BURLINGTON COUNTY, N.J. (CBS) – It’s quiet now, but Batsto Village inside Wharton State Forest in Burlington County was once an industrial powerhouse.
“I really like looking at the old houses,” said 8-year-old Lucas Watt.
In the mid-1800s, these buildings were the center of a bustling iron works. Eventually the whole village was purchased by a familiar name: Joseph Wharton, namesake of the business school as well as the 122,000 acres of Wharton State Forest.
Even though the iron business eventually faded away, much of Batsto Village was preserved.
The mansion on site was built in phases, explained Alicia Bjornson, Batsto Village resource interpretive specialist.
It “starts in the late 1700s,1810s, 1830s, and finally the mansion you see here today has been modified 1876 to 1880s,” Alicia said.
“You get this wonderful spiral staircase that brings you into the home. We get to see a dining room, a warming kitchen, a library,” Alicia said.
There are more buildings to see. “You have a little museum that will start your sense of place,” Alicia said. “Behind us, you will find the post office and general store. We have one of four post offices in America that do not have a zip code.”
The art of blacksmithing lives on here. Toby Kroll is no actor. He and his wife are really blacksmiths who give demonstrations and even teach classes right here.
“This is the real deal,” Toby said. “This shop was built in 1850. This is what you would have seen. All the equipment is correct.”
With enough fuel, “we can reach temperatures well over 3000 degrees,” said Toby.
Thanks to people like Toby, this art lives on.
“If we just destroy this old village, scientists wouldn’t get enough knowledge,” Lucas said.
Meisha Johnson said, “You feel like you’re back in time.”
“122,000 acres, we don’t have much cell phone service,” Alicia told Meisha. “So you’re almost naturally being transported back in time.”
Which might be a blessing in disguise.