The Project Librarian was enrolled at Rutgers University in the Masters in Information Program – Digital Libraries Track.
The concept for the project was first created in late September 2011.
Professor Tefko Saracevic, an authority in Digital Libraries agreed to serve as an advisor on this work as an Independent Study to create a Digital Exploration of The Gingerbread Castle, is an academic project in fulfillment of a Masters in Information Science in Digital Libraries.
The story of The Gingerbread Castle is an interdisciplinary review of many social and technological matters. Its story ties together American Industry, small town life, family living in the 20th century, Automobile Travel and the Impact on Family Life, Literary characters and interaction with the characters, Art, Architecture and community history and memory.
From an information science perspective, the Gingerbread Castle presents a rich source for the creation of a digital library model. It has a variety of 20th and 21st century content, including videos, photographs, images, and user generated content about reminiscences from visitors and employees.
The original proposal included these key points:
- The Gingerbread Castle was a small roadside Amusement Park located in Sussex County New Jersey in the small town of Hamburg. Hamburg is a community that dates back to 1753. On the site of the park is a mill that began operations in 1808. The Amusement Park Castle was designed in 1926 by architect and artist Joseph Urban. Urban is a world famous artist, who designed for the Metropolitan Opera in New York and is credited with working on Mar A Lago a National Historic Site in Palm Beach and designs for the 1933 World’s Fair. The Castle is an architectural marvel which was commissioned by the president of the Bennett Biscuit Company (later renamed the Wheatsworth Biscuit Company) Fred H. Bennett, creator of Wheatsworth Crackers and MilkBone Dog Biscuits.
- When the park opened in 1930; the opening was covered by Time Magazine in the July 14, 1930 issue.
- The park remained open until 1976; it fell into disrepair but reopened in 1986 under new ownership. The castle was damage by fire in 1993 and the site remained open until 2003. In 2004, Hampton Hotels donated $30,000 to help restore the castle as part of its “Save-A-Landmark” program.
- Sixty three years of activity made a major impact on the little town of Hamburg. The creation of the park lead to Hamburg adopting the nickname the “The Children’s Town.” The literary influence of the park and it’s “residents” Hansel, Gretel, an Evil Witch, and Humpty Dumpty led to the town changing the name of several streets – King Cole Road, Wishing Well Road, Gingerbread Castle Road, and Prince Street and Urban Street, named after the Castle Designer. The Postmark for the Town United States Postal Service features the Castle and the Mascot for the school became, the Knight.
- For the children who visited the Castle during its sixty-three years of operation, it was a place of wonder and excitement and, a little fear, woven in for good measure.
During a side trip visit to the town, my parents wanted to take photos of the Gingerbread Castle to prove that, yes, there indeed is a technicolor castle, a big one with a witch. As we passed certain streets close to the location, I told them the place was called Yellow City. As a kid, I’d heard Dutch immigrants had lived there or had been quarantined there due to some bad disease like typhoid. I had gone on a bike ride with friends who lived at that end of town years earlier and the residents of YC looked quite poor. I thought the buildings were interesting, like from another era.
The Castle was still open to sightseers but my parents were forbidden to take pictures. I had a tiny camera on me and while that discussion was in play with the manager or owner, I took pictures of carousel horses, displays, no one knowing. Driving to the exit I asked my Dad to stop, took their camera and ran back to the icon of my youth–which, believe this or not, many kids had snuck inside at night. Not to steal or vandalize–it was an honor to win a dare by much older kids who bragged their brave trespasses but probably never really acted them out.
For 35 years, in the original frame, my Gingerbread Castle picture looks as good as any professional shot. It was the only one I could take, on a run back to the car–that manager had chased me, yelling that I had to hand over my film and I was breaking the law. I was too far ahead of him, jumped in the back seat and when my father sped up, I yelled out a woman’s name from my window. That man had already stopped running but looked stunned. During it’s hiatus, there was more than a witch peeping out the window or creeping round those floors. Like night and day, blight and beauty, that pleasing storybook symbol has a few more shady tales to unveil and perhaps, this little crumb I purposefully set out will be picked up by someone else, with their own secret to reveal.
I suppose this message will be pulled or rejected. Understandable, for truth can sometimes tarnish a legacy needing or going through renovation. Like Yellow City?