On-line Book




MENU

Contents

Acknowledgements

Chapter 1
Introduction

Chapter 2
Urban Development

Chapter 3
Maritime Activity

Chapter 4
Agriculture

Chapter 5
Industry

Chapter 6
Transportation

Chapter 7
Education

Chapter 8
Religion

Chapter 9
Social/Cultural

Chapter 10
Recommendations

Appendix 1
Patterned Brick Houses

Appendix 2
Stack Houses

Appendix 3
Existing Documentation

Bibliography





SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY and the DELAWARE BAY
Historic Themes and Resources within the
New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route
National Park Service Arrowhead


CHAPTER 9:
SOCIAL/CULTURAL

Cultural and social activities took the form of fairs, lotteries, and horse racing in the eighteenth century. Increase in settlement, however, introduced more sophisticated pastimes—which peaked in South Jersey in the nineteenth century, especially in urban centers. Here, membership in clubs and fraternal organizations, and patronage of amusement parks, provided benevolent entertainment and good fun. Chief among rural amusements for residents and tourists were bicycling and excursions to seaside resorts of Fortescue, Sea Breeze, and Cape May.


Seaside Resorts

In the nineteenth century, sea bathing was considerably more formal than today. Men and women were segregated, and each sex was permitted specific hours during which they were allowed on the beach; hours were signified by a flag atop the bath houses. Fashion was equally strict, with women donning flannel or wool dresses. In addition to frolicking in the sand, vacationers enjoyed evenings of dancing in the dining hall of their hotel or boarding houses. During the day, riding parties alternated with gathering shells, playing cards and dominoes, and pitching quoits. [1]

By 1800 Cape May was an established seashore destination for residents of New Jersey and nearby Philadelphia, where newspapers regularly touted trips to Cape May via boat or stagecoach. In the Daily Aurora Ellis Hughes advertised a room for "entertaining company who sea bathed . . . where fish, oysters, crabs, and good liquors were available." He went on to cite the therapeutic good of carriage drives along the beach and ocean wading as a relief from hot summer weather. Stages left frequently from Camden or Cooper's Ferry on Thursday, and arrived on Friday; return trips departed Tuesdays and Fridays. Regular arrival by water did not occur until the advent of the steamboat in the 1820s. [2]

After the War of 1812, Cape Island (later Cape May) began its ascent toward becoming America's oldest seashore resort. Thomas Hughes built the first hotel there with the hope of attracting wealthy citizens from Philadelphia, Baltimore, Delaware, and Virginia. The three-story frame building boasted a huge dining hall and two floors devoted to guest rooms. First called the Big House or the Large House, in 1828 it was renamed Congress Hall. Like so many other grand wood Cape May hotels, it later burned down.

Cape May flourished so that during peak season many tourists were forced to stay with local farmers who had an available room. As a result, many local residents put off their farming responsibilities during the summertime so as to profit from visitors. Besides room and board, a taxi service operated between the landing at Higbee's Beach on the Delaware Bay and the hotels in Cape May proper. [3]

By the end of the nineteenth century, South Jersey and Philadelphia residents did not have to go as far as Cape May for their recreation. Fortescue and Sea Breeze, on the Delaware Bay in Cumberland County, had both grown into popular destinations. Fortescue, the property of John Fortescue in 1776, was primarily a fishing resort. The date of the first hotel erected there is unknown, but it appears to have been a country tavern with "large barns in the rear and a yard in front, enclosed with a low, picket fence . . . Surrounded by large shade-trees, [it] was located at least 300' back from the shore line, and no buildings were in front to obstruct the view." [4] The "Fortescue Hotel and Wharf and Beach" appears on an 1884-85 map as one major structure with two or three smaller service buildings; the site survived into the mid twentieth century (Fig. 115).

waterfront homes
Figure 115. Fortescue catered to summer visitors with organized fishing and hunting tours; little remains of this town today. Rutgers University, ca. 1930.

The resort of Sea Breeze was established in 1877, and catered to steamboat passengers arriving from Philadelphia and Wilmington. The Warner House, noted for its seafood, was perhaps the largest and most luxurious building in town, and able to accommodate several hundred guests. In addition to the hotel there were bath houses, a boardwalk, a billiards room, and a bowling alley. [5] After only a quarter century, the importance of Seabreeze diminished as trains made the Atlantic Ocean coast—which had begun to prosper in the late nineteenth century—more accessible. Residents, however, continued to inhabit Sea Breeze. In 1929 Harry Griffith—salvager, riverboat pilot, and bootlegger—arrived and erected a marina. At first merely a rowboat rental and bait shack, over the years he expanded it to become the Sea Breeze Tavern. This operated until Hurricane Gloria washed a portion of it into the bay in 1986; a year later the tavern was sold and demolished. [6] Today, all that remains of historic Sea Breeze is a few houses and the remnants of the boardwalk and several piers.

map
Figure 116. Racetrack below "Coxall's" Creek U.S. Coast Survey, ca. 1885.

A racetrack (Fig. 116) existed in 1885 not far from these resorts. Between Coxe Hall's Creek and New England Creek, the one-mile oval course was located about 250' from the waters' edge, and was accessed by a road perpendicular to the coast. [7]

Some of the activities along the Delaware Bay and Delaware River coast were captured by artist Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). Eakins, a Philadelphia native, indulged his proximity to the rural landscape of New Jersey and painted typical scenes in Gloucester and Cumberland counties. His attraction to Cumberland County was enhanced by his family's friendship and possible kinship to the Samuel Hall Williams family of Fairton. The Williams lived in a house at Tindall's Landing on the south bank of the Cohansey River. Eakins painted the portraits of both Annie and Addie Williams; the prior married a man named Gandy, a prominent Cumberland County name. Moreover, the mother of the girls, Abbie Williams is buried in the Old Stone Church cemetery just outside Fairton. [8]

With the railroad connecting Philadelphia to Bridgeton and then to Fairton, by 1876 Eakins traveled to New Jersey frequently to visit family and attend hunting excursions. Eakins painted several watercolors of the salt marshes in Cumberland County along the Delaware River, including: "The Artist and His Father Hunting Reed Birds," "Pushing for Rail," and "Whistling for Plover." Two other scenes of Delaware River inspiration are "Starting Out after Rail" and "Sailing." [9]


Fraternal Organizations/Clubs

Fraternal groups in Salem were many, and included Salem Lodge No. 19, Free and Accepted Masons (F&AM); Excelsior Lodge No. 54, F&AM; Washington Lodge No. 21, International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF); Fenwick Lodge No. 164, IOOF; Salem Encampment No. 10, IOOF; Salem Degree Lodge No. 8, IOOF; American Star Council No. 21, Order of United American Mechanics (OUAM); Evening Star Lodge No. 15, Lady Masons; and Martha Washington Council No. 3. Daughters of America. There was also the Fenwick Club, an exclusive twenty-member society; the Jefferson Club, a social club for young Democrats; and the Salem Social Club.

Additional lectures and activities were held at the Salem Lecture Hall, built in 1881. Renamed the Grand Opera House in the 1890s, it hosted many speakers, musicians, and actors; in 1905 motion pictures played there. It operated as a movie theater for only a year, until the Bijou Dream and Dreamland cinemas were built on West Broadway. In 1912 the Opera House burned. Other early movie houses included the La Ray Theatre on Walnut Street and the Palace Theatre on the north side of West Broadway. Neither exist today. [10]

Bridgeton and Millville also had opera houses, as well as various social clubs. In Bridgeton, Moore's Opera House on South Laurel Street operated from at least 1886 to 1900. Among the social clubs functioning in Bridgeton were the Cohanzick Tribe No. 14, International Order of Red Men; Calantha Lodge No. 103, Knights of Pythias; Cumberland County German Beneficial Society, and the West German Beneficial Society. Millville's groups included Lodge No. 47, IOOF; Humane Lodge No. 27, IOOF; Olivet Commandery No. 10, Knights Templar; Larnard Tice Post No. 49, Grand Army of the Republic; and the Fidelity Council No. 8, Junior OUAM.

Of special note, the Workingmen's Institute of Millville was founded in 1882; the building at the head of High Street was completed the next year. It provided a setting where men could partake of moral and educational improvement, including lectures, debates, and unrestrained conversation—without going to a saloon. Most members and the management worked for the glassworks in Millville; annual dues were $1 plus charges for the use of the different departments. [11]

The institute's $23,000 building, funded in part by R. Pearsall Smith of Whitall, Tatum and Company, endorsed the mingling of entertainment and education under one roof. The main floor contained the biggest room, furnished with comfortable chairs, where men enjoyed smoking, concerts, and games such as checkers, chess, jack-straws, and authors. The adjoining rooms housed a 2,000-book library, and a reading room that was open to ladies and children, too. The basement of the Workingmen's Institute was outfitted as a gymnasium, in addition to containing baths, a kitchen, and steam-heat apparatus. The upper story contained an auditorium, stage, dressing rooms, and classrooms. Local temperance organizations, schools, and amateur performers rented the theater for meetings, displays, and performances. In 1903 the institute became the headquarters for the newly formed Millville Social Athletic Association, which sponsored baseball (Fig. 117), football, basketball, track, and tug-of-war. In 1926 the town bought the institute and used it as the city hall for almost fifty years before it was replaced by the present city hall. [12]

baseball team
Figure 117. Superior Laundry Baseball Team. Millville residents have enjoyed baseball since the turn-of-the-century. Wettstein, 1934.

Millville was the site of Wilson's Opera House, or Academy of Music, on the corner of High and Sassafras streets (Fig. 118); it burned in 1898. During the early twentieth century the number of theaters in Millville increased. Among these were the Alhambra on Vine Street, which hosted vaudeville acts, motion pictures, and other shows. The Levoy, which is extant on High Street, was erected in 1908. The first movies shown here were silent, but were accompanied by a piano player who provided background music. The 5-cents admission bought almost four hours of amusement. In 1912 the theater was renovated and renamed the New Levoy. Today it is used as a general entertainment space. [13]

Wilson's Opera House
Figure 118. Wilson's Opera House, on the corner of High and Sassafras streets, was a setting for entertainment in Millville until 1898. Wettstein, ca. 1890.

Less arduous entertainment was found at local eateries, such as the corner ice cream parlor (Fig. 119) which—along with boating, bicycles (Fig. 120), and amusement parks—were typical turn-of-the-century pastimes.

Lee's Ice Cream Parlor
Figure 119. Lee's Ice Cream Parlor was one of the many stores and eateries that served Millville residents. Wettstein, early 20th century.

Old Stone Church-Fairton
Figure 120. Bicycling was a popular sport at the turn of the century; here cyclists pose in front of the Old Stone Church-Fairton. Wettstein, ca. 1910.

Continued >>>








top of page Top




Last Modified: Mon, Mar 14 2005 10:00:00 pm PDT
https://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/nj2/chap9.htm

National Park Service's ParkNet Home