Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mauricetown: a Victorian seafaring town

I was once at an event in Cumberland County where a woman complained to a local that it had been a long trip from, as she pronounced it, "Moooorstown." What ensued was the New Jersey version of "Who's on First," with one person thinking what she said was perfectly logical, but others getting a totally different meaning from her words.

It took some time to determine that she was, indeed, from Morristown (Morris County) rather than Moorestown (Burlington County) or Mauricetown (Cumberland County). Depending on who you talk to and where you are geographically, they can all sound the same, but they're distinctly different. 

Mauricetown NJ Victorian houseI stopped in Mauricetown on my recent Down Jersey jaunt because I'd heard its streets were lined with vintage homes, many of them meticulously restored. According to The WPA Guide to 1930's New Jersey, Mauricetown was home to nearly 90 seafaring captains between 1846 and 1915. That's still quite evident today, as many of the Victorian, Georgian and saltbox style houses boast signs stating their original owners' names. The town is nestled against the banks of the Maurice River, a convenience the sailors must have appreciated after long voyages away from family and friends.

At its peak, the community hosted major shipbuilding activity and contributed significantly to the region's oystering industry. Schooners were a regular sight along the river, but today, all signs of commercial activity on the Maurice appear to be gone. Even a bridge at the end of one of the main streets no longer stands, replaced, instead, by a picturesque park with a couple of benches.

Mauricetown NJ churchThere's not a lot going on in town these days, beyond the normal comings and goings and a few antique stores, so I just took a drive around to snap a few photos. I parked the car to take some pictures of a beautiful white church, and a man across the street suggested I come into his yard for a better shot. He introduced himself as the pastor and asked if I was in town for that evening's Christmas house tour. Residents decorate their homes and some of the other vintage buildings for the holidays every year as a fundraiser for the town's historical society. I was planning to be back on the road home by the time it started, but I'll definitely keep it in mind for next year.

Some of the homes are less well-kept than the others, and one, in particular caught my eye. More accurately, the realtor sign in the yard caught my eye. It needs some work, but it's a nice size, four bedrooms, two baths with a little bit of land to boot. When I got home, I checked to find it's on the market for less than $180,000.

I have to say: it's tempting. 

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