STAFFORD TOWNSHIP— Historians and local officials are working to preserve a piece of a centuries old water tank at the Heritage Park in the township.
Five footings—each weighing in at 4,000 pounds— now sit in the township’s Heritage Park, resembling a modern day Stonehenge.
Adding the water tower footings to Heritage Park was another step by officials to use history to draw traffic to the downtown area. according to Councilman Henry Mancini, township liaison to the local Historical Society said
The footings were used to support the 35,000 gallon Manahawkin Water Tower, which was built in 1886 as part of the Pennsylvania Railroad extension from the Tuckerton Railroad to Long Beach Island. Until recently, the massive blocks had been resting in the woods adjacent to Route 72 since the water tower was disassembled around 1940, township Historian Tim Hart said.
As a child, Hart was fascinated by the footings and the old railroad ties that spoke of the township’s past. He spent 10 years trying to get the footing moved to a prominet location so all could see them.
“In today’s world people are looking for authenticity that’s a trend in museums for to be able to be able to touch something from the past really means a lot to people,” Hart said.
Last weekend, the footings were unveiled during the township’s Founders Day celebration at Heritage Park, which is quickly becoming the gathering point for artifacts of the township’s history. The park is also home to the 1872 railroad station, a 1922 railroad car, a diamond railroad crossing track from where the Pennsylvania Railroad and Jersey Central Railroad crossed and 1886 work shed from when the railroad was built to Long Beach Island around 1886.
Township Mayor John Spodofora said township Public Works crews moved the stones to Heritage Park.
“It’s a big part of the history of the town. Without question I mentioned this on Founder’s Day that it’s about reflecting back and all the people that were here before us. There is a very rich history of this town. When you go back and look at the sawmills, gristmills and the train that was here this is a pretty amazing place,”
“We’re looking into building an ornamental water tower at the footings. This wouldn’t be an operating tower,” Spodofora said. “I think it would be really cool. Preserving these artifacts and sharing it with the public is very important.”
The railroad was built partially as a way for summer crowds and vacationers from Philadelphia to access Long Beach Island in the early years to visit landmarks like the former Baldwin Hotel owned by the Baldwin family. Before the railroad was added, the only way to access the island was by boat.
In 1935 a storm washed away the railroad trestle that went to Long Beach Island and six months later the Tuckerton Railroad went bankrupt. Another railroad company purchased the Tuckerton Railroad and operated it for a short time, but by 1940 all the pieces of the railroad were taken away.