The one thing I refuse to do on Father’s Day is to spend the day at the cemetery. I know that is some people’s idea of honoring one’s family members but it is not mine. I went on Friday and paid my respects to my father (whom this blog is dedicated to) and spent time remembering some of the good times we had in past. I dropped some cut flowers from our gardens (some of which he planted) and said a small prayer. Then I left.
My idea of honoring my father and spending Father’s Day with him is to do something that we would have shared together. We were always running around somewhere and exploring something new and doing something fun. That is how I wanted to honor him. By being active and giving him a toast at Sunday dinner.
Don’t miss all the historical sites and interesting restaurants of this wonderful NJ beach town.
Somers Point, NJ is such a picturesque and historical town with lots of historical sites and delicious restaurants to visit. It is fun to just get in the car and drive the Historic District and see how the town has grown and developed.
I took time out of my walking project in Manhattan after finishing the Chelsea neighborhoods, walking the 13-mile Broadway walk for the sixth time and preparing to do “The Great Saunter” on my own next week to go ‘down the shore’ as we say in New Jersey (it’s never ‘Down to the Shore”, that takes too long).
I had never been to Somers Point, NJ before. It is a small waterfront community across the bay from Ocean City, NJ, which is a popular resort and recreation town. Somers Point is low key with wonderful restaurants and bars, a popular waterfront and beaches on The Great Egg Harbor Bay and beautiful little turn of the century beach homes and a town steeped in history. I read about three historical spots on Shore Drive in the heart of the Historic District and had wanted to visit them.
I visited the Mauricetown (pronounced ‘Morristown’ like its northern neighbor) on a trip to visit historical societies in southern New Jersey. Mauricetown comes from the Dutch word ‘Mauritus’ for the Mauritus River that flowed through the town. “Maurice’ is the English version of the word.
The town itself was used for shipping and trade up and down the East Coast and between 1830 and 1902, 61 ships were built in the boatyard in the village. The home that the Society is housed in is one of many ship captains homes that was built on this side of town being closer to the river for the other ship captains. Founded in 1984, the Society has taken it upon themselves to start collecting artifacts from the town.
When you first enter the museum to the right, there is an extensive collection of seafaring items and military artifacts. This includes many items from the Civil War and WWI. There was even a rare pair of original sharp shoot glasses.
The Military Collection at the Mauricetown Historical Society (MHS Picture)
In the Formal Parlor, the room was designed with original molding from decor of the house and a copy of the wallpaper that had been found behind paneling that had been put up in the 1970’s. The room was furnished in period furniture that was a mixture of late 1890’s to the 1920’s.
The Mauricetown Historical Society ‘Parlor Room’ with the original molding and copy of wall paper
On the second floor, one room was dedicated to a Captain Bacon and his wife, Carolyn, another was full of pictures of the town of Mauricetown through the times, there was a collection of clothing through the ages and a quilt collection that was very impressive.
There was one quilt on display that had the names of all the sea captains and their families. Many of the decendants of the town come here to research their families and look at this quilt. There is also another quilt with items native to the area.
One of the rooms discusses the Mauricetown Shipping and Fishing industry with all sorts of photos and equipment. There was even a display of the ‘Bridge Key’ from the original bridge that lead into town. There was also an interesting display on the town’s Oyster Industry.
In the Children’s Room, there was an extensive collection of dolls, children’s playthings through the ages, clothing and school pictures of the town through the years.
On the outside grounds, there is a Cookhouse that was separate from the main house in the era of when cooking could start a house fire so the rooms were kept separate from the main house. There was a 1880’s cookstove that still works.
The Cookhouse on the grounds of the Mauricetown Historical Society
On the back of the ground is the Abraham and Ann Hoy House, a small home from 1840 that had recently been lived in by an elderly couple. The house had two small levels with the main rooms designed around the fireplace and heating unit.
The house had been stripped of the modern add ons and they Society wanted it to look like it had when it was originally built. The upstairs had two loft bedrooms and even a small loft above the downstairs fire place where the kids would sleep when it was cold outside.
It really showed how the working people of the town lived in a stark comparison to the sea captains who were running trade for the town. The Society’s members have taken great care in restoring these homes.
The Mauricetown Historical Society at 1229 Front Street
The History of the Mauricetown Historical Society:
(From the Mauricetown Historical Society website):
The Mission of the Mauricetown Historical Society:
It is the mission of the Mauricetown Historical Society to collect, preserve and exhibit artifacts and documentation significant to Mauricetown and the surrounding communities.
The Mauricetown Historical Society is housed in the former home of Captain Edward Compton, who was a local sea captain. This Italianate Victorian structure was built in 1864 by Mauricetown carpender Griffith Pritchard and Samuel Cobb.
The home was purchased in 1984 by the society. At the time, the property was in poor condition and required work inside and outside. Over the past 25 years it has been carefully restored to its present condition by volunteer efforts of society members and others. The restoration is an on-going project and there are still areas of work that are needing completion.
Situated directly across Front Street from the location of the old shipyard where sea-going vessels were built in the 19th and 20th centuries, occupants of this house were able to view the activities of the shipyard and the traffic of the river.
The Finns Point Lighthouse is located in the Fort Mott State Park and the afternoon that I was there which was the third Sunday of the month of June, it was not open. In fact, it looked like it had never opened for the day.
The gift shop/information center had a sign from 2019 with the hours of operation and the steps were not well cared for and the gardens around the building were over-grown. The lighthouse itself is behind a fence that you can look at but not enter and from what I read online is not open even when it should be if it is too hot or too cold because conditions inside can be impossible. The lighthouse and the Visitors Center will reopen for the 2023 season.
The Finns Lighthouse Visitors Center is now open in 2023
Still, the lighthouse has a majestic look to it and must have some views when it is open. If it is not open, take time to visit Fort Mott and the State Park, which offers spectacular views of Delaware Bay and the surrounding grounds. Take time to explore the fort and the where the guns were mounted. Very interesting.
Fort Mott also has a very good Visitors Center and small museum inside to see the history of the fort, artifacts from the fort and from the war years and all sorts of interesting information on the area.
The Finns Point Lighthouse
The History of the Finns Point Lighthouse”
(From the Friends of the Finns Point Lighthouse website-modified):
(Please read the above Friends Website for the complete history in detail of the ligthouse)
Soon after the 1638 landing of the Finnish colonists near the present site of Wilmington, DE, a small group of settlers crossed over to the east bank of Delaware River, where the land was though to be more fertile and established farms. One group selected land near the sweeping turn in the Delaware River and this area remains known to this day as Finns Point.
By an act of Congress in 1875, $55,000 was set apart for two pairs of range lights to help vessels transition from Delaware Bay into the Delaware River. Port Penn Range, located in Delaware, would guide traffic along the shipping channel from Ship John Shoal to Ready Island, while Finns Point Range would help vessels continue upriver, passing between Reedy Island and Baker Shoal.
Lt. Colonel William F. Reynolds of the U.S. Corps of Engineers oversaw construction of the front and rear range lights at Finns Point. The front light was located near the banks of the Delaware River and was displayed from a frame dwelling of the following description: “one and one half stories high with shingle roof, double weather-boarded on outside and lathed and plastered inside. Its rests on stone walls founded on wooden piles. The first story is divided into three rooms with the hall and stairways to the second floor and cellar and shed over the back door, porch and bay window in the front. The second story is divided similarly to the first, with a step ladder to lantern on the third floor, a gallery supported by brackets surrounds the lantern on front and sides.”
The illuminating apparatus for the front light was a fourth order range lens manufactured by Barbier & Fenestre in Paris, which focused the light from a fourth-order Funk Heap Lamp with one wick. In 1882, a “wooden screen painted white, with open spaces so as to show horizontal stripes” was placed atop the front lighthouse’s red tavern room to make the structure more conspicuous during the day. The daymark was removed in 1897.
The lighthouse sign
Three acres of land, roughly one and a half miles inland from the front light, were purchased from Joshua and Mary Dickinson on April 20th, 1876, as the site for the rear range light. To provide a focal plane higher than that of the front light, the project plans called for a tall, wrought iron tower to be used for displaying the rear light. The Kellogg Bridge Company of Buffalo, NY was contracted to manufacture the components of the wrought tower, which were then transported to Salem, NJ by railcar. From Salem, teams of mules pulled large wagons loaded with pieces of the iron tower to the construction site.
A frame keeper’s dwelling was built just west of the tower, along with a wood-framed privy and an oil house. The first keeper of Finns Point Rear Range Light was Edward Dickerson, who started serving on December 8th, 1876, even though the light was not lit until April 2nd, 1877.
The lighthouse sign
Fast forward to the 1970’s when the old dwelling was razed because it was unsafe, but locals showed an interesting in the lighthouse and having it moved. Resident Betty Husarik formed the “Save the Lighthouse Committee”. They faulted in moving the lighthouse but placed it on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1978.
In 1981, the committee set out to Washington DC to meet with their local congressman and the drive resulted in a contract for $33,600 being signed between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, on whose land the tower now stood and K & K Painting Company of Baltimore to have the tower repairs, sandblasted and painted. An open house was held at the tower on October 14th, 1984 to honor the determined effort shown by the “Save the Lighthouse Committee” and others in restoring the tower.
Today it is opened for limited tours and special events.