The Historic Batsto Mansion
31 Batsto Road
Hammonton, NJ 08037
"I Remember A Hundred Lovely Lakes And Recall The Fragrant Breath Of Pine And Fir And Cedar And Poplar Trees. The Trail Has Strung Upon It, As Upon A Thread Of Silk, Opalescent Dawns And Saffron Sunsets."
Historic Batsto Village is located within Wharton State Forest, in the heart of our beloved Pine Barrens in New Jersey. The Village is the site of a former bog iron and glass making industrial center from 1766-1867.
The Village now reflects the agricultural and commercial enterprises that existed up to the late 19th century. Batsto village consists of thirty-three historic buildings and structures including the Batsto Mansion, Gristmill, Sawmill, General Store, Piggery, Workers' Homes and Post Office. On this lovely winter day, I set off on a spectacular journey. Plus, I had the privilege of going on a private tour of the Batsto Mansion with the premiere volunteer coordinator, Wes Hughes himself!
Mr. Hughes has been a volunteer for 2 years. Due to his hard work and dedication, he has helped grow ticket sales and spread the word on the wonders of the Batsto mansion!
In 1766, Charles Reed bought and created the Batsto Ironworks. Bog ore was found in large amounts in the area. His company became a huge success and profits went up, up and away, superman!
In 1773, Colonel John Cox then purchased the Batsto property and it become renowned all over the country for its quality iron products.
During the Revolutionary War, the Village became a manufacturer of munitions for the American army. Batsto was so extremely important that the British attempted to destroy the iron works However, the attempt never came to fruition.
After the war, Batsto Village went up for sale again. In 1784, William Richards purchased the estate and the Richards family ran it for the next 92 years. The Iron Works flourished. They provided munitions for the War of 1812 and cast iron pipes for the waterworks in NYC and other cities. Blacksmiths and lumber production were added to Batsto and they ran almost around the clock. The Village was thriving.
The Richards lived in a big house on the hill at the site you see today. It looked different then. At its height, Batsto had over 1,000 residents. Iron making was so prominent in the Village that they needed at least one acre of trees a day to have enough charcoal for fueling the furnaces!
Over the next few decades, cheaper and better quality iron was starting to be produced in Pennsylvania. Batsto's iron sales plummeted.
In 1846, glass production and panes for gas street lamps were initiated to keep Batsto afloat. However, it didn't quite produce much profit. Glass making and labor was quite intensive and very expensive.
In 1854 Jesse Richards, son of William Richards died. His three sons inherited the large property and their father's debt. The family tried to keep Batsto running. Thomas (William's son) tried to keep it afloat, but in 1867 the Glass Works shut down.
Thirty-thousand acres of land was sold to pay off debts and the population of Batsto was dwindling.
In 1868, all the mills were permanently shut down. In 1874, a fire swept through Batsto it burned baby, burned like the disco inferno (I love that song) and it was deemed a "lost town." Two years later, Joseph Wharton a financier and self-made millionaire purchased Batsto Village.
He upgraded the sawmill with the latest technology and it became
prosperous once again. All the mills were reopened and updated. Wharton began growing cranberries, peanuts, and hay that became quite profitable.
Wharton spent 40,000 dollars to renovate the mansion. The Wharton family only lived in Batsto during the fall and spring. However, he added an addition to the Richards' original house, installed hot and cold running water and a 12,000 gallon tank that received its water from nearby Batsto Lake. Wharton's mansion was also pre-wired with natural gas lines in the case that it would eventually come to Batsto in the future. To this day, it never has.
The mansion has a unique collection, ranging from Wharton's original dining table to his secretary desk. Wharton's daughter also had a dining buffet made from trees surrounding her property in Oak Hill in Philadelphia. It is a very special treat upon your visit.
Wharton also hired a man named Elias Wright to manage the property grounds. Wright also has his little piece in history. He was promoted as Captain and Commander of the 1st black infantry during the Civil War!
There is also a fire tower that was installed by Wharton on top of the mansion to keep watch of his beloved Pine Barrens. It is an amazing view at the top. On a clear day, you can see Atlantic City. However, it is not open to the public. By the time Wharton died in 1909, he owned 96,000 acres. It was managed by a trust company for 45 years. Batsto was frozen in time until the state of NJ purchased it and named it the Wharton State Forest.
Fast forward to this century, close to 3,000 guests took a tour at the Batsto mansion in 2012.
It will reopen this year on Saturday, February 16th. They are always looking for awesome volunteers so that many more visitors can get a chance to walk through the majestic doors of the Batsto Mansion and renowned Post Office.
Batsto Village is a cherished feature in the Pine Barrens. It has become a frequent visit of all generations spanning from young to old. Almost everyone in South Jersey has visited this unique piece of property in their lifetime!
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer
for this treasure in the Pines, please contact:
Batsto Citizens Committee,
Inc. (856) 665-7270 Ext 22.
Or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Until Our Next Adventure, My Friends ~The Yummygal
Dee Howell has a website called, Yummygal's South Jersey. She is out on a daily basis visiting historic and scenic sites of South Jersey and the Delaware Valley. You can follow her journey (she posts new stories at least three times a week) via facebook or at www.yummygal.wordpress.com