“TWO KEY ELEMENTS IN THE RISE OF STONE HARBOR, N.J.”
A reasonable place to begin any quest to learn about the genesis of Stone Harbor as a seashore resort community lies in the mechanisms that were instituted to fulfill a vision created in the minds of a few prominent business men.
In the late 1890s, three enterprising brothers from Philadelphia formed a business venture called the South Jersey Realty Company (SJRC). Howard, David and Reese Risley envisioned a thriving coastal town on an undeveloped tract of land popularly referred to as Seven Mile Island located in Cape May County.
The Risley Brothers set into motion a plan to transform the barrier island of sand dunes, wide expansive beaches and salt marsh at Seven Mile Beach into a popular vacation resort. Some folks actually referred to this new resort as being “Philadelphia’s Seashore Suburb”.
Perhaps the question to ask at this point is two-fold: (1) “Just how did the Risleys initiate and implement the task of building a New Stone Harbor and (2) how did the Risleys manage most importantly to provide people easy
access to the island in the first place?” Confronting these two elements will be the key to their success.
Upon the formation of the SJRC in 1907, Howard, David, and Reese Risley developed a clever marketing plan to lure investors to purchase bonds in exchange for free lots of land at Stone Harbor. The trick was to get people interested and then establish a means for them to actually go to lower portion of the island to see for themselves the real potential and opportunities being offered. However, getting potential investors there was the first hurdle.
At this time an interesting phenomenon was taking place and literally sweeping across our American society. That phenomenon was Americans embracing what became the immensely popular use and mailing picture post cards. It did not take long before these little messengers or couriers called post cards became very useful to the Risley Brothers as they used these cards for the purpose of advertising their venture and generating interest. Thus over the first couple of years the brothers using these promotional post cards mailed for just 1-cent postage were able to show pictorially the progress and the developments taking place in Stone Harbor due to their great plan. The post cards also served to enable interested persons to make inquiries and seek further information about this vision to create the resort called Stone Harbor. In addition to using post
cards, the SJRC bombarded the public in the Philadelphia area with newspaper advertising and offered potential investors with free excursion trips to the shore to see for themselves what was happening at this “up and coming” seashore resort. There are even numerous post card images showing the throngs of people who took advantage of those free excursions and visited Stone Harbor for themselves with an eye on the promise of future development. Those post cards will be presented at another time.
It became apparent that a very important part of this early development plan hinged on providing a means for connecting Stone Harbor with the mainland. Originally, a rail line was proposed but that soon gave way to a more feasible elevated roadway. Built in 1912 and dubbed “The Ocean Parkway” initially and later called “The Stone Harbor Ocean Parkway,” a suitable boulevard was completed, formally dedicated and opened extending from Cape May Court House and making it possible for people to more easily come to the island. And come they did!
Shown here are the fronts and backs of several different post cards all utilized by the SJRC for the sole purpose of promoting Stone Harbor and attaining their goal. While the main theme of all these images is basically the same, each card shown here is somewhat different and represent variations depicting the much talked
about Stone Harbor Ocean Parkway and the numerous modes of transportation that could be used to get to and from Stone Harbor. These cards really do present a pretty picture of the hope and promise of the new resort community and such post cards really were instrumental in fostering the early development of Stone Harbor. With the advent of automobiles, the American public took to the roads and enjoyed opportunities most had only dreamed about just a few years before. Perhaps it can then be said, the rest is history!