A Tour Of Gloucester City, NJ

Before we go ahead… I would like to say a few words…

 

Hi and Happy New Year!!!  I have a lot of goodies planned for you this year.  Now that it is extremely cold outside, I have time to sit down and get some postings up!  I’ve got hundreds of them coming.  I do not claim to be Mrs. Grammar when it comes to this blog. I write for fun, so I do apologize if things aren’t all that “proper.”  This blog is about having a great time and showing folks what is out there in South Jersey.  I try not to get too technical in matters and attempt to explain things as easily as I can.

 

Ahh… Yes, this is where it all began South Jersey!!! Really!!! Gloucester City holds a ton of history secrets, my friends!   This small 11,000 resident “city” may have been known in the Guinness Book of World Records for most bars per capita at 38 total establishments…. As the birthplace of Rock N Roll (Bill Haley & the Comets) And….  as “Title Town” through the 1960s-1970s because of Gloucester Catholic and Gloucester High School winning many championships in football, basketball and baseball… but are you aware that Gloucester City was reportedly the first settlement in South Jersey?

Yerp…. Well… According to this…

 

Fort Nassau

 

 

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Inscription reads on the marker: “The Dutch ship Walvis, Erected by the State of New Jersey 1919 to commemorate the first white settlement in West Jersey, at the mouth of Big Timber Creek and the erection of Old Fort Nassau by the Holland Dutch in 1623 under Capt. Cornelius Jacobeson Mey of the Dutch West India Company. Members of Commission John H. Fort – Frank H. Stewart – Alfred M. Heston.”

It is speculated that Gloucester City may have been the renowned settlement of Fort Nassau (some say otherwise and believe that it was in Brooklawn or Westville). The real creepy part about it is that no one really knows its EXACT site. Maps are estimated and show various locations in the general vicinity of Fort Nassau.  However, we do know that it was where Timber Creek met with the Delaware River.

Here’s the story… History records state that Captain Mey declared upon the Hermaomissing (aka Delaware River) at the mouth of the Sassackon (Timber Creek) as the place of his settlement and built a fort made of logs.  Upon returning eight years later, the place was found deserted by the colony and that the Indians laid claim to it. There were no signs of any of the settlers.  Poof! They were gone! I have to say that’s pretty freaky!!!

The area was known as Arwaumus by the Native Indians.  However, it was named Gloucester Point by London and Yorkshire Commissioners in 1677.

 

Famous painting by Thomas Eakins of shad fishing in Gloucester City.  Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Famous painting by Thomas Eakins of shad fishing in Gloucester City. Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I really don’t like writing books on this blog, as I could literally go on and on about Gloucester like an Encyclopedia Britannica… However, I will discuss key elements of Gloucester’s past and current historical places to check out… And I will do my best as to not bore the heck out of you because this is not my intention.  I try to make history a bit fun and enjoyable!

 

Aerial of Gloucester City in the 1930s.

Aerial of Gloucester City in the 1930s.

Then came Betsy Ross…

Perhaps, the most famous woman from the late 1700s is Betsy Ross.  Her maiden name was Griscom and if you read up on South Jersey history, the Griscoms were everywhere. Betsy was a rebel in those times.  A lot of folks don’t know this fun fact about her and I find it interesting as part of her history.

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Hugg’s Tavern torn down in 1929.

Mantel currently at the Gloucester County Historical Society of where it was reported that Betsy married John Ross.

Mantel now at the Gloucester County Historical Society of where in front of the mantel was reported that Betsy married John Ross.

In 1773, she rode a ferry over to Huggs Tavern in Gloucester where she wedded John Ross.  Now, John Ross was an Anglican a huge no-no with Betsy’s faith.  She was a Quaker and brought up in that discipline her entire life. Basically, if a Quaker marries someone of another faith they are “read out” (stripped of their membership), exiled from the meetinghouse and friends/family basically shun you… You’re on your own little lady. 

Betsy had met John during an apprenticeship at an upholstery shop and they fell in love. 
It’s a true love story as she pretty much gave up everything to be with the man she loved.

Then the American flag was “invented” by her and yada yada.. I think everyone that grew up in the Philadelphia area knows the rest of the story. However, this is her connection to Gloucester City (hey, I’m developing a timeline here.)

FWPNW026Camden339A

Copy of oil painting “Blowing UP of the Frigate Augusta” hanging in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. Painted by James Peale, English Naval Officer, from a sketch made at the time. Presented to the Historical Society in 1857 by James S. Earle. In 1777, the Augusta, with other English ships and foot soldiers, attacked Fort Mercer at Red Bank, Gloucester County, New Jersey. The Hessian foot soldiers were defeated and the Augusta and Merlin destroyed. Copied from the original by Russell J. England, of Federal Art Project. Photographed by Charles W. Benson, Federal Writer’s Project.

Fast forward just a bit to October 22nd in the great year of 1777, a battle was a brewing during the Revolutionary War.  A Battle at Red Bank to be exact.  Gloucester is known for the HMS Augusta that somehow scattered upstream during a nasty storm and was washed ashore on a small beach area.  It was cherished here for decades, but not much remains visibly seen today. The HMS Augusta was a 64-gun ship part of Britain’s Royal Navy.  She was accidentally destroyed by fire on October 22, 1777.

The remains of the HMS Augusta in the late 1930s.

The remains of the HMS Augusta in the late 1930s.

I am kind of scattered all over the place on Gloucester, but I just want to discuss some key facts of history and hope you don’t get lost moving from point to point… If you do.. I am sorry.

 

The Dog House Bar, former synagogue, former bank... It has had many uses.  It is a historical beauty nonetheless.

The Dog House Bar, former synagogue, former bank… It has had many uses. It is a historical beauty nonetheless.

Salem Road….  Kings Highway….

 

A lot of folks have probably heard about Salem road at one time or another, but it’s actually Old King’s Highway or large chunks of it anyway. Old Salem Road stretches from Burlington City to Salem and was the primary thoroughfare from its creation in 1681 and even through today.  It’s had a few revisions and diversions over the years, but most of the route remains intact.

What many folks don’t know is that Old Salem Road once led to Gloucester.  It actually ran right on Market Street and then behind Cedar Grove Cemetery (near Cold Springs school) to a small bridge and then to Little Timber Creek… Ahem, near “the trestle.”

Cedar Grove Cemetery…

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Entrance into the cemetery.

This cemetery is very mysterious to me.  Upon my research, I have found ties that American Indians are buried here.

One in particular is a man named, Levin Stockume. Levin was a Delaware resident, but allegedly a Nanticoke Native American and married a woman from his tribe.  Delaware had laws against any person that was not Caucasian that was attempting to better themselves.  They also did not allow non-Caucasians to purchase firearms or ammunition.   Levin defied this gun law (he purchased arms) and was arrested.  Levin was fined $20 and had to pay court costs. He then got arrested a second time and was so fed up that he moved his family to Gloucester City, New Jersey.  He ran a general store and millinery (made lady hats) out of his home on Mercer Street and died on December 25, 1864.  He was 57 years old.

Another popular Native American of the Lenni tribe named Ada M One Star is also buried here.

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Many Civil War, World War I and World War II veterans are also interred here. As you see, this cemetery has some historical significance to Gloucester City and is almost unknown by most.

 

 

St. Mary’s Cemetery

 

 

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One of St. Mary’s most notable residents. The resting place of Billy “The Duke” Thompson.

Many of Gloucester’s notable families are buried here. One in particular is William Thompson aka “Billy the Duke.”   He created a hotel, boardwalks, beaches a shad fishery and a theme park (Washington Park was in nearby Westville).  He also created an infamous racetrack that was shut down very shortly after it was opened.  Billy the Duke is noted as having the first outdoor lights for baseball.  The Philadelphia Athletics played at the state-of-the art ball field called, Gloucester Point Grounds.  They played on Sundays due to Philadelphia’s blue law restrictions. The Athletics played from 1888-1890.

The tallest ferris wheel in the world reported in this time at Washington Park.

The tallest ferris wheel in the world reported in this time at Washington Park.

Billy's Pier at Washington Park.

Billy’s Pier at Washington Park.

Billy's old train trestle can be found off River Drive in Westville at low tide.

Billy’s old train trestle can be found off River Drive in Westville at low tide.

 

I’ve written about Billy “the Duke” many times and is one of my most favorite historical persons from the last Century.  His funeral procession is claimed to be the largest in Gloucester City’s history.

I am told by caretakers of the cemetery that when they opened the New St. Mary’s cemetery in nearby Bellmawr, that families would bring their horse and buggies, dig up their loved one’s casket and transport their bodies to the new cemetery. I asked why they would do this and the caretaker stated that the persons alive wished to be buried next to their beloved ones since there was not much room left. If you take a walk around, you’ll notice tombstones are rather clustered with family plots and missing “spaces” are found throughout.

 

Monmouth Street

 

 

Well... hello there!

Well… hello there!

 

Another Gloucester Goodie.

Another Gloucester Goodie.

 

 

Church undergoing repair.

Church undergoing repair.

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Many churches can be found along Monmouth Street or around the corner from it.

 

Historic home.

Historic home.

Another beauty.

Another beauty.

 

Some of the historic homes along the street.

Some of the historic homes along the street.

 

St. Mary's Church.

St. Mary’s Church.

I’d say this is probably the most historical section when it comes to buildings in Gloucester.  On this stretch of road, you can find old well-kept homes and St. Mary’s Cathedral.

St. Mary’s is known as one of the top most beautiful churches in New Jersey.  Its architecture is early gothic style and the church started  construction in 1888 and was finalized in 1889. The tower and spire can be seen for miles and is 160 feet high.

We head just doors away to the old…

 

First Presbyterian Church of Gloucester City

 

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First Presbyterian church was vacate for some time, but now is back in business!.

 

Due, to a lack of membership in the congregation, it had to shut its doors. This church is over 165 years old with stained glass windows and over 6,000 square feet.

There was a Methodist Church on Monmouth and Willow (similar architecture) converted to a residential property a few years ago.

The Gloucester City Train Station
The Gloucester City Café is a historic building in the city.

The Gloucester City Café.

Small town barbershop near the historic train station.

Small town barbershop near the historic train station.

This was built in 1885.  It served as a passenger and freight rail terminal for many years. Today, it is known as the Train Station Cafe once only serving breakfast and lunch, they are now serving dinner.

The Gloucester City Waterworks
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This is the oldest public building in town and was built in 1883.  It once served the city by purifying the water for its residents.  Today, it serves as municipal office space.

Proprietors Park

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Inscription reads: “On this site stood the Hugg Tavern erected about 1750 torn down 1929. It was the headquarters of the Committee of Correspondence of Gloucester County prior to the Revolution. The Delegates from Gloucester County to the Provincial Congress of New Jersey which met at Trenton in 1775 were chosen here. When Gloucester was occupied by the British and Hessians under Lord Cornwallis it was as temporary military headquarters. During the Revolution the Commissioners of forfeited estates often held public auction sales of property belonging to the Tories at the Tavern. Meeting of the Board of Freeholders were frequently held in the old building. It was the rendezvous of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club. Erected by the Camden County Park Commission, Camden and Gloucester County Historical Societies 1929.”

 

 

Proprietors in colonial times were people who settled land disputes… New Jersey had our own little proprietor mafia where they would met yearly at this park.  Historians continue to meet here every year for the last 200 plus years and is the oldest consecutive meeting in the country!

 

Proprietors Park plaque.  This still stands today!

Proprietors Park plaque. This still stands today!

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In 1929, a twelve acre park was revealed to Gloucester City and bounded by the Delaware River, Market Street, King Street and Jersey Avenue. It was named Propietors Park after the annual meeting spot of the proprietors.  

On the premises of the new park, once stood Hugg’s Tavern (see Betsy Ross above) that was built in 1750 and saw many historical events through the centuries.  Within this park was a bath house, swimming pool, tennis courts, club house and children’s playground.  The bathhouse contained a dance hall and open pavilions with decks that were enjoyed in the summer seasons. The locker rooms in the bath house had accommodations for over 2,000 bathers.

Bath house.

Bath house.

 

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The pool that once graced Proprietors Park.

 

 

Freedom Pier and Development

Freedom Pier was recently renovated in 2012 and there are HUGE plans for its future. With a restaurant and a few pubs in the works, the plans look awesome.  Here is the link to the designing firm planning it.  http://hollidayarchitects.com/freedom-pier-redevelopment/

A beautiful schooner, North Wind, has already claimed its home on the pier. It is a non-profit that sails out to educate children and provides maritime training for them.

There are many inspiring developments going on in Gloucester City at the moment and I’m very excited to see their outcome.

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Early shad fishing with factories/mills in the background.

 

 

PS.  I know I left a ton of things out like the history of the Coast Guard Station and the factories, but this is just a blog. I could write an entire book on Gloucester..  hundreds and hundreds of pages long so please don’t kill me if I left something out because I’m sure I probably did. This isn’t even a taste on the history of this small city.

 

Just thought I'd throw in one a few factories...

Just thought I’d throw in a few factories…

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For a neat in depth history of the Coast Guard station (there’s also a video with pictures) please check out this link. http://www.gloucestercitynews.net/clearysnotebook/2014/03/video-a-brief-look-at-the-united-states-coast-guard-base-gloucester-city.html

 

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Here’s an aerial of Gloucester City in the early 1930’s. This is before the Walt Whitman bridge (obviously).

 

P.S.S.  Also, for all you foodies out there! There are some FANTASTIC restaurants and pubs to eat at in this town. Virtually unknown to the rest of South Jersey.  I think it would pleasantly surprise you!

 

 

Until our next adventure, my friends!

The Yummygal

40 thoughts on “A Tour Of Gloucester City, NJ

    • My mother grew up in Gloucester City, on Monmouth St.
      Her father worked on the Street Car that ran up Broadway and I went to GCHS.
      There is also family stories of the Keebler Bakery starting the on Broadway. Since my mother was a Keebler (nee)
      I would really be interested in researching some of those stories. I do remember reading an article from the Gloucester City Times that was in my mother’s scrapbook but have no idea where the scrapbook is today.
      Thanks for the trip.

      • I live and grew up in Gloucester, on Somerset St. right across St. Mary’s Church. Love all the info and if I may point out, the water plants you said was a municipal office is actually still a water plant my brother works there. Though everything else is pretty accurate 🙂

  1. Thank you so very much, I’m from Gloucester City, but moved to N.C. Gloucester will Always be my home with so many great memories. Helemarie, Zieminski Reavis

  2. Like your blog on Gloucester city, have lived there for 68 years, my whole life.
    Gloucester is a great city, with great history as you have brought to light.
    Keep up the great job you’re doing .

  3. Great job illuminating Gloucester’s history. I’ve always enjoyed your posts but this is one of your best. Both my husband’s and my family have been here for generations, and I wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. Thanks for your enthusiasm for the subject.

    • It brings me great joy to read these comments. This is why I do, what I do. Thank you, all! For such a small populated town, there is some incredible history here. If anyone reads this, I’m trying to find out more about Union Cemetery off of Powell Street. I will take any information you have or willing to share!

      • My grandparents and great grandparents are buried there. My brother lives on Powell St. just a few doors from the entrance. I asked him for any info he has on who runs the cemetery. Will let you know.

      • I loved this post. I haven’t yet been to Gloucester City myself, but my grandfather (and his family for many generations before him) was from Gloucester City. His grandfather was the caretaker of Union Cemetery in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Many of my ancestors are buried there. All of the records and information about the cemetery can be found through the Gloucester Historical Society. Thanks for the tips on the city! I hope to visit soon!

  4. Most of my family is buried at Cedar Grove
    going back to early 1800’s. Keep up the great work, love all the great info!

  5. Thank you for all the information! I was born and raised in Gloucester Heights and only lived out of the city a short time. My children were all raised in Gloucester and went to the schools as I did. I also helped the history book that Mrs. Llewellyn had published in 1976. I love Gloucester city and it’s history. Keep the stories coming!

  6. This was fantastic! I’m from Gloucester, but I haven’t been back to look around lately. I recognized most of your photos! It was a great walk down memory lane for me! Thanks! BTW, I think you’re right, you could write an entire book about Gloucester… why don’t you? 🙂 You seem like you would be great at it!

  7. Thanks so much for the walk down memory lane! I grew up in Gloucester. My parents still reside there. You certainly expanded my historical knowledge of my home town. Thanks so much for doing this!!!

  8. I lived in Gloucester City from 1942 to 1971. I was married T the Presbyterian Church on Monmouth St in 1971. I learned Gloucester History at Monmouth Street School in 1950 and graduated Gloucester High in 1958. It ‘s great to see you post. Thank you.

  9. My family moved to Gloucester City in 1947 when I was 11. Had a wonderful childhood here. Behind our home was an area known as “the Hinks”. It led down to a creek and out to a railroad that crossed the creek where we would foolishly cross the creek on the railroad trestle, but were always lucky enough not to be on the tracks when a train came. We also road our horse, Silver, in this area and boarded Silver at Farmer Jim’s farm which was at the other end of the “Hinks”.
    Spent many summer days at the Propritor’s Park swimming pool (never knew it by that name, though), it was always Gloucester City Pool to us. The pool was free from 11:00 to 2:00 pm. Learned to swim there, and in later years attended dances there.

  10. Thank you for “putting meat on the bones” . We often times look at buildings of interest but do not get the stories of the people who lived, worked and died.
    My paternal ancestors are primarily from South Jersey.

  11. This was a great read. I grew up on Powell Street in Gloucester City just a few blocks from the park. Great memories.

  12. My dad and grandpa had a business in Gloucester.They delivered ice in the summer and coal in the winter. They lived next to the cemetery on market street down by the high school.
    Michael Clememts

  13. I lived in Fairview all my young life ….we would walk to Gloucester pool (1964_65) on our way we would stop at the coast guard station where we would flirt with the men that were living there . At that time there always was a soldier standing at the gate …..good memories,,,,,,,

  14. GREAT JOB,I RAISED MY CHILDREN IN GLOUCESTER CITY,THE THREE OF THEM LOVED GROWING UP IN A SMALL TOWN,MY GRAND CHILDREN ARE GROWING UP IN THE SAME TOWN THEY LIKE IT,TO.

  15. Great piece. I was hoping for some info about the ballpark at Gloucester Point, where the major league Athletic’s played Sunday games 1888 to 1890. Any info out there?

  16. Our 63 yr anniversary is coming up…and I and my hubby moved to an apartment on market street. a week after our wedding.Our first child was born while we lived there and she was baptized at the
    Presbyterian church on Monmouth street .
    I wonder…does anyone recall that great restaurant and bar that made the best deviled crabs…I am thinking the name was Poohles or Poulies at the intersection of Broad and market???In the 50’s
    Enjoyed your photos and article (a history,actually)

    Dorothy shull

    • Dorothy,
      I think it was called Poolies and it was at Broadway and Cumberland across Joy St. from Mary Ethel Costello School. Only ate there once or twice when I was a little kid.

  17. I am considered a squatter in Gloucester City since I was only 6 weeks old when my parents moved to Gloucester City. I am 85 now and have lived in Gloucester City all those years with two exceptions, 1949 to 1951 I attended OMI a school in Cincinnati,O and August 14,1951 I was involuntarily inducted into the US Army for 2 years. We moved into Gloucester since my Dad started Fosters’ Laundry at 510 Hunter Street, next to the Nannet Dress Factory who made dresses for girls up to 3 years old. We sold the laundry in 1981 and it was consumed by fire in 1987.

  18. Does anyone know Catherine and Arnold Hennessy, at 220 Warren Street, in Gloucester City? They have resided there since the early sixties. I have written letters, Christmas Cards, and etc. I make sure I have return addresses on all mailings, and I have never gotten any returns. I have contacted the telephone operator, to see if I could find a telephone number, as well as searching on the computer. It has been of no avail. If anyone should see or run across this couple, would you please e-mail me: princevelvet@cox.net or you may call or text my cell: (703) 907-9974. Thanks, Robert

  19. Enjoyed seeing your blog. I have never been to Gloucester City, but my great grandfather was superintendent of the Washington Mills there in the 1870s and 1880s, and my grandparents were married at St. Mary’s Church there in 1892. My grandfather was a jockey who raced at the racetrack in Gloucester between 1890 and 1892. He later became a famous racehorse trainer, but always kept a photo of the Gloucester track on his desk.

  20. Have really enjoyed reading your posts. My great grandparents were from Gloucester City, they moved south with the textile industry in the 1880s, leaving behind their parents, all Irish immigrants. I visited there about 20 years ago and look forward to visiting again soon to learn about Washington Mills and to see if my Price ancestors made the post mortem trip over to the New St. Mary’s Cemetery.

  21. Joe Seddon Jr here, son of Joseph Seddon senior and Florence. We lived on Market St and i attended the Monmouth school in 1949. My grandparents are the Hovey family, Emma and Charles. (2nd husband after Joseph died early) My cousins are the Digiacomo family, most no longer living. Frank senior, Frank junior, Eddie and Joey. Mother was Dorothy, my father`s sister. They lived on King street as i recall. My parents were members of the VFW there. We moved in 1950 or 51 to Cramer Hill. I was 7 and it was during this time period that Howard Unruh shot and killed 13 people during his “walk of death” on 32nd Street and River Road.. I attended H.C. Sharp at that time, and many of the people murdered were either my friends…Orris Smith, age 6, lived behind us, his sister Carol was a friend, and the Wilson family who was shot had a special impact as Garland Wilson, the survivor and husband, became our longtime family friend. I bought my first car from him, a 1956 Studebaker. Took his adopted daughter to her prom when i was 15. The memories of Gloucester still remain. Connie Sarlo lingers in my mind. Joey Phiilps. Alex Tracamus. I walked to school then, picking wild violets for my mom from a cemetery there. Saw a man drown at the pond near the railroad tracks. They pulled him out in a boat. Knew a man who trapped huge Snapping turtles on the other side of those tracks in a swampy area. Wanda who lived behind us, had a pet raccoon. Strange memories exist. My little sister was Marilynne, brother Bruce. Still living and well. A gent named Doctor Cassett whom we also lived next to at one point, had a daughter named Susan and she was my playmate. Best friend. More relatives were the Small family. uncle Lance, wife Francis, and their daughter Joan and Eddie Small who passed while a teen. Joan i talk to often by letter or phone. I became a rock `n roll musician, playing with great talents such as Jimi Hendrix, John Denver, Herman and the Hermits, Patsy Cline, Bill Haley and the Comets for a week in Atlantic City while the casinos were being built. Yes, Bill played the Twin Bar in Gloucester as the record shows. I`d post some pics of the concerts i played with Bobby Rydell and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and so on, but, no room to do so. If anyone is curious or inclined, there`s 90 videos of my career with many photos on You Tube under “Joe Seddon.” Enjoy them from a former Gloucester boy who kinda` misses home! Best to you all, Joe Seddon

  22. Ada M One Star was my great grandmother. She was NOT native American. She married a man who called himself Chief One Star. I believe he is buried somewhere in the Poconos. He was not a actually Chief. He just called himself that.

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