Atlantic County Historical Society
907 Shore Road
Somers Point, NJ 08294
Open: Sunday-Tuesday Closed/Wednesday-Saturday 10:00am-3:30pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
The Atlantic County Historical Society at 907 Shore Avenue
The Atlantic County Historical Society
I recently visited the historical sites of Somers Point and took my time to tour the Atlantic County Historical Society, which tells the story of life in Atlantic County from the beginnings to today with a major concentration the early history of the County with the Native American Lenape Indians and into the late 1700’s and 1800’s with the founding of the town, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, shipbuilding, fishing and the start of the Victorian Age. Each floor has interesting displays that sometimes have been over-decorated with too many objects.
When you walk in the door, you enter the library where people study the history of the town and their geneology. There are stacks of books, periodicals and town records with people to help you research your work.
As you head downstairs, you will see the various displays that have been set up on life in Atlantic County through the ages. Most of the artifacts in the displays are from the late 1800’s to the early 1930’s. The displays represent the home life of middle to upper middle class Americans at the time. There are parlor sets with musical intruments for entertainment, family portraits, writing sets and living and dining room bric-a-brac. The museum portrays the life of properious residents of the area.
The Middle to Upper Middle Class parlor of Americans in the late 1800’s
The Dining Room set and dishes of a 1920’s Atlantic County family with all sorts of kitchen and play items for engagement for the family through the years.
The display really shows that entertaining since those times has not changed over the years except that today that things are less formal. China, crystal and silver were your way of showing your status in the community. Today’s generation is not so apt to do this.
Lifestyle was a big part of people’s lives during these time periods so the way you dressed and presented yourself was a big part of who you were. With the advent of ocean swimming, outdoor recreation and weekend activities that came with the push of the unions. You can see that leisure became a big part of the Victorian’s lifestyle.
One thing that emphisis was put on was children and their well-being. We see the start of children’s education, their health and livelihoods and their playthings. The Victorians especially worked hard to give children a better life than the workhouses and factories that children had been subjected to in the previous century. There was a push to make children well-behaved ‘little adults’.
Children’s playthings and clothes were a big part of Victorian children’s lives
Children’s dolls and playthings represented the house and to prepare for household responsibilities
People were expected to do their chores at home such as cooking, washing, dressmaking and taking care of the house. Before electricity this was not an easy task made even more difficult by the Victorian expectations of propriety and cleanliness.
Home decoration was a big part of home life. The house was where the family spent their time and Victorians especially liked to room for everything including the bedrooms. This is where privacy was king if you could afford it. In the era of ‘children were seen and not heard’, if family members could have their own rooms that was paramount.
There was also a large collection of vintage clothing, quilts and bedding, hats and gloves and walking sticks to show the dressing the middle and upper middle class citizens.
Manufacturing was also a big part of the community and shipbuilding was one of the businesses by any waterfront community that was important.
The shipbuilding and fishing displays on the third floor
The Third floor is dedicated to industry of the area with fishing and shipbuilding a very important part of any waterfront community. Tourism which was a new thing in the industrial age and people having weekends off to enjoy themselves discovered these new shore communities for swimming, sunning, staying at hotels and ocean dining.
The last display on the third floor was the office set up of Senator Frank “Hap” Farley, whose innovations and protections of the shore and transportation to various parts of the state opened it up for development and tourism.
The office of Frank S. “Hap” Farley was a testiment to a well spent time in government
The upstairs galleries is also a place where groups meet and discussions and lectures are held. There really is something for everyone at the Society.
There is more to see and do here and take your time to visit all the displays and take a tour of everything. It is also an enjoyable rainy or hot sunny day alternative to the beach. You will learn a lot about Atlantic County and the history of New Jersey here.
The History and Mission Statement of the Atlantic County Historical Society:
(From the Society website)
The mission of the Atlantic County Historical Society is to encourage the study of local history and genealogy and to disseminate this information to our members and the general public.
To fulfill our mission, the Society publishers an annual journal of local history and genealogy as well as a quarterly newsletter. Other means include programs, lectures, field trips, partnerships with local libraries and school districts, library and museum interpretative exhibitis and guided tours of the circa 1790 oysterman’s farmhouse, the Risley Homestead, in Northfield, New Jersey.
History of the organization:
The Atlantic County Historical Society is an independent, non-profit, tax-exempt membership organization. Originally founded in 1913 to collect and preserve the history of Atlantic County and southern New Jersey, the organization was incorporated as the Atlantic County Historical Society in 1915. In 2006, the Society was briefly renamed the Atlantic Heritage Center, but the original name was restored in 2011.
The Society opened its library and museum at the current location in 1968. In 2017, an extensive renovation project added additional space for the museum and to provide handicapped accessibility. The Risley Homestead site was bequeathed to the Society in 1989 by Virginia Risley Stout. She and her husband were the last to live in this historic building, of which portions date back to 1790. The building is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
Atlantic County Historical Society and Risley Homestead are registered trade names of Atlantic County Historical Society.