Cranberry Packing and Storage Building

Since the goal of cranberry villages was to produce, pack, and sell cranberries, the cranberry packing and storage building was an important part of each settlement. J.J. White designed Whitesbog’s cranberry packing and storage building, which was the largest in New Jersey, and built in three sections between 1890 and 1900.

Two separate fires destroyed the first two sections of the building, one in the 1960s, the other in the 1970s. The last section collapsed after a major snowstorm in 2006. It was in this section that they stored the cranberries that had not yet been shipped—sometimes even as late as Easter. Although most of the building has been destroyed, visitors can still see the firewalls that separated each section in case of fire (and proved useful in the 1950s and ’60s!).

Barrel Storage Warehouse

The Barrel Storage House is a three bay by seven bay one-story timber framed structure on a concrete foundation. It was built in its entirety at one time. The date of its construction, 1911, is incised in the concrete foundation on the east end of the south side.

The Barrel Storage House is a testimony to J.J. White’s efficiency and forethought. The air circulation provided by the slatted floors and the sixteen doors made this building suitable for a secondary use: that of overflow storage of packed cranberries during years of abundant harvest.

When first constructed, the Barrel Storage House was connected to the Barrel Factory by an open platform, which carried tracks for a cart, used to move the barrels into storage. These tracks are the ones that continued down the center aisle. The cart could be halted at any individual pair of bays. Barrels were placed in the bays for storage, and when needed, removed through the fourteen exterior doors, one for each bay. Wagons backed up to the doors; the floor of the building was approximately level with the bed of a wagon. Chalk notations on the separating arches of the first ten bays indicate the number of barrels stored by the amount of spaced filled. The number on the tenth bent is 6900 barrels. The last three bents have no notations. This building will be the home of the Whitesbog Agricultural Museum currently under construction.

Barrel Factory / Community Hall

When J.J. White began his cranberry enterprise, barrels were the usual storage containers. Cases and boxes were not used because of the scarcity of nails, and liquid merchandise could not be stored in them. During the “off” season new barrels were made and oldbarrels were repaired by itinerant coopers who traveled from farm to farm. A cooper was a person skilled in making barrels and like containers. These experts were assisted by some of the farm’s own permanent workers.

The barrel –making operation took place close to the Packing House, the point of use for the barrels, and a rail link between the Barrel Factory and the Barrel Storage House allowed barrels to be transported from the point of manufacture to the point of storage with little expenditure of labor.

When first constructed, the Barrel Factory had only one room, the present south room. This section has a brick foundation. Construction on the barrel factory began in March, 1907. In January, 1915, a ventilator was installed in the roof of the Barrel Factory over the location of the steam chest used in barrel manufacturing. In 1916, a 24-foot addition was constructed on the north side of the Barrel Factory. The change in foundation material from brick to concrete indicated on the exterior the demarcation line between the original construction and the addition. Concrete was presumably used for heavy equipment.

About 1925, J. J. White, Inc., following the general trend in the cranberry industry, began shipping cranberries in boxes instead of barrels. This made the manufacturing function of the Barrel Factory obsolete. In 1937 the building was converted to a Community Hall by removing the platform linking it with the Barrel Storage House, filling in the opening in the wall on the west where the platform connected with the building, finishing the walls of the original large room with fiberboard and constructing a fiberboard ceiling.

After the changes, the building was used as a community gathering place in the evening. Storytellers and musicians among the workers provided evening entertainment. Dances were also held and occasionally movies were shown. The shuffleboard pattern painted on the east side of the main room is existing evidence of this phase of the building’s life.

Power House

The power house originally housed the generators that ran White’s berry-sorting machines until rural electric power came to Whitesbog. The building was then used as the company office; today, the Pinelands Antiques Engine Association uses it as a museum.

 

Workers’ Cottages

By 1895, Whitesbog’s cranberry production had grown beyond what the local population could support for harvest, so it became necessary to bring in new workers and provide them with housing. Thus, Whitesbog built the four cottages stretching from the barrel factory to the general store. In each of these small cottages, which lacked electricity, running water and plumbing, heating, and kitchens, lived four cramped families. Thankfully, these houses were for seasonal, rather than year-round, use.

As the years went by and fewer workers were needed, Whitesbog transformed three of the cottages into year-round two-family homes, complete with kitchens and bathrooms; the fourth became a single-family home. This cottage, building #12, located next to the General Store, currently serves as an office and welcoming station for visitors to Whitesbog. The cottage immediately next door was completely renovated in 2015, and the cottage next to that one is decorated as it might have been in the 1920s.

 

Company Store and Post Office

The company store served Whitesbog’s residents and workers from 1899 until the late 1960s. In 1924, in order to accommodate need for more space as well as a post office, Whitesbog moved the building around the corner, next to the water tower and pump house, and built the larger store that you see today. In November 1923, when blueberry correspondence and advertisement created sufficient mail volume for a third class office, the post office opened; it continued to function until January 1957. The Whitesbog Preservation Trust has since refurbished the store, and it is currently open on the weekends as a general store, selling foods and trinkets that reflect Whitesbog cranberry culture.

 

Water Tower, Compressor-Generator House, and Filter Building

The water storage and fire suppression systems were installed at Whitesbog in 1914. The water tower still stands today. Compressed air pumped water up into the tank and provided adequate pressure for domestic drinking water as well as fire suppression. Because of the high amount of iron in the water here, the filter building housed a large sand filter to clean the drinking water.

 

Workshop and Vehicle Shed

The company workshop served as both a combination repair garage and a machine shop for making specialized equipment. It included a lathe, drill press, air compressor, and gas welder, and a gasoline generator powered it. This generator, along with the one in the pump house, supplied power to the whole village until rural electrification reached Whitesbog in 1937.

In addition to Whitesbog’s vehicles and wagons, the vehicle shed also stored various tools and equipment.

 

Reconstructed Icehouse/Garage

The icehouse was built years before electricity came to Whitesbog. It was used to store blocks of ice, which were cut by hand with ice saws each winter from flooded bogs, ponds, and reservoirs. After electricity reached the village, this building became an extra garage. Without proper maintenance over the years, it deteriorated until 2007, when it was razed and rebuilt entirely.

 

The Two-Story House

It is thought that Dr. Fredrick Coville, who worked with Elizabeth White on the cultivation of the blueberry, lived here. It was later occupied by members of the White family as well as many year round workers. Today, the Trust leases it as a private residence.

 

Schoolhouse/Residence

This building served as a one-room schoolhouse between 1908 and 1918, when transportation to bring workers’ children to Browns Mills schools became available. During these ten years, the first floor served as the schoolhouse, and the second floor served as the teacher’s home. After 1918, it became a home for year-round employees. The inside has been renovated and serves as another private residence. The outside still looks as it did when it was a schoolhouse.

 

Small Bungalows

These small bungalows across the road from each other were private homes for year-round workers.

 

Cranberry Research Substation/Sears Catalog House

This building was erected in 1918 as the first cranberry substation in the state and was maintained by a special appropriation of the state legislature. Under the direction of entomologist Charles S. Beckwith, the substation’s initial focus was the study of insects injurious to cranberries. In 1927, the substation’s functions were transferred to a larger facility in Pemberton, and workers of J.J. White Inc. occupied this bungalow. As a Sears catalog house, this “Sunburst” model was shipped by train to Upton Station and then assembled at Whitesbog. The look and feel of this building is quite different from the typical cedar-sided structures throughout the village of Whitesbog—in fact, the studs in the walls of this building are much smaller than typical and provide little support. Still, the building has stood for nearly 100 years.

 

Boarding House

The boarding house, on the north edge of the Village Commons, was used to accommodate single female blueberry packers, who were often schoolteachers using their summers to work at Whitesbog. It is now divided into two separate private dwellings and is the only building at Whitesbog that has been occupied continuously since it opened.

 

Field House and Paymaster’s Office

This 12×16 building is thought to be the oldest in the village. Pickers were paid here during harvest. They were issued a ticket for each box of berries picked in the field and turned in these tickets for cash on payday.

 

Superintendent’s House

This house was built circa 1912 for J.J. White’s superintendent, Ivins Horner, and his family.

 

Emlen Darlington/Entomologist’s House

This home was built in 1914 for Emlen and Mary Darlington. Mary was J.J. White’s second daughter, and Emlen was an entomologist and medical doctor. They lived here for a short while, while Emlen was working for J.J. White Inc., but they moved to New Lisbon, from where Darlington continued to work. Since the Darlingtons moved out, many of the year-round workers have lived here. Today, the Whitesbog Preservation Trust leases it as another private residence.

 

Suningive

Built in 1923, Suningive was the home of Elizabeth White, J.J. White’s oldest daughter. She spent her life working at Whitesbog and is best known for the cultivation of the highbush blueberry. The first floor of the house was intended for the company business office, but was never used as such. The second and third floors were living quarters that provided cool ventilation during the summer and a wonderful view of the bogs. Surrounding the house is Elizabeth’s garden of native plants, which attracted visitors from around the world. The residence has been restored and houses the Whitesbog archives. It is open for scheduled tours.

 

The Villages of Florence and Rome

By 1913, White employed 450 workers from September to mid-October. Several large structures that housed 8 to 10 families each were constructed in 2 separate satellite villages to accommodate the pickers and their families. These very confined living quarters were located on the outskirts of Whitesbog Village for the use of these seasonal workers. There were community cooking sheds, a medical dispensary and a day-care building in Florence village. After the farm was sold to the state in 1967, the state deemed the villages fire hazards and razed them.

An investigation of pickers’ living conditions by The Public Education and Child Labor Association took place in 1915. In their report, Rome was described as containing:

  • Five large buildings and a house for the boss including an assembly hall
  • Several toilets separated by sex
  • Three houses with 20 rooms each, with between three and nine people per room

Florence was described as containing:

  • Two artesian wells for drinking
  • 8 two-room houses, as well as a house for the boss
  • Several toilets separated by sex

There seems also to have been some consideration given to the size of families when assigning housing. On average, families received a room for every two family members. Families of three or four members lived in two room houses. One family of ten had five rooms.

Although conditions were admittedly unpleasant, especially in Rome, the housing was above average. In fact, labor authorities described Florence as an exemplary model of workers’ villages. Rome was the older and thus more dilapidated of the two satellite villages but still superior to most workers’ villages found elsewhere.