Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Haunted House on Delaware Street

131 Delaware Street illustration by the late Narcissa Weatherbee
131 Delaware Street illustration by the late Narcissa Weatherbee

The following tale originally appeared in the booklet entitled Ghosts of Gloucester County compiled by Virginia Joslin and published by the Gloucester County Cultural and Heritage Commission in 1987. Wonderful illustrations (see above example) by the late Narcissa Weatherbee, a local Woodbury artist of some renown, appear throughout the book. Reprinted here with kind permission.

Woodbury is the county seat of Gloucester County, and its only city; modern of course, with its hospital, its surrounding shopping plazas and malls. Although Broad Street, the main street in town, is dotted with specialty shops, historic sites and small businesses, the heart of the city and its subsidary tree-lined streets still retain the flavor of a provincial country town. Old Colonial homes stand interspersed with larger Victorian mansions, both giving way to newer houses further from the town center. There is a sense of quiet, of permanence, and of community pride.

The House on Delaware Sweet

Close in, on Delaware Street, stands a neat stucco house, with a lovely center hall and a stairway curving up to the third floor (a simpler, cleaner architectural version of the Ashcraft house in Mullica Hill) Not as widely reported to be haunted as the Glassboro dormitory house, it is, nevertheless, “the house on Delaware Street,” which the townspeople like to talk about and ponder over when the subject of ghosts is introduced into a conversation.
Several years ago, upon questioning members of the family who were at that time living in the house, we learned that the sections of the house involved in the occurrences were the master bedroom, the front hall at the first floor level, and the staircase between the second and third floors.
According to the family, they had been living in the house for several months (they were not quite certain of the exact length of time) before anything unusual happened. Then one night the husband and wife were in bed in the master bedroom. The family pet, a large dog, who was trained to sleep on the floor at the foot of the bed, began to whimper and tremble. He jumped into the bed and tried to burrow under the covers between his master and mistress. With a few sharp words, the man ordered the dog from the bed; and the dog lay for the rest of the night with its head under the bed, trembling and whimpering as though frightened.
Everything was quiet and normal for a period of time after this and the incident was forgotten. A few weeks later, the husband and wife were in bed again one night when the wife heard a bumping noise. Thinking that her husband had gotten up for some reason and had stubbed his toe or something, she reached across the bed to see if he was still there. He was sound asleep. She sat up and turned on the bedside lamp to see what had caused the sound. She looked around and saw the hand mirror from her bureau lying in the middle of the bedroom floor. As she sat there, puzzled, still too sleepy to think clearly, the hairbrush slowly sailed over and landed on the floor next to the minor. At this point, she woke her husband and they got up to check the windows to see if there was a wind blowing strongly enough to blow these items off the bureau to the center of the room. There was no draft. The room was large; and she felt that if the mirror had been blown off the bureau, the glass would probably have been broken.
As is usual in these cases, all was quiet for quite a long time after this, and the incident faded from their minds. Several weeks later, the husband and wife were in bed, settled down for the night, when the husband suddenly sat up.
“There is somebody in bed with us!” he said. They each rolled out of their respective sides of the bed and turned on the light.
“You know,” one of them said later, “when two people sleep in a double bed, if there are sags in the mattress, they are down either side. But, as we stood there that night, we could see the perfect imprint of a form in the middle of the bed — even the hollow place on the pillow where a head should have been.”
This is the most dramatic phenomenon they experienced; but there were other significant occurrences, as reported by the lady of the house:
“There is something about that downstairs front hall,” she said. “I remember one time in particular, my husband had gone upstairs to take a nap after lunch. It was a sunny day. The living room was bright and cheerful, so I stretched out on the sofa to read a book. The dog lay on the rug by the side of the sofa. I heard a man clear his throat in the hallway. The dog got up and trotted into the hall. I looked up from my book, thinking that my husband had gotten up from his nap. I waited for him to come into the room. When he didn’t appear I called; but he didn’t answer. I went out into the hall to see what was keeping him. The dog was sniffing around, very confused. The hall was empty. I. tiptoed upstairs and quietly opened the bedroom door; my husband was sound asleep. But, both the dog and I heard a man clear his throat in the hall –and we both responded to it.”
“Also,” she continued, “I will be working somewhere in the house, sometimes in the kitchen. I will hear the front door open and hear someone call ‘Yoo-hoo!’ I hurry to greet what I expect to be a neighbor coming to call. The hall will be empty and the door will be locked. Nobody could have walked in. We have tried, but we can’t explain any of these things.”
The daughter of the family, an artist, had her studio on the third floor of the house, where she also slept. She reported that she would often hear whispered conversation on the staircase at the second floor landing late in the night.
“The words are almost understandable, but not clear enough to determine the gist of the conversation,” she said.
The whispers were identified as male, and there seemed to be two entities. The conversations were sometimes intense, almost like two people arguing. When she would go to investigate, however, the whispers would stop.
(In the phenomenon of whispered conversation, it is a common characteristic that the words are almost intelligible. The gender of the whispered voices is always identifiable, but the words are described as “just beyond being understood.”
In order to try to capture a whispered conversation, we have taken cassette taping equipment into a situation, to he turned on when the conversation was heard. However, except for one instance, we have gotten only static. Static in a haunting occurrence is, unfortunately, usual. It has been our experience that a tape recorder, when taken on a research interview, will play back, with perfect clarity, initial conversation; however, when carried into the room or area which is reported to be haunted, it will immediately go blank or will be filled with such static that the tape will be useless.)
The house on Delaware Street has changed hands a number of times and so has known a number of different families.
At one time, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Talley lived in the house and, according to Mary Ruth Talley, their experiences began the first night they were in residence.
“Even though all our furniture had not arrived, and the electricity was not turned on, or the telephones connected, we decided to sleep there so that we could make an early start on all there was to be done the next morning.
“We went to bed that night (in the master bedroom). We were both sound asleep. Suddenly, the window shade snapped up with a great cracking sound. We got up, fixed the shade and went back to bed.
“Shortly after this, the phone rang. We were surprised, as we knew the phones were not yet connected. My husband answered the phone, but the only sound he heard was heavy breathing. He hung up and we went back to bed, thinking that although we could not make outgoing calls we could perhaps, receive incoming calls and that somebody was playing a joke on us. Not long after we had settled down for the third time -- the phone rang again. My husband, again, groped around; and this time went downstairs to answer the phone there. As before, there was nothing but heavy breathing. He hung up and once more we settled down. We finally slept.
“The next morning the telephone man arrived to connect the lines.”
‘Is there any way we could have received an incoming call last night?’ I asked.
“The man looked at me as though I were not quite bright.
‘What do you mean, lady?’ he asked and he held up the stub of the telephone wire, which was lying loose, nowhere near an outlet.”
The mysteries remain. Who called the Talleys - from where -- and how? Who are the visitors who come into the downstairs hall? Who whispers on the stairway? Most of all, who was in the bed?

Joslin, V. (1987). Ghosts of Gloucester county. (pp. 30-33). Cultural and Heritage Commission Gloucester County.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Save the Green Hotel!

On October 22nd the Holy Angels Parish will appear in front of Woodbury City Council to once again attempt to obtain permission to demolish the Second Empire style brick Victorian hotel built in 1881 by Lewis M. Green, long-term mayor and father to Woodbury's first multi-millionaire, G.G. Green. The Greens can be viewed as being historic local philanthropists, contributing largely to the economic, commercial, residential, and entertainment outlets of the Woodbury area. The Holy Angels Parish and their controlling Diocese of Camden want to raze this structure to create a parking lot. Both Woodbury's Historic Preservation Commission and Planning/Zoning board have both denied their application for demolition previously, but they are not taking no for an answer.

What you can do to help is quite easy. A quick, kind, thoughtful email to any one or all of the following City Council members, stating your interest in saving the historic structure would be greatly appreciated. This will show the council how many of us are out there that see the value in preserving these structures. If you need help in writing your email, the following 5 reasons from the NJ Historic Trust are always helpful to point out:

Historic Preservation:
1. Creates Jobs
Because historic preservation is more labor intensive than new construction, it is proven to create more and better-paying jobs.
2. Is Good for Communities
Americans want to live, work, and visit authentic communities that reflect the area’s unique history and character. 
3. Is Good for the Local Economy
More than 75 percent of the economic benefits of historic rehabilitation remain in the local economies. This is because developers of historic buildings buy local and hire local.
4. Is Good for the Environment
Historic rehabilitation, by definition, focuses on existing buildings in existing communities, meaning that green space and farmland are unharmed. These places tend to be dense, walk-able communities that are close to public transit, schools and jobs.
5. Is a Smart Investment
Over the past 32 years, the federal historic tax credit has cost the US $17.5 billion in lost tax revenue. This figure is more than offset by the $22.3 billion in federal taxes these projects have generated.

City Council Members emails:

Francis I. Connor

Lester Lockman

Danielle Carter

C. Barry Sloane

Gwendolyn Joyce Brown

William H. Fleming

Heather S. Tierney

Harry E. Trout

Thomas B. Louis


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Left My Heart in... Woodbury?

Illustration from a map of San Francisco 1856.

San Francisco, CA Vics
Flickr: roarofthefour
Bloomberg Business Week just ranked San Francisco as the top rated US city. I realize this particular rating is based on a number of factors, but certainly the attractive quality of their beautiful stock of fine Victorian and other historic homes and buildings cannot be overlooked. These buildings are a key component to the Bay area's charm and appeal, attracting quality residents and tourism from all parts of the globe. Whereas it is impossible to compare Woodbury to San Francisco, it must be noted that Woodbury also has a good number of interesting historic buildings, but sadly, the community at large appears to undervalue them. It seems to be a trend here in Woodbury to allow these buildings to fall into disrepair which, in turn, supports public opinion justifying demoltion. Boarded-up rental-unit-converted historic housing and vacant owners who let their buildings fall into a decrepit state (Holy Angels Parish, anyone?) have a negative impact on the community. Well-maintained housing on the other hand, especially those with old-house charm, has the exact opposite effect, attracting other potential old-house loving homeowners, businesses, tourism, and other positives.

Illustration from a map of Gloucester County 1849.
Woodbury, NJ Vic
Saving historic buildings is NOT the same as believing Woodbury should remain in the past. San Francisco is a prime example of a city that magically manages to be extremely forward thinking while maintaining a unique historic Victorian charm. I personally love a modern makerspace, computer lab/coffee shop or an electronic music event housed in a vintage storefront or warehouse. Perhaps I just love juxtapositions, but others seem to as well. It's a mix that works. A study by Rutgers Associate Research Professor for the Center for Urban Policy Research, Michael L. Lahr, Ph.D. concludes that New Jersey municipalities can greatly benefit from strengthening their engagement in historic preservation as a strategy for community revitalization (Montgomery, 2009). The National Trust for Historic Preservation goes on to state the following key points as to the power of 
historic preservation:

1. Creates Jobs

Because historic preservation is more labor intensive than new construction, it is proven to create more and better-paying jobs.

2. Is Good for Communities

Americans want to live, work, and visit authentic communities that reflect the area’s unique history and character. The historic tax credit makes saving and restoring those places financially feasible. (See bottom of page for more information on the Federal Historic Tax Credit.)

3. Is Good for the Local Economy

More than 75 percent of the economic benefits of historic rehabilitation remain in the local economies. This is because developers of historic buildings buy local and hire local.

4. Is Good for the Environment

Historic rehabilitation, by definition, focuses on existing buildings in existing communities, meaning that green space and farmland are unharmed. These places tend to be dense, walk-able communities that are close to public transit, schools and jobs.

5. Is a Smart Investment

Over the past 32 years, the federal historic tax credit has cost the US $17.5 billion in lost tax revenue. This figure is more than offset by the $22.3 billion in federal taxes these projects have generated.


The Atlantic Cities recently cited that “repairing existing residential buildings produces about 50 percent more jobs than building new ones.” In addition, historic preservation keeps more dollars in the local economy, as developers of historic buildings generally buy local and hire local. We could never be San Francisco but we can certainly "use what we got" and embrace Woodbury's historic charm rather than let it fade away. Would San Francisco be San Francisco without all those lovely Victorians!

Woodbury, NJ Vics
San Francisco, CA Vics
Flickr: doegox
Right at this moment we have the imminent threat of demolition by the Holy Angels Parish to destroy the Second Empire style Victorian "Green Hotel." On October 22nd they will be appearing in front of City Council to fight the decisions made by Woodbury's Historic Preservation Commission and Woodbury's Planning/Zoning board denying them permission to raze the historic hotel. Their reason? They want another parking lot. You'd think everyone had forgotten how to walk with all the free city parking just steps away! Please come out in support of saving this structure. The meeting will be held at City Council Chambers, 2nd Floor City Hall, 33 Delaware Street, Woodbury NJ at 7:30 pm 10/22. 

Woodbury, NJ Vic
Like this one? Don't get too attached...
It's a Bottom Dollar parking lot soon.
In addition, we stand to lose two historic properties on High Street, a Colonial Revival house built in 1850 (the Jacob Glover house) and another Second Empire Victorian house built circa 1880; both also in the name of parking (see above photo). In the case of the High Street properties, both structures were incidentally saved once before and moved off Broad Street in the 1940s.

There is however (and thankfully) the project involving the Green Opera house which is currently being restored to National Preservation standards and adaptively refitted by the RPM Group. Adaptive reuse, in and of itself, and when done correctly, is a very green, forward-thinking practice.

San Francisco, CA Presidio
Woodbury, NJ Vic
San Francisco, CA Vic
Flickr: roarofthefour
Woodbury, NJ Vic
San Francisco, CA Vics
Flickr: roarofthefour
Woodbury, NJ Vics
San Francisco, CA Vic
Flickr: roarofthefour

Interested in taking further action on a federal level? Read below...

Boston’s Fanueil Hall, San Francisco’s Ferry Building, and New York’s Apollo Theater. These are just a few of the 38,000 historic structures that have been carefully restored and reinvigorated with the help of the federal historic tax credit (HTC). For more than 30 years, this little-known program has reenergized neighborhoods and towns across America and created 2.2 million jobs.

But despite its impressive track record, the historic tax credit program is now in danger. Deficit reduction measures are currently being debated on Capitol Hill, and the HTC program is at risk of reduction or worse, elimination. Sign the pledge and help protect it today!


Meryon, Charles. 1856. San Francisco [Map], Retrieved October 5th, 2012, from:

Montgomery, Samonne and Michael L Lahr. 2009. "Historic Preservation, Property Values, and Tax Rates: A Municipal-level Analysis in New Jersey," to be presented at the 48th Annual Meetings of the Southern Regional Science Association, San Antonio, TX.

Smith & Wistar. 1849. A map of the counties of Salem and Gloucester, New Jersey [Map], Retrieved October 5th, 2012, from:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hallowe'en in Woodbury: Mischief & Mad Dogs

Poster from a Hallowe'en Ball in Woodbury 1939
Poster from a Hallowe'en Ball in Woodbury 1939
It's nearly Hallowe'en, the time of year when the veil separating this world from the next is at its finest. Hallowe'en, a contraction of "All Hallow's Eve" is believed to have originated from the Pagan Celtic New Year's feast of Samhain. In the United States, Halloween began to take hold after the influx of Irish and Scottish immigrants arrived to these shores in the mid 1800s. The first full length book The Book of Hallowe'en was published in 1919 by American librarian and author Ruth Edna Kelley. By the 1930's "Trick-or-Treating" was widespread.

In the 1800's Woodbury society was popularly hosting Hallowe'en parties throughout town. As early as 1906 the city itself was hosting dedicated parades awarding prizes for best decorations, something that happily continues to this day. But this time of year wasn't all fun and games for everyone in Woodbury. Here's an account from 1898 involving mass mischief and a poor dog:

     Well, boys will be boys, on Hallowe’en, and last night was no exception to the rule.
     Loose gates were “lifted,” signs were exchanged promiscuously, and a general shake up was given the old town.
     Masqueraders in grotesque costumes early filled the streets, and corn, shot and gravel were rained on unprotected windows from one end of the town to the other.
     At Armstrongs the boys “whooped ‘er up,” and had a “stavin” time – there is now nothing left of several barrels but the nails.
     The iron awnings in front of some of the stores were used for much mischief. The broken stone put on the streets was scraped up and hurled on the sheet iron sounding like a terrific hail storm.
     And corn – there is enough on the side walks to fatten a large pen of hogs. Some farmer’s field had to suffer.
     This morning householders could be seen philosophically rummaging for front gates, shutters, hitching posts, etc., knowing it would do no good to get angry about it.
     But look at the fun the boys had.
     But when mischief leads any one so far as to smash a large plate glass window, as was done for Jeweller Thoman, it is high time such persons should be confined in a reform school or lunatic asylum. A rigid investigation should follow this piece of deviltry, and the guilty parties made to pay damages. It is utter nonsense to think there is any fun in wantonly destroying property.
     Policeman DuBois also got in a little Hallowe’en frolic of his own. Some one discovered a dog nosing around, and cried “mad dog,” and there was a scurrying for shelter. Policeman DuBois gave him a dose of leaden pellets, and the animal’s brains were beaten out with clubs, stones and bricks. The affair happened near the Hopkins street corner.
Hallowe'en. (1898, November 1). Woodbury Daily Times, p. 1.

Happy Halloween!