Editor’s note: Historical details taken from “The Story of Hammonton” by William McMahon with guidance from the Hammonton Historical Society. Eagle Theatre history was found on the theater’s website at http://theeagletheatre.com/
HAMMONTON - In 2016, the town celebrated its 150th anniversary or as Hammontonians would proudly say, their Sesquicentennial.
Most of the events in town throughout the year were gear towards honoring that history and a person could not help but notice that Hammonton holds quite an impressive history.
While the town was officially founded in 1866 by Charles K. Landis and Richard J. Byrnes, the area was settled long before that. Native Americans were the first peoples to live off the land that would eventually become the town of Hammonton, but eventually European settlers began to stake their claims.
In the early 1800s, hundreds of acres in the area were transferred over to William Coffin. Along with several partners, he would go on to create a saw mill and a glass factory. They would be the beginnings of Hammonton’s industrial tradition, which would eventually include numerous shoe factories, one of which now houses Stockton University’s Kramer Hall.
As the town grew, new settlers poured into the area, especially Italians. The new Italian immigrants would go on to establish the longest running Italian festival in the country, the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Festival. Hammonton celebrated the festival’s 141st year in July right outside of St. Joseph Church.
Many of those who decided to settle in Hammonton took up agriculture. The roots of agriculture run deep in this town and the people are proud of it. On their way into town, people can clearly see the welcome sign that proudly declares that Hammonton is “The Blueberry Capitol of the World!” As you look around, there is little doubt of that.
In honor of the blueberry, Hammonton began a yearly festival, called the Red, White and Blueberry festival, which celebrated a major milestone last year with its 30th annual celebration.
Faith runs deep in Hammonton as the many houses of worship throughout the town prove. The Hammonton Sesquicentennial Committee honored that tradition of faith with a special prayer service on the Fourth of July. The prayer service brought together members of several Christian denominations and of the synagogue of Temple Beth-El in a touching tribute to freedom and the town.
Education is important part of the town of Hammonton, too. The public school system that once consisted of one-room schoolhouses has grown into several public schools and the private schools of the St. Joseph Roman Catholic School District. Hammonton High School had another reason to celebrate in 2016 as its marching band placed first in USBands’ New Jersey State Championships.
The arts are yet another important part of Hammonton. All sorts of artistic mediums can be found throughout the town, so much so that Hammonton was chosen to host the New Jersey Fringe Festival in 2016. Many of the festival’s events took place in the historic building of the Eagle Theater.
The Eagle Theater was originally built in 1914. The theater continued hosting plays and movies until 1944 when the building was sold. The building served many purposes for several decades until coming to the attention of the Hammonton’s Arts and Cultural Committee in the mid-2000s. The building was reopened in 2009 after several years of renovations and has become a treasured part of the town.
History can be found everywhere you look in Hammonton. Yet, its history is so long and rich that a brief newspaper article could never hope to capture it all. We hope that this article has served to give a little insight into the proud history of Hammonton and that it has inspired people to go and learn even more.
As Hammonton’s history proves, a small town can have a big heart. Here is to the next 150 years!
For more information about the Hammonton Historical Society, please visit its website at http://www.historicalsocietyofhammonton.org/.