South Tuckahoe Historic District
The South Tuckahoe Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
The South Tuckahoe Historic District encompasses a noteworthy historic shipbuilding and railroad village significant in the development of Cape May County. The South Tuckahoe Historic District is comprised of a diverse grouping of historic building types and styles from circa 1810 to 1945. Furthermore, the South Tuckahoe Historic District represents the core of a village whose evolution is directly related to the influence and evolution of transportation developments from waterway shipping, to the stage routes and railroad, to automobiles. The South Tuckahoe Historic District meets National Register criterion for Community Development, Transportation and Architecture.
Tuckahoe is located along the Tuckahoe River, in Upper Township, at the northern edge of the present boundary of Cape May County in southern New Jersey. Cape May County was originally part of Salem County, which was established in 1681. Eleven years later, in 1692, Cape May County was formed out of the eastern portion of Salem County. Cape May County was then divided into Upper, Middle, and Lower precincts in 1723, and in 1798, these precincts were designated as townships.
Tuckahoe is an Indian name meaning both where deer are shy and where deer are plentiful. This village is said to be the only surviving Indian-named area in Cape May County. In the nineteenth century, the village of Tuckahoe consisted of two settlements on either side of the Tuckahoe River, a tributary of Great Egg Harbor Bay. The area south of the river, known historically as South Tuckahoe, is where the South Tuckahoe Historic District is located. South Tuckahoe was also called Williamsburg after the first Post Master, John Williams (appointed in 1828); however, that name was not widely used. The nineteenth-century settlement known as North Tuckahoe, on the other side of the river, is now called Corbin City (after August Corbin, president of the Reading Railroad, who established a station there in 1893.) For the past one hundred years, the name "Tuckahoe" has been associated with only the settlement on the south side of the river, historic "South Tuckahoe."
The earliest settlement in the vicinity of Tuckahoe occurred in the late 1600s. This area was one of three Pre-Revolutionary War settlements in Upper Township. The main road passing through the village of Tuckahoe, called Route 50 today, dates to 1716 when the New Jersey Assembly passed an act for the construction of a road from Cedar Swamp Bridge in Cape May County north to the Tuckahoe River, passing through the present village. Even with this road, however, the Tuckahoe area developed later than most other early villages in the county because it was isolated by the Tuckahoe River Delta and the Great Cedar Swamp.
South Tuckahoe was established in the early nineteenth century, in response to the development of the lumbering and shipbuilding activities at that time. Throughout most of the nineteenth century, Tuckahoe was a bustling shipbuilding village and farming community. The appointment of a postmaster in 1828 established Tuckahoe as a service village. Tuckahoe also served as a shipping center for nearby industries including glassmaking (established in 1814 and located in what is now known as Marshallville, just west of Tuckahoe), and bog iron production at the Etna Furnace (established in 1816 and located in what is now called Head-of-the-River, 4 miles west of Tuckahoe and a cranberry business (operated between 1864 and the 1950s on two hundred acres outside of Tuckahoe). In the early nineteenth century, the Tuckahoe area had a thriving economic community largely due to the important contributions of the shipbuilding business, especially in the supply of coastal schooners, for the county's efforts in the War of 1812.
The second quarter of the nineteenth century was the first period of dramatic growth for the village. This development was influenced by the village being centrally located along the river, near the thriving iron and glass industries, and along the main road between May's Landing (the future county seat of Atlantic County) to the north and other settlements in Cape May County to the south and east. The significant growth began between 1830 and 1840 when the population of the village tripled. A description of Tuckahoe in 1834, published in The Gazetteer of the State of NJ, described the village as follows: "on both sides of the Tuckahoe river, over which there is a bridge, 10 miles above the sea, 46 miles S.E. from Woodbury and by post route 192 from Washington; contains some 20 dwellings, 3 taverns, several stores. It is a place of considerable trade in wood, lumber and shipbuilding. The land immediately on the river is good, but a short distance from it, is swampy and low."
In 1844, Tuckahoe was described as containing an additional forty dwellings, and the Methodist Church built in 1820 is specifically mentioned. By 1850, the village became even more well-known because of the establishment of the Tuckahoe Stage which began to run from Philadelphia to Cape May via May's Landing and Tuckahoe. This stagecoach stop further strengthened Tuckahoe's role as a prominent service village for the surrounding area.
During the era surrounding the Civil War, Tuckahoe continued to grow as its shipbuilding business continued to flourish. The shipbuilding business reached its peak in production by the 1870s. This growth was reflective of the County-wide surge in which shipbuilding employed the most people in the County after the Civil War and this era being the most productive period of shipbuilding in the County's history. The Jonas Steelman shipyard in Tuckahoe was one of three shipyards that produced the largest ships in the county. Unlike many New Jersey villages, the railroad did not come to Tuckahoe during this period. Instead, another transportation development occurred in 1877, when a group of local residents purchased a steamboat to provide passage between Tuckahoe and Somers Point. This boat, called the Reuben Potter, was used as an alternative method of transportation to the stage for getting to Atlantic City, an easy connection from Somers Point, as well as for local outings, such as for Sunday School.
The earliest known description of the settlement specifically on the south side of the river is from the 1880 register of cities, village and post-offices of New Jersey which mentions the village of Tuckahoe as a post village on the south side of the Tuckahoe River, with a considerable hamlet across the river in Atlantic County. The village is 4 miles northeast of Woodbine, has a large local trade, and is largely interested in cranberry culture, fishing and coast-wise trade; boats and sailing vessels are built and owned here. Population, 500.
By the last decade of the nineteenth century, the era of the shipbuilding business reached a close, and the village began its association with the railroad. The railroad first came to Tuckahoe in 1893 when the Reading Railroad extended its Camden and Atlantic City line south from Winslow Junction through Tuckahoe to Sea Isle City. The following year, the line was extended all the way to Cape May, and it became crowded with people making daily excursions to the seashore.
The establishment of the railroad through Tuckahoe increased the village's importance as a central point of connection between Atlantic City, Camden, and Philadelphia to the north and the seashore communities to the south. Tuckahoe was a main junction for the railroad where passengers changed trains to one of the Philadelphia and Seashore Railroad lines that fanned out below Tuckahoe to extend to the various seashore communities. The engine repair station for the line was also located in Tuckahoe.
In the early twentieth century, the enterprises associated with the railroad activity continued to dominate the character of Tuckahoe. Additional businesses that prospered at this time due to the combination of the fertile surrounding farmland and the convenience of the railroad for shipping goods were the cranberry business, a tomato canning factory, and a silk factory. Transportation of goods to the Atlantic City market was also accomplished with truck boats operated by some of the local farmers.
The increasing use of the automobile in the early twentieth century necessitated road improvements, including the establishment of a new state highway system. In 1917, the main road through Tuckahoe became known as Route 14, and it was one of fifteen routes in the new highway system. In 1926, this road was paved in concrete from Camden, through Tuckahoe, to the seashore. This paving contributed to the increased popularity and efficiency of automobile and truck transportation which, in turn, led the decline of the shipping and railroad industries. In 1927, Route 14 was re-designated as Route 50, the name it holds today.
By the mid-twentieth century, the use of the railroad as the main method of transporting goods and seashore-bound passengers decreased as the use of automobiles and trucks became the dominant means of transportation. In 1982, all trains except a daily long freight ceased operation through Tuckahoe. In recent history Tuckahoe was also the location of the Upper Township municipal offices, which were located in the Old High School from the early 1950s through 1994. Today, Tuckahoe is still characterized by a circa 1810 to 1945 appearance because there has been very little development in the second half of this century. Although many of the commercial buildings have changed in use from fundamental establishments such as a doctor's office, bank, and meeting hall to a florist shop, community center, and antiques store, the layout of the village still reflects its historical development with commercial buildings concentrated between Route 49 and Reading Avenue, and single-family dwellings flanking this commercial core to both the north and south.
Associatively, many structures built and utilized by individuals significant in Tuckahoe's past have survived largely intact. Although it is unclear which buildings within the South Tuckahoe Historic District served as the shipbuilders' homes, it is known that 2290 Route 50 was the home of Physician E.L.B. Wales (cited in the 1872 Beers directory), 2280 Route 50 was the mid-nineteenth century home of Dr. Abott, 103 Reading Avenue was built and occupied by the prosperous Stille family from circa 1870 through the early twentieth century, and 1836 Tuckahoe-Mt. Pleasant Road was the late nineteenth century home of Benjamin Marshall, the grandson of the Marshall for whom nearby Marshallville was named. It is also known that 2251 Route 50 is significant for its association with Dr. Randolph D. Marshall (Benjamin's brother) who built it as his office and pharmacy in 1877, 2286 Route 50 was used by Dr. Abott for his medical and law office, and 2240 Route 50 served as the Tuckahoe Post Office from the mid-nineteenth century until the construction of the modern post office at 2250 Route 50.
Architecturally, the structures in the South Tuckahoe Historic District reflect the historical development of the village as an initial farming settlement, shipbuilding village, and regional service center. Some of the architectural landmarks surviving from the first half of the nineteenth century are the vernacular Federal style houses located at 2091 Route 50 (Homan House), 2371 Route 50 (Young's Four Y's Antiques & Gifts, Odds & Ends, and 1811 Tuckahoe-Mt. Pleasant Road (Errickson House). The only surviving Greek Revival style building is the 1851 Old Presbyterian Church — Daughters of America Hall at 2180 Route 50. There are many surviving mid-nineteenth century Gothic Revival style buildings in Tuckahoe, such as Dr. Abott's Office — Hometown Lumber and the Abott-Turnbull House, located at 2286 and 2280 Route 50, respectively.
Many well-preserved buildings survive that reflect the development of the village during the years surrounding the Civil War and the peak of the shipbuilding industry. During this period, there were numerous buildings designed in the Italianate style in Tuckahoe, such as Dr. Randolph D. Marshall's Office/Pharmacy — Enchanted Florist at 2251 Route 50 and the Beebe House at 2260 Route 50. Examples of other buildings constructed in this prosperous era include the vernacular Victorian style Forry House at 2085 Route 50 and the Second Empire style Wade House at 2301 Route 50.
After the railroad came to Tuckahoe in 1893, many buildings were constructed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to support the additional residents and businesses that were drawn to the village. Prominent surviving examples of these styles are the Queen Anne style Old Methodist Church Parsonage — Miller House at 2322 Route 50, the Shingle style Old Grammar School at 1751 Tuckahoe-Mt. Pleasant Road, the American Foursquare style Sack House at 2120 Route 50, the Dutch Colonial Revival style Busby-Andrews House at 2320 Route 50, the Classical Revival style First National Bank of Tuckahoe at 2331 Route 50, and the Craftsman style Burley-Pickford House at 2336 Route 50.
Three additional structures that are among the most architecturally significant in the South Tuckahoe Historic District are the Strauss-articulated, underneath-counterweight, bascule design bridge over the Tuckahoe River at the north end of the District, Hagelgan's Hall-Porter's Store which is an example of an early rural movie theater, and the Time Out Diner at the southern end of the District. The existence of both the bridge and the Diner are directly related to the establishment of the state highway through Tuckahoe. The bridge was constructed in 1926 when the new highway was first paved; the Diner, built in 1945, was moved to the edge of Tuckahoe to accommodate the many motorists utilizing the automotive corridor.
The South Tuckahoe Historic District has survived as a well-preserved village, important in the history of Cape May County and southern New Jersey, representing one hundred and thirty-five years of architectural growth. It meets National Register criterion for association with the early development of the community, association with the impact of evolving transportation means, and exemplification of a cohesive group of vernacular architecturally-significant structures. This village has retained its historic character because it has been unusually shielded from modern intrusions. Now, however, the historic character is threatened by a proposed  Route 50 road widening and bridge replacement project. It is hoped that listing on the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places will bring not only recognition, but also a level of protection for the historic village of South Tuckahoe.
A.G. Lichtenstein Associates, Inc. "Structure Number 0510152". New Jersey Historic Bridge Survey, 1992.
Bailey, Alwina D. "Tuckahoe." A History of Upper Township and its Villages. Township of Upper Cape May County, NJ: Historical Preservation Society of Upper Township, 1989.
Barber, John Warner and Henry Howe. Historical Collections of the State of New Jersey. New Haven, CT: Benjamin Olds, 1844 (as cited in Kise, Franks & Straw, Inc. Survey of Historic Architectural Resources: NJ Route 50 at the Tuckahoe River, Corbin City & Tuckahoe, Atlantic & Cape May Counties, New Jersey. Prepared for the Department of Transportation, Draft: November 1995).
Beitel, Herbert M. and Vance C. Enck. Cape May County; A Pictorial History. Norfolk/Virginia Beach: The Donning Co., 1988.
Boyer, George F. and J. Pearson Cunningham. Cape May County Story. Egg Harbor City, NJ: The Laureate Press, 1975 (as cited in Kise, Franks & Straw, Inc. Survey of Historic Architectural Resources: NJ Route 50 at the Tuckahoe River, Corbin City & Tuckahoe, Atlantic & Cape May Counties, New Jersey. Prepared for the Department of Transportation, Draft: November 1995).
Cassedy, William. "E.L.B. Wales Journal." The Cape May County Magazine of History and Genealogy. Copy in the Private collection of Richard DeSantis.
DeSantis, Richard. Interview by Rebecca A. Hunt. 12 December 1995.
Dorwart, Jeffery M. Cape May County, New Jersey; the Making of an American Resort Community. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992.
Harvest Moon Staff. Interview by Rebecca A. Hunt. 18 December 1995.
Herbert, John W. "The Establishment of the New Jersey State Highway System." New Jersey State Research 5 (June 1918): 77-84 (as cited in Kise, Franks & Straw, Inc. Survey of Historic Architectural Resources: NJ Route 50 at the Tuckahoe River, Corbin City & Tuckahoe, Atlantic & Cape May Counties, New Jersey. Prepared for the Department of Transportation, Draft: November 1995).
Hostler, Dorsey. Interview by Rebecca A. Hunt. 20 December 1995.
Kise, Franks & Straw, Inc. Survey of Historic Architectural Resources: NJ Route 50 at the Tuckahoe River, Corbin City & Tuckahoe, Atlantic & Cape May Counties, New Jersey. Prepared for the Department of Transportation, Draft: November 1995.
Meher, Yolanda as conveyed to Richard DeSantis. Interview by Rebecca A. Hunt. 12 December 1995.
Mounier, R. Alan and Heritage Studies, Inc. Survey of Cultural Resources of the Historic Era in the Watersheds of the Great Egg Harbor and Tuckahoe Rivers. Prepared for the Office of Green Acres, Office of Cultural and Environmental Services, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, January 1982 (as cited in Kise, Franks & Straw, Inc. Survey of Historic Architectural Resources: NJ Route 50 at the Tuckahoe River, Corbin City & Tuckahoe, Atlantic & Cape May Counties, New Jersey. Prepared for the Department of Transportation, Draft: November 1995).
Robinson, Edwin B. "Tuckahoe Remembered: A Personal Recollection of the Early 1900s." unpublished manuscript, 1982. Private collection of Patricia Link.
Rose, T.E, H.C. Woolman, and T.T. Price. Historical and Biographical Atlas of the New Jersey Coast. Philadelphia: Woolman & Rose, 1878. Private collection of Patricia Link.
Shropshire, Charles. Interview by Rebecca A. Hunt. 12 December 1995.
Speck, Florence. "Early History of Upper Precinct." A History of Upper Township and its Villages. Township of Upper Cape May County, NJ: Historical Preservation Society of Upper Township, 1989.
Time Out Diner Staff. Interview by Rebecca A. Hunt. 16 November 1995.
Thompson, Gordon. Interview by Rebecca A. Hunt. 8 December 1995.
Wilson, Harold F. The Jersey Shore; A Social and Economic History of the Counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean. New York: D. Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1953 (as cited in Kise, Franks & Straw, Inc. Survey of Historic Architectural Resources: NJ Route 50 at the Tuckahoe River, Corbin City & Tuckahoe, Atlantic & Cape May Counties, New Jersey. Prepared for the Department of Transportation, Draft: November 1995).
Young, Raymond. Interview by Rebecca A. Hunt. 20 December 1995.
† Margaret Westfield, Architect and Rebecca A. Hunt, Preservation Specialist, Westfield Architects & Preservation Consultants, South Tuckahoe Historic District, Cape May County, New Jersey, nomination document, 1995/1996, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.