|The Van Sciver Elementary School was constructed in 1957 under Superintendant of Schools John W. Brown and School Board President
Franklin P. Jackson. |
J. B. Van Sciver Furniture Co. was a major national furniture manufacturer located in Camden, New Jersey from the 1880 through to the 1970s. The Van Sciver family owned a 120-acre farm in Haddon Township from 1914 through 1961. As the farm's acreage dwindled and suburban neighborhoods grew, 9 acres were portioned off for the development of the new Van Sciver Elementary School in Haddon Township.
J. B. Van Sciver Sr.
Haddon Township 1935 showing Van Sciver Tract
Joseph Bishop Van Sciver, Sr., founder of the Camden furniture store was born May 14, 1861 in Hainesport, Burlington County, NJ. His ancestors, Richard and Margaret Haines, came to America from England in 1683. Mr. Van Sciver?s father was Abraham Van Sciver (b. 1823; d. 1/23/1871), and his mother was Lydia Haines Bishop (b. 1/4/1836; d. 2/22/1902), daughter of John Bishop, notable co-owner of the first Shot Tower in America, built in 1808 at Carpenter and Front Streets in Philadelphia. Abraham and Lydia had 5 children: Joseph Bishop (b. 5/14/1861; d. 6/19/1943), George Dobbins (d. 5/31/1942), Abraham D., Anna, and Mary Carlile.|
J. B. Van Sciver, Sr. attended the E. A. Stevens School in Camden, and founded his furniture business in a small shop at 210 Federal Street in 1881. He married Flora Groff Kelly, daughter of Samuel and Fanny Kelly, in the First Baptist Church in Camden on June 9, 1892. They had four children: Joseph Bishop, Jr. (b. 8/1/1893; d. 6/26/1981), Lloyd (b. 4/28/1896; d. 9/11/1954), Russell (b. 5/15/1898) and Ruth (b. 4/13/1906).
By 1896 a new seven-story building, designed by prolific Camden architect Thomas Stephen, rose above the streets of Camden, and the J. B. Van Sciver Co. furniture empire grew to included carpet and drapery workrooms. The business expanded further in 1922 with a modern seven-story concrete building and four additional acres. At this time the phrase ?Seven Acres of Furniture? was coined. By 1923 business totaled approximately $4 million annually. In 1932 a Trenton branch was constructed. Sometime later the Collings Carriage Company?s buildings in Camden were acquired to house mattress, woodworking and finishing shops. By 1937 demand for Van Sciver furniture necessitated further expansion into Allentown, PA.
J. B. Van Sciver, Sr. was involved in other enterprises beyond furniture manufacturing. With his brother George, he developed the Hainesport Mining & Transportation Company, and the De Frain Sand Company. These companies eventually consolidated into the Van Sciver Corporation. Mr. Van Sciver was also director of the Knickerbocker Lime Company. By the 1920's these businesses were the premier manufacturers and distributors of building materials in the southern New Jersey/eastern Pennsylvania area, supplying much of the concrete making materials to create the foundations for the new suspension bridge spanning the Delaware River between Camden and Philadelphia (now called the Benjamin Franklin Bridge), as well as materials used in the construction of Philadelphia subways, banks, and office buildings. During World War I, the Van Sciver Corporation supplied sand, gravel and concrete to build the Emergency Fleet Corporation's shipyard on Hog Island in the Delaware River. The Van Sciver Corporation was sold to the Warner Company in 1929, but the furniture making business, J. B. Van Sciver Co. remained.
By this time, a resident of Chestnut Hill, PA, Mr. Van Sciver was a member of numerous organizations, including the Union League, the Franklin Institute, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and was known to have an extensive rare orchid and grape collection on his Chestnut Hill estate. J. B. Van Sciver, Sr. remained active in the furniture business until about a year before his death at 82 on June 19, 1943. He was pre-deceased by his wife in 1937. His children, six grandchildren, and his sister, Anna Van Sciver-Jarvis, survived him. Joseph Bishop Van Sciver, Sr. is remembered as a charitable man of high integrity, with a strong work ethic and modest demeanor. A 1943 Camden Evening Courier newspaper article described him as "the Horatio Alger hero of America's furniture industry and the man who made Philadelphians come to Camden to furnish their homes."
Van Sciver-Jarvis House
The Haddon Township estate and farm had a storied list of noted previous owners including Samuel Vaughn Merrick, first president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and a founder of the Franklin Institute and John Mickle Whitall, a glass-mogul and half of the firm Whithall-Tatum. Van Sciver purchased the property for $15,000 on March 16, 1914 (Deed Book 386, Page 325) from Susanna H. Bodine and S. Lawrence Bodine, her husband. The farmhouse, barn and stables stood at the crest of a hill approximately where the SuperFresh Supermarket in the Westmont Plaza Shopping Center is now, just behind the convent of Paul VI High School. This photograph of the farmhouse was taken in the 1960s. The house was abandoned and condemned, but destroyed by fire in October 1967. Although Joseph Bishop Van Sciver Sr.'s held title he gave use of the land to his sister Annie who lived on the 120-acre Haddon Township farm, along with her husband Ambrose W. Jarvis and their son Clarence. Annie and Ambrose met in chestnut Hill, PA and were married on June 2, 1886 in Camden, NJ. Annie gave birth to Clarence in 1902 in Hainesport, NJ. Many Haddon Township residents remember the Van Sciver/Jarvis farm and produce stand on Cuthbert Boulevard. The property, which included farmland, woods, streams and buildings, encompassed what is presently the grounds of the Haddon Township High School and Middle School, the Rohrer Memorial Library, nearby businesses, the Haddon View Apartments, the Westmont Shopping Plaza, the woods along Mac Arthur Boulevard up to Saddlertown, the Paul VI High School property, and the Van Sciver Elementary School grounds.
After J. B. Van Sciver, Sr. retired, his son Joseph Bishop Van Sciver, Jr. assumed leadership of the furniture corporation. During his tenure the company continued its expansion into new markets with retail outlets in Bala Cynwyd (PA), Wilmington (DE), and Lancaster (PA).
J. B. Van Sciver, Jr. graduated from Chestnut Hill Academy and Drexel Institute (now Drexel University). He began working for his father in 1914, working his way up to the presidency of the company. Mr. Van Sciver married Louise Evaland, an editorial assistant for Antique Automobile magazine. They had one son, J. B. Van Sciver, III. With 56 years dedicated to the Van Sciver furniture business, Mr. Van Sciver retired in 1970. A pilot, yachtsman, and horseman, Joseph Bishop Van Sciver, Jr. was also recognized as one of the country?s pioneer collectors of antique and classic cars. Mr. Van Sciver was one of the founders of the Antique Auto Club of America, a car collector?s club. By 1980 he had over 30 vintage cars stored in his museum and on the grounds of his Chestnut Hill estate. Included in his collection were Stanley Steamers, a Maxwell, a Mercedes Raceabout, a 1902 Pierce-Arrow, a 1900 De Dion-Boutton, electric cars, and a 1909 six-cylinder Winton. The Van Scivers used the Winton as an open touring car, and had a Mercedes Daimler racer for tours and competitions. Their tours in post-war America included trips to Cape May, Atlantic City, Albany, and Detroit. World War I top American flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney, children?s book author Munroe Leaf, and founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company Harvey Firestone were antique automobile collectors, contemporaries and friends of Mr. Van Sciver. Together with an assortment of others, they participated in auto tours and friendly baseball games (umpired by Dale Carnegie).
Joseph Bishop Van Sciver, Jr. died on June 26, 1981 at age 87, at ?Ingleside,? his Chestnut Hill estate formerly owned by his parents. He was survived by 3 grandchildren, his brother (Russell), and his sister (Ruth Van Sciver-Ketcham). Prior to his death, Mr. Van Sciver, Russell Van Sciver, Ruth Van Sciver-Ketcham (heirs and executors of the Joseph B. Van Sciver, Sr. estate) and their aunt, Annie Van Sciver-Jarvis, decided to sell the Van Sciver property in Haddon Township. A 9-acre parcel of the Haddon Township property, bordered by Rhoads Avenue and land owned by Mary L. and Charles S. Saddler, and running next to the border of land owned by the West Jersey/Pennsylvania Railroad (now known as ?the gully?) was sold to the Board of Education of the Township of Haddon on April 16, 1956 for the sum of $22,500. (Deed Book 2009, Page 47). In gratitude, the Board of Education decided to pay lasting tribute to the late Joseph B. Van Sciver, Sr. and family by naming the school Van Sciver Elementary School. Joseph Bishop Van Sciver, Jr. was present at the laying of the cornerstone of the Van Sciver School
J. B. Van Sciver Jr.
J.B. Van Sciver III
Van Sciver School
Van Sciver School Dedication (1957)
Van Sciver School Dedication (1957)
Van Sciver Kindergarden Classroom (1957)
Van Sciver First Grade Classroom (1957)
Van Sciver Special Eduation Classroom (1957)
| [Sources: Sandra White-Grear and William Brahms (Haddon Township Historical Society); ?Rites Tomorrow For J. B. Van Sciver,? Camden Evening Courier, June 21, 1943 (p. 1); ?Joseph B. Van Sciver Jr.: expanded furniture firm,? By Burr Van Atta, Staff Writer, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 28, 1981 (p.6-c); Map of Camden County and Vicinity, Franklin Survey Company, Philadelphia, PA (1935); ?Official Historical Souvenir: Philadelphia, Its Founding and Development, 1683 to 1908? by William W. Matos, Philadelphia, PA: Joseph & Sefton, 1908; South Jersey, a History 1624-1924, Alfred M. Heston, Editor, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1924; CamdenPeople-JBVanSciver.htm, www.dvrbs.com/People, 2007; Hobe/Zoz Family Genealogy ? Person Page 72,http://freepages.genealogy.roots.com, 2007; Unknown author, ?Van Sciver Family History,?1970, Camden County Historical Society Collection; Jarvis/Van Sciver House Photograph courtesy Herta Scheidhauer, Audubon, NJ; Copy of Original Deed, April 16, 1956, Book 2009, Page 47, Camden County Register of Deeds, Camden, NJ, courtesy Haddon Township Board of Education.]|