Vincentown`s Buildings

by Melissa Samuelson | May 19, 2008
Vincentown`s Buildings Vincentown has a lot of old, beautiful buildings that have quite a history to them. It's the past right here in our present, and preserved for the future.

Old Town Hall

Located on Plumb Street, the building served as Vincentown's Town Hall from 1884 through 1980. The building replaced "Progressive Hall" which was torn down in 1884. Twenty-five hundred dollars was appropriated to build the building.

While the original plans called for a one-story building, an agreement was made with the Masonic Lodge to add the second floor and they would rent it for a good many years. The Masonic Lodge has rented the second floor for well over 100 years.

For many years, the hall was used by various drama clubs in Vincentown. For example, on March 24, 1892, the young people of the Baptist Church gave a musical called "They Gypsy Wedding." Tom Thumb's Wedding was also performed at the hall by the Quaxon Drama Club. This drama club was well known in the area for it featured many of the prominent people of the town. At one time, roller skating parties were held here. Other towns were building roller rinks, but Vincentown decided to use the town hall.

It was not unusual to find movies being shown on a Saturday morning during the forties and fifties.

All town meetings were held here until the new Municipal Building was built in 1980. Restoration of the old town hall was begun in 1986 and continues today. It currently serves as the meeting place for the Southampton Historical Society and other community organizations. There is a small museum located within the building, and outside, to the rear, the Vincentown Lockup or jail is located.

The “Lock Up”

The "Lock Up" was built at a cost of $300.00 in 1891 by an ordinance adopted on March 10, 1891. To date, it has cost the Southampton Historical Society some $2,500.00 to restore the building. The Lock Up is a 15' x 14' exterior addition to the Old Town Hall with access only from outside the Hall. The interior consists of two 5' x 8' cells with wrought iron bar gates, a small waiting area, and a 4' x 8' office area. The Southampton Historical Society has collected museum pieces related to law enforcement in the township for display in the Lock Up, including police uniforms, hand and leg cuffs, guns, riot sticks, and pictures of members of the polices force. The first constables were Bud Sweet and Jacob Nixon.

Little history is known of the Lock Up, since records were all destroyed or are in someone's private collection. We do know that Herb Roff was a police chief in 1956 which was the last time the Lock Up was in use. The Lock Up was only used to detain a person until he or she could be transported to Mount Holly, if it was warranted. If a person celebrated a bit too much and became unruly, he was detained over night and then released.

The salary for the constable was $25.00 a week until 1980 when the salary went up to $225.00 per month. For many years the Lock Up was used as the headquarters for the Civil Defense and Disaster Control after it stopped functioning in 1956. Bill Williams was appointed to head this unit by the then Mayor, Clarence Hall. Hilburn Wells followed Herb Roff as Chief. At that time, the men worked from their homes.

From 1973 until 1976, Bill Williams served as Chief of Police after serving 20 years on the part-time force. In 1976, Jay Hartpence was appointed Chief. He had served as an officer for some ten years before becoming chief. During his administration the first patrol car was purchased. He has the distinction of being the last chief, as the force was disbanded and Southampton Township is now patrolled by the State Police from the Red Lion barracks.

The Vincetown Schoolhouse

The Vincentown one-room schoolhouse located on Race Street, Vincentown (circa 1860), which was the year Abraham Lincoln was elected President and the first Pony Express was run from Sacramento, California, to St. Joseph, Missouri, was one of two private schools located in the village of Vincentown.

Originally, this school house stood on property owned by the Allen Oil Company on Main Street. In 1981, the Allen Oil Company donated the building to the Southampton Historical Society, and it was moved to its present location on land donated by the township. The exact date of the opening and closing of this school is not known; it is known that at one time it became a "helping school" during the late 1920's and early 1930's. The first "public school" house built in 1863 was located on Pleasant Street.

Restoration of the school house was accomplished through volunteer efforts and donations spearheaded by local resident Maryann Thompson. Everything used in the schoolhouse is authentic. The most popular school master of this school was William K. Haines. Mr. Haines lived on Plumb Street* with his wife, Mary, who was also a school teacher -- but she never taught with her husband.

Editor's note: Plum Street was spelled "Plumb" at the time of Mr. Haines.

After three years of hard work, the day of re-dedication, May 19, 1984, arrived. The town folk were invited as well as others to the dedication, and it was well attended by local, county and state officials. The one room school house was dedicated to the school children of Southampton Township.

The Vincentown-Tabernacle Telephone Building This building was constructed approximately at the turn of the century. It was originally a Millinery Shop and later a tin shop. The third occupant was J. Raymond Nixon, who ran a plumbing business. He was the plumber who laid the water mains for the Vincentown Water Company. A deed dated March 31, 1911, cites that Harvey R. Nixon and Eva, h/w, conveyed the premises to the Vincentown-Tabernacle Company for $525.

On October 17, 1930, the Vincentown-Tabernacle Telephone Company sold the building to New Jersey Bell Telephone Company. New Jersey Bell Telephone Company sold the prenises to Carl F. Propson and Henriette Propson h/w on May 20, 1942.

During Mr. Propson's ownership he lived on the second floor and had a shop on the first floor. In the shop he would nickrome resistance coils. In the downstairs back room he had about thirty canaries, which was his hobby. Mr. & Mrs. Propson conveyed their interest to Mrs. Helen Cowgill by deed dated January 2, 1945.

During Mrs. Cowgill's ownership, the building was rented as a dwelling for a while, then remained empty for many years. Mrs. Cowgill sold the premises to the Township of Southampton on September 18, 1975. On December 1, 1976, the township signed a fifty year lease for the building with the Southampton Historical Society.

It currently serves as the headquarters for the Historical Society and as a Telephone Museum. The Vincentown-Tabernacle Telephone Company organized in 1906 with about thirty subscribers. Helen Joyce was the chief operator for more than 18 years. Esther Powell (Mrs. Franklin Johnson), and Carrie Hall were operators for many years. Clarence Brushwood was the first lineman. They knew their customers by their first names and the telephone office was an information center.

On October 1, 1930, New Jersey Bell Telephone Company bought out the Vincentown-Tabernacle Telephone Company, including their lines, goodwill, real estate, leases, contracts, franchises, and all physical property for $25,000. It was the last independent telephone company in South Jersey.

The Sally Stretch Keen Memorial Library In 1922, the Sally Stretch Keen Memorial Library, a "trim red-brick building" was built and endowed by Mary Stretch Irick Drexel (Mrs. George W. Childs Drexel of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania) in memory of her mother, Sally Stretch (Irick) Keen, a resident of Vincentown (her home was known as "Locust Grove" and is located on Retreat Road, just off of Route 206, a short distance from the current Southampton Township Municipal Building).

The architects for the Library were Stewardson and Page, of Philadelphia. The builders were George W. Shaner & Son, Palmyra, NJ. The low original bid was $18,814; the revised bid on modified plans is not recorded, but undoubtedly was lower.

The area served was the Township of Southampton (42.61 square miles) and an area within a four-mile radius of Vincentown. The population of the township in 1920 was under 1,000; in 1940 it was 1,813; and in 1960 it was 3,166.

The Sally Stretch Keen Library was dedicated on June 18, 1923, with carefully planned ceremonies. It was a major social event for the quiet village of Vincentown.

In 1974, when the Vincent Fire Company moved to its new facilities, the downstairs of the firehouse was converted into township offices, and in 1976, the upstairs was turned over to the Library. The library board voted to create the upstairs area into a "Children's Room", which was formally dedicated on July 3, 1976, as a part of the Township's Bicentennial Celebration. The event was listed as an official Bicentennial activity.

The official dedication program credits the Friends of the Library for special funding and Mary Galtere, the librarian, who "personally recruited volunteers to clean, paint, build, decorate, and furnish the new Children's Room"

Her example motivated others to pitch in, but no one contributed as much time and effort to the project as did Mary. A local newspaper account of the dedication pictures Joe Laufer as the master of ceremonies for the historic event. In 1982, after the township offices were moved to the new Robert Thompson facility on Route 206, the children's room was relocated to the first floor, and a reference and reading room was located on the upper floor.

Information collected from the Southampton town web site

For more South Jersey History, visit our History page.

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Author: Melissa Samuelson


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