Historic Preservation in Wharton State Forest: A Lost Cause?

What would you most like to see at historic sites in Wharton State Forest?


  • Total voters
    17

twils24

New Member
Feb 4, 2012
3
0
34
Philadelphia, PA
Hello All,

I am currently writing a Master's thesis on the Pine Barrens regarding the preservation of the physical remains and cultural landscape associated with the former iron forges and furnaces throughout the forest. I am trying to prove that the state of New Jersey (and the Pinelands Commissions' Comprehensive Master Plan) has favored ecology over history for so long that most of the important historic resources in the Wharton State Forest have been eradicated. While nature has been partially responsible for the destruction of the historic structures that once dotted the forest landscape, I feel that the state is also to blame for the loss of such an important reminder of New Jersey's rich history.

What do you all think about this issue? Do you agree that the state has favored the region's unique flora and fauna over historic preservation? Should more be done to promote and protect the region's historic resources, or is it too late? What do you think should be done to prevent the complete loss of such an integral part of state and national history?

Any feedback you can provide would be most appreciated!

 

Ben Ruset

Administrator
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Oct 12, 2004
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I think that, given the states inability to properly protect its history, putting signs up marking the locations of each historic site would likely do more to endanger the site than to increase awareness of its history or importance.
 

Gruf

New Member
Jun 24, 2010
13
1
Ben,

I do not know if I agree with you there. i think that putting signs up and informing the public that a certain area holds a historic significants, and telling them why this area is special, could do any harm. If anything I would let people know that the area is special and that it is in need of protection.
 

joc

Explorer
May 27, 2010
187
18
Wall, NJ
From a $ stand point the state / commission , probably has favored the ecology of the area . It probably came down to pure economics. In my experience , The state of NJ , in general has not done a satisfactory job of preserving historic sites /areas . I grew up in Bergen County . The area was settled by the Dutch in the early 1600's .There are probably 20 homes and about 5 , six churches left from the original Dutch occupation. Hudson County probably has 8-10 structures , if that . My point is , its not the environment , but an endemic apathy by the local /county /state governments to this states historical sites /structures .As bad as you may think it is in So . NJ , No NJ is worse . The relentless development might have something to do with it . Also , NJ only has 2 "Preserve America" communities in the entire state . As Ben mentioned , your ideas are well intended , but we are talking about an area where people intentionally vandalize Fire Towers !! To protect these areas would involve $ , which the state , in its situation is not be able to provide . I 'm not saying we should all give up . In a different economic climate , security , etc might work .Lastly , as you know ,the Pines are an international Bio sphere reserve , which would most likely account for the emphasis on the enviro. Sorry for ranting / being long winded .
Joe
PS the hiking trail idea would be a good one , but then we wouldhave an issue with litter ....
 

NealS

New Member
May 23, 2011
9
1
Warren County, NJ
I don't have anything to add to the debate about ecology vs history, however in regard to the poll, there's another option. Instead of physical signs or marks on the ground which some might find objectionable and would ultimately require physical and monetary upkeep, you could create content for an augmented reality browser like Layar. Take the example of a building that no longer exists. In my opinion, holding up my phone and seeing a historical image of that building overlaid in the empty space as well as links to reference material would beat physical signs or an outline on the ground. There's a few benefits to this. For one, it lets the history remain invisible unless someone is specifically looking to find it. That might turn out to be a deterrent to someone who would go out of their way to vandalize a piece of history. Also, going this route preserves the integrity of the area and allows each visitor the freedom to choose their own experience. On the down side, it doesn't work for everyone as not everyone currently carries a smart phone. And of course, if the wireless network isn't available, you get nothing. But it is practically free and it doesn't intrude upon the site's aesthetics at all. The only physical sign that would be required would be at the trail's entry point that names the application and content available. Just my two cents as I was recently considering this myself for a project involving my hometown.
 
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GermanG

Piney
Apr 2, 2005
1,078
385
Little Egg Harbor
I think both schools of thought regarding the interpretive signs are justified. Such signs would benefit sincere interested visitors, as well as draw attention to those with poorer intentions. It’s the same dilemma that exists on forums such as this one, when it comes to sharing information on historic or environmental sites. The other factor is that the signs themselves would likely be vandalized in remote locations. In this economic climate I’d say that alone makes it a bad idea.

The trail idea seems nice but a reasonable distance to hike would connect only a few historic sites. It could still be done, however, as evidenced by the trail within Bass River State Forest that goes by the old CCC camp, with a rack holding interpretive brochures at the site. I don’t agree with the litter concerns. You see far more litter on the woods roads than you do most hiking trails.

There is no question that the historic features have been neglected on state lands, but that is often due to simple economics rather than intent. The natural habitat is protected by simply acquiring it and preventing development, without doing anything else. Stabilizing or restoring structures or sites requires more funding that is hard to come by now. While I don’t agree with the neglect of those sites, I prefer it to a housing development that could have been there. History has been disappearing as long as there has been history, but new developments tend to be permanent, unlike the company towns that once dotted the pine barrens. I think we need to just do the best we can. We definitely need more voices if we want our concerns heard, and funded. That will mainly involve more education.
 

twils24

New Member
Feb 4, 2012
3
0
34
Philadelphia, PA
Thank you all for your feedback. I will take your recommendations into consideration while writing my conclusion, which I am planning on starting today. After the thesis is completed, I will digitize it and upload it so that you can all have access to it. In case any of you were concerned, while my thesis does discuss 25 of the former iron forge and furnace sites, it does not include directions to these sites, and the maps contained in the thesis are pretty vague.
 

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,308
2,131
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millville nj
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I think that, given the states inability to properly protect its history, putting signs up marking the locations of each historic site would likely do more to endanger the site than to increase awareness of its history or importance.
I agree with Ben on this one.
If there is to be a sign,let it read "This site is monitored by hidden cameras"
 

MarkBNJ

Piney
Jun 17, 2007
1,875
70
Long Valley, NJ
www.markbetz.net
Does the state favor ecology over history? It could be, I suppose. But it could also be that any policy that leads to a failure to preserve history in these locations would end up looking like a policy in favor of ecology. History is expensive to preserve, whereas I think ecology will take care of itself as long as you control the destructive (or at least, transformative) activities of humans (which you have to do whichever goal you decide to pursue). You should have a look at the history of the Delaware Water Gap for a bunch of similar themes.
 

Ben Ruset

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Oct 12, 2004
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Monmouth County
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I think that, for sure, the state prefers ecology over history. Ecology is "cool" and especially with the push to be "green" in recent years, it's an area that a lot of people have interest in. History? Especially local history? Not so much. That's for boring folks and historians with long bushy beards.

You'd need a sea change in the way history is taught and presented to make local history seem "cool" and mainstream.
 

Jason Bladzinski

Explorer
Feb 15, 2014
137
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Avenel
I think that the historical history of human economics and industrial culture is well represented and is not in danger of becoming extinct, at least not for a very long time. On the other hand the ecology of the New Jersey Pine Barrens is unique, and very fragile. We live in a highly industrial densely populated state. While many not from New Jersey have misrepresented our state as a giant garbage dump with oil refineries, citizens of our state know that we are actually quite heavily forested especially in the mountainous north west of the state, and of course in the southern pinelands. I, for one, am a lover of the woods and the pine barrens are my favorite forest of all the many woodlands I have visited within and without the state. I think the ecology of the pine barrens is far more important than its weak industrial/ historical viability of its past. Heavily focussing on the tenants of this past would likely mean higher volume of human encroachment into these lands which would most definitely cause detriment to the natural environment further fragmenting the already fragmented remnant of these forests. Clearly we have as a culture of beings placed much importance on our past, let's have a place that is natural remains natural! This is not some bustling town or city like that of New Brunswick or Newark that we are trying to return to its heyday of success and culture, this is a forest that despite attempts to destroy it, has been realized as quite rare and beautiful.
 
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Ben Ruset

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Oct 12, 2004
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I think that the historical history of human economics and industrial culture is well represented and is not in danger of becoming extinct, at least not for a very long time. On the other hand the ecology of the New Jersey Pine Barrens is unique, and very fragile. We live in a highly industrial densely populated state. While many not from New Jersey have misrepresented our state as a giant garbage dump with oil refineries, citizens of our state know that we are actually quite heavily forested especially in the mountainous north west of the state, and of course in the southern pinelands. I, for one, am a lover of the woods and the pine barrens are my favorite forest of all the many woodlands I have visited within and without the state. I think the ecology of the pine barrens is far more important than its weak industrial/ historical viability of its past. Heavily focussing on the tenants of this past would likely mean higher volume of human encroachment into these lands which would most definitely cause detriment to the natural environment further fragmenting the already fragmented remnant of these forests. Clearly we have as a culture of beings placed much importance on our past, let's have a place that is natural remains natural! This is not some bustling town or city like that of New Brunswick or Newark that we are trying to return to its heyday of success and culture, this is a forest that despite attempts to destroy it, has been realized as quite rare and beautiful.


For the most part I agree, although I don't think that it needs to be a binary either ecology OR history. And the industrial history of the Pinelands industries ties in with more than just New Jersey. But that industrial past would have never happened without the ecology. So, at least for me, they're equally important.

Right now historic sites AND ecological sites are being neglected by the state. Wether or not that is by design, because of budget issues, malice, or ineptitude - who knows. The key is that the state has largely turned a blind eye to preservation since forever and it doesn't look like that will change any time soon.
 

Jason Bladzinski

Explorer
Feb 15, 2014
137
23
41
Avenel
Perhaps you have stumbled upon the best insight yet that allows us to today enjoy the remnant forests of the pine barrens. Imagine industry never came to use the resources of the bog iron or sand for glass, people lacking the exposure of the forests would seem them truly barren and useless and in that case just a large unused space. Perhaps the laws set forth by the state legislature banning water export would have never come to be. Less awareness of something usually brings fear and we hate the unknown which is what the pines were and would be in such a dynamic. The plans to level the forests and build a large city and an international airport may have come to fruition. The industry actually saved the natural for a rare change! I have to admit, I think your opinion of equality of ecological and historical is crucial for this forest in this place and time in the world.
 

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,308
2,131
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millville nj
www.youtube.com
West Virginia has an awesome historical sign program.I believe there is a site on the web somewhere where you can read them online.Many times there is no safe place to pull over and read them but they are very informative if you can get off the road to read them.
 

Spung-Man

Explorer
Jan 5, 2009
939
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62
Richland, NJ
loki.stockton.edu
Lost Town Hunter and I, along with historical architect Margaret Westfield. will co-coordinate a field trip for the 2014 Vernacular Architecture Forum at Richard Stockton College from May 7–11. The Pinelands field trip is Friday, May 9.


Titled People, Places, and Sugar Sand – A Pinelands Tour, we will have two two bus loads of history academics and professionals visit: 1) Batsto; 2) Tomasello Winery; 3) Atsion; 4) Moores Meadow/The Biches cranberry farms; and 5) Medford Lakes log cabins.

It is hoped this tour will help rekindle appreciation of Pinelands cultural assets, which sorely need recognition.

I wish to pass along my sincerest gratitude to the PBX gang, who showed up last Sunday to spruce up the Birches, possibly the oldest cranberry operation left in the state. It is an organic farm that still grows heirloom varieties and dry picks for the specialty market. It is the last of the Mohicans.

Cheers!
S-M

Screen shot 2014-05-06 at 12.12.38 AM.png
 

Teegate

Administrator
Site Administrator
Sep 17, 2002
24,040
6,115
Spung-man,

I want to thank you for inviting Jessica and myself along with PBX to help you out. We had a great time.

Here is one photo with all mentioned. In the back is Lost Town Hunter with Spung-man in front of him. Then it is Bobpbx holding up that telephone pole :) Then Oji and Jessica in the front.

IMG_4541.jpg


Guy
 
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Spung-Man

Explorer
Jan 5, 2009
939
595
62
Richland, NJ
loki.stockton.edu
Here's an account of People, Places, and Sugar Sand – A Pinelands Tour, which went very well thanks to the help of a lot of folks, many who post on this very site. The goal to preserve, protect, and enhance the cultural resources of the Pinelands National Reserve is not forgotten. VAF is an historic preservation initiative of national significance. This year's event was well attended by local academic and governmental entities, yet I am not aware of the presence of a single representative from either the Pinelands Commission or the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. We have to do better.

Participants included:

Co--coordinators:
Mark Demitroff; Margaret Westfield; Ted Gordon.
Guides:
Budd Wilson, Alan Mounier, Jack Cresson, Barbara Solem, Patt Martinelli, Margaret Westfield, Rob Auermiller, John Morsa Janet Worrell, Joyce Lamb, Beverly Weaver, Margaret O'Neil, Garry Stone, Mary-Ann Thompson, Sam Moore III, Laurence Coia, Ray Samulis, Alexis Demitroff, Carol Vahlstrom, Joan Lewis, Christee & George Greatrex, Jason & Ethan Evans, Bob & Brenda Hardegen, Carol Latti, Gerald & Rosarie O'Rourke, Judy & Bill Smith, George & Jody Wiker, Shere Walsh, and Jody Rivera.​
Other Acknowledgement:
Janet W. Foster, Robert W. Craig, Doug McVarish, Mary-Ann Thompson, Terry Schmidt, Charles Tomasello, Peter Hamilton, Paul Schopp, Ben Ruset, Guy Thompson, Jessica Thompson, Bob Moyer, Tom Besselman, Kerry Black, and Jim & Cheryl Zimbelman.
VAF Essays.jpeg

(Above) The conference proceedings is a formidable 326-page monograph on South Jersey’s vernacular architecture, chaired by Janet W. Foster, edited by Robert W. Craig, and photo edited by Kate Nearpass Ogden. My contribution was “Sugar Sand Opportunity: Landscape and People of the Pines,” which is a Pine Barrens social ecology integrating people with the physical and manmade landscape of this place. It was one of nine essays on South Jersey.

VAF Pinelands Articles.jpeg

(Above) Other Pinelands contributions within the proceedings publication include: A) Overview of Tour – Douglas McVarish; B) Batsto Village – Janet W. Foster; C) Medford Lakes – Janet W. Foster & Margaret Westfield; D) Atsion Mansion – Ben Ruset; E) “The Birches;” F) Tomasello Winery – Kate Nearpass Ogden; and G) Berry Cultivation in New Jersey – Janet W. Foster.

VAF intro Batsto.jpg

(Above) Six tour stations were featured: 1) mansion; 2) general store; 3) grist mill; 4) mule barn; 5) sawmill; and 6) workers houses.

VAF Batsto Wilson.jpg

(Above) Uncle Budd Wilson, assisted by Patt Martinelli, stationed the workers housing. Wilson was the archaeologist who oversaw much of the Batsto’s reconstruction by the State of New Jersey.

VAF Atsion docent.jpg

(Above) Barbara Solem led the tour team at Atsion (assisted by Joyce Lamb [shown center], John Morsa, Budd Wilson, Jack Cresson, Patt Martinelli), which included four stations:1) basement; 2) first floor; 3) second floor; and 4) general store. My daughter, Alexis Demitroff (left) assisted.

VAF Atsion Cresson.jpg

(Above) Two more archaeologists provided insight at Batsto and Atsion, flintknapper Jack Cresson (shown in Atsion Mansion) and his colleague Alan Mounier.

VAF bus Birches.jpg

(Above) A view from the lead bus of the winding dirt road back to the Birches, a late nineteenth century Pine Barrens cranberry farm complex that remains remarkably intact.

VAF Birches Gordon.jpg
(Above) Ted Gordon provided detailed historical background to the operation of the Birches and reiterated the importance of building preservation in the Pinelands National Reserve. With Burlington County Agricultural Agent Raymond Samulis.

VAF sorting Birches.jpg
(Above) According to Ted Gordon, the sorting barn is only one of three still in use in the Burlington County area. Five Hayden and one Bailey cranberry “bounce” separators are still in use in this last of the Mohican operation. Owner Mary-Ann Thompson has placed the property in a farmland preservation program, and grows organic heirloom berries for the specialty market.​
VAF Medford Church.jpg
(Above) Under coordination of preservation architect Margaret Westfield, guests were warmly welcomed at the Protestant Community Church, and a detailed account of log cabin restoration was provided by the Evans brothers (Jason & Ethan) at Cathedral of the Woods. Once bog-iron furnace land, during the 1920s Medford Lakes became a log-cabin themed recreational development. Atlantic whitecedar, the building material, was cut on site.​
My sincerest thanks to a great crew, who worked hard to make the Sugar Sands tour a success! I was too busy running around coordinating two tour buses to take many pictures, so apologize for the lack of documentation of the event.​
S-M​
 
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Teegate

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I can attest that Spung-man worked extremely hard on this project. I thought he was going to have a heart attack at one point he was working so hard, and I told him so. He pushes a mean shovel and broom for sure.
 
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