Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gone but Not Forgotten: Speakman House

This fine Second Empire Victorian era residence once stood on the SW corner of Euclid and Hunter. It was the home of the Woodbury Country Club president, William E. Speakman and his family. It was unfortunately lost to fire in the 1990's after it had been previously converted into apartments, and is now the site of yet another parking lot.

historic view
....as it appeared in 1984
 

... and now.
Woodbury (N.J.). (1971). Century of progress: Woodbury, N.J., 1871-1971. Woodbury, N.J: The Committee.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Broad Street Sprawl

West side of Broad St. circa 1928, W. Centre to High St (R to L)
showing traditional mixed-use Main Street layout. It looks like a town that people LIVE in.
Same area now: a flattened sprawl design from W. Centre to High St (R to L). It now looks like a shopping district that you drive your car to, and then leave very quickly. Why would you want to stick around? It has now almost completely lost its community appeal.
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Unfortunately the "Broad Street Sprawl" isn't the name of a new Bruce Springsteen album, and I feel I must warn you now that this entry contains a critique of certain sections of our city that you may not want to hear or accept. Keep in mind this is my personal opinion, but I base it upon many hours of research, statistics, and a very strong gut-feeling! I know for a fact that I am not the only one in this town that feels this way. Anyone who knows me personally, knows that I love Woodbury and that my critique is only in hopes that it can become as great as it once was. The problem I speak of is not merely a local problem but actually stems from a much larger national dilemma which is often linked to sprawl. Sprawl can be explained as the planning trend over the past 50 years which aimed to separate homes, shops, workplaces, and recreational areas from each other. This type of spread out urban/suburban development is almost always only reachable by car and was designed and built in the era of cheap oil; an era that most will agree has now ended. Contrast this with the organic, natural growth of traditional mixed zoning Main Street communities designed to accommodate people and their legs.

Sprawl in civic design is unsustainable, not only from a dwindling cheap oil argument, but also for the fact that America's infrastructure is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) have given collectively, our roads, bridges, parking lots, etc. a near failing grade of D and it is estimated that it would take 2.2 Trillion dollars to fix it; money we just don't have. In 2009, 78% of New Jersey’s major roads alone were rated to be in poor or mediocre condition (American society of civil engineers, 2009). We have spread things out too far, forcing a reliance on driving to get to core community services, which in the past would have been easily walkable. Have you ever wondered why taxes are high, and our country continues its journey into unprecedented debt (and, not to mention, war)? Simply put, the upkeep for these miles upon miles of roadways, and the growing need for more fuel to travel on them,  is taking its toll on our country's bank account. Studies show that our reliance on motor vehicles also directly impacts housing affordability and quality, resulting in cheap, unhealthy buildings with plastic plumbing, hollow doors, flimsy walls, vinyl siding, etc.; houses we still can't seem to afford (Duany, Plater-Zyberck & Speck, 2000). Better train transportation can help; we definitely need to catch up with our European counterparts on that point. Trains can be run more effectively on electricity, which can be produced from more plentiful energy sources. But ultimately the solution lies in (re)building our traditional and once walkable Main Street USA communities. Moving forward, our city planners MUST rethink the now outdated, yet still status quo of sprawl development.

Another unfortunate after-effect of sprawl design is that it ultimately creates "places not worth caring about." Shopping malls, strip malls, and large expanses of pavement for parking lots do nothing for the human spirit. Endless miles of setback single story big box stores and their subsequent tall plastic internally lighted signage along the sides of high speed roads collectively create one giant eyesore, scarring our daily surroundings. This sort of design does not inspire us positively and ultimately creates frustration. And to top it off, sprawl although designed with the car in mind, usually winds up creating more traffic as it limits the walkability of the area.

A more connected and intact view of downtown Woodbury.
photo courtesy: Seth Gaines
Yet, sprawl continues and the walkable, once-charming community main streets from which it originally spread outwards from, are now themselves being encroached upon. A very unfortunate and recent example in our own city, being the Bottom Dollar construction: a planned single story building, setback from the sidewalk, designed to accommodate not you, the individual pedestrian, but rather your car. It's not that I'm against having a budget grocery in town, per se (although the name Bottom Dollar to me suggests a bottom-of-the-barrel market); what bothers me is their lack of respect for the forward motion regarding a more visually appealing urban center that so many of us in Woodbury are really pushing for. Duany, Plater-Zyberck, and Specks (2000) in their influential book Suburban Nation write, "the presence of the parking lot in front of the building, in addition to damaging the pedestrian quality of the street, gives the signal that the store is oriented less toward local neighbors than toward strangers driving by. The impression is further fueled by the likelihood that the store is owned by a national chain--an absentee landlord--with no local ties." The Bottom Dollar construction is exactly this, and once completed, will resemble the unsightly Rt. 45 highway strip malls that surround our city on both sides of Broad St., completely out of sync with the traditional main street architecture in Woodbury. This will result in yet another "place not worth caring about" for Woodbury's streetscape. In addition, Bottom Dollar had two of Woodbury's historic structures on High Street torn down to accommodate their setback building design. These were originally single family residences that were remarkably saved and moved from their original Broad Street location once before in the 1940s.

At what point will we have gone too far? What is the breaking point of surrounding ourselves with architectural ugliness, damaging the historic integrity of our downtown until absolutely no one wants to live nearby? At best, I'm hoping we have already reached it and that we recognize it, and from this point on we strive to make better planning decisions to create the town WE want to live in.
Bottom Dollar site plans showing backwards thinking design
It is my opinion that this sort of sprawl development continues and accents the architectural decline of the West side of South Broad starting from W. Centre St. south to Carpenter. Believe it or not, people once wished to live on Broad St. and in particular, this very section between W. Centre and Carpenter Street! The homes and offices of the Mayor, Doctors, Grocers, and Community leaders once sat on Broad Street along these blocks; people integral to a positive functioning community. Don't believe me? A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a few of the fine residences which once proudly stood there:

A mansion for the Mayor.
NW corner of Broad and German (Barber Ave). It was torn down for a gas station in the 40's the beginning of the sprawl era. Currently, a drug store sits on this spot.

This was the lovely home of Dr. Keasby. Its location is pretty much exactly where the new Bottom Dollar parking lot will be placed fronting Broad St. Sigh...
photo courtesy: Gloucester County Historical Society
Do these look familiar? These were the fine houses that were once miraculously moved from Broad St. to High St. in the 1940's to make room for an automobile dealership's empty wasteland of tarmac. This time around they weren't so lucky. They were demolished in 2012 to make room for Bottom Dollar's backwards thinking sprawl setback.
photo courtesy: Gloucester County Historical Society
A community family grocer (and their home) was located on the spot of the current Pep Boys.
A close-up of the Jacob Glover house in its original Broad St. location, lost in 2012 to Bottom Dollar Sprawl. Notice the ornate details creating a pleasing view not only for the residing family, but for the passerby as well.
photo courtesy: Gloucester County Historical Society
This photo shows the mixed-use, two and three-story buildings of this area circa 1916. I wonder if the photographer knew the impact those little machines on the sidewalk would make on the world, for better and for worse.

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So... let's compare with what we now have to see everyday. Here are some highlights from Centre St. south to Barber:

The last holdout of traditional, visually appealing architecture. This was most likely a private residence that has been nicely retrofitted to have an inviting storefront facade. No retail store however can usually survive here as there is limited foot traffic most likely due to the rest of the block being an utter mess as you will soon see... carry on.
 

Do you find this inviting? I guess it creates a nice backdrop for the trash cans.
Unlimited ugliness is more like it. What exactly is going on with the 2nd floor? Are you surprised it's vacant?

Another uninviting building marked by horizontal window lines, a large empty wall fronting Broad and an imposing, off-putting roof. The Lewis M. Green mansion once stood here, a 4-story source of civic pride, a home to a millionaire. Now people buy prescription drugs here because they are surrounded by depressing buildings and not walking enough to stay healthy  ; )

Is this the Fortress of Solitude?


Nothing against the business, but this building has more in common with the surrounding Rt 45 sprawl than it does with traditional Main Street architecture. I think it could definitely benefit from a second story and a more traditional storefront.
The driveway to nowhere. This is very inviting... if you were a car. Surface parking lots such as this have no place on a properly functioning main thoroughfare. What a waste of a potentially valuable parcel.

... and now we can add this to the mix: the great unwelcoming wall of Bottom Dollar. 
So... which would you rather live and walk near... the historic photos or the now photos? It would have been so much nicer for the community if the Bottom Dollar had designed a more traditional urban storefront, on the sidewalk, with space for offices or apartments on the second floor. It is a fact that Main Street, USAs flourish when there are people living there and walking the community.  "Apartments over stores are necessary for many other categories of decent people who don't happen to need a whole house, especially single working young adults without children. This is a group of people with a very high need for social interaction in public places. They seek out the public life of the streets and the cafes, and their presence enriches the life of the town tremendously." (Kunstler, 1996) Fortunately, statistics show the youth of America and the more wealthy families are returning to a more urban setting.

Urban centers are experiencing a renaissance... when done correctly that is. This does not mean that everyone must live in a "downtown" setting (although many folks spend a lot of money trying to replicate the experience visiting Disney World every year), but it does mean we need to look a little more at proper planning in our Main Street area for those of us that recognize the benefits of living in a more healthy, walkable community. In downtown Woodbury we need to continue with the traditional design of a "place worth caring about," a place that is designed for you and not just your car. A major step forward was the recent NJDOT traffic calming project, which makes it that much nicer to be out walking Broad Street. We must return the human element for positive growth. We need to (re)build a community which once again appeals to positively contributing individuals or else we run the risk of attracting and ultimately catering to an undesired element... or perhaps no one at all.

If we build it, they will come. It's what we build that will determine who will come.

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Highly recommended and suggested reading:

Suburban nation: The rise of sprawl and the decline of the American dream by Duany, A., Plater-Zyberck, E., & Speck, J.
Home from nowhere by Kunstler, J.H.

The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City by Ehrenhalt, A.



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Below is the sad last days of the Glover House and her neighbor, victims of the Bottom Dollar sprawl design. See the photos above for these buildings in their heyday.






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American society of civil engineers. (2009). New Jersey infrastructure report card. Retrieved from




Duany, A., Plater-Zyberck, E., & Speck, J. (2000). Suburban nation: The rise of sprawl and the decline of the American dream. New York: North Point Press.

Kunstler, J. H. (1996). Home from nowhere. New York: Touchstone.



Saturday, February 16, 2013

Jeremiah Paul Jr and Sr: Artist and Schoolmaster

Jeremiah Paul - George Washington Leaving His Family Oil on Canvas, Circa 1800
Modern day Woodbury is fast becoming a destination for the arts. It's also not surprising to find in Woodbury's past, which dates back to the 1680's, some very interesting ties to the early arts in Colonial America. Here's a brief account of the Woodbury born artist Jeremiah Paul Jr. and his Quaker schoolmaster father.
 
The first schoolhouse in Woodbury was known as the Deptford Institute. The building later became the public library and currently houses City Hall. It was built in 1774 after the formation of the Deptford Free School Society in 1773, a group of prominent Society of Friends. Located on Delaware Street, it was open to all denominations on the condition of payment of tuition and adherence to the school’s rules, as laid down by the controlling Society of Friends. The first teacher was a Quaker by the name of Jeremiah Paul (Krauss, 2008). By 1784, ten years after its formation, the schoolhouse boasted 130 students and Paul, "with no jar or dissatisfaction from either side" left for a more lucrative position and moved to Philadelphia, PA (Rhoads & Lewis, 1862).
circa 1901
Jeremiah Paul's son, Jeremiah Paul Jr., was born circa 1761 in Woodbury, presumably before the family moved to Philadelphia. Later in life, Jeremiah Jr. was trained under  artist Charles Willson Peale and went on to become a fairly respected portraiture artist. He was also a member of the Columbianum Art Academy formed in 1794 in Philadelphia. The Columbianum Art Academy, although short lived, has the prestige of having organized the first major public art exhibition in the United States. Later Paul Jr. with other Philadelphia artists formed the Pratt, Ritter, and Co. to "undertake all manners of commissions, from the paintings of portraits, signs, and fire buckets to japanning and the execution of coffin plates" (Marter, 2011). See below for some more examples of his work:

Jeremiah Paul - Portrait of Maria van Buren, wearing a bonnet, 1810

Jeremiah Paul - Portrait of a Gentleman, 1800

Jeremiah Paul - Tench Coxe 1755-1824

Jeremiah Paul - Lady in White Shawl, circa 1805

 Jeremiah Paul - Four Children in a Courtyard, 1795
Philadelphia Museum of Art
 
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Krauss, J. (2008). History of Woodbury city public schools. Retrieved from http://www.woodburysch.com/district/WPShistory.php

Marter, J. (2011). The Grove encyclopedia of American art, volume 1. Oxford University Press.

Rhoads, S., & Lewis, E. (1862). Friends' review: A religious, literary and miscellaneous journal. (Vol. 15, p. 739). Philadelphia, PA: Merrhiew & Thompson. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=djUrAAAAYAAJ&vq=woodbury&source=gbs_navlinks_s

 

Friday, February 15, 2013

G. G. Green in Toronto


I have always been intrigued by the little image of an amazing Second Empire Victorian era warehouse that appears in countless issues of Green's August Flower Almanacs and maps advertising their "Toronto Branch Laboratory." Until now, I have been unable to discover the actual location of it or even if it was still standing, as usually the illustration is printed without an address. I then discovered an excellent Library Company of Philadephia collection entitled: "Postcards, bank drafts, and invoices relating to G.G. Green, manufacturer of proprietary medicines, Woodbury, N.J." In this collection was an original invoice dating from 1885 (see below), which clearly shows the address of the Toronto Branch Laboratory as 37 Front Street East. My first step was to plug the address into google maps and using their street view, I was able to discover what appeared to be the building! Cross referencing this address with Toronto travel guides I was able to get more definitive proof. The entire building encompasses the address 35-39 Front St. E. and is most commonly referred to as the Beardmore Building after the prominent leather manufacturer that had a lengthy occupancy in the building, after G.G. Green of course! It is was built circa 1872 and was first home to a wholesale grocer. The entire building, like others in the area were fancifully adorned and featured a cast iron facade, not bad for a warehouse! The importance of creating beautiful buildings was important back then, as again it should be, and the entire building still stands true to its original glory, completely restored. (Notice the pedestrian appeal... take note Woodbury!)
2012 photo from flickr: beachdigital

From an 1885 book: History of Toronto further
connecting 37 Front St E to G.G.Green of Woodbury
Illustration from 1880 issue of Green's Atlas and Diary Almanac

Illustration from 1880 issue of Green's Atlas and Diary Almanac
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Adam, G. M., & Mulvany, C. P. (1885). History of Toronto and County of York, Ontario: Containing an outline of the history of the dominion of Canada; a history of the City of Toronto and the County of York, with the townships, towns, general and local statistics; biographical sketches. (Vol. 1, p. 501). Toronto: C.B. Robinson. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=eEUzAQAAMAAJ&dq="37 front st" toronto "august flower"&pg=PA501

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Preservation Potentials: 25 Aberdeen Place

Attention: Victorian House Lovers, Steampunks, Anglophiles, and fellow appreciators of all things antique! I'm not sure old-house hunters outside the immediate area realize the unique architectural offerings Woodbury, NJ has in store. In some cases these houses will require a little creativity to restore them to their former glory, but most will have retained a large semblance of the magnificent days of English-inspired American architecture, for a fraction of the cost found in other areas.


For sale is a lovely circa 1940 Tudor Revival on Aberdeen Place. Aberdeen is a beautiful street, retaining its original English style charm and is seconds away from downtown shops. Listed HERE for $129,900 $75,000!! Jump on it now New Urbanists! Be ahead of the Woodbury redevelopment curve!


It is my opinion that reviving a once grand city is a community effort that largely starts at home. Vested homeowners that value the history and heritage of their house and who treat their home as an extension of the family and not just some place to crash, can and do make a difference. Preserve the past, to better the future!

J. E. Jackson and his Pleasant Diarrhea Cure


Apparently the Green family wasn't the only ones in on the patent medicine trade in Woodbury, NJ. Although Lewis Green started his interest in the trade sometime before 1872, the earliest date I could uncover for Jackson was April 1st, 1884 when he patented his Dr. L. Burdick's Never-Failing Kidney Cure, after he secured rights to Dr. Burdick's formula. On October 5th 1886 J. E. Jackson filed for a U.S. Patent for his Pleasant Diarrhea Cure. He was also listed as having lived in Mullica Hill, but must have relocated to Woodbury at some point, and after that, Asbury Park, NJ. He also manufactured what appears to have been a fairly popular cough syrup called Magnum Bonum. It was reported that he ran his patent medicine business and laboratory out of the old Woodbury Town Hall, which was located on the SE corner of Broad and German (now Barber). His storefront was located along the Barber Avenue side. I can only speculate that he had his bottles made at Green's glass works, the source of Green's own patent medicine bottles. They do appear very similar in color and style.

The title "Doctor" is often associated with Jackson, the Green's, and in fact, most patent medicine vendors at the time, but most likely this was completely honorary. It is no wonder the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was passed as it mandated proper labeling forcing companies to expose the many times secret ingredients that were previously not labeled in their formulas; ingredients such as alcohol, cocaine, heroin, morphine, and cannabis. In many cases these medicines were often some form of herbalized laudanum.


Mysteriously on February 25th, 1895, Dr. Jackson was reported missing. Perhaps he went on some sort of laudanum fueled bender having tasted a bit too much of his own medicine, we may never know. This is all I could find on the matter:



Eventually he popped back up however when and why he left his satchel and overcoat behind must remain a mystery. After his time in Woodbury, the Jackson family relocated to Asbury Park sometime prior to 1905 and purchased the brick block of three stores and apartments, 620 to 628 along Mattison Avenue.



On June 5th, 1918 Jackson's death was reported in the Woodbury Daily Times: