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History Passenger Pigeon

New Jersey’s State Bird

In association with the Fine Feathered Friends exhibit, here’s history behind how the Eastern Goldfinch became New Jersey’s official state bird.

Anthony Kuser, who is introduced late in the video, was also a sponsor of the search for a surviving passenger pigeon. In 1909, he offered a $300 reward for proof of an undisturbed passenger pigeon nest. The ensuing search was unsuccessful (many sightings of presumed passenger pigeons turned out to be mourning doves) but the reward, and the publicity surrounding it, helped establish with certainty the extinction of passenger pigeons in the wild.

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E-Bikes History

Spring Lake Park E-Biking

Staircase at Spring Lake. Source: TCM

Spring Lake is part of Roebling Park, which is in the Abbott Marshlands of New Jersey. The park has had many names over the years. In the early twentieth century, this was the White City Amusement Park. It was renamed Boiling Springs Park a few years before it closed in 1922.

The Casino restaurant, a c. 1820 mansion that is now privately owned, provided patrons a view of the landscape below. A grand staircase allowed them to walk down to the lake, where there were more rides. The staircase is one of the few visible remnants of its past.

Most of the trails are for walking only, but the Spring Lake loop is bikeable. This park is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The staircase at Spring Lake. Overlook Mansion, formerly the Casino Restaurant, is visible at the top of the bluff. Source: TCM
Spring Lake in 1907 postcard. A staircase is visible in the center of the photo, but may be a precursor to the existing one.
White City Park in 1908. The top of the staircase is depicted on the left edge of the map. Source: Insurance Maps of Trenton, New Jersey. Sanborn Map Co., 1908.
Spring Lake. Source: TCM
Mural at Spring Lake
Source: TCM
Categories
History

A Bit More on Trenton’s Hog Island Cranes

Several gantry cranes in operation at the Hog Island Shipyard in Philadelphia, 1919. Source: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History. catalog no. 335550.2,
accession no. 1977.0003

Here’s a few more details on the cranes at the Marine Terminal Park. According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form, the cranes were originally 15 ton oil burning, steam powered locomotive gantry cranes built by McMyler Interstate Company of Cleveland, Ohio in 1917. Twenty-eight of them were purchased by the new Hog Island shipyard in 1917. There is an excellent summary of Hog Island by John Lawrence on the also-excellent Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Detail of gantry crane from the above photo. Source: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History. catalog no. 335550.2,
accession no. 1977.0003

The steam gantry cranes have a 15 ton capacity at 15 ft. radius, mounted on tracks, with holding and closing lines and clam shell buckets of 3/4 and 1 1/2 yard capacity. Provision is made for magnets at 35 ft. radius with portable electric power. In 1952 they were overhauled and the boilers replaced. They stand on four legs, and are approximately 40 ft. tall.

TAMS 1952
Categories
Architecture History

The Hog Island Gantry Cranes

Gantry crane
Source: TCM

The first thing to realize is that the Hog Island cranes are no longer on Hog Island. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, a massive shipyard was set up alongside the Delaware River on Hog Island in Philadelphia to build transport and cargo ships, although none of the ships were completed before the war ended in 1918.

Gantry crane detail
Source: TCM

In 1930, Philadelphia bought Hog Island and transformed it into what is now the Philadelphia International Airport. Two of the cranes were sold and moved upriver to Trenton. At the Trenton Marine Terminal, they were used to load and unload ships for several decades before being taken out of service. Only the two gantries remain; the cranes that sat on top of them are gone. The Hog Island cranes were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

For more on Hog Island, see The Necessity for Ruins.

Categories
E-Bikes History

Around Port Mercer by E-Bike

Port Mercer was a small town along the Delaware and Raritan Canal in central New Jersey. Since the canal closed down in 1932, commerce has shifted east to U.S. Route 1, where shopping malls, car dealers, and restaurants are now located. On the west side of the canal, there are still extensive swampy wetlands between Lawrence Township and Princeton.

Source: TCM

One of the buildings that remains from the canal’s heyday is the Bridge Tender’s House – the worker who lived there was responsible for swinging open the bridge when a canal boat came through. Several similar buildings still exist along the canal.

Bridge Tender’s house at Port Mercer, NJ. Source: TCM
Categories
E-Bikes History

Cadwalader Park’s Abandoned Animal Paddocks

aerial view of animal barns
Source: TCM

Frederick Law Olmstead did not want a zoo in the park he designed for the city of Trenton, but Trenton gave the people what they wanted anyway. These barns were added later and housed exotic deer and other animals into the 21st century. Recent work has restored the natural areas, but the abandoned and decaying animal barns remain in place for now.

Animal barn
Source: TCM
Animal barn
Source: TCM
e-bike by a stream
You bet the RadMini was there. Source: TCM

To see what this area looks like in the summer, see Cadwalader Park Natural Area.

Categories
History

40,000 Pigeon Voyageurs Militaires

Source: Paris Musées, CC0 1.0.

One of 100,000 artworks made freely available by Paris Musées, a group of 14 museums in Paris. This poster, from 1890, is in the collection of the Musée Carnavalet. #thesearenotpassengerpigeons

Categories
History

Bethlehem Steel Plant

In December, the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, hosts the Christkindlmarkt, a large outdoor craft fair. More interesting are the rusting structures at the former Bethlehem Steel Plant, where the market is located. After the company went bankrupt around the turn of the century, the factory complex was transformed, and is now home to a casino, the SteelStacks arts and culture center, a museum, and more.

These photos were taken from the Hoover-Mason Trestle, an elevated walkway that runs alongside the furnaces and other industrial buildings.

Source: TCM
Categories
E-Bikes History

Pine Barrens Tavern: E-Biking Atsion-Quaker Bridge

Some would call the region through which it passes “desolate”; a better word would be “subtle”

A.D. Pierce, Iron in the Pines 1957

By the 1700s, a road, which likely followed a pre-existing Native American trail, ran from Camden, New Jersey, to the port town of Tuckerton on the Atlantic coast. According to local histories, to make their travel to yearly meetings easier, Quakers built a bridge over the Batsto River around 1772. The bridge predictably became known as the Quaker Bridge, and the road that passed over it became Quaker Bridge Road. In the 1800s, horse-drawn stage coaches regularly carried both mail and passengers through the Pine Barrens along this route.

In 1809, Arthur and Elizabeth Thompson opened the Quaker Bridge Hotel, also known as Thompson’s Tavern, just south of the bridge. The tavern remained open until at least 1850. Any remnants of the building vanished many years ago.

The area is now part of Wharton State Forest and Quaker Bridge Road is still a sandy trail through the barrens. On a pleasantly warm November day, there were few other people around: another (non-electric) fat bike, some hikers, a big dog, a couple of motorcycles, one jeep. From Atsion, a former company town and farming community, to the Quaker Bridge is about four miles. With some diversions, my round trip was 15 miles.

The 1826 Atsion Mansion and the remains of a concrete barn from the early 1900s. Source: TCM
It’s the Pine Barrens, so there has to be an abandoned cranberry bog along the way. Source: TCM
Categories
E-Bikes History

E-Biking the Pole Farm

About 10 miles wandering around Mercer Meadows (a.ka. the Pole Farm) and Rosedale Park.

RadMini e-bike in front of Last Pole Standing
The RadMini in front of the Last Pole Standing at Mercer Meadows. Source: TCM
Metal Arches in a Park
AT&T Building One was where radio technicians connected telephone calls from the U.S. to the rest of the world. The arches show where the entrances to the building used to be. Source: TCM