Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Cold Spring in a Saltwater Marsh

A Cold Spring in a Saltwater Marsh: Cold Spring Village, Cape May, NJ
Written by NJ Historian

Merely three miles from the stately Victorian homes of Cape May is a historical village that transports visitors to an earlier period, a period without gingerbread trim, turrets, and an abundance of leisure time. Historic Cold Spring Village serves as a gateway to the past, where modern-day visitors can be immersed in and appreciate the hard work involved in many of the tasks and chores we take for granted today.

The Historic Cold Spring Village Welcome Center, originally constructed in 1894.
The original Village of Cold Spring was derived from the fresh water spring that emerged from a salt water marsh. The cool, refreshing water became so popular that visitors from Cape Island (Cape May) would travel via carriage to the cold spring for a treat. A small shed was erected over the spring and eventually an inn was built near the site. A railroad passing the spring opened in 1863. In 1878, a spark from the railroad ignited the gazebo that covered the spring and destroyed it. In 1893, a group of businessmen planned on developing a resort community at Cold Spring, with the spring as its centerpiece. The plans for that community never materialized. The hamlet of Cold Spring eventually disappeared, with only a few original buildings surviving today.

The Dennisville Inn at its original location before being moved to Historic Cold Spring Village.
In the mid-twentieth century, Cape May County was suffering from new development, tear-downs, and neglect. With few remnants of early American life existing in southern New Jersey, something had to be done to preserve the remaining structures. Dr. Joseph Salvatore and his wife Patricia Anne had always been interested in history. Inspired by the work of Dr. Joseph Kler in central New Jersey, moving and preserving early buildings related to that area’s history, Dr. Salvatore took it upon himself to begin preserving the history of Cape May County. His first purchase was the former Cold Spring Village Grange Hall in 1973. Between 1973 and 1981, he assembled a collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings from Cape May and Cumberland Counties on a twenty-two acre property near the original cold spring. Some buildings were lifted off their foundations and moved, while some of the larger buildings were cut into pieces and then transported or fully taken apart and reassembled on the site. At the time of acquisition, the buildings were in various states of repair, use, and preservation. It was the task of Dr. Salvatore and numerous volunteers during that time-frame to begin restoration and preservation of these early American homes, shops, and public buildings to tell the story of how early settlers in southern New Jersey communities, including Cold Spring, may have lived and the duties they performed in daily life. In May of 1981, Historic Cold Spring Village finally opened to the public.

Moving the circa 1855 Tuckahoe Shop, now the bookbindery at Historic Cold Spring Village. 
The goal of the Village is to demonstrate early crafts and artisans, farming, daily life, and the simple vernacular architecture of southern New Jersey in the period after the American Revolution but before the Civil War.

Today, the Village has grown to include twenty-six buildings, which can be loosely grouped under five different categories: Civic, residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural.

The Marshallville School – Civic
The small, one-room schoolhouse was built circa 1850 in Upper Township. Architecturally, its form resembles the Gothic Revival style, which was popular between 1820 and 1860 in the United States. It is fairly typical of one-room schoolhouses built across New Jersey, being rather plain, having no major embellishments and a simple floor plan. The school did not have a cupola or bell tower, which appeared on some schools during this time period. The school served students from both Upper Township and Maurice River Township in Cumberland County. Schoolhouses of this size normally taught students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Any higher education was seldom sought after or expected, as the students were needed to assist the family with their farm or business. A single wood-burning stove would have provided the necessary heat during the winter months. The building was acquired by Historic Cold Spring Village in 1987.

Rev. David Gandy House – Residential
The Reverend David Gandy House was built about 1830. The Reverend lived in this simple, one-room house with his wife Maria and their six children, four of which lived to maturity. The first floor room would have contained a cooking fireplace and functioned as a bedroom, kitchen, and gathering room for the family. The second floor loft would have provided sleeping quarters, accessible by a winder staircase. The Reverend was a Methodist Episcopal preacher, but was also listed in census records as a weaver, laborer, and farmer. The home is structurally intact with the exception of its original fireplace and chimney. The Gandy House serves as an excellent example of the simple, one-room homes that dotted Cape May County in the early nineteenth century. The Gandy House was moved to Historic Cold Spring Village in 1995.

Dennisville Inn – Commercial
The Dennisville Inn, constructed in the Federal style, was erected in 1836 for use as a tavern and inn. The inn was strategically placed for travelers going between Philadelphia and Cape May. In addition to being a place where weary travelers could rest and enjoy fare, taverns were the focal point of the town, serving as a town meeting place, social hall, and post office stop. The building was used as a tavern until 1870 when its owner became a Baptist. After 1870 it was then for church gatherings and meetings. A cage bar has been reconstructed to demonstrate what typical tavern bars in dining rooms may have looked like. Accommodations were found on the second floor and accessed by a door in the center hallway. A second door from the exterior leads directly into the bar room. This is typical of New Jersey taverns. The inn was acquired by Historic Cold Spring Village in 1975.

J. Finley Blacksmith Shop - Industrial
A New Jersey town was not complete without at one, if not a handful of blacksmith shops to serve its residents. The J. Finley Blacksmith Shop was built circa 1886 and located in Middle Township. The blacksmith shop is typical among blacksmith shops that once dotted the landscape of New Jersey. It is one story in height, features double front doors, and an open, unfinished interior. The large pieces of equipment, workbenches, and forges were placed along the walls in order to leave the center open for carriages, horses, and other projects in progress.  Across the United States, blacksmiths produced nails, strap hinges for doors, latches, window hardware, swinging cranes for hearths, cooking grates, fire pokers, shovels, wall sconces, and coat hooks. As mechanization and mass production reached New Jersey in the late nineteenth century, the blacksmith and his role began to decline and by the 1930s, only a handful of blacksmiths still operated. The shop was moved to Historic Cold Spring Village in 1974.

The Lewis Corson Gandy Barn - Agricultural
The Village has a number of farm outbuildings. The Lewis Corson Gandy Barn is the largest and was constructed circa 1880. This particular barn was pre-fabricated at a Camden lumber yard, then shipped as a kit and erected for Captain Lewis Corson Gandy in Dennis Township. The interior of the barn features space for a wagon or carriage and two farm animals. The second story was used for storage. It was acquired by Historic Cold Spring Village in 1994.

In addition to each building’s unique history and architecture, Historic Cold Spring Village demonstrates the crafts and arts of the early American period. Most of the buildings are interpreted with a craft or trade. Examples include a print shop, spinning, dyeing, weaving, a tin shop, blacksmith shop, bookbinding, pottery, basket making, woodworking, broom making, and domestic arts. A few of the buildings operate as stores, such as the country store which sells wares made by the on-site artisans, a bakery, restaurant, and ice cream parlor. Historic Cold Spring Village brings to life the arts of a time gone by, enticing visitors to become engaged, ask questions, and hear the stories of what life may have been like for early settlers in rural Cape May County.

Additional photos of my trip to Historic Cold Spring Village on Pinterest

A Cold Spring in a Saltwater Marsh Podcast (right click and choose "save target/link as" to save to your hard drive)

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