While roaming the wilds of the internet yesterday, I came across a video made by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. It’s intended to be downloaded to an iPod or an iPhone, and features Barbara Solem-Stull giving a tour of the ruined factory town of Harrisville. You can find the video (and an accompanying map) at this page.
The tour (a little over ten minutes long) shows Harrisville’s remains as they are now, interspersed with period photographs and drawings that show the town’s buildings as they once were. The old paper mill ruins dominate the site, but with the help of this guide, one can also find cellar holes of workers’ houses and the Howard Harris mansion (not to mention the foundation of the town gristmill). Solem-Stull gives an overview of the town’s history as she walks the site (there’s also a chapter on Harrisville in her guide book Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens). The video concludes with a few words from Rob Auermuller, Superintendent of Wharton State Forest (Atsion mansion gets a cameo appearance in this section).
One thing that struck me as I was watching the video was that some of the paper mill footage shows places where there are holes in the walls; you can actually see through the wall in places where bricks are missing (not just in the places that used to hold windows when the building was functional). I was last at Harrisville at the end of 2006 and didn’t note anything like that; on the other hand, I stayed outside the fence like a well-behaved tourist and there has been a lot of bad weather since then. It’s a reminder that these ruins, exposed as they are to the elements, are slowly deteriorating. Just compare the photo of the paper mill ruins in Beck’s Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey with those ruins today, and you will see that they have diminished since the 1930s.
Other cultural organizations have started experimenting with using mobile technology to give virtual tours (this post from Mashable gives some examples). It will be interesting to see whether or not more tours are forthcoming from Pinelands Preservation Alliance (this one was funded by a grant from the Fred J. Brotherton Charitable Foundation). In any case, this Harrisville tour is a good start.
Update/disclaimer: While I was writing this post and wandering around the PPA’s website, I found out that they were on Facebook. I “liked” PPA on Facebook. Little did I realize that I was the 1300th person to like PPA on Facebook. As a result of being #1300, I won a baseball cap and a t-shirt from PPA.