Batsto Mansion (Wharton Mansion), Batsto
1785 ; 1815 - 1878

Wharton Mansion has a long and rich history as the home of many owners and managers of the Batsto Iron Plantation in the Pine Barrens. The oldest section of the existing house dates back to 1785, although excavations and studies have found signs of an earlier structure buried beneath the house. That structure was wooden, according to the evidence of the foundation that was found. It was most likely the manor house of the colonial or revolutionary war era master of the estate and ironworks, perhaps even the legendary Whitcomb Manor of Israel Pemberton.

In 1785, Colonel William Richards bought Batsto. He lived there part-time and did not move his wife and 19 children to the Mansion. It was during Richards' ownership that the mansion became a stone structure. Thick stone walls were not as common as frame structures in South Jersey at the time. Building in stone was a tradition in the Richards family; other members also built stone houses in the area.(1) It was when William's son Jesse lived in the house (1832-35) that the first of many additions was made, allowing him to live there full-time with many of his relatives.

After the Richards era of 92 years, Joseph Wharton purchased Batsto in 1876. Wharton made numerous additions during his ownership, hiring Elias Wright of Sloan and Balderston's architechural firm in Philadelphia. Wharton died in 1909, leaving the estate under the management of the Girard Trust Company of Philadelphia. In 1954 the State of New Jersey bought the estate. Batsto is now part of Wharton State Forest, part of the National Pinelands Reserve, and on both the list of New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.

(1) John Pearce, Heart of the Pines (Hammonton, NJ: Batsto Citizens Committee, Inc., 2000).

Wharton Mansion, Batsto Village.

Wharton Mansion, Batsto Village. Photoraphs by Warren R. Ogden

Wharton Mansion sits on top of a hill called "Mansion Hill," looking over the village. Giant sycamores tower over the southern side of the mansion. The Richards' stone manor had been very formal and symmetrical, the front topped with a fan-shaped window and a porch showing the division line of the floors. Under Joseph Wharton the house was transformed by altering the old Federal style of the stone manor. Wanting his home to reflect his wealth and status, he remodelled in the more up-to-date Italianate style. Characteristics of this Victorian style can be seen in the large porch with columns and decorative trim, added gables, casement of the windows, and round-topped windows on the upper floor and tower. Wharton also completely remodelled the interior, adding a grand staircase, changing the front to the back, and splitting the house into two separate living spaces: a main house and a caretaker's house. He also added an attic with windows and a Mansard roof, giving the mansion aspects of the Second French Empire style. The last addition to the mansion, completed in 1922, was a fire observation room on the top.

Additional References:

Robert Heide and John Gilman, Art of the State: New Jersey, Spirit of America (New York: Abrams, 1999).

Henry Charlton Beck, Forgotten Towns: Of Southern New Jersey (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1983).

Batsto web site (see link below).

The Press of Atlantic City web site (see, below).

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