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Bordentown’s Old City Hall to host two historic events

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Two historic events are coming to Bordentown’s Old City Hall.

“The Wreck”

Courtesy of the Bordentown Historical Society
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A storytelling performance of “The Wreck,” will be held on Feb. 17 and Feb. 24th. The four-part staging of the catastrophic 1901 collision of the Nellie Bly locomotive is created by Kristi Kantorski and presented jointly by the Bordentown Historical Society and Bordentown’s Old City Hall Cultural Vision Committee. The infamous train wreck was a local story heard around the world, according to a release through the Bordentown Historical Society.

Bordentown, a small community tucked in the bend of the Delaware River between New York and Philadelphia, has, for centuries, served as an active transportation hub for goods and people traveling around the world. In 1901, at the beginning of our nation’s Progressive Era, Bordentown was another oiled gear in the development of our growing cities. Here is where the hands that built America rested under the blankets at night.

The performance offers a factual history as told by three actual personas that were intimately affected by the events of the wreck – Trenton Museum Curator, Silas Morse; Coroner’s Jury Member, James Huston; and Ida Doyle, housewife and passenger on the ill-fated Bordentown local train. All personas were painstakingly researched and are portrayed by talented storytellers James Parker, Chris Campbell, and Leann Testerman. The 90-minute tale is narrated by Patricia Delesky as your guide.

Beyond the interest of the local historian, why tell the tale of this tragic accident almost 123 years to the day of the anniversary?

“Bordentown’s history is composed of grand figures, like Joseph Hopkinson and Thomas Paine, but that’s not to say they are the only ones who made a difference and enacted change,” Kantorski offered. “For example, Bordentown was the site of the first railroad in the state and home to the immigrants who built it. More often than not, it’s the ‘common men and women’ who embodied and lived through those changes, and their stories are no less important.

“I want the average person’s story to survive. At the end of the day, this tragic accident could have happened to any of us. Things like this still happen. Don’t get me wrong – change happens too, but often it comes too late.”

Not only is this a local tale of tragedy and loss, but one of changing innovation, industry, the might of the railroad as a corporate giant, and the human sacrifice behind it all.

“‘The Wreck’ aims to envelope the audience as if enthralled in a good book,” said Doug Kiovsky, vice president of the Bordentown Historical Society. “We hope to offer all the bells and whistles of a performance to an audience that wants to escape on a cold winter night.

“And even if folks leave with one little kernel of history that they didn’t know before – then we have done our job as historians in a profound way.”

“The Wreck” will be presented at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., Feb. 17 and Feb. 24 at Bordentown’s Old City Hall, 13 Crosswicks St.

Courtesy of the Bordentown Poetry Project Frances Isabelle Parnell (Fanny Parnell), Irish Nationalist, Poet and sister of Charles Stewart Parnell (circa 19th century). Vintage halftone etching circa late 19th century.

Bordentown Fanny Parrell Poetry Project

Now in its third year, the poetry project honors Frances “Fanny” Parnell (FP), the 19th century Irish poet and nationalist who died at her ancestral home in Bordentown in 1882.

Parnell, born 1848, is the poet-activist sister of noted Irish leader and home rule advocate Charles Stewart Parnell. She is also the granddaughter of United States admiral and past Bordentown resident Rear Admiral Charles Stewart, also known as “Old Ironsides.”

Her Bordentown-born mother, Delia Steward Parnell, married Irish aristocrat John Henry Parnell in New York City, and moved to Ireland where she had 11 children.

The poet was an advocate for the Irish poor and supported programs to support the Irish during the Great Famine. She is included in numerous anthologies of Irish poetry.

Parnell is one of several historically important poets connected with Bordentown. Others include Declaration of Independence Signer Francis Hopkinson and artist and poet Thomas Buchanan Read.

This year’s March 3 reading also features several other noted regional and state writers:

Roberta Clipper

Roberta Clipper of Bordentown.

Luray Gross

Luray Gross, of Doylestown, Pa., is the past New Jersey State Council on the Arts Poetry Fellowship recipient, Geraldine R. Dodge Poet, and former Bucks County Poet Laureate.

Todd Evans

Todd Evans, of Willingboro, is a Trenton-born poet and a regional spoken word and theater event coordinator.

Ryan Lafferty

D. Ryan Lafferty is a Bordentown author of poetry volumes for children and adults, a small press publisher, and an English teacher at Northern Burlington County Regional School District.

Steve Nolan

Steve Nolan, of Newtown, Pa., is the author of two volumes of poetry as well as a licensed clinical social worker with 30 years working with the military, including chief of combat stress for Paktika Province in Afghanistan.

Nicole Rollender

Nicole Rollender, of Williamstown, is a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Poetry Fellow and author of the poetry collections, “The Luster of Everything I’m Already Forgetting”(Kelsay Books, 2023) and “Louder Than Everything You Love” (Five Oaks Press).

Dan Weeks

Daniel Weeks, of Eatontown, is a poet, historian, and musician, whose latest book of poems is “We No More Sang for the Bird: A Poem of World War I” (Ragged Sky Press, 2023).

Dan Aubrey

The program is hosted by coordinator Dan Aubrey, former U.S. 1 editor, playwright, and past New Jersey State Council on the Arts arts-in-education and public arts staff member.  

The reading is a presentation of the Old City Hall Restoration Committee, a volunteer group dedicated to providing awareness and funds to restore the historic landmark building. 

Admission is free, and a limited open reading will follow the presentation.

The Bordentown Fanny Parnell Poetry Project will be held at Old City Hall, 11 Crosswicks Street at 2 p.m. March 3.

For more information, contact oldcityhallprograms@gmail.com.

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