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.

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

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.

E-Biking Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th

Source: TCM

Serendipitous is not the right word to use when you find yourself riding your bike alone in the woods around Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th. Fortunately, this was not Camp Crystal Lake, the stomping grounds of infamous axe-murderer Jason Voorhees. That’s up in north Jersey.

This Crystal Lake Park is near Bordentown in central Jersey. The park is mostly farm fields, with some steep wooded areas along the bluff overlooking Crystal Lake. To get to the park, you do have to drive down Axe Factory Road. I saw no actual axe factory, nor, I’m happy to say, any axe-wielders.

Into the Woods.
Source: TCM
Source: TCM

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)]

More Bogs, More Barrens

At the Cranberry Bogs along Mt. Misery trail. Source: TCM

Fall colors are appearing in the Pine Barrens. I rode about 10 miles on parts of the Mt. Misery trail and Glass House Road in Brendan Byrne State Forest, which provide a mix of paved roads, wide graded sand roads, and single track closely hemmed by bushes and trees. I must have been the first visitor that morning, because I was constantly riding through webs spanning the trail and when I stopped for a bit, there were at least three spiders still hanging on to the front of my bike.

The RadMini alongside the bogs. Source: TCM
Sand road along cranberry bog
Riding through the cranberry bogs in Brendan Byrne State Forest. Source: TCM
cranberry bog
Another view of the bogs. Source: TCM

Near the end of the ride, the Reeves cranberry bogs provided a peerless photographic opportunity. The bogs were created by William H. Reeves at the beginning of the twentieth century and remained in operation for at least half a century.

The roads around the bogs had some soft sand. The RadMini did not seem to have a problem with it, but I did almost wipe out plowing through a turn a little too fast.

Sand road blocked by water
Time to turn around. Source: TCM