Central School

Second Presbyterian Church, Camden, NJ. Unknown date, though likely the early 1900s.

Central School’s roots trace back to Camden’s earliest days of public education, named for its location in the Middle Ward, one of Camden’s original three wards before the 1871 Charter. In 1877, Camden’s Board of Education decided to replace the old school at South 4th Street and Hartman Street (now Clinton Street) with a new building. The new structure, designed by local architect Stephen Decatur Button, utilized the same plans as the Fetters, Mulford, and Mickle Schools and opened in October 1877.

Over the next forty years, the neighborhood experienced significant growth, particularly from Italian immigrants. This population surge led to overcrowding at the school, and the lack of a kindergarten became a significant concern for parents and civic leaders. In response, the Board of Education initially planned an addition to Central School in 1923. However, this plan was abandoned due to concerns that the property was too small and the addition might exacerbate the overcrowding problem.

Instead, the Board purchased the 63-year-old Second Presbyterian Church, located on the southeast corner of South 4th and Benson Streets, for $3,500. Renamed Central School Annex, the church was ready for students by November 30, 1925.

Both the original Central School and its Annex were not fireproof and fell significantly below safety and educational standards. In 1934, using the 0-1000 Strayer-Englhardt Score Card for rating schools, the Annex scored a dismal 287, while the old Central School scored even lower at 246, the lowest in the city. Despite these poor ratings, the schools remained open due to the Great Depression’s financial constraints. Both facilities were still in use as late as 1959. It wasn’t until the construction of the Bergen-Lanning School in the 1960s that Central School and its Annex could be abandoned. By 1965, the old Central School building had been razed.

While the original Central School building is long gone, the church that housed the Central School Annex survived and returned to its original function. As of July 2006, the former annex building was home to the New Mickle Baptist Church.


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