Poet’s Row

Fire started in the former John R. Evans Co. leather factory, a block long factory building at North 2nd and Erie Streets in north camden on a hot summer night, August 23, 1972. Inadequate water pressure, combined with a stiff breeze from the south indicated that there was trouble ahead. The first responding Fire Company, Engine Company 6, sounded the Second Alarm upon arrival. This photo is looking East on Byron Street.

Byron, Burns and Milton Streets

East of N. 2nd Street

The three blocks of houses that came to be known as Poet’s Row first appear in the Camden City Directory of 1890-1891. Named for famous figures of English literature, the streets ran east and west from North 2nd Street, north of Erie Street. The first street north of Erie was Byron Street, followed by Burns Street and Milton Streets. Only a few homes are noted in the 1890-1891 directory on Milton Street, at either end of the block, and only the 200 block is listed. This would indicate that Byron Street was built first, from the ends in, then Burns Street, and lastly Milton Street. A 300 block of Byron Street was built later, and also a 500 block of Byron Street.

North Camden in the 1890s offered many employment opportunities. Camden’s industries were booming, and entrepreneurs came to Camden to set up shop. The new houses were snapped up mostly by tradesmen and skilled workers, with more than a few taking advantage of the short walks to the Vine Street and Shackamaxon ferries to commute back and forth to Philadelphia. The builder also made provisions for corner stores so the residents could shop conveniently. The sidewalks, like many of that era, were brick, and the streets were paved with cobblestone.

The Poet’s Row neighborhood remained a vibrant place for decades, until, of course, after World War II, when the jobs began to leave North Camden. Perhaps it was poetic, with no pun intended, that the disaster that destroyed Poet’s Row occurred when a recently closed factory building caught fire; the fire spreading to the homes, and in one hellish night destroying Milton Street, Burns Street, and the north side of Byron Street, where only two homes at the east end of the block, 241 and 243 Byron Street, were saved.


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