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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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White Horse Inn, 1999, one of the last remaining inns in Pine Barrens
White Horse Inn, one of the last remaining inns in Pine Barrens, now undergoing restoration. Photo: Stan Fayer

Chatsworth: The Capital of the Pines

Known as "Capital of the Pines," Chatsworth is the major village in the Pinelands or Pine Barrens, as the coastal plain area is locally called. Chatsworth's 2,000 population makes it the largest township with the smallest population of any in the country. Located in Woodland Township, Burlington County, the village is in the center of a thriving cranberry farming community, where it holds an annual cranberry festival the third weekend in October. Chatsworth lies on the route to coastal resorts, and was once itself a popular society winter destination reached by train.

The Pinelands' population peaked around 1859. Following the collapse of iron and glass industries in the mid-1800s, people gradually moved to other areas. On maps dating to 1800, Woodland Township is shown as the J.D. Beers tract. Joseph D. Beers was a New York realty tycoon, who amassed 25,000 acres in the Pinelands. In 1893, his heirs established the Chatsworth Park Company. About this same time, Prince Mario Ruspoli, an attache to the Italian Embassy in Washington, married Palma de Talleyrand Perigold, granddaughter of J. D. Beers, who owned 7,000 Pinelands acres. The couple loved the area, where they built a Queen Anne style villa, modeled after Chatsworth, the English country home of the Duke of Devonshire. The town, which had been called Shamong, changed its name Chatsworth, yet local residents, called "pineys," referred to the villa as the "princess house."

The prince and a wealthy Philadelphian built a lavish country club for their friends and associates, who visited from New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. by way of the Chatsworth's convenient railroad station. At one time, Chatsworth Club had 700 elite members, which included J.P. Morgan, U.S. Vice President Levin Morton, Jay Gould, Charles Abercrombie, and members of the the Drexel, Biddle, Armour, Stokes, and Astor families. During the depression, the resort's popularity diminished, and the prince moved to Belgium.

Built in 1860, the White Horse Inn was once a stopping place for society people on their way to the Chatsworth Country Club. It later became a boarding house and private residence. Originally named the Shamong Hotel, it is now a National Historic Site. A community group, calling itself the Chatworth Club II, conducts the annual cranberry festival to raise funds to restore the inn, now owned by the town. Their goal is to make the inn into a community center and museum. Other area historic buildings are the restored Buzby's General Store, built in 1865, which sells food, kerosene, clothing, and other household items; the United Methodist Church, and the train station, now a residence. The country club and villa were destroyed by fire during the 1930s.

The Pinelands was designated a national reserve in 1978, and an International Biosphere Reserve by the federal government in 1983. The area comprises more than a million acres of public and private land, covered with scrub pine, white cedar forests, cranberry bogs, and blueberry orchards. The heart of the Pine Barrens contains pygmy and pitch pines.

In 1999, Chatsworth comprised 200 homes, surrounded by blueberry fields and cranberry bogs. The Chatsworth Cranberry Company is the state's second largest producer.

Documentation comprises a 15-page report, including a history of its historic buildings; a Pine Barrens guidebook; newspaper clippings; brochures about cranberries, Chatsworth and its historic buildings; postcards; six slides; a Pine Barrens Press book listing; and color photos.

Originally submitted by: Jim Saxton, Representative (3rd District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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