Guest Speaker: Mr. Bill Schaal, Chairman of the Batsto Citizens Committee, Inc.
HSH kicks off its new year of membership meetings on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 when Bill Schaal, chairman of the Batsto Citizens Committee, Inc. regales us with tales of the “Wharton Homes of the Gilded Age.” Learn more about the connection between the fabulous cottages of Newport and mansions of Philadelphia as associated with the one in our backyard at Batsto.
The Wharton name abounds in Philadelphia. Joseph Wharton was a major industrialist in the region. He owned coal lands in West Virginia and mines in Arizona, Michigan and Nevada, and co-founded the Bethlehem Steel Company among other business enterprises. He believed in the power of education helping to establish Swarthmore College in 1869 and in 1881 gave $100,000 to the University of Pennsylvania to establish what would become the Wharton School, one of the nation’s premier business schools.
Wharton focused his attention upon New Jersey as well, owning land and business interests in Camden as well as North Jersey. In the mid-nineteenth century he began to buy land in the Pinelands, ultimately acquiring 96,000 acres. He purchased Batsto the iron and glass making village nestled in the Pine Barrens in 1876. With this purchase came the house which Wharton renovated in an Italianate style. Wharton pursued a number of agricultural and environmental interests from this region including the proposal to sell water to Philadelphia.
While Wharton’s primary residence was in Philadelphia he also maintained homes in Batsto which is still standing and in Jamestown, Rhode Island, across the bay from the well known Newport Mansions. Joseph Wharton owned Batsto from 1876-1909. Major renovations were done on the Batsto Mansion from 2002-2005 with the house reopening for public tours in 2005. This program features the history of these three houses, and the family and servants that occupied them.
Bill Schaal developed his interest in the history of the Pinelands as a child growing up in the Medford Lakes region. While he spent much of his adult life in other parts of the country Bill returned to the Pinelands and has spent the last seven years extensively researching the Wharton family and their connections to this very special area.
The program will begin at 7:30 pm. Admission for members is free; a $5 donation is requested for non-members.