The year was 1927 and the future had hardly ever looked brighter for the City of Camden. Times were prosperous, business and industry were booming, and the city was full of recently constructed public buildings, civic improvements, schools, the new Delaware River bridge and its new highway to the suburbs. The stock market crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed were in the unimagined future.
It was in these times that Camden prepare for its 100th anniversary, and in this spirit of optimism that the city fathers under the direction of Mayor Winfield S. Price commissioned the booklet whose text you will find below.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The South Jersey Port Commission was created by the New Jersey Legislature in 1926 for the purpose of promoting the interests of the Delaware River front in South Jersey. We give excerpts from the report of the Port Commission, made to the Legislature of 1928. These are chosen because of their references to the manner in which the City of Camden has thrown itself behind the effort to work in cooperation with Federal and State agencies toward the improvement of port facilities. And the City is not unmindful of the manner in which the State Commission is working for the interest of the Port of Camden.]
In a former report your Commission emphasized its conviction that the section of the Port District suffering the most acutely from the lack of adequate port facilities was Camden. Because this situation called most urgently for relief, and in consideration of the general benefits to the district to be had from the erection of modern and adequate terminal facilities at this central location, the Commission has in the past year largely concentrated its activities in this section.
Previous comprehensive survey and intensive studies of the Camden situation have borne fruit. Plans are now well under way for the construction and operation of a great industrial and shipping terminal.
The Commission in making its selection of a terminal site was mindful of the legislative admonition in the Port District Act that “In the preparation of its comprehensive plan of port development provided for in this act and in any other work which it undertakes pursuant hereto, the Commission shall, so far as practicable, incorporate existing facilities as integral parts thereof.”
The selected site concentrates the new proposed terminal with the Municipal Pier already owned and partly developed by the City of Camden. This concentration will tend to operate for economy not only in construction but in the operating, maintenance and terminal charges.
The Commission’s consulting engineer had been instructed to prepare a tentative layout for the proposed terminal together with detailed estimates of the cost of construction.
In a communication to the City Commission, dated August 9, the Port Commission submitted its choice of a location for the proposed terminal, stated that the property could be purchased at a reasonable price and presented tentative plans for the new terminal as prepared by its engineer. This statement was made:
“We believe that Camden in acquiring this centrally-located property, now undeveloped but the most valuable site for port and industrial development on the entire water front, will take a long step ahead in the building up of the city as a shipping center, with provision for its industrial growth in the future.
“If the property is acquired, it is the aim of this Commission to plan to have it serve the entire industrial life of the city. The policy covering the control of the water front should be one which will insure to the business interests of the entire city free access to the water front whenever their business requires or demands it.”
The Camden Municipal Pier, at the foot of Spruce Street, and the adjoining river frontage acquired some years ago by the city, represents an original investment of about $600,000. It is much mare valuable now. This pier was leased, for a period of ninety-nine years, to a private corporation by a former city administration but the present City Commission has regained control of the property. Its operation either by the city directly or, together with the new terminal, by the Port Commission is under consideration and is deemed advisable, if Camden is to reap the full benefits of a progressive port development policy.
It is gratifying to the Commission to have had assurances from officials of both the Pennsylvania and the Reading Railroad systems of their good wishes for the success of the Camden Terminal and promises of hearty cooperation. These officials realize that the growth and development of Camden port facilities will enlarge the movement of goods by rail as well as by water. Whatever stimulates the industrial life of a community and increases population has its reaction in new business for all carriers.
Construction and use of the Delaware River Bridge between Camden and Philadelphia and the movement of population to the suburban areas are working changes in Camden. The district adjacent to the riverfront in particular is being transformed from a residential to a business and industrial section. This change calls for water front development adequately to serve the growing requirements of commerce and industry. Thus the need of extending the thirty-foot channel up to Cooper Point is presented, together with railroad belt line service along the entire riverfront and extending on the northeast to connect with the Pennsylvania Railroads Pavonia freight yard.