WWII Watch Tower on Old Egg Harbor Road in Mays Landing, NJ

EddieD

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Feb 13, 2021
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In the 1980s there was a site on Old Egg Harbor Road which still had the remains of a very tall rusted watchtower and an old building foundation next to it. I've spoken to my neighbor who has lived here since the mid-50s and at best she seems to recall that it was used as an old WWII watchtower to look for possible enemy planes/ships flying in from the shore. Hmm...I have my doubts, being so far inland, but one never knows. I also thought it was an old fire watchtower for the pine barrens. This is located exactly at the "intersection" of thirteenth street and Old Egg Harbor Road. I quote "intersection" because the thirteenth street is not really a road at this location. It is indicated as a road on Google Maps, so someone can easily find this location by looking it up on Google Maps. However, it really is just a dirt path today, never was anything other than that either, no cars can travel on it due to the watering race branch creek dividing it and no bridge. Today, there is a house on the land next to 13th street where the tower once stood. No trace remains of anything having been there.

So, I'm hoping that someone familiar with this area or perhaps a WWII historian familiar with South Jersey History could tell me more about it and/or share possible pictures of it in its heyday. Thanks!
 

Boyd

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Not sure if I'm clear on the location you described. Here are the NJGIN aerials from the 1980's, is this clearing the location you're talking about?

https://mobile.boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.462421/-74.717471/njgin1980/0.00/0.00

It is still there on the 1995 aerials

https://mobile.boydsmaps.com/#17.00/39.462430/-74.717385/njgin1995/0.00/0.00

The 2002 aerials are higher resolution and show it more clearly, although it's only sand. Or are you talking about the area on the East side of the road, looks like there maybe be some rubble or trash there?

https://mobile.boydsmaps.com/#19.00/39.462482/-74.717377/njgin2002/0.00/0.00

The house first appears in that location in 2006

https://mobile.boydsmaps.com/#18.00/39.462482/-74.717377/njgin2006/0.00/0.00

Sorry if that isn't the place you're talking about. I live pretty near there myself, but didn't move until 2006 so I never saw the tower.
 
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EddieD

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Yes! That is the exact spot! The whole area on Old Egg Harbor Road was originally a wooded area and was supposed to be preserved by the Pineland/wetlands preservation act from the 70s or 80s. I don't know how they got around that, but they started to clear-cut the area in the late 1980s, and began housing development in the mid-1990s I think. Sad. Allot of deer and other wildlife population habitat was destroyed. Now, you hardly ever see any deer in the area (at least not like they were in the 70s. I'm more interested in seeing the maps from the 1930s, 40s, or 50s if they exist. Thanks a lot though as the maps do show the history of the area in question.
 
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Boyd

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Haha, lucky guess on my part. :D The old mobile website (links above) does not have the 1970's imagery but my new site (coming soon!) will. It is also available on the old desktop site (which will be phased out soon). These are the aerials that were taken as a requirement of the Wetlands Act of 1970. But it's hard to pin down the exact dates on this map since it's a composite of imagery taken in 1971, 1972 and 1977. They are rather "contrasty" so the details don't show too well. But we're lucky, since this appear to be on the very edge of the 1970 wetlands area.

https://online.boydsmaps.com/#17/39.46235/-74.71736/njgin1970

There are also aerials from the Tidelands Act of 1977 that were shot during 1977 and 1978. The details are a bit easier to see here, maybe it will look familiar? Is that the rectangular outline of an old structure perhaps?

https://online.boydsmaps.com/#17/39.46235/-74.71736/njgin1977
 

The Wick

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Mar 6, 2016
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I know there were a few of theses towers in NJ and Delaware. I believe the only one still in existence is the one at Sunset Beach in Cape May. They were to protect the entrance to Delaware Bay. Yours is a bit far from the Delaware or coast to seem effective. Maybe a local observation or fire tower? The one in Cape May does offer tours.
 
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c1nj

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Nov 19, 2008
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FWIW, The Forest Fire Service had an airfield SE of that location. You can see on the aerial. Maybe there is a connection. Not aware of any fire tower ever being at that location though.
 
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matthunsberger

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Nov 29, 2020
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matthunsberger.com
This is super interesting. I grew up in Cloverleaf Lakes in the 90s and was often in the woods over there. We called it the "sandy area" or "sand pits", I'm pretty sure it's a gas line right-of-way. I think the two newer developments went up in the early 2000s. I don't recall seeing any ruins, but I wasn't exactly looking for that kind of thing back then.
 
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EddieD

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Feb 13, 2021
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Haha, lucky guess on my part. :D The old mobile website (links above) does not have the 1970's imagery but my new site (coming soon!) will. It is also available on the old desktop site (which will be phased out soon). These are the aerials that were taken as a requirement of the Wetlands Act of 1970. But it's hard to pin down the exact dates on this map since it's a composite of imagery taken in 1971, 1972 and 1977. They are rather "contrasty" so the details don't show too well. But we're lucky, since this appear to be on the very edge of the 1970 wetlands area.

https://online.boydsmaps.com/#17/39.46235/-74.71736/njgin1970

There are also aerials from the Tidelands Act of 1977 that were shot during 1977 and 1978. The details are a bit easier to see here, maybe it will look familiar? Is that the rectangular outline of an old structure perhaps?

https://online.boydsmaps.com/#17/39.46235/-74.71736/njgin1977
Thanks so much for the maps. It must have been a fire tower of some sort, like a small outpost of the forestry service. I did look at some of the maps from the 30s, but they are too grainy to make anything out. Thanks again!
 
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EddieD

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This is super interesting. I grew up in Cloverleaf Lakes in the 90s and was often in the woods over there. We called it the "sandy area" or "sand pits", I'm pretty sure it's a gas line right-of-way. I think the two newer developments went up in the early 2000s. I don't recall seeing any ruins, but I wasn't exactly looking for that kind of thing back then.
Yeah! I grew up in this area in the 70s and 80s. I never heard it called the "sandpits" before at this location, a new term for me. Yes, you are right there is a gas line running through there. If you go over to the other side of the road, way in the back where there is a creek (still there), it was nothing but white sandy "hills," and we called them the "mountains" as kids. The sand trails used to go from the pike all the way to the small little bridge before Underhill Park. We used to use it to ride our 3 wheelers, dirtbikes, and bicycles. In the winter we would sled down the hills and onto the little creek. We had several trails along Pinehurst Drive through the woods to get there. Sadly, today most of it is either overgrown and/or disused or the new development is there in parts. Although some of it remains and is used now by people of the new development to walk their dogs. It's a rather nice path through the woods. I just moved back here, so I'm amazed at how much has changed. Wish there was a picture of that tower.
 
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EddieD

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I know there were a few of theses towers in NJ and Delaware. I believe the only one still in existence is the one at Sunset Beach in Cape May. They were to protect the entrance to Delaware Bay. Yours is a bit far from the Delaware or coast to seem effective. Maybe a local observation or fire tower? The one in Cape May does offer tours.
I think it was a fire tower. Like you say, too far inland to be a coastal watchtower.
 

matthunsberger

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Nov 29, 2020
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matthunsberger.com
Yeah! I grew up in this area in the 70s and 80s. I never heard it called the "sandpits" before at this location, a new term for me. Yes, you are right there is a gas line running through there. If you go over to the other side of the road, way in the back where there is a creek (still there), it was nothing but white sandy "hills," and we called them the "mountains" as kids. The sand trails used to go from the pike all the way to the small little bridge before Underhill Park. We used to use it to ride our 3 wheelers, dirtbikes, and bicycles. In the winter we would sled down the hills and onto the little creek. We had several trails along Pinehurst Drive through the woods to get there. Sadly, today most of it is either overgrown and/or disused or the new development is there in parts. Although some of it remains and is used now by people of the new development to walk their dogs. It's a rather nice path through the woods. I just moved back here, so I'm amazed at how much has changed. Wish there was a picture of that tower.
Nice, I forgot about the other side of the road, haha! I must not have been back there much, but I remember some kids made a full BMX course in the sand hills.
 

manumuskin

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Jul 20, 2003
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millville nj
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Yes! That is the exact spot! The whole area on Old Egg Harbor Road was originally a wooded area and was supposed to be preserved by the Pineland/wetlands preservation act from the 70s or 80s. I don't know how they got around that, but they started to clear-cut the area in the late 1980s, and began housing development in the mid-1990s I think. Sad. Allot of deer and other wildlife population habitat was destroyed. Now, you hardly ever see any deer in the area (at least not like they were in the 70s. I'm more interested in seeing the maps from the 1930s, 40s, or 50s if they exist. Thanks a lot though as the maps do show the history of the area in question.
Eddie check www.historicalaerials.com they have aerial back to 31 and topos much further back., if you need help navigating the site let me know.It's very easy to use and may help you.
 

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,098
1,958
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millville nj
www.youtube.com
Yes! That is the exact spot! The whole area on Old Egg Harbor Road was originally a wooded area and was supposed to be preserved by the Pineland/wetlands preservation act from the 70s or 80s. I don't know how they got around that, but they started to clear-cut the area in the late 1980s, and began housing development in the mid-1990s I think. Sad. Allot of deer and other wildlife population habitat was destroyed. Now, you hardly ever see any deer in the area (at least not like they were in the 70s. I'm more interested in seeing the maps from the 1930s, 40s, or 50s if they exist. Thanks a lot though as the maps do show the history of the area in question.
i checked historical aerials and the tower is visible from 51 to 63/earlier and later it disappears.I tried to, print screen but their copyright protected.
 

EddieD

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Feb 13, 2021
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Eddie check www.historicalaerials.com they have aerial back to 31 and topos much further back., if you need help navigating the site let me know.It's very easy to use and may help you.
Hey! Cool! did not know about that site. I checked it out, but...do I have to order before I can actually "SEE" what I want on the site. All I can get is information on placing an order. I'd like to look at it before I order anything, you know what I mean? LOL! Let me know I am missing something. Thanks!
 

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,098
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www.youtube.com
Yes I just went to post the viewer and seen Boyd got it. I posted the right site but the main page instead of the viewer and no you don't need to buy the images but if you want them without watermarks you must buy them.
 

Boyd

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Jul 31, 2004
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Al, I think they are completely different sites. The one you posted apparently only has California imagery and does not have any sort of map viewer. The domain name is different:

historicaerials.com - the correct site
historicalaerials.com - the wrong site

:)
 

EddieD

New Member
Feb 13, 2021
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Mays Landing
Hey, yeah, I saw the corrected page. Thanks! It helps to see the different "evolution" of the area over time. The tower is very grainy and not visible until you really study the photo, but yes. I see it. I have found the remains of the building's foundation in 1985, but at that time, the only thing remaining on-site was an old and extremely rusted tower (nothing left of the top portion except some sort of small rusted platform). The lot was reduced to small piles of rubble and sand. The foundation was just a few cinder blocks and a broken-up concrete slab. As a kid, we always tried to climb the tower (thankfully, no kid was ever smart (dumb?) or brave enough...probably would have died of fright as soon as they got higher than 50 feet, it must've been about 70 feet tall!) LOL!
 
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manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
8,098
1,958
57
millville nj
www.youtube.com
Al, I think they are completely different sites. The one you posted apparently only has California imagery and does not have any sort of map viewer. The domain name is different:

historicaerials.com - the correct site
historicalaerials.com - the wrong site

:)
Then that was a typo on my part because I know of no such site.My typing skills with two fingers leaves much to be desired.I no doubt hit the caps locks.
 
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