Our New Home


From Rutgers University - 1858 blueprint copied in 1922 when we were involved in buying the place, showing land ownership prior to purchase by Paul Shipman. Sylvester Kaiser and his partner Andrew Manderson owned most of the riverfront on the entire block. I suspect James Man was really named James Manderson, possibly a brother, the three of them owned it all except for the one riverfront property along Woodlane. (RDCC is No. 14). It is interesting that this shows the old dock at the end of the road (Then called Center Road.) Farmers would travel down Woodlane Road (which was a toll road) to this wharf and ship their produce to Philadelphia.

Courier-Post Camden, New Jersey 30 Jul 1976, Fri • Page 17

Even a new bridge could not scuttle Red Dragon

By BOB REICHENBACH Courier-Post Staff

EDGEWATER PARK - Facing displacement by the building of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, the Red Dragon Canoe Club in 1923 did what it could do best.

It paddled up the Delaware River in search of a new home.

"They had to vacate the site," explained Richard Gross, "so they got into their canoes, paddled up river and saw this old Victorian mansion in Edgewater Park. It was completely overgrown with weeds."

The members of the Red Dragon Canoe Club bought the mansion and the surrounding 7 1/2 acres of riverfront land for its headquarters.

Now, the Red Dragons, one of the nation's oldest canoe clubs, spends most of its time in sailboats. Only a half-dozen canoes stored in the basement of the three-story mansion serve as a reminder of the club's beginnings.

Daniel Curran, of Burlington, said the club was founded in 1883 at Camden's Cooper Point. For the next forty years, the club moved several times on both sides of the Delaware River, finally settling on the site here at the foot of Edgewater Avenue.

With a membership limited to 110 persons, the club maintains a full summer schedule of weekly sailboat races and participates in regattas in the four-state area including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

"It originally started out with Philadelphia people, mainly lawyers and doctors." Curran explained. "Now, it's a mixture of all types of people from all over."

About half the members are from New Jersey with most Red Dragons living in Burlington and Camden counties. Others include members from Gloucester County, the southeastern part of Pennsylvania and some from as far away as California and Florida.

Sailing is now the main reason for the club, said member Hilary Lyons of Edgewater Park, with the hallways of the clubhouse lined with photos and paintings of past boating triumphs as well as cases of trophies.

The huge mansion overlooks the river with about 50 sailboats parked in the rear yard toward Cottage Avenue and two dozen more at the river's edge.

Surrounded by majestic trees, the large old home attests to the days when Philadelphians and others would spend weekends and vacations either in the mansion or in small cottages surrounding the building.

Lyons, who joined the club in 1942, said members would often take the train to the clubhouse on a Friday evening and leave early Saturday heads up the Delaware River for a morning for camping trips along the nearby Rancocas Creek.

Members also would swim in nearby rivers and during hunting season, would paddle across the river to the Pennsylvania side for duck hunting

Other members simply would loll around the clubhouse's grounds, enjoying lawn sports and cocktails.

While the glamour of having wealthy Philadelphians enjoy its facilities may have dimmed somewhat over the years, the Red Dragon still cherishes traditons started 50 years ago.

Each June, members sail down to the Riverton Yacht Club to compete in that club's Governor's Cup Regatta and every Labor Day, Riverton Yacht Club closes its doors to compete in the Red Dragon's annual event.

And the traditional plank shad dinner kicks off each season from the clubhouse northward two miles to Burlington Island and back and ends it with the Burlington Island Race.

Lyons said that the race used to be more unconventional because additional sails often were used on the boats to help bone-weary paddlers.

"It was really something," he said, ' "because you could use anything but an engine ."

The Burlington Island Race is the club's last summer event, usually taking place in late September.

Except for monthly meetings and a big dinner and awards program in January, the club shutters its windows.

And what do these sailing enthusiasts do during the long winter months?

Well, 62-year-old Lyons, for example, will probably travel to Canada as he has for the last 27 years and ski on the snow-covered slopes.


Camden Courier-Post Dec 16 1979 Page 103
club The Kaiser-Shipman “cottage", built in 1850 and now the Red Dragon Canoe Club, helped launch Edgewater Park as a summer resort town In the mid 1800s.
By JOHN G. BRIGGS Of the Courier-Post

How newspaper editors lived a century ago can be seen from the former summer home of Col. Paul Shipman, now headquarters for the Red Dragon Canoe Club. Shipman, famous in Europe and America for his Louisville Courier-Journal editorials during the Civil War, bought the mansion in 1860 from Silvester Kaiser, who had built it about 10 years earlier.

Kaiser was a partner of Andrew Manderson, who operated a stone quarry in Pennsylvania and whose own house next door, built in 1830, launched the development of Edgewater Park as one of the area's first water resorts. "The Edgewater Park riverfront," says the Burlington County Cultural and Heritage Commission, "is a study in the gradual, undirected development of an affluent riverfront residential community. Development of the area was slow, as concentrated speculation and development schemes were not present here."

As a result, the riverfront reflects changing architectural styles from 1830 well into the 1920s. THE KAISER SHIPMAN "Cottage," as they called it in 1850, is an L-shaped frame house in Second Empire style, topped by a mansard roof with dormer windows and varicolored hexagonal slate shingles. On the east facade, facing Edgewater Avenue, is a three-story entry tower, with an arched fanlight above the door. The louvered shutters on the first and second floors are curved to -fit the arched window-heads. The veranda on the north side, overlooking the Delaware River, is lavishly decorated and is supported by massive square posts.

In a Second Empire building, the roof can be either "bell-curved" (concave or curving inward) or "bow-curved" (convex, curving outward). The Kaiser-Shipman house has both, a bow-curved roof on the entrance tower 'and bell-curved on the house itself. The two-story mansard-roofed section at the rear (south side) is an addition to the original building, according to the Cultural and Heritage Commission.

SHIPMAN owned the house until at least 1876 (we know it was until his death in 1917); an "atlas" of the area made that year shows him as the occupant at Edgewater and Cottage avenues.

After his death, the house and grounds began to deteriorate. In 1923, the Red Dragon Canoe Club, one of the nation's oldest (founded at Cooper Point, Camden, in 1883) was forced to vacate its clubhouse, which stood in the way of the planned Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.

Taking to their boats like modern-day Leif Ericsons, the Red Dragons paddled up the Delaware in search of a new clubhouse site. "They got into their canoes," a member recalls, "paddled up the river and saw this old mansion in Edgewater Park. It was completely overgrown with weeds." Members of the club bought the mansion and 7 1/2 surrounding acres, and began clearing out the weeds. The Red Dragon Canoe Club these days is concerned mostly with sailing crafts. A few canoes are stored in the clubhouse basement, but the boatyard behind the clubhouse contains mostly sailboats, with masts unstepped and hulls covered for the winter.

(While it is entirely possible, even probable, that the Dragons knew of the property, they really didn't paddle up the river looking for a site. Judge Murray had contacted Franklin P. Jones, Beverly Bank President, who sailed a mile downriver with the Beverly Yacht Club, so they were most likely acquainted when Jones relayed our desire for a new clubhouse to the realtor) dragon

Just For Fun


There is a legend that I have heard ever since I joined the Dragon about a resident female ghost who lives on the third floor, and can sometimes be seen looking out a window. Every so often some ghostbuster group comes to spend a night in the clubhouse to try to find it. When I began this project, I "borrowed" a photo from one of the other RDCC sites for the home page.

I don't know who took it, but it is totally unretouched on my end. During the assembling of this project, I noticed what I called a rubber duckie on the porch roof. However, one time I instead of a duck it was really our ghost, dressed in white, her long white skirt flaring out as she pirouettes, her arms outstretched as she spins, her blond hair flowing, and even her legs are visible. Originally, there was a second floor porch with a railing, accessible via the french doors on the second floor, and that's where she's dancing. Believe it or not, I don't!