Just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia lies a small borough where the blocks are lined with gaslights and signs of local history can be found at every turn.
This community is Riverton, a quaint municipality in Burlington County, New Jersey with a population of less than 3,000 people and an area of less than one square mile. Despite its small size, Riverton is home to a variety of places to shop, eat, and explore, and the community is easy to navigate on foot or by bicycle.
The borough was founded at the site of a 120-acre farm back in 1851 by nine businessmen “as a river resort for wealthy Philadelphians,” according to The New York Times. Over the next two decades, summer cottages and Victorian mansions were constructed throughout the community, which was connected to the City of Brotherly Love by steamboats and ferries. Eventually, the borough transformed itself from a resort to a year-round community, though local institutions like the Riverton Yacht Club have remained.
Today, visitors can still walk the streets of Riverton and see the historic 19th-century homes, nearly all of which remain in private hands. Historic plaques describing the history of this corner of Burlington County can be found throughout the borough, including signs at the sites of the 1895 Riverton Bicycle Track and the Riverton Steamboat Landing. Plus, the community is especially picturesque at this time of year when many of the local Victorian mansions as well as the 165-year-old Riverton Free Library cottage are decorated for the holiday season.
Although it is a primarily residential borough, Riverton features several distinctive venues for those who are visiting the community. For example, along the waterfront, the 1851 Caleb Clothier House, also known as the Riverbank Manor, offers group tours to those who make an appointment. The home is believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad shortly after being constructed.
Nearby, visitors can also take a stroll down Bank Avenue along the Delaware River near the Riverton Yacht Club, the oldest of its kind along the waterway. Especially at sunset, there are scenic views from a small park at the corner of Bank and Linden Avenues of Philadelphia’s Tacony and Holmesburg neighborhoods across the Delaware, as well as the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.
The downtown area of Riverton is small, though there are unique businesses such as Gypsy Fish at 600 Main Street, an antique store and studio that offers workshops for adults such as aroma therapy, felted mitten making, and scarf design. Similarly, around the corner at 531 Broad Street, a BYOB business called Once Upon A Canvas offers public ‘paint and sip’ art classes.
One particularly noteworthy shop in Riverton is The New Leaf Tea Room & Gift Shoppe at 606 Main Street. The business is housed in a former home that was built for Ezra Perkins in 1889 and a former drug store and soda fountain that was built by William Stiles in 1910. Although the buildings were later occupied by a furniture store, today, The New Leaf uses the spaces for theatrical presentations, gift boutiques, and afternoon teas by appointment.
There are multiple other dining options in the heart of the community as well as in neighboring Palmyra, including the Orange Blossom Cafe and Bakery at the corner of Broad and Main Streets, which serves brunch on weekends, Nellie Bly’s Olde Tyme Ice Cream Parlour at 529 Main Street, which offers 34 flavors of ice cream and water ice, and Juanita’s Mexican Cuisine at 517 Howard Street. Plus, a microbrewery could be coming to the borough in the near future.
Riverton is easy to reach from other parts of the state and region, since New Jersey Transit’s River Line light rail, which connects to the PATCO from Center City Philadelphia in Camden and the Northeast Corridor Line from New York in Trenton, stops right in the heart of the community. The River Line costs just $1.60 to ride and runs between two and four times each way per hour, making it easy for visitors to visit several of Burlington County’s other riverfront communities such as Burlington City and Bordentown as well.