Batsto Village

by Meredith Bajgier, R. Cohen | Sep 17, 2015
Batsto Village When it comes to a day of relaxing in South Jersey, one rarely thinks of spending time with nature. Usually, having a “day off” in the region proves somewhat paradoxical - while a family wants to spend time with each other, the day routinely results in time amidst the hustle and bustle of the museums, shows, and gatherings that generally entertain audiences in South Jersey. The perception that there is no place to slow down in South Jersey, however, is wrong. There lies, tucked away in Burlington County, historic Batsto Village-a location that combines not only scenery, but also history.

The origins of the Village date back to 1766, when Charles Read built the Batsto Iron Works. The building, which was erected along the Batsto River, was situated conveniently near natural resources used to produce iron; in fact, the Batsto River proved to be a goldmine of resources: wood from the forests became fuel and water from the river became power for manufacturing. By 1773, Batsto Iron Works had changed hands. John Cox, the Philadelphia businessman who now laid claim to the Iron Works, began manufacturing supplies for the Continental Army. While the endeavors proved successful, manager Joseph Ball took ownership of the business in 1779.

Batsto Iron Works stayed in the Ball family for the next century. During this period of ownership, iron production significantly diminished and the factory became home to glassmaking facilities. Though the Iron Works was particularly known for its fine window glass, this business too eventually declined.

The most famous era of the factory (and the evolution of the Batsto Village) soon followed. Joseph Wharton, a Philadelphia businessman, came into ownership of Batsto Iron Works in 1876. He not only purchased additional properties surrounding the facility, but also made improvements on those that already existed. These buildings, which were eventually known as the Wharton properties, became an integral part of the history of Batsto Village.

New Jersey has held claim to the Wharton properties since 1950. Today, they are considered a New Jersey Historic Site and are listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.

Within Burlington County’s Batsto Village, there are a number of buildings that contribute individually to the unique, natural history of the location. As perhaps one of the oldest pieces of the Batsto Village puzzle, the sawmill has stood for over 200 years. Though the original water-powered equipment was replaced in 1882 by Joseph Wharton, the architecture remains a critical part of history. The lumber business proved to be among the most profitable for Batsto Village, particularly in the 19th century. Currently, Batsto Village offers sawmill demonstrations on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, at various times during the afternoon.

Batsto Mansion was renovated by Joseph Wharton into the Italianate style of architecture, which reflects the prosperity and elegance of the 1800s. Visitors are welcome to tour the mansion, a sprawling 32-room building that sits at the heart of the Village. Batsto Village offers tours solely highlighting the mansion; these tours showcase fourteen rooms, including the parlors, dining room, library, and bedrooms. Tours are available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning at 11:30am. Please call 609-561-0024 to confirm. Tour tickets are $2 for ages 12 & up; $1 for ages 6 to 11; under age 6 are free. Please stop at the Visitor Center upon arrival.

Among the most spectacular parts Batsto Village is the relatively modern Nature Center, which allows visitors to learn about the natural beauty that surrounds the location. At the Nature Center, visitors can learn about the wildlife and plantlife that comprise the Pinelands ecosystem. Not only can visitors partake in programs and view displays, but they can also actively enjoy nature through guided canoe trips in the Batsto Lake. The balance of natural and material come alive on the canoe trip--after all, the Lake’s being a source of iron ore was among the main reasons that Charles Read chose the location for Batsto Iron Works.

Batsto Village offers history buffs another treat--the post office. As one of the four oldest operational post offices in the United States, Batsto’s post office served the community for many years. It closed in 1870 due to a failing economy, but opened a little over a decade later. It again closed and reopened in the 20th century. In use since 1966, the historical structure was never assigned a zip code. Visitors are able to become part of American history Wednesday through Sunday at the post office, which highlights the development into the modern communication system.

Visitors can partake in walking or guided tours of the village, which pass through its many components, including the cottages. In today’s world of hectic job schedules and massive bills, it is difficult to imagine that the early Batsto employees lived so simply. A single-family home had three rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs, along with an attic. High-priced modern homes were not a part the lives of the hardworking class of people who dwelled in Batsto Village--rent was only two dollars a month in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Along the tour, visitors can also view any number of buildings that make up the Batsto Village, including the farms, the gristmill, the blacksmith shop, the ice house, and the iron furnace, among others. Each edifice contains its own unique history which undoubtedly altered as the Batsto Village changed hands throughout its history. To fully learn about each component of the historic site, visitors are encouraged to call five days in advance to schedule a tour guided by Resource Interpretive Specialists. School groups are welcome.

Self-guided walking tours are available during the Village’s hours, from 9am to 4pm. During this tour, visitors follow a map, available at the Visitors Center, which contains numbered buildings and their descriptions.

Events
Batsto hosts a number of special events throuhout the year. Click here for their schedule.

Hours

The Visitor Center is open daily, from 9am-4pm.
The Museum & Museum Shop is open daily, from 9am-4pm.
The Post Office is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 9am-4pm.
Saw Mill Demonstrations are held Saturdays, Sundays & Holidays at 1:30pm, 2pm and 2:30pm, starting May 25
The Nature Center is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 9am to 4pm; open 7 days a week beginning May 25.

Batsto Village has a lot to offer the fast-paced lifestyle of a South Jersey resident. The world, though seemingly in perpetual motion, can stand still in history through the Batsto Village. For more information, call 609-561-0024 or go to batstovillage.org.

Updated 9/16/15

Photo from batstovillage.org.

© SouthJersey.com 2015. All rights reserved. This article or parts thereof may not be reprinted or reproduced by any other party without the express written consent of SouthJersey.com. For more information, please call 856-797-9910.

For an extensive list of South Jersey Attractions, with links to websites and other information, check out our South Jersey Attractions page.

For more South Jersey History, visit our South Jersey History page.

Article continues below

advertisement
Nancy-Kowalik-Real-Estate-Group-728x90-0121

Related Articles




Author: Meredith Bajgier, R. Cohen

Archives


In Good Health

2017 Executives of the Year

Superior Sandwiches

Raise a Glass

Impressive New South Jersey BBall HOF class

The Promise of Public Transportation

Empowering the Next Generation

Singles: January 3

River Revitalization

Spreading Cheer

Singles: December 27

Winter Retreat

Are Holiday Parties Back in Favor?

Support System

Singles: December 20


More...