Remembering Camden – Hotel Walt Whitman

The Hotel Walt Whitman, located virtually on the Delaware Bridge Plaza in the heart of thee business section, is a monument to the community spirit of Camden, having been built through the assistance of citizens. It has justified the confidence of its backers.

A collection of remembrances by Catherine Casselman Greenhart, Camden High School Class of 1942.

You have a picture of the H. Genet Taylor residence on Cooper Street. I was friendly with both “Tottie”and Harry III and we were in and out of each other’s houses. My house was 301 North Second Street which would be the northeast corner, now a parking of a part of Rutgers. I have a picture I will send you over my daughter’s scanner.

Across the street on the northwest corner were the Sabra Apartments. I have a picture of them and one of the old Hotel Camden on the southwest corner and the southeast corner which was the entrance to the park.

RCA used to decorate the pillars in front of the Library with red and white stripes and one year they had a Santa’s Sleigh and REAL LIVE REIINDEER. They had Christmas Music over a loud speaker system and people came from miles around to see the Christmas Display. We got an echo, being behind the library, which could get very annoying if you went to bed before midnight when the music and lights were turned off.

You have “Gus” Whitney on Penn Street. His father was Reverend Augustus Whitney and he had 5 sons lived on Linden Street between Fourth and Fifth. Reverend Whitney performed my wedding ceremony. Gus was killed in World War II. The other boys went to Woodrow Wilson when the city divided up the system. Prior to that Camden High had been college prep and Woodrow Wilson secretarial, etc.

In the 30′ and 40’s Linden Street from Fourth up had Reverend and Mrs. Wyatt and daughter Gene and son(?) lived in the first house. Next to them was Mrs, Sophie Piontkowski and her daughters Wanda and Jeryll. Wanda was my maiden of honor. She died 20 years ago of multiple myeloma.

Then came the Womans Club of Camden of which my Mother was president… two times, if I remember correctly. I sang at one at which Helen Keller (and her teacher Anne Sullivan ) spoke. I was the entertainment (singing) and Helen Keller said she felt the vibrations of my voice and knew what I looked like by feeling my face.

We also had Amelia Earhart speak at the Walt Whitman Hotel … the Soroptimist Club meeting there. I also remember hearing Hu Shi (ambassador under Chaing Kai Shek) speak at the Hotel. I don’t remember what group sponsored him. I guess it was Chinese War Relief. We also had “Bundles for Britain” where I learned to knit socks. It was in a building I think on the corner of Fifth and Market in the basement.

I have a picture taken of my Mother and Dad when she won Woman of the Year… mother was much more beautiful than the picture you have of her.

Our house, which faced North Second Street, ran a long distance down Penn Street going East, and we also had a 2 car garage. Next to it lived Clarence Deacon (whose family later owned Deacon Luggage in Cherry Hill) and his mother. Then came the Gramleys, Gladys and her deaf mute sister whose name I have forgotten [Mary—ed.]. Chester had a speech impediment and earned his living cutting out wooden puzzles. He made a cradle for me when Mother and Dad moved into the house on Penn Street.

All the houses on Penn from Front to Third on the North side were row houses with white stone fronts. Did you know that Lord Camden and Lord Baltimore were cousins and laid the two cities out similarly? You can still see remnants of these row houses in Baltimore today on the old route which no one drives on today because 95 was built..

On the corner of Fifth and Linden [508 Linden Street] lived Jud Coxey. He, my father and Mr. Hurley all went to school together. Jud Coxey had a meat packing company on Friend’s Avenue (an alley that ran between Penn and Linden Street).

Catherine Greenhart, 2009


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