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.
I visited the Somers Mansion, the three story former home to five generations of the Somers Family. The mansion sits on a buff overlooking the bay and the bridge to the barrier island where Ocean City is located. The original part of the house was built in 1725 and in 1920 the last family members moved from the home and deeded it to the town. The modern additions of the home have been stripped off so you see the original house.
The historic marker of the home when it was donated by the family
I have to say that I was very disappointed with the condition of both the house and of the rooms and displays inside the house. There was not much to see. The lower level of the home has the main room with the hearth known in most early homes as the “Keeping” or “Everything” room where all the cooking, household chores and socializing was done because of the warmth of the fire.
Here and there were pieces of furniture but nothing labeled or decorated to make the room look ‘period’. Just old furniture here and there to fill the space. Some of the original family china was in the cupboards built into the walls.
The upstairs which must be reached by a rope bannister lead up a narrow stairs to two upstairs bedrooms. The home is not handicapped safe. The front bedroom had a fireplace with a small side room that held spinning wheels and some children’s furniture. There was not much to see in the upstairs.
The tour guide did not offer much in the way of information on the house and the only period pieces of the Somers family that were left inside the house were a chest, a clock, some of the china that was in the side cabinents and a bedwarmer.
Outside the house the Somers Point Garden Club planted a period garden of fruits and vegetables on the back lawn and lead tours of the gardens.
The Somers Mansion Kitchen Garden
The Garden Club planted fruits and vegetables that would have been grown in the time periods of the late 1700’s to early 1800’s. You can walk amongst the beds to see the plantings.
Somers Mansion Kitchen Garden planted by the Garden Club
The whole tour takes less than a half hour and it is more impressive from the outside. You are also not allowed to take pictures of the house for security reasons.
The History of the Somers Mansion:
(From the NJ State Historical Site.com):
The mansion and surrounding city bear the name of the family who owned and occupied the house for 200 years.
The original mansion after it was stripped of the modern additions
The Somers Mansion, a three story home constructed of brick in the Flemish bond pattern, sits overlooking the Great Egg Harbor Bay at Somers Point. In the late 1600’s, the property which surrounds the mansion was acquired by John Somers, who operated a ferry service across The Great Egg Harbor Bay to Cape May. He referred to it as Somers Plantation and Somers Ferry and the surrounding settlement, the olders in what became Altantic County and then Somers Point in the mid-18th Century.
The mansion is considered to be the oldest existing house in Atlantic County, predating the County itself. His son, Richard, the first of the family to be born in New Jersey, built what is now referred to as the mansion by 1726. That year the local Society of Friends (Quakers) used the home for a meeting and memorialized it in their minutes, making the earliest recorded date of the home’s existence.
By the end of the 19th century, the mansion’s architecture had been added to and changed to reflect a Victorian style. The house remained in the Somers Family until 1937 when it was deeded by Florence Hayday Brooks and Lulu Hayday Smith, daughters of Hannah Hayday Somers to the Atlantic County Historical Society for the purpose of creating a permanent memorial to the Somers family.
In 1941, it was transferred to the State of New Jersey, dedicated on September 26th, 1942 and in the early 1940’s was restored to its colonial appearance as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. Laborers for the WPA both renovated the surviving furnishings and conducted a historical restoration, including the elimination of rooms and architectural details dating to the 19th century. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and is now a State Historic site.
Somers Point was originally settled by John Somers, an Englishman and practicing Quaker, who bought the land from Thomas Budd. Early names for the area were Somerset Plantation, Somers Ferry and Somers Plantation named after the first settlers in 1693. The land purchased originally covered all of Somers Point, part of Linwood and went into Egg Harbor Township. In the early years, it was part of Gloucester County, because Atlantic COunt had not yet been named.
The name “Somers Point” was adopted in 1750. It was a seafaring town and sloops, schooners and barges were built in the many shipyards located along the Greate Egg Harbor Bay, Greate Egg Harbor River and Patcong Creek.
The Sooy Boatworks was located on Shore Road and the completed ships were rolled on logs down Shore Road to Delaware Avenue and then down to the bay. Shipbuilding and life along the waterways was a very important part of life in early Somers Point.
To all your history buffs, please visit Bergen County, NJ for interesting experience of visiting our historical sites and restaurants. Check out our Team Project from Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Tour of Bergen County”.
I had the most interesting semester for Spring Term at the college where I work. Everything started off fine. We had classes in the the afternoon, good discussions on Marketing and had a very successful Team Project marketing the Lyndhurst Snack Shop, the new Bulldog Cafe, for business (See Day One Hundred and Fifty-Nine in MywalkinManhattan.com):
I had just handed out the next Team Project, “From Revolution to Renewal: Exploring the Historic Bergen County”, a major tourism project I wanted to the students to work on for the remainder of the semester the week before the break. I had the students to break up into groups and get to know one another and get their game plans…