Once Upon a Time: Part 1
Cindy Pierson, the Turtle Lady, talks about her family history in East Riverton.
The following is Part 1 of a three-part series about Cindy Pierson's family and the ancestral home she lives in on Pompess Avenue in the East Riverton section of Cinnaminson. She's also included some tidbits of local history.
Pierson writes a blog for Cinnaminson Patch.
I have decided that I need to stop thinking about the flooding and the water in basement for a while, and realized that you readers might like a change of pace as well. When I first started writing my blog, I said that I would throw in some history every now and again. So let's head down memory lane, shall we?
Back in 1983, my husband and I were living in an apartment in Beverly. In the middle of June, we were told that our apartment building had been sold. The new landlord wanted to double our rent, and asked for an additional security deposit. The alternative was that he would let us break our lease and owe nothing if we moved out by the first of July. Great!
But we had nowhere to go.
And then, very suddenly and sadly, my Aunt Ginny, the last of my grandmother's siblings, passed away. My mother and her cousins inherited the house, and needed someone to take care of both the house and my aunt's dog. Not to sound ghoulish, but there is not a day goes by that I don't thank Aunt Ginny for her timing.
While it was an entirely new home for my husband, in an entirely new town (he grew up in Lindenwold—his family was “Buck's Produce” on Laurel Road), for me it was like coming home. The family had always referred to the house as “down home.”
It was where the family stored furniture that you didn't have room for, and where we went for Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was a child. Most of all, it was where my aunts and uncles lived, and they always spoiled us rotten.
But it goes back much further than my childhood, as long ago as that may have been. Perhaps I should go back even further, to the very beginning.
My great-great grandfather Charles Bell married Lizzie Anderson in 1875. They bought a piece of property in East Riverton from Ada Price in 1889. Imagine that! A female real estate developer in the 1880s! She was apparently quite good at it±she had come across housing plans by Alexander Jackson Davis.
In a style of architecture called “rural gothic,” the plans were for houses just 15 feet wide, which allowed her to split the building lots in two, and sell twice as many. If you look at the houses in East Riverton, and on Cinnaminson Street in Riverton, you'll see that underneath the additions and improvements, many of them are are basically built from the same plan.
So in 1889, Charles and Lizzie built their home. In 1891, they built the house next door on the right as a wedding present for Lizzie's twin sister Sarah, who married William Bishop. The house to my left was built in 1893. The original houses were three stories tall with a basement, 15 feet wide, and only two rooms deep.
Over the years, additions were added at the back of the house. That's the reason my attic was finished, but the back room on the second floor had never been completed- when we moved in, it was just wood lathing over the studs, with the inside of the outer wall visible through the slats.
Stay tuned for Part 2 Thursday.