When one drives along Delaware View Avenue, it is difficult to believe that the Delaware River was once a very popular place for swimming. The water was clear and clean. The beach was extensive and a favorite picnic spot. The Delaware really looked beautiful with its clean, gravel beaches – real ocean sand in many places along the shore.
Trolleys from Camden ferry ran through Gloucester across the trolley trestle from Gloucester to Westville, brought many picnickers to the beach. Around the turn of the century in the evening, several trolleys were coupled together with a band playing in the front car and varied colored lights decorating the cars. These evening trolley rides carried many people to Washington Park.
This great amusement park was located on a bend of the Delaware River between Westville and National Park.
The big attraction was the tobaggon slide which fascinated spectators as well as riders of the boat which skimmed the surface of the artificial lake. It had four tracks which alternated in dispatching boats.
A giant ferris wheel was reputed to be the largest of its kind at that time.
A boat landing extended 1800 feet the Delaware and handled thousands of pleasure-seekers who arrived at the park on excursion boats.
The hub of the park was the old Howell mansion, a relic of the Revolutionary War days. It contained a cafe and restaurant which seated 5,000 persons in its two-floor pavilion. Diners enjoyed the music from the pavillion where such famous people as Victor Herbert and John Phillip Sousa performed.
The park was destroyed by fire at the peak of its popularity. This region suffered a great loss in July of 1913 when the park burned to the ground.
Westville was a popular place for boating as well as swimming. House boats came up the Delaware and turned up Timber Creek to dock. Some stayed all summer and a couple stayed the year round for a few years. The building of the disposal plant at the end of River Drive caused the last families living in houseboats to move elsewhere.
Timber Park was a lovely place with attractive summer homes owned by Philadelphians who came to get away from the heat of the city. Many had their own pleasure boats and enjoyed both swimming and boating from their own docks.
Westville was known for building fine pleasure boats. Many boat clubs were located along Edgewater Avenue. Some remain there today. Many older residents remember the Maragaretta which took groups on evening boat rides out in the Delaware. It was docked on River Drive for many years before it was finally sold.
Lake Martha was also a beautiful spot. Those of us who complain about the flooding of Broadway must realize that were once was a body right were Broadway is today which connected Silver Lake and Lake Martha.
While boating is still very popular on Timber Creek, swimming no longer is permitted any place in Westville due to pollution.