On-line Book




Chapter 1

Chapter 2
Urban Development

Chapter 3
Maritime Activity

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Appendix 1
Patterned Brick Houses

Appendix 2
Stack Houses

Appendix 3
Existing Documentation


Historic Themes and Resources within the
New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route
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New Jersey, bordered by the Delaware River on the west, New York on the northeast, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and Delaware Bay on the south, is the fifth-smallest state in the country. Within its 8,204 square miles, however, it boasts a broad range of natural topographical features and retains a surprising balance of urban and rural settings. Despite the proximity to Philadelphia, New York, and the ever-condensing Northeast metropolitan corridor, the lower river and ocean coasts remain pristine. New Jersey has historically acted as a conduit for the growth of its metropolitan neighbors, which represent a market for agricultural and industrial products. Geographer Charles A. Stansfield, Jr., offers the corollary that New Jersey is a microcosm of the United States—with features indigenous to its own industrialized North and agrarian South. It is a unique symbiosis founded on the interaction of land and water. [1]

Frontispiece. New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail and the three-county area of South Jersey studied by HABS in 1990. NPS-DSC. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Through the late nineteenth century, inhabitants of Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May counties depended upon the water for four critical reasons: food, employment, transportation, and energy. Fishermen, whalers, and oystermen reaped abundant shellfish from the salty river beds; goods and produce were transported to Philadelphia markets via boat; and mills flourished along every waterway.

Until the late 1800s when South Jersey was rendered accessible by the railroad, the region was unaffected by the industrial revolution due to labor shortages, few urban centers, and a lack of investment capital, as well as limited access to ports. With the arrival of the railroad, 200 years of dependence upon water travel was drastically reduced. The railroad fueled local prosperity until the early twentieth century when the many industries founded on natural resources began to decline. In addition, an increasing number of automobiles, commercial trucks—and the highways on which they traveled—decreased the dependence on rail and waterways. The combined impact has left South Jersey an isolated, economically static region dependent upon agriculture, tourism, and remnants of once-prosperous maritime and industrial activities. For this reason a variety of architectural and natural resources remain intact, and though some lack a contemporary descendant, others continue to quietly sustain a long and important tradition of agriculture, maritime, and industrial pursuits.

Project Description

The New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail (NJCHT) was established in 1988 to "provide for public appreciation, education, understanding, and enjoyment, through a coordinated interpretive program of certain nationally significant natural and cultural sites associated with the coastal area of the State of New Jersey that are accessible generally by public roads." In its entirety, the region encompasses the area east of the Garden State Parkway/Route 9 from Sandy Hook south to Cape May, and the area north and west of Cape May to the vicinity of Deepwater. [2]

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) project during summer 1990 focused on a small portion of the trail, a largely unresearched 450-square-mile area of low-lying land from North Cape May to Salem along the Delaware Bay. It roughly includes all lands south of Route 49 between Salem and Millville, hence south of the Maurice River and west of Route 47 as it descends to Cape May. It is bisected by numerous tidal waterways such as the Maurice River, and Cohansey and Salem creeks, as well as abundant ponds and wetlands that distinguish the state's lacy bayside hem.


The four-month HABS reconnaissance study was aimed at identifying significant cultural themes and representative resources, from Indian occupation in the seventeenth century through World War II. This document includes a general overview of the area's history, a list of existing sources for graphic and written historical data, and recommendations for subsequent HABS/HAER documentation by measured drawings, large-format photography, and written history. The themes identified are: transportation, education, religion, social/cultural, and industry with its important sub-themes of maritime and agriculture. The architectural resources affiliated with each are highlighted in the respective chapter, and are the subject of a concluding chapter summing up recommendations for further study. A bibliography of sources includes written material grouped by the same themes addressed in the general context, visual material, general collections and repositories, and those sources that exist but have yet to be tapped.

Physical Description

The state of New Jersey, whose only contiguous neighbor, New York, offers a mere 12 percent of its boundary, is otherwise surrounded by water and is best described as a "peninsula of land lying between the Hudson and Delaware rivers." [3] The Atlantic Coastal Plain makes up the southwest area of the state; overall, three-fifths of the state is further subdivided into the Inner Coastal Plain and the Outer Coastal Plain (Fig. 1). The Inner Plain reaches from Sandy Hook across to Salem on the Delaware River; the Outer Plain from Sandy Hook to Monmouth Beach in the extreme northeastern portion of Monmouth County, and from the head of Barnegat Bay to Cape May City. [4] Salem County is within both the Inner and Outer Coastal regions, while Cumberland and Cape May counties are in the Outer Coastal Region. The area resembles most closely the lowland and Chesapeake Bay-fed waters of the Eastern Shore of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia (called the Delmarva Peninsula). With borders defined by the bay and Atlantic Ocean to the east, the geographic affinities among these locales has spawned common characteristics in architecture as well as cultural and economic development.

Figure 1. Generalized landform regions of New Jersey showing the Inner and Outer Coastal Plains. Geography.

The soils of the Atlantic Coastal Plain are sandy in the outer region, making farming difficult without augmentation. Coupled with poor drainage, however, a thick layer of organic material is created that is ideal for berry cultivation. Largely made up of flat tidal marshes, swampy creeks, sand dunes, and offshore sand bars, poor- to fair-quality soils here yield vegetables and orchard crops; these are found around the Maurice River and form the backbone of Cape May. [5] The soil along the Inner Coastal Plain is fine, silty—and is some of the most fertile soil in the state. [6] In addition, this area features rolling hills, and pine and cedar forests. Both areas are infiltrated by extensive waterways. These host marine life, flora common to less temperate climates, animals from deer to bald eagles, and mineral deposits of iron, marl, limestone, and sand. Among the 380,516 acres of protected natural environments are the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary, Delaware Estuary, Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Cape May Wetlands Natural Area, Bevan Wildlife Management Area, and Cedarville Pond Wildlife Management Area. [7]


The resources consulted for the preparation of this report include secondary written and graphic material, including county and town histories, newspapers and magazines, commemorative anniversary publications, and texts that address specific aspects of the area, such as the maritime or industrial communities. University and historical society collections offer much in the way of historic photographs and maps. Centennial atlases, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, and historic U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey maps provided a foundation for the identification and location of many sites. Local residents provide a rich assortment of advice and personal recollection. What remains uninvestigated are many more site-specific primary resources, company records, U.S. Census data, industrial directories, and potentially invaluable oral histories.

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Last Modified: Mon, Mar 14 2005 10:00:00 pm PDT

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