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
Continue reading “Pine Barrens Tavern: E-Biking Atsion-Quaker Bridge”

The Eternal Struggle: History vs. Ghost Stories

Was N.J.’s Spy House one of the most haunted spots in the country? That’s up for debate

The Seabrook-Wilson House, a.k.a the Spy House, was built in the early 1700s. Over the years, archaeology and historical research has uncovered much of the true history of the house. Now part of Bayshore Waterfront Park in Port Monmouth, New Jersey, the historic house museum has a slate of free history and science programs scheduled, including their new History on Tap series, beginning with Famous and Forgotten Shipwrecks of New Jersey, an Archaeological Perspective on November 14.

The Seabrook-Wilson House. Source: ScottCAbel [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Cadwalader Park Natural Area

Cadwalader Park Natural Area, Trenton, NJ. Source: TCM

Cadwalader Park was created by the city of Trenton in 1888 from land previously owned by Dr.Thomas Cadwalader. In 1890, Frederick Law Olmstead (best known for designing New York City’s Central Park) was hired to create a design for Trenton’s new park.

Prior to Olmstead’s involvement, the city had already started displaying animals in a “zoological garden.” After Trenton dropped Olmstead’s firm for financial reasons, the city added a deer paddock–which Olmstead opposed–on the west side of the park. Olmstead had other plans for that area, called the Western Ravine:

In the broader wooded valley at the west end of the park, Olmsted planned a series of pools that was reminiscent of the Pool and Loch of upper Central Park…The Preliminary Plan of 1891 shows most of the Ravine taken up by five naturalistic pools…with a connecting stream. The three lower pools are shown surrounded with dense vegetation, while the borders of the two upper pools are somewhat more open and more visible from the adjoining meadow areas. These upper pools have four beach areas where the nearby path expands to form a shallow wading area.

Cadwalader Park Master Plan, 1998

Much of Olmstead’s plan was not constructed, and many modifications to the design were made the city. A deer paddock was built in 1895, and a sheep house and elk house were also added. By 1906, the park zoo included not only nine fallow deer, but over a dozen other types of animals, including coyotes, alligators, bears, monkeys, and a kangaroo. Two animal barns were added in the western ravine, which are still standing.

Animal barn at Cadwalader Park. Source: TCM
Homes in the Hiltonia neighborhood overlooking the Cadwalader Park Natural Area. Source: TCM

The park declined in the 1970s (although the city’s museum, Ellarslie, was created in 1978 in the former monkey house). Deer were kept in the paddock until about ten years ago. As part of a master plan to restore Cadwalader Park, The D&R Greenway Land Trust, the City of Trenton, and several other partners united to restore the paddock area to a more natural meadow and wetland environment. Where once captive deer lived behind a fence, white-tailed deer now run wild.

White-tailed deer at Cadwalader Park. Source: TCM

Louis Sullivan’s Jewel Box in Grinnell

The Jewel Box, Grinnell, Iowa. Source: TCM

The Merchants National Bank building in Grinnell, Iowa, also known as the Jewel Box, was designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan late in his career and built in 1914. Used as a bank for over 80 years, it now serves as the visitors’ center for the town. The building is a National Historic Landmark and part of the Grinnell Historic Commercial District.

Continue reading “Louis Sullivan’s Jewel Box in Grinnell”

Early Images of the Classical World: Daguerreotypes of the Monumental Journey


Olympieion, Athens, Viewed from the East, 1842. Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Qatar Museum Collections (IM.314)

In the 1840s, Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, a French photographer and architectural historian, took thousands of photographic images of monuments of Greece, Italy, Egypt, and other countries during a three-year long trip around the Mediterranean. The daguerrotypes he produced are the oldest known surviving photos of these locations.

Continue reading “Early Images of the Classical World: Daguerreotypes of the Monumental Journey”

Mercer Cemetery

The Mercer Cemetery in Trenton, NJ, was created in the 1840s. There were few new internments after the 1930s. Unlike the Riverview Cemetery, which is still active, no one has been buried in Mercer since 1973. In the 1990s, the city spruced up the cemetery, but it became neglected, landscaping and maintenance was deferred, and conditions within the cemetery deteriorated. Fortunately, Trenton is now looking to rehabilitate the Mercer cemetery, beginning with a recent volunteer cleanup effort.

Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM