‘Know Your City’ booklet looks at town in 1866 & 1925
Some time ago, there was an item on eBay related to Hammonton available for purchase.
It was a booklet the size of a regular sheet of copy paper, with the words “Know Your City 1866/1925 Hammonton New Jersey—Half Way on the White Horse Pike/40 Minutes from Philadelphia – 30 Minutes from Atlantic City” on the front cover.
According to the booklet, the publication “has been arranged by the Community Association to enable visitors to Hammonton during the Thanksgiving season to see the many changes in our town and to show the residents of the town parts of it which they seldom see.”
The booklet includes a detailed tour of sites from 1866 and 1867. 1866 was the year of Hammonton’s incorporation. The booklet said the tour “has been prepared by W. R. Seely, Town Clerk and Clerk of the School District” and was intended “to prove to be most interesting to visitors and residents alike.”
“Try to imagine yourself on a “Know Your City” trip in 1867 with Mr. Seely as guide. The contrast between conditions then and now will give all a better understanding and knowledge of the development of Hammonton,” the booklet from 1925 states.
The start of the tour was the Central School Park or Playground on School House Lane/Vine Street, now home to Hammonton Veterans Park (which fronts on Bellevue Avenue), the Leo Club Park section of Veterans Park and the Historical Society of Hammonton Museum. There is a note that states “The Central Schools and work on the new High School [now St. Joseph Academy’s main building on Central Avenue] may be seen at the finish of the trip.”
Another note at the beginning of the tour states: “GENERALLY—It must be borne in mind that in the early years of Hammonton’s existence, there were no artificially improved streets, or graveled roads in the Town; the roads laid out were just as the natural soil made them, together with some un-rotted stumps which were struck by the wheels of the ordinary vehicles of that age, without springs, rendered travel by the use of horses and wagons not any too pleasant or swift, to say the least.
“It should also be borne in mind, that in those early days, the lay out of nearly all of the lands was in the shape of farms, varying from two or three acres, or five or ten and up to fifty, a fifty acre farm being considered in that day a large farm. Building lots even in the heart of the Town, were seldom heard of our sought,” the booklet said.
A tour of the town with numbered locations followed across most of the booklet’s pages. Here is a quick sampling of a few the sites on the tour, by number:
76 (Tilton and Pleasant Streets): “Factory occupied by Wm. Kessler. The old Central school was moved here and used as a hosiery mill by David Cottrell. It burned down in 1903.”
106 (White Horse Pike): “Geo. Elvins Store. A center of activity before lower Bellevue Ave. was built up. For many years the post office. The first telephone in Hammonton was here.”
125 (Bellevue Ave.): “Home of Wm. L. Black, the oldest living native resident of Hammonton.”
154 (Bellevue Ave. and Egg Harbor Rd.): “On the corner, now Ruberton’s Market. The DePuys built a two story building and a store was opened under “Black & DePuy.” Later the store was extended back along Egg Harbor Rd., and became a large hardware and furniture store.”
After the tour information in the booklet, a short “Facts About Hammonton” section can be found with headers including “Location,” “Agriculture,” “Poultry Industry,” and “Real Estate.”
There are advertisements in the booklet from some of the businesses of 1925. “DON’T WORRY about Coal! Put in One of our Oil burners $180 installed complete. Rice Hardware Co.”; “You Can Always Do Better at Steckers/Furnishings For The Family/Opposite P.R.R. Station/Hammonton, N.J.”; “Carl G. Monastra/Hammonton Cash Market/Prime Meats/Choice Fruits/Groceries and Provisions/Hammonton, N.J. 102 Bellevue Ave./Bell Phone 7W/Keystone Phone 1102”; “W.E. Crane Lumber and Millwork/Yard: Tilton and Orchard Streets”; “Ruberton’s Market/Meats & Provisions/Corner Bellevue Avenue & Egg Harbor Road/Bell Phone 50-Local Phone 803”
The People’s Bank and the Hammonton Division of Atlantic City Electric Company also placed ads on the back cover of the booklet. On the inside of the back cover was a full-page ad from A.F. Macrie Realtor & Builder, which was located in the Pennsylvania Building on Railroad Avenue, now home to Fruta-Mex.
In 1925, the feeling in Hammonton must have been optimistic. Here is the full text of the A. F. Macrie ad from the booklet:
“Sales and Values Increasing in Hammonton Real Estate
“The [new Delaware River; now Ben Franklin] Bridge has already placed Hammonton in the charmed circle of Camden and Philadelphia Real Estate values. Values have already risen far above even the dreams of a few years ago, and every day sees a stronger demand for Greater Hammonton Real Estate.
“AND WHY NOT—Intrinsically and Geographically Hammonton must fall in line.
“TO THOSE, who have the foresight, buy Hammonton Real Estate now.
“TO YOU MEN, who are pioneers of our town’s activities, your co-operation is requested in civic and commercial advancement.”
Macrie wrote about the town’s success in 1925, in a book that highlighted how the town had grown exponentially since its incorporation in 1866—and the town has grown exponentially since, taking us to this point in time, nearly 100 years since the publishing of the booklet I held in my hands earlier this week and which served as the basis for this column about the town.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.