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New street signs in St. Leonard's Tract represent its storied history

VENTNOR — The eight blocks that make up the St. Leonard’s Tract neighborhood were mapped out in 1896, making it older than the city itself.

Thirty-year restrictions were written into property deeds in 1898 limiting their usage to single-family homes — no boarding houses or hospitals, no “piggeries” or “bone-boiling factories.”

Anne Corrigan said her house on South Derby Avenue was built in 1910 by a sea captain who married the great-granddaughter of Francis Scott Key, the composer of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” She said her yard has a stable house that dates to 1888.

On Monday, residents of St. Leonard’s Tract unveiled new street signs that seek to reflect that history.

The signs, which cost just less than $7,000 and are meant to represent the historical significance of the city’s oldest neighborhood, were thought up and paid for by the St. Leonard’s Tract Association, according to outgoing President Corrigan, 70, of Derby Avenue.

“We decided that we wanted to do something special to kind of show our little area as being this historic area,” Corrigan said.

About a hundred people were in attendance at the ceremony at Suffolk Avenue and the Boardwalk, said Phyllis Lacca, president of Masterpiece Advertising. Among them was Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to President Donald J. Trump, native of Atco, Camden County, and a homeowner in the neighborhood.

Also present were Commissioner Tim Kriebel and Mayor Beth Holtzman.

“The signs show that the tract, and the people that live in the tract … they’re just classy and classic. Thank you for being part of Ventnor. Thank you for investing in our city. And thank you for being great residents,” Holtzman said before pulling a sheet off the South Derby Avenue sign to cheers.

The signs — black with white decorative details in the corners that nod to the association’s 1921 establishment — are on street corners between Surrey and Cambridge avenues in the eight-block section.

“It’s not a real big area,” Corrigan said, “but it’s all historic homes and they have stories and all kinds of interesting things about them.”

The association, which has about 150 members, each with their own stories about their homes, seeks to preserve the history and layout of the area whenever new developments arise.

“Now people want to tear (houses) down, put up a duplex, put up a fourplex,” Corrigan said. “What we do is we go to the city now and we object to zoning variances when people want to do that because we want to keep this little historic area the way it is. ”

Corrigan approached the city last year about changing the street signs and was given approval, said incoming association President Bill Sill. The first signs went up about two weeks ago, Lacca said.

“The city could not have been more helpful or more enthusiastic,” Sill said at the ceremony. “It’s really a great model for how citizens and the city can work together.”

Holtzman praised the design of the new signs.

“They’re beautiful. They’re very classic-looking. ... They remind you of that old-world charm,” the mayor said. “They have the oldest homes ... and now the signs just complement the homes in the neighborhood.”

Staff Writer Amanda Auble contributed to this report.

Contact: 609-272-7260 Twitter @ACPressColtShaw

Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

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