Introduction: Every once in a while, on a certain popular collectibles website, I stumble across something that is
extraordinary and of special significance to me and my collecting interests. Well, it has just happened to me recently and permit me to share the startling find along with a successful winning bid for a real photo Stone Harbor post card that has in my view a very interesting story.
So here’s where our story begins!
A man by the name of AUGUST JUERGENS of Philadelphia and Stone Harbor sits down and personally pens a couple of messages on a picture post card to friends or family back on September 23, 1908. That’s 115 years ago and ordinarily trying to safeguard or preserve a fragile, paper object for that length of time is unusual in and of itself and certainly not easy to accomplish.
Think about the prospect of you or anyone being tasked with the assignment of trying to guarantee the preservation of something fragile and perishable for even 25 or 50 years, not to mention for 115 years. That’s certainly not an easy assignment under any circumstances. The chances are rather slim. But as luck or good fortune would have it, I have become the recipient and custodian of such a photographic card that went through the mailstream more than a century ago and has so far survived the test of time and circumstances.
August Juergens in 1908 when he wrote and mailed this very post card was just 36 years of age. In fact it might even be said that August was of considerable or substantial means because he not only built and owned the imposing summer cottage shown on the front of this post card, but he even built and owned a similar sized cottage immediately next door. Both large structures were located on First Avenue at the corner of 88th Street which was considered prime real estate in Stone Harbor.
Interestingly, please note the brief 3-line hand-written note that August wrote and even signed his name to on the face of this post card: “This little house / is one of ours in / Stone Harbor. (signed) August”.
That being said and at this point, let’s flip the post card over and see what the message/address side reveals. Postmarked on SEP 23, 1908 at Philadelphia’s Fairhill Postal Station, this item was mailed and bound for its recipient named “Willy” residing in Port Richmond, Staten Island, New York. Another thing is that someone, likely a stamp collector, has soaked off the 1-cent postage stamp from the upper right corner. Turning our attention now to the message, we see that the brief hand-written note is written in German. Essentially, the translation from German to English goes something like this: “Phila. Sept. 23, 1908 – Dear Willy & Martha, I have received your letter. Hopefully your letter will follow in about 3 weeks. Yours, August & Maria”.
With the kind assistance of my friend and Stone Harbor resident Graham Hueber who also happens to be a Stone Harbor afficionado, a search for background information about August Juergens was conducted on the Ancestry.com web platform. Here are some of the important facts that Graham gleaned from that search and what was revealed indicated that August was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1872 and that both his parents Henry Juergens and Magdalene Wolelarb were also German-born. We do not know when the Juergens family immigrated to the United States. In 1897 when he was 25 years old, his spouse was listed as Mary Juergens and they lived at 1030 S. 9th Street in Camden, N.J. His occupation at that time was listed as a machinist. Over the next few years August went on to become the President of the Hottmann & Juergens Machine Company at 1360 Ridge Avenue, North Philadelphia.
According to his obituary, August Juergens was a member of the Masonic Vaux Lodge, No. 393, F. & A. M. of Philadelphia. We have learned that he died at his summer home (pictured in the aforementioned post card) in Stone Harbor at the age of 42 after having contracted pneumonia. It was indicated that August was survived by his wife Cornelia Juergens. However, no mention was made of any children in his family. His funeral was held at his primary North Philadelphia residence at 4803 Old York Road. August was laid to rest on November 18, 1914 in Philadelphia, Pa. Unfortunately, he only lived for less than 6 more years after his writing the featured post card. To us today in 2023, it might be indeed a shame that August Juergens died at the age of 42 years, 8 months, 17 days as it would seem he should have had the promise of much more life ahead of him. However, keep in mind that even at the turn of the 20th century life expectancy at birth was only 46 years for men born in the United States. For August being born in Germany in 1872, statistically he could expect to live only to around 38-39 years of age. One of the major reasons contributing to the lower life expectancy rates back then was due to considerably higher rates of infant mortality and the lack of prenatal care.
In conclusion, 3 vintage post cards will now be shown depicting the 2 large Victorian cottages built by August Juergens that were popularly referred to as the Juergens and Herbert Cottages. Both were built under the free-lot plan that was offered through the Stone Harbor Bond Plan. The image immediately above was published around 1910-12 and was printed specifically for the purpose of advertising and promoting the progress including housing and business development that were occurring in the early formative years of Stone Harbor. As you can see the surface of the wide street was gravel and sewers, sidewalks and curbs had also been installed as part of the improvements that were provided free to owners.
Next is a lovely color rendition of the Juergens and Herbert Cottages published in post card form circa early 1920s. We can see that sometime after August’s death, a third floor was added to the cottage about the time the structure was re-purposed and offered apartments for rent. This was when there was a boardwalk and the cottage was advertised as being conveniently located just a block from the boardwalk and the beach.
The classic red and white striped awnings over the front porch of the Juergens cottage surely added some shade on bright sunny days. The cedar stained shingles on the first, second and third floor exterior walls were certainly characteristic and quite popular at the Jersey Shore in the era of the very early 1900s. The grounds and impressive landscaping as we can observe are lush and in full bloom while the vintage automobiles certainly add a nice touch to the overall scene. Look at those prominent turrets featured on both buildings and of course there were the large wraparound open porches which afforded opportunities for socializing by sitting and rocking on chairs especially in the early evening hours at the end of day. Most likely playing card games and board games, sewing or knitting as well as conversing were common activities in those days when people were on their porches when weather permitted. That’s generally what people did when there were no TVs and no iPhones.
This last circa 1930 post card provides us with a slightly different vantage point for viewing these 2 fine cottages. In fact, sometime in the 1920s and 1930s, the Juergens cottage under different ownership assumed different names including at one point being called “Chateau Cornelia”. Since then and for the record, the two buildings were demolished in 2018 and 2022 respectively and replaced by a single dwelling costing $11 million.
As we wrap up this article, post cards such as these that we have just seen take us back in time and enable us to have a momentary glimpse into what was actually going on and happening in Stone Harbor. Such documentation provides us with a wealth of information and enhances our knowledge and understanding of the seashore resort community we have all come to know and love, Stone Harbor – “The Seashore At Its Best”!
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