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Green Era District


The Green Era District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document for the Woodbury Multiple Resource Area. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.

Historic District [1]

In the late nineteenth century, the key architectural features and economic focus of Woodbury City developed from the industry and vision of one man, Colonel George G. Green. The "Green Era," from 1872 to 1925, is architecturally the period of most vigorous growth for all parts of Woodbury and resulted in the Green Era District. It was in 1872 that Lewis M. Green began production of "Green's August Flower," a patent medicine proclaimed to cure "heart palpitations, bad circulation or a confused mind." After his initial success, Green purchased the formula from Germany for "Boschee's German Syrup" and both patent medicines became extremely popular, amassing hundreds of thousands for Green. He then sold the company to his son, Colonel George G. Green in exchange for $40,000 in royalties per year. Although Lewis M. Green had been shrewd, it was his son, George, who met with phenomenal success in the business, bringing prosperity to himself and the City of Woodbury.

Green's patent medicine laboratory began as a small frame structure at the intersection of Cooper Street and Railroad Avenue. The production of the medicines dominated the city, employing hundreds of workers and dramatically increased Woodbury's population from 2,298 in 1880 to 4,087 in 1900. Huge promotional campaigns were launched advertising the products. The Green's nine printing presses, all located in the factory on Green Street, printed annual almanacs in four languages. In 1883 alone, 5,000,000 almanacs were printed and distributed. The Green industry quickly outgrew the original frame laboratory and was eventually replaced by a large brick factory on Green Avenue. The factory was specifically designed for efficiency, modern techniques and the comfort of its employees. Interior features at one time included rubbed walnut and chestnut trim and pressed tin ceilings. Suspended "modern" chandeliers, "speaking tubes" and hand powered elevators facilitated the business.

Green was linked with other industrial enterprises in the city such as Woodbury Castor Works, Standard Window Glass Works (of which he was chairman), Green's Steam Planing Mill (which he owned), and the Woodbury Glass Works Company (of which he was president). He was also a moving influence in establishing the Woodbury Gas Works. Each of these industries in some way contributed to the production of his product; the bottle works producing clear aqua colored bottles for the syrups, and the planing mills constructing the boxes for shipment of the goods. In 1888, as president of the Board of Trade, Green attempted to invite new industry to Woodbury by convincing Council to waive local taxes for five years for new industries. As a result, Wells-Hope Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia (whose building was destroyed in 1970), settled in Woodbury in a four-story factory next to Green's own labs. Augustus Holstein's cigar manufacture also gave employment to many workers, second only to Green's factory.

Workers' housing for these various industries grew to the south and southeast of the industrial areas. The houses are small and closely situated to one another with small yards and porches. The street facade features repetition of house types and rooflines. Many of these houses have been extensively altered, yet their physical relationship to one another reflect the social forces shaping this community. One of these cottages has maintained its original pantile roof, wood siding and open front porch. Six others are a representative, cohesive and significant part of Green Era District.

The Green family accumulated a sizeable fortune and their estate, featured in the company's almanacs, became world renowned as "Grey Towers." The stone mansion, located on Cooper Street, stood amidst picturesque landscaping along Hester's Branch of Woodbury Creek, until it burned while in use as a parochial school, c.1970. The carriage house still stands, giving an indication of the large proportions that Green had used in designing his home. As seen on the maps, the area now known as Woodbury City Park, was Green's former estate.

Lewis M. Green at one time owned nearly eighty acres within Woodbury limits. Later, George G. Green owned property on nearly every street in Woodbury, as well as forty-two farms throughout the county. He also owned a farm on Red Bank Avenue outside of Woodbury and used it as a stock farm and Saturday afternoon horse racing track (circa 1925). Bicycle races were also run there about 1893. He owned private yachts and ferries which were kept on Woodbury Creek at the base of Wood Street. He also owned a private Pullman car which he kept at the Woodbury train station across the street from his home. Within the city there are numerous buildings still heralding the Green wealth and status in the community. In most cases, their size and architectural distinction set them apart from others in the streetscape. The Hotel Green, also known as the Green Hotel or simply The Green, was built and owned by Lewis M. Green in 1881 to accommodate travelers on the "dailies" arriving at the train station just across the street. Old photos reveal a semi-circular drive to the east, a wraparound porch and balconies embellishing this structure which was later converted to one of Woodbury's first apartment houses, still serving as such. Green's Block, located in the Broad Street Historic District, was built in 1880 as an opera house, storefronts and civic center. Its large proportions reflect Green's vision for Woodbury's potential growth. This structure, fronting on nearly a full block, was built by John C. Rogers of Camden for $26,000.

As Green's and Woodbury's mutual prosperity increased he became instrumental in the development of the Woodbury Country Club and the surrounding area, known as the East Side. The Country Club was organized in 1897 with George G. Green as president. An old farmhouse, originally belonging to the Bayard family, and the surrounding fields were incorporated into the clubhouse and golf greens. The Woodbury Daily Times reported in November of 1900 that the "gold links (were) particularly well-appointed and (drew) many visitors from Philadelphia." It is rumored that George Green hired Alex Finland, a landscape designer from Scotland, to redesign the golf course. It is also suggested that Woodbury's is the third oldest golf course in the United States and the oldest in New Jersey. As a well-known vacation and resort area, the east side of town became very popular for Philadelphians who considered Woodbury as the "country" and hoped to escape the cholera, yellow fever and influenza common in the larger cities. Across Cooper Street from the Country Club, Evergreen Hall was built in 1902 by George Green to accommodate visitors. The resort had been designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style by Charles R. Peddle, a significant local architect. It burned to the ground in 1925 and was replaced by the present Evergreen Apartments. The surrounding areas provided pleasant paths for walking, such as the park at the corner of Cooper Street and Evergreen Avenue. Evergreen Avenue was known as Lover's Lane for its large rows of evergreens, creating a pleasant arcade. Many of these trees still survive.

George C. Green began to see Woodbury as a competitor with Haddonfield, New Jersey, an area featuring elaborate homes north of Woodbury. With Haddonfield in mind, Green began to develop the area across (north) from the country Club. The pivotal structure in that area was the Tatum-Griscom-Mitchell house, a mid-eighteenth century stone farmhouse. The house was surrounded by Evergreen Nurseries, owned by the Griscom family from 1851 to 1882. David Griscom is partially responsible for the landscaping seen on the east side of Woodbury, north of Cooper Street, with its exotic and varied assortment of plantings ranging from ornamental shrubs to evergreen trees. Even today, a mixed assortment of vegetation is discernible throughout the east side of Woodbury including the large towering pines along Lover's Lane. In 1913, Green sold the Griscom house to Daniel Mitchell for $7,000, with the stipulation that Mitchell agree "to renovate the dwelling house thereon and build additions thereto both together to cost not less than $10,000 all to be completed within three years from the date thereof." (Deed Book 242, p.287). Mitchell adapted the farmhouse into a finely crafted Colonial Revival residence. Mitchell also purchased two other quarter-acre lots within the next three years from G.G. Green, agreeing to develop them with houses costing not less than $6,000 each. Green was then responsible for laying out the streets, curbing sewers and sidewalks. He retained a Philadelphia engineer to lay out the sewerage system, but it was an idea ahead of its time and the city fathers rejected the plan. This was the beginning of the development of the East Side which continued between 1913 and 1925, with the majority of structures being built in the Revival styles; Colonial, Dutch Colonial, and Tudor.

After power struggles and dissidence with the city fathers, Green turned his attention to the west coast and established the city of Altadena, California, circa 1887. In Pasadena, California he built a massive, fireproof hotel called Green Hotel. It was a resort for people from all parts of the country and named as the largest on the west coast at the turn of the nineteenth century. The Spanish influences he and his family brought back from their annual visits to California are reflected in the Spanish detailing of the home the Green family built for their son on Woodland Avenue. To accommodate his annual visits to California, Green purchased his own private Pullman car and before leaving Woodbury with his family each year, he would allow citizens to tour the car as it stood on the tracks at Cooper Street. He eventually acquired large mining interests in Mexico, a patent medicine factory in Canada, a large ranch in Wyoming, and real estate holdings in Ohio and throughout the West. In 1925, at age 84, Colonel George G. Green died. The patent medicine industry began to fade due to competition in the pharmaceutical field and prohibition's sabotage of alcohol, one of the medicine's chief ingredients. In 1946, the medicine business was sold to Myers Laboratories, Inc. of Warren, Pennsylvania. In 1970 they were still producing "August Flower" on a very small scale.

  1. Woodbury Multiple Resource Area: Partial Inventory of Historical and Architectural Resources, nomination document, 1988, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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Street Names: Bayard Avenue North, Cooper Street, Holroyd Place, Hunter Street, Maple Street North, Route 706, Rugby Place, Rugby Place East, Spruce Lane, Woodland Avenue North

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