Family Photos – Sharing Local History

Snowy Street – 1955 [Gantz]

As you enjoy the holidays with family and friends, and reminisce about past events, please also look around – and ask around – for photos and other materials that we can share before they are forgotten and lost.

Here are a few examples of the incredible value of everyday family snapshots in recovering information to help illustrate and understand now-lost parts of our local history.

You may think you just have some photos of everyday life, like the town in the snow, or local events like a Memorial Day parade, or undistinguished scenes without well-known buildings. But these images can show more in the backgrounds, providing glimpses of people and places that were previously thought to be lost.

Snowy Day – Jones Electric Co. – 1950s

Jones Elec. ad [HH 3/4/1954]

One reason people took family snapshots was to record snowy scenes around the town. These photos come from collections of local images that Peter Gantz has been sharing, and show two scenes from the mid 1950s that the family photographed to show the snow accumulation around Greenwood Avenue and Center Street in Hopewell.

And in the backgrounds is a now-lost business, Jones Electric Company, which operated at 7 Center Street from the 1940s to the 1960s, after previously being located at 8 and 16 Seminary Avenue in the 1930s.

The brick Jones building remains, but is now a residence, and the distinctive large display window on the east side of the store has been replaced.

Jones Elec. towards Center St. – 1955 [Gantz]
Jones Elec. from Greenwood – 1954 [Gantz]

The 1955 black and white photo shows the display window from the adjacent property, with the “Electric” name visible in top right of the window. The view is facing northwest across Center Street, with the additional Jones garages across the street (also still standing, although modified into a residence).

The 1954 color photo shows the side of the brick store building, when looking west from Greenwood Avenue, with the display window facing up the street.

So these are our only views of Jones Electric, and actually the only views of Center Street through most of the 1900s.

Memorial Day Parade – Rorer’s Hardware Store – 1940s-60s

Rorer’s ad [HH 12/3/1930]

Another source for interesting photos are Memorial Day parades. Families are at the parades taking snapshots of their kids and other groups marching in the parade, but we also can see changed and lost places in the backgrounds.

These photos come from a collection of assorted snapshots that were passed down from the Wyckoff family.

On the right side of both photos is Rorer’s Hardware Store at 31 West Broad Street (now the HomeFront Pop-Up Shop), with the bubble-head gas pumps by the street.

Plus on the left is a house which is now gone, and replaced by a parking lot.

Rorer’s Hardware, 31 West Broad, Hopewell – 1940s [Wyckoff]
Rorer’s Hardware, 31 West Broad – Hopewell Memorial Day Parade – 1960s [Wyckoff]

The black and white photo does not have any writing on it, but the style of the cars put the date as around 1940. The person who took the photo probably was focusing on the horse on the streets of the town of Hopewell, but again we are more interested in the buildings. The signage on the front of the building is not readable, but you can see the gas pumps by the street.

Earlier, this building was Ege’s hardware store, and the building on the left was the Ege residence – a lost building that is now a parking lot.

The second color photo was taken at a 1960s Memorial Day parade, and also shows the store and house in the background, viewed from further down the street. You can clearly see the Rorer’s sign on the building, and almost can make out the lettering on the gas pumps.

So the slightly out of focus and overexposed black and white image actually is the best view that we have of the full Rorer’s building in the mid-1900s.

Undistinguished Scenes – Andrew Wyckoff Meat Market – 1900s-10s

Wyckoff – Store [TET 3/14/1902] – Rent [Tr Times Adv 9/24/1922]

The buildings that we think of as historic in Hopewell Valley towns are typically from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and were built by the more prosperous members of the communities as the towns were growing with the arrival of the railroads.

There were other more humble dwellings in these towns, but these are long gone from current memory, and were not the typical subjects of photographers in their time that we would see in old photos and postcards.

But here are some Wyckoff and Gantz family photos of Andrew Wyckoff’s Meat Market / butcher shop. It’s basically a one-room shack with a rear extension. There are people hanging around out front, but not much around these buildings to provide more context.


Wyckoff Meats early 1900s [Wyckoff]
Wyckoff Meats c1920 [Gantz]

The first photo is undated, but later than the early 1900s. There’s nothing much visible around the building.

The second photo is from around the 1920s, with more people in front of the building, a clearer view of the sign along the front, and another building next door.

Harry Cox outside his Shaving Parlor (c1907) [HVHS]

But who was Andrew Wyckoff, and where was the Meats store? According to newspaper reports, Andrew Wyckoff bought the butcher business of Frank Naylor in 1902, which was at the corner of Greenwood Avenue and Model Avenue. Wyckoff operated the butcher business into the 1920s, and then advertised the shop for rent in 1922.

A note on the back of the first photo agrees, stating that Wyckoff’s butcher shop was on the corner of Greenwood and Model.

However, the photos do not appear to match a corner location, and the second photo, and other related photos from the 1910s, clearly show the building on Railroad Avenue, near the intersection with Blackwell Avenue.

Unfortunately, the contemporaneous maps do not provide a consistent timeline for buildings at these locations. These corners of Greenwood and Railroad had new construction by 1927, and were filled in with almost all the current buildings by 1935. So we do not yet have a clear story for Wyckoff’s market.

We have a few other photos of these kinds of shack-like buildings. One example is the Harry Cox barber shop on Seminary Avenue, which was built around 1909 and lasted until the late 1950s, when the lack of foundations required that it be demolished. Again, we have one photo of the Cox shop, and no reports on when it was demolished.

So these kinds of views of less distinguished buildings are particularly useful in helping to understand life in our area around the early 1900s.

Please do contact us if you have – or know of – more information or materials about Hopewell area local history.

More on Information from Local Photos

Even prosaic family snapshots of everyday life can be tremendously useful in understanding and illustrating local history, as they show more in the backgrounds, providing glimpses of people and places that were previously through to be lost.

Here are examples of the kind of information we can find from photo collections, that have been shared by several local families.

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