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Brooklawn NJ History

Brooklawn: Homes for shipbuilders were basis for new town

JOSE F. MORENO/Courier-Post file
Brooklawn's American Legion World Series Champions celebrate as they get out of the bus after winning in 2001.

The borough of Brooklawn was originally called Noreg Village.
1844: Camden County is created out of a larger Gloucester County. Camden includes Gloucester City, Gloucester Township, Newton, Washington Township and Waterford.

1855: Center Township is formed, including what will become Brooklawn.

1923: The federal government auctions off 451 homes in and around Brooklawn.

1924: Brooklawn incorporates as an independent municipality.

1926: Borough builds Brooklawn Public School, later renamed Alice Costello Public School.

1930s: Brooklawn forecloses on 58 of the wood-frame houses the government auctioned off in 1923. The homes are rented out and provide a considerable portion of the community's income for decades to come.

1933: Brooklawn sells borough hall to the American Legion for $1,750.

1952: Brooklawn American Legion begins playing baseball.

1978: New borough hall opens. Construction costs $170,945.

1991: American Legion baseball team wins legion World Series.

1993 Mario Riccobene, 60, a mobster-turned-informant, is killed in an ambush outside the Brooklawn Diner.

1993-94: Working with state police, admitted con man James Lynch wears a wire and tapes Vincent Pagano bragging about his mob connections at Ponzio's Diner in Brooklawn.

1996: Pagano is sentenced to 80 years for racketeering.

2001: American Legion baseball team wins legion World Series.

2005: American Legion baseball team appears in World Series but places fourth. Sources: "Courier-Post" archives

1. Ponzio's Diner: Route 130 and Browning Lane. The original Ponzio's, now 58 years old, is still going strong in Brooklawn.

2. Brooklawn Diner & Restaurant: Brooklawn Circle. Formerly the South Grove Diner, the popular eatery still draws a crowd.

3. Joseph "Pop" Barth Field: Route 130. Named as one of the top venues to catch a local sporting event in a 2003 "Courier-Post" column. Notable for a church with its stained-glass windows just beyond left field and its playground beyond center field that has "resulted in countless ground-rule doubles."

"Once you are a member of Brooklawn, it's a part of your life. I learned about life from (Joe "Pop" Barth Sr.) and I'll never forget that time of my life." Dick "Ping" Sheldon, a player on Brooklawn's inaugural American Legion baseball team in 1952, on his former coach

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Courier Post-Brooklawn shares its history with Haddon Heights, Magnolia, Barrington, Tavistock, Gloucester City, Bellmawr, Runnemede, Mount Ephraim, Haddonfield and Lawnside. All of those communities made up a larger municipality early last century known as Center Township.

Center began to fracture in 1904, and Brooklawn came into being on April 5, 1924.

Before it was incorporated, however, Brooklawn already was taking shape.

Many residents of what would become Brooklawn moved to the area during World War I to work in the enormous New York Shipbuilding Co. on Broadway in Camden. To house these important defense workers, the federal government built homes throughout the region.

In 1923, the government got out of the landlord business with a giant tent auction for these "Houses of Uncle Sam." The residences went for prices ranging from $1,875 to just under $4,000, according to a Courier-Post report.

Many of these homes formed the basis for what would become Brooklawn.

Shortly after it was incorporated, Brooklawn built its first and only school in 1926. At first, it was called simply the Brooklawn Public School, according to borough historian Elaine Hill. It later became the Alice Costello Public School to honor Costello, who taught eighth grade and served as principal during the school's early years.

Brooklawn followed the standard patterns in South Jersey for the next few decades: tight times in the 1930s, recovery during World War II and post-war growth in the 1950s.

But it was those 1950s that also brought Brooklawn one of its sources of greatest pride -- the American Legion baseball team.

Since it began playing in 1952, the team has managed 23 state titles, 11 appearances in the American Legion World Series and two World Series titles.

Playing on the team has made a difference to hundreds of youths in Brooklawn.

"It prepared me for college and it prepared me for life," said Steve Alemi, who played for Brooklawn and coach Joe "Pop" Barth Sr. from 1972 to 1974. "We traveled with the team to New England, and that time away made me understand what it was like to be away from my family. It made me a better person. Pop made me a better person and I'll never forget that."

Barth remains in charge of the baseball program, which won the World Series under him in 1991 and 2001. His son led the team to the World Series in 2005.