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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While the major port cities of Philadelphia and New York developed steadily through the eighteenth century, only the coastal areas of South Jersey saw significant settlement during this period. Access to navigable water and suitable land for buildings provided Philadelphia and New York with the income needed for steady growth. Inland South Jersey areas were not as fortunate, since the waterways were shallow and dependent upon the tides. Salem and Greenwich, however, benefitted from their proximity to the Delaware Bay and were able to compete with major eastern ports well into the eighteenth century. The relatively unaltered character of this area can be attributed to the dominance of its neighbors:

Philadelphia was capital of a region that extended beyond the bounds of Pennsylvania, yet did not quite encompass the entire Delaware basin. West Jersey, where settlement developed in a band aligned with the Delaware, was almost entirely tributary, bound by the convenience of river shipping, the attractiveness of facilities and services, and the lure of the great Quaker center to the many Quakers on the Jersey side of the river. This urban power in Philadelphia dampened the development of towns in all the counties along the river. [1]

Salem County, organized in 1681, first consisted of far-reaching Salem, Cumberland, Cape May, Gloucester, and Atlantic counties. After the American Revolution, Congress declared all land south of Camden as the "District of Bridgetown" so as to establish a customs house—and the tide survived for fifty years. The first collector of customs, appointed in 1789, was Eli Elmer (who later served as postmaster, 1793-1803).

After longtime complaints from residents who had to travel far to attend court or election activities held in the City of Salem, in 1747 Cumberland was created out of Salem County, whose population was then nearly 3,000. [2] Cumberland County court was held in Greenwich the first year, then in 1749 it was moved to Cohansey Bridge (Bridgeton), a more geographically central seat. The first courts met in taverns until the courthouse was completed in 1752. Most of the first judges were laymen appointed by the Royal Governor; also appointed were justices of the peace who served on a board with the elected freeholders. The Board of Justices and Freeholders managed county business, such as establishing taxes used to finance the erection of public buildings. The first such structure was a jail in Greenwich. In 1798 a bill was passed excluding justices from the board while giving Freeholders more power.

In 1683 Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey of the East India Company sailed into the Delaware Bay and gave his name to the first area of land he saw—Cape May. Cape May County and its communities lacked the connection to the more developed Salem, unlike Cumberland County settlements. Divorced from Salem County in 1692, Cape May County consisted of 267 square miles about thirty miles long and fifteen miles wide at the north end. In 1878 the present boundary was set, decreasing the county's size by ten square miles. [3] Cape May's individuality stems from its first settlement by Quakers and more important, New England whalers. At first the latter appeared only during the February-to-March whaling season, living in shacks that were abandoned each year. As a temporary settlement this was called Portsmouth; after the whalers became year-round residents, the name was changed to Town Bank. Soon after Town Bank, the communities of Cold Spring and Middletown were established. [4] Cape May County grew so rapidly that by 1723 it was divided into three precincts—Upper, Middle, and Lower—which in 1798 became townships; in 1826 county officials divided Upper Township in half and created Dennis Township. [5]

At times county officials held court in a church or a private home such as in 1704, when it convened at the house of Shamgar Hand who owned 1,000 acres near Cape May Court House. In 1744 the county bought its first court building from a Baptist congregation. Twenty years later Daniel Hand, grandson of Shamgar, deeded one acre of his Middletown (later Cape May Courthouse) property to the county for the site of a courthouse. In 1774 a new court and jail had been built, and in 1803 it housed the second post office in the county. [6] In 1848 Dennisville and Goshen contested the locality of the county seat. After a referendum which favored Cape May Court House (just outside New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail bounds), the Board of Chosen Freeholders declared the latter as the official county seat. Daniel Hand immediately began construction of the third courthouse, which was completed in 1850. The present courthouse was built in 1927. In 1790 the county population was 8,248; by 1860 it was 22,605. [7]

Within the NJCHT portion of South Jersey (Fig. 5) there are three modestly sized cities: Salem, Bridgeton, and Millville. Although these do not compare in size or population to the closest urban hubs of Wilmington or Philadelphia, they are the commercial, industrial, political, and cultural centers for the surrounding towns and countryside. Each contains significant historic, cultural, and commercial resources that are addressed elsewhere in this document. Salem and Bridgeton also serve as county seats, and so contain within their boundaries the major local government offices, as well.

Figure 5. Detail of South Jersey, Evert's illustrated Historical Atlas, 1876.

The houses of South Jersey reflect a regional Mid-Atlantic cultural pattern as well as later, nationally popular trends. Most eighteenth and early nineteenth-century houses are a two-thirds Georgian townhouse or full center-hall plan. Examples abound of unadulterated Georgian or Federal compositions, in addition to later vernacularized folk Victorian whose ornamentation reflects the financial abilities of the builder-owner. Log or frame with weatherboard or asphaltic siding predominates in this area, and is almost monopolistic approaching Cape May. Brick as a building material is more common in the area west of the Cohansey River in Salem County and western Cumberland County, where the Quakers were responsible for the first permanent settlements—bringing with them patterned brick work.

The mid to late nineteenth-century houses—typically two-story, frame, and single- or two-family plans—are most often Victorian or Gothic Revival, through the addition of some woodwork. The ship's-captain dwellings of the 1860-80s, for instance, feature turned and pierced decorative wood elements on porches, roof lines, and window surrounds; thanks to the strong iron industry, ornate cast verandas and fencing highlight the wealthier homes. Less densely arranged elements of the Italianate and Queen Anne linger on rural dwellings that were refurbished stylistically or gradually stripped down over the decades.

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

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