Retta Heights, Longwood Gardens and Del Bay Estates

Boyd

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Never heard of them? Neither had I, although I've been curious about these failed developments for awhile. But I didn't know the names until I started working on this new parcel data. They're all areas with lots of little parcels that are checkerboards of public and private ownership. Anyone have any info about these? When I typed "Retta Heights" into a Google Search, the first four results were parcel data for property that some real estate company wanted to sell me. :D

Retta Heights - North of Mays Landing Road at Cannon Range Road
https://boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.433930/-74.889818/pines2020/0.00/0.00

retta_heights.png




Longwood Gardens (not the one in Pennsylvania!) - Estell Manor Road, Southwest of Route 49
https://boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.336985/-74.918089/pines2020/0.00/0.00

longwood_gardens.png




Del Bay Estates (where's the bay?) - Weatherby Road near Hunters Mill Road
https://boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.306848/-74.893294/pines2020/0.00/0.00

del_bay_estates.png


Note: these screenshots are from my new site which is coming soon, the links are to the regular 2020 topo at boydsmaps.com
 
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Boyd

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Ben's Branch, Stephen Creek
Well, a bunch of people seem to own vacant lots in these developments. Imagine someone far away receiving a letter from the executor of a distant relative's estate, learning they now own .33 acres in beautiful Longwood Gardens, New Jersey! :dance:
 

Spung-Man

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Jan 5, 2009
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loki.stockton.edu
Retta Heights, and I’m pretty sure Longwood Gardens too, are DeCarlo Tract lots. These were speculative-boondoggle subdivisions promising cheap land on lots too small and/or wet to build on by Christopher DeCarlo of Newark. Retta Heights was active during the 1960s when I’d walk through it along the +3.5 miles from our farm to my best friend’s farm. That trek was a bee-line that passed but a couple houses and a gun club. DeCarlo’s subdivision was an uninhabited wonderland of roads and ditches cut trough the deepest-thickest wood and swamp. On occasion I would see a family of city folks navigate a confusing maze of roads to look longingly at their investment marked on a blue sign—oblivious to the folly.

While the Retta Heights’ land appeared primeval, it was a part-parcel of an earlier boondoggle to grow licorice during World War One. Called Waldeck Farms—a contraction of Walker (of the Forge) and Decker—it was to be a 20,000-acre enterprise financed by American Tobacco to rival Seabrook Farms in scale. When licorice failed they tried commodities like tobacco, peanuts, hardy-orange (Poncirus trifoliata), and Angora goats—but only moonshine proved profitable until the repeal of Prohibition put an end to that.

Check out this article for a deeper dive on various DeCarlo Lots—

McKelvey, W. 2011. “Section of Egg Harbor Township full of unusable, undersized lots.” Press of Atlantic City. December 25, 2011.
 

Boyd

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Thanks Mark, I was pretty sure you would have some insights!

While the Retta Heights’ land appeared primeval, it was a part-parcel of an earlier boondoggle to grow licorice during World War One.

That must explain the curious "stair steps" in the Ingersall Branch as it flows through Retta Heights. That is obviously intentional and doesn't make much sense for a housing development.

https://boydsmaps.com/#15.00/39.435587/-74.884518/legacy24k/0.00/0.00

Screen Shot 2023-03-13 at 7.34.19 AM.png


These were speculative-boondoggle subdivisions promising cheap land on lots too small and/or wet to build on by Christopher DeCarlo of Newark

Too small? Most appear to be about 1/3 acre - fit for a king to build his castle! Compare that to the tiny lots in the Chatsworth development centered on Savoy Blvd between Prince Street and Route 532 (what was that called?). Those lots are only about 1/20 acre!

https://boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.824745/-74.524963/pines2020/0.00/0.00

Screen Shot 2023-03-13 at 7.40.57 AM.png


One of the reasons I'm building this new app is to "explore" areas like this. You can slowly scan across these little parcels and watch what pops up, there are some interesting things. It would not be practical to click on each one of them, as you'd have to do on other sites with parcel data.
 
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Boyd

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Jul 31, 2004
9,447
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Ben's Branch, Stephen Creek
That must explain the curious "stair steps" in the Ingersall Branch as it flows through Retta Heights. That is obviously intentional and doesn't make much sense for a housing development.

Looking at this again with the parcel boundaries, I'm gonna take that back. It appears that they zig-zagged the creek around the parcels to diagonally cross the development.

https://boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.435280/-74.883542/pines2020/0.00/0.00

ingersall.png


https://boydsmaps.com/#16.37/39.435355/-74.886173/mbx3dshader/0.60/64.80

Screen Shot 2023-03-13 at 11.02.43 AM.png
 
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Spung-Man

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Richland, NJ
loki.stockton.edu
Yes, those ditches were intended to drain “worthless” swampland into yet another marketable product rived out of barren land. First, in post contact exploits, the tract was lumbered for whitecedar and kilned in naval store production. Then this was coaling land for Cumberland Furnace, with a brief run on cordwood production for steam engines between 1850–1870. In the 1880s a cannon range was proposed here, but the land was too swampy and distant from sea and rail transport. Then it was to become part-parcel of the Cumberland Colony, “20,000 acres of farming land” marketed to poor people—many from Eastern and Southern Europe.


Ingersol Pond was a remarkable spung just above my friend’s chicken farm. A wooden boat rotted away on its bottom. Telegraph poles of the Starr Tobacco Company ran past it. I believe the forest activity on its shore is coaling for moonshine distillation. Main Avenue, the bee-line between my best friend and I was also a conduit for the moonshine trade. My friend and I still live along this road. Our farm—bought in 1959 when I was born—was established just before the ’29 Crash, and the family that built it worked for Waldeck Farms. Barrels of “poison” were stored to the rafters of the barn. The abandoned Cannon Range made a serviceable runway for the transport of moonshine to Gardners Basin in Atlantic City, aeroplanes laden so heavily that they barely topped the trees. Yes, aero… that is the way we learned to spell airplanes in Milmay School. Foxy’s two nearby steam-powered sawmills (one east of New Italy and another north of Five Points) provided cover for the distillation of that poison.

  • Demitroff M. 2014. Sugar Sand Opportunity: Landscape and People of the Pine Barrens. Feature Article, Vernacular Architecture Newsletter, Summer 2014. http://vafnewsletter.blogspot.com/2014/07/sugar-sand-opportunity-landscape-and.html. Reproduced in the Vernacular Architecture Newsletter courtesy of NJ VAF 2014.
  • Marsh, E., Demitroff, M., and Schopp, P., 2019: The southern Pine Barrens: an ethnic archipelago. SoJourn: A Journal Devoted to the History, Culture, and Geography of South Jersey, 3, 2: 7–25.
  • Jones, C.W., c. 1888: Richland New Jersey: 20,000 Acres of Farming Land, also Farm Lots. Richland, NJ: Richland Improvement Co. 16 pp.
 
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