The school was called Cinnaminson School #7 — Riverton was still a village within the larger township of Cinnaminson!
A clapboard, one-room school house was located on 4th Street between Main and Howard Streets. It was next to the Catholic Church’s chapel, facing, what is now, the Episcopal Church’s Parish House.
The school had no heat or indoor sanitation facilities.
Riverton’s first Post Office was established in a station house near the railroad in 1871. Mail was dropped off at a building that was once located at Broad and Main Streets (where the Veterans Memorial now stands). Later, mail service was moved to Cowperthawait’s Drug Store located on Main Street. Eventually, after several moves, it was established in a new building in 1909.
“The Post Office at 609 Main St. from 1909-1931, was the Episcopal Church’s Sunday School building, purchased and moved here by Samuel Rudderow, rented by Porch Club, then vacated when the government wanted it for a Post Office. (Yellow building, at left.) House mail delivery was established in 1920.
In 1926 the postmaster was Ross Mattis. The New Era (newspaper) building was on the left and at the right is the Cinnaminson Bank and Trust building.”
From: Betty Hahle’s description in The Romance of Riverton.
When the bank moved across the street, the US Post Office moved into the bank building, next door.
In 1937, two buildings were razed to make room for for a new US Post Office. This new US Post Office was dedicated on July 4, 1940.
Early tax records from 1780’s record a fishery at the cove between Howard & Fulton Streets. Albert Faunce and his father, William, had operated the fishery from 1876 to 1904.
The photo, above, is a capstan, a kind of turnstile, used to draw the large and heavy nets out of the water and up onto shore. The seines, which had weights on the bottom and cork floats on top, were rowed out and set by a team of fishermen in rowboats. Mr. Faunce said that they made seven hauls a day during shad season.
The record catch for one day was 10,000 and for a single haul, 3,000 fish!
Too bad that overfishing and then pollution depleted breeding that kept fishnets full in earlier years. There were fisheries at various spots along the river — Palmyra had at least one and residents enjoyed fishing at various spots. Shad fishing was a special spring treat, when the fish were swimming up river to spawn.
Today, the focus on caring for our environment has provided a dramatic improvement in fish and bird habitat along the river.
Calvary Presbyterian Church
The Calvary Presbyterian church in Riverton was consecrated July, 1879.
The photo below, shows the church, manse, and chapel about 1898.
A new and expanded building was completed in 1927, with classrooms added in 1952.
When representatives from throughout New Jersey gathered to form a State Congress of Mothers (PTA) in 1900, the Presbyterian Church offered the use of their Sunday School building for the meeting.
Information per Betty Hahle, 4/2005
The Church of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church
The first chapel, located on 4th Street between Main and Howard Streets, faced, what is now, the Episcopal Church’s Parish House.
The yellow building to below is the 1892 school building, the one to its right, the chapel (in pink). After the chapel was deconsecrated and renovated, it was used as Riverton’s first kindergarten in 1896. When it wasn’t needed anymore as a kindergarten, it was moved across the railroad tracks and can be now found at the back of Freddy’s Shoe Shop on Main Street.
A new Catholic Church was built on 4th Street near Linden Avenue.
These photos are from 1892.
That building, below, was razed and a new church was dedicated at the corner of 4th and Linden Avenue in 1965.
This photo was taken by our 7th grade class in 1999.
Gaslights in Riverton add to its small-town charm.
As population in Riverton increased, a need to have light at night arose. The first street lights were oil burning lights, which had to be lighted and put out by a lamplighter, who was also supposed to clean the shades as they were quickly darkened by soot.
Lamps were acquired by subscription, and by 1880 there were about 30 of them in town.
In 1900 England, a mantle was invented that would burn a long time, without soot residue, and which tripled the amount of light given. By March, 1900, Riverton began to acquire the gaslights we now enjoy.
These Victorian-style lights have glass globes, with bases made in North Carolina. They weigh about 350 pounds and are of several different patterns — look around town to see the diversity in the lamps!
From: Betty Hahle’s notes.
Riverton’s concert hall was open on September 1, 1886.
It was built “for dramatic, literary, musical, and social entertainments, and for business meetings.”
It faced 4th Street between Main and Lippincott Streets.
Events were scheduled in 1917, and the vacant lot was sold in 1919; it is believed that the Lyceum burned in 1918, though the event is not documented.
“The new railroad station had been erected in 1887 and was much admired by commuters–and also, unfortunately, by loiterers.”
Betty Hahle in Yesterday, The Historical Society of Riverton
Building across the street, at the “point” of Main and Howard Streets, is the Roberts Building.
The train station had a news stand, seen to the far right of the station.
In the picture above, note the station was on the Delaware River side of the street, and a small shelter platform across the tracks, erected in 1911. The buildings were located at the intersection of Main and Broad Streets.
When the platform was to be demolished, two lamps were salvaged and can be seen, today, at our borough’s municipal building. The concrete foundation was cleared during preparation for NJ Transit’s River Line.
The Riverton Free Library
The Riverton Free Library was started in the Christ Episcopal Parish House. It became a free library and moved to 306 Main Street in 1908.
The building was donated by Mrs. Sarah Ogden in memory of her husband, Edward H. Ogden, Riverton’s first mayor.
The Riverton Fire Company
In May, 1890, The Riverton Volunteer Fire Company was formed following the disastrous fire that destroyed a store and several residences at the point property, where Main Street and Howard meet. Before there was a RVFC, there was a Bucket Brigade, affiliated with Palmyra’s Independence Fire Company.
John C. S. Davis, the first president of the new company, lived on Bank Avenue.
Fire fighters receive rigorous standard training before participating in fire control.
The Riverton Volunteer Fire Company has an active and dedicated Auxiliary.
Station # 241.
The Porch Club of Riverton
In Spring, 1890 a group of eight young women formed a Literature Club. In 1895 they organized more formally, and divided into two sections, one of which had a goal of seeing a free kindergarten in Riverton.
In 1896, Riverton School opened the first free kindergarten in Burlington County. Membership in the Club grew steadily, and after sending members to Washington DC where a National Congress of Mothers was founded in 1898, they worked to have a State Congress in New Jersey. Women and educators met in October, 1900
These civic-minded women were responsible for many improvements to our community at the turn of the century including establishing the first well-baby clinic, advocating for screens on windows, establishing trash collection, campaigning for improvements to the roads, school, and playground, establishing awards for student achievement, and supporting the right of women to have the vote.
Today the ladies of the Porch Club continue to meet in their original clubhouse (initially they met in a building on Main Street). Their mandate is to serve the community through enrichment programs and charitable donations. The Club thrives as a “center of thought and action for the women of Riverton” (bylaws)
Their varied social and fund raising season includes teas, luncheons, speakers, plays, fashion shows, rummage sales and garden tours.
Riverton Public School, New Building
In 1892, for $4,000, a frame building containing six rooms was built. The building was located at 4th Street facing Howard Street on what is now the upper-grade playground.
The pink building to the right was the first Catholic chapel, later deconsecrated and used for the first kindergarten in Burlington County.
Village Votes to Become A Borough
Riverton was originally a small village within the large township of Chester. In 1865 Cinnaminson withdrew from Chester to become an independent township, and within it were several small villages, Riverton being one of them.
Riverton voted to separate from Cinnaminson Township in December, 1893
New Borough Hall, 1984
Riverton incorporated as a borough with a mayor and four councilmen on January 1, 1894.
Edward H. Ogden was the first mayor of Riverton.
Burlington County’s First Kindergarten
“Riverton School Board purchased the deconsecrated Sacred Heart Chapel, enlarged it, and opened Burlington county’s first Froebleian (Frederick Froeble) kindergarten for 4-year-olds.”
It was located in the building colored pink in this post card next door to the new school.
Riverton held the first Children’s Parade, sponsored by the Yacht Club, on the 4th of July.
The parade proceeded down Main Street to the Delaware River. Each child was given a silk flag to wave. Years later, the parade was sponsored by the Riverton Fire Company.
This popular tradition is still in effect today with its wide variety of activities including races, speeches at Memorial Park, a pet show, a patriotic house decorating contest, and, of course, a parade — children with decorated bicycles, floats, and musical bands. The Riverton 4th of July Committee, a dedicated group of volunteers, continues this wonderful event through donations. One change from the past — the parade begins at the river and ends at Memorial Park.
New Jersey State Mothers Council
On October 20, 1900, the New Jersey State Mothers Council was formally organized.
The Mother Council was one of the key groups that helped to form the Parent-Teacher Organization in the state as we know it today.
After participating in the founding of a National Congress of Mothers in Washington, DC, a section of the Porch Club of Riverton was eager to found a State Congress in New Jersey. They sent out 500 invitations (calls) to other women’s clubs and educators throughout the state to met in Riverton. As the club did not yet have its own building, it meet in the Sunday School building of the Presbyterian Church. This brought together the “circle” groups from many schools into one state-wide organization known today as the PTA. Officers were elected and other pertinent issues were discussed. Mary VanMeter Grice of Riverton was elected its first president.
Riverton Porch Club’s Mother’s Circle joined the New Jersey State Congress of Mothers in 1917.
Riverton Country Club
According to The Romance of Riverton, “the Club was formed in 1900, and the building erected the following year, at the head of Thomas Avenue on the grounds above Park Avenue.”
The small building to the left of the clubhouse was erected in 1905. The front of the building was, at first, a pro shop, now a snack or “half-way house.” The rear has two bowling alleys.
“The Club House was demolished in 1959, after a new building was erected within the Cinnaminson portion of the Club, where liquor license could be obtained.”
The trolley line came to Riverton in 1901.
In 1904 it was extended from Trenton, running south to Camden. For the next thirty years the trolleys, running every 20 minutes, provided transportation for Riverton residents.
In April, 1931, buses replaced the trolleys.
From: Betty Hahle’s Yesterday, 1991.
Cinnaminson Bank and Trust
Below, the US Post Office, the right, the bank, c. 1907
And today . . .
The Cinnaminson Band and Trust was started in February, 1907, in a room in the Roberts Building. In October, 1907, they moved into their new building on Main Street.
The present bank building, at right, was erected diagonally from it at a cost of $12,000 in 1927and occupied 1928.
From: Betty Hahle’s description in The Romance of Riverton, et al.
Mt. Zion A. M. E. Church
Members of this church first met in a room on the second floor of the Roberts Store on the point of Main and Howard Streets. In 1896 they acquired a small building at this site and soon enlarged it by extending it back to the limit of their property. The church, located at Third and Penn Streets, was dedicated in August of 1909.
From Betty Hahle’s notes. Image at left from The New Era..
Riverton Public School: First Brick Building
Riverton’s first brick school was built on the corner of Fifth and Howard Streets.
The new building contained eleven classrooms and was to accommodate 400 students.
“The offices and classrooms were all on the 2nd & 3rd floors; desks and chairs were bolted to the floor in straight rows. The auditorium was on the right side, at a lower level, and was reached by entering on the 5th Street side and going down a few steps.” The kindergarten was on the first floor. Decorative tiles remain from that era in the present Music Room.
Church of Christ, Scientist
In 1914 this church acquired a residence at 703 Thomas Avenue and converted into a church building. Their Reading Room, open to anyone, was located in the Williams/Wright building. Their new building was located on Main Street, just as you enter Riverton from Cinnaminson.
From Betty Hahle’s notes. Image at left from The New Era..
“Planned as a memorial to Riverton World War I veterans, it was begun with the purchase of a tract of land from Dreer’s Nursery in 1923, which ran along the creek. It cost $11,500, and would not be paid off for another two years. In 1926 it had a baseball diamond, football field, and basketball courts were laid out. In 1930 it was fully developed, with grandstand, playground, etc., and dedicated July 4, 1931.
The park increased in size after a donation of land between the original line and the railroad. The facilities include tennis courts, soccer fields, and a new stadium.
In 1992 a group of residents formed The Friends of Riverton Park, raised funds, and greatly improved the playground area of the park.
“The Williams-Wright building was erected in 1923, and Lawrence (“Chappie”) and Blanche Keating had their drug store on the corner there for more than forty years.
On the Howard St. side was the American Store. . .Below that was the Woolston Car Agency (since 1924), then Emerson Wolfschmidt’s Barber Shop. Next Came Coddington’s . . then Becker’s grocery store . . . several smaller shops, and the Fire House.”
The second floor of the building held the custom tailoring shop of Edward Williams and the town’s Chamber of Commerce office.
From Betty Hahle’s notes in The Romance of Riverton.
The Romance of Riverton
“By 1926, there were nearly 70 businesses listed in Riverton. The Chamber of Commerce engaged Mr. Edwin Cooper to produce a full length film called The Romance of Riverton. This black and white silent film (with captions) traced the growth and development of the town from the early days to the present. (1926).”
From: Betty Hahle’ description in The Romance of Riverton.
Hannah H. Chew Memorial Library
The central library in the school was started by the Riverton PTA.
It was named the “Hannah H. Chew Library” in honor of Miss Hannah Chew, Supervising Principal of Riverton School from 1920 – 1930.
Miss Chew was a strict but fair principal. She was instrumental in getting the first school nurse in Riverton School. Her advocating for the school building’s renovation help inspire the 1935 expansion.
From: Betty Hahle.
Riverton Public School: Renovation Begins
Work begins to enlarge and renovate the school at 5th and Howard Streets.
Work is completed by 1936.
Riverton Public School: WPA Wing Dedicated
In February of 1936, Riverton’s new school was dedicated!
WPA funds made it possible to construct a new wings to the original school containing an auditorium/gym and additional classrooms. Improvements to the building included a new ventilation system, better lighting, new lavatories, and a room specially designated for a library.
Image from The New Era. Text from Betty Hahle.
Veterans Honor Roll Monument
Land was donated at the corner of Main and Broad Streets, and money was collected by public subscription to honor Riverton residents who have served America in the military.
The Memorial has been newly renovated by volunteers. There is even a water trough for pets!
Riverton Public School: New Wing
An additional five rooms were added to the right of the main building, creating a new “wing” connected to the main building.
Painting by Joan Bailey Hartmann, presented to the school by the Class of 1971.
Friends of the Riverton Free Library: Candlelight House Tour
The library- sponsored house tour began in May, 1960 and took place during the day. Some years later, the tour evolved into an evening event, sponsored by the Friends of Riverton Free Library. It now takes place every other year in December. Lovely homes throughout Riverton are featured displaying holiday decor. Over 1,000 guests visit each tour — a major fundraiser for the Library.
Riverton Public School: Latest Addition
The last addition to the school was completed which replaced the courtyard with a new “wing” of open-spaced classrooms.
Riverton Free Library: Annual Social
Early each spring, Rivertonians are invited to attend a gathering held at the Porch Club to help raise money to support the library. The event was originated in 1976 as a “Library Tea” with bridge games being a popular form of entertainment.
The traditional get-together continues each year by individuals interested in supporting the Riverton Free Library as well as meeting neighbors and friends!
Tree City, U.S.A.
In 1872 J. Sterling Morton, a journalist, proposed to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture that a special day be set aside for the planting of trees. This holiday called Arbor Day was first observed with the planting of more than a million trees in Nebraska. Arbor Day is now observed throughout the nation and the world.
Riverton has been named a Tree City USA by The National Arbor Day Foundation. The National Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and The National Association of State Foresters.
To become a Tree City USA, a community must meet four standards: establish a tree board or department, adopt a city tree ordinance, establish a comprehensive community forestry program, and hold an Arbor Day observance.
Trees make a world of difference in our communities. Trees have long been recognized for the beauty and value they lend to our homes, neighborhoods, parks, and business areas. At the same time trees conserve energy, help clean the air, protect rivers, and streams, and provide homes for wildlife in our towns and cities.
Being awarded the Tree City USA Award means Riverton takes its tree-care responsibilities seriously.
State foresters presented Riverton’s Mayor Gunn with an official Tree City flag and other official flag walnut plaque, community entrance signs, and educational pamphlet materials at the annual Arbor Day program produced by Riverton’s school children under the direction of Mrs. Karen Molloy, music teacher.
The Tree City USA Award makes the public more aware of community tree planting and care activities. Town citizens tend to become more personally interested in tree planting, and in the care of city trees in parks and along streets.
We were awarded a sign for our town that says Tree City USA. You can see it when you enter Riverton by Main Street. We were also awarded a beautiful flag. All the school children are given pine seedlings to plant in our yards. We promise to care for these until the seedlings become trees.
Communities can obtain Tree City USA applications from the state forester’s office or by writing The National Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410.
Friends of Riverton Park
When it came time to improve playground facilities at the park, the Friends of Riverton Park was formed to raise funds as well as to act as a work force at the park. This active group has raised substantial funds to add major upgrades to the playground area.
Over 100 households participate in this town-wide yard sale which attracts bargain hunters from all over the region! The event benefits local organizations and is held in May.