Looking South on Broadway from the Elevated Railroad Tracks at Mickle Street, Camden, NJ

Broadway, once hailed as the “Mall of South Jersey,” emerged as Camden’s bustling commercial and cultural spine, reflecting the city’s dynamism and diversity. Stretching southwest from 6th Street to Ferry Avenue and beyond to Gloucester City, Broadway epitomized urban vibrancy and vitality during Camden’s industrial zenith.

In the wake of the Civil War, Camden embarked on a transformative journey of industrialization and urban expansion, catalyzing the development of key intersections along Broadway. These junctures — Broadway and Federal Street, Broadway and Kaighn Avenue, and Broadway and Ferry Avenue — served as focal points for civic life and commercial enterprise, attracting residents and businesses alike. The architectural landscape of Broadway bore the fingerprints of prominent builders and developers, including John J. Welsh, George M. Holl, Lewis F. Holl, and James H. Reeve, whose construction projects enriched the street’s fabric with a tapestry of styles and structures.

Welsh, renowned as “the man who built Broadway,” left an indelible mark with his firm’s construction prowess, erecting edifices that ranged from opulent theaters to elegant row houses. Meanwhile, the Holl brothers and Reeve, masters of renovation and revitalization, transformed aging structures into vibrant commercial hubs, perpetuating Broadway’s allure as Camden’s premier destination for commerce and culture.

The theaters — Lyric, Towers, and Princess — stood as cultural icons, enchanting audiences with dazzling performances and cinematic spectacles. These venues, along with numerous social clubs and entertainment establishments, infused Broadway with an unmistakable energy and charisma, attracting patrons from all walks of life.

However, Broadway’s narrative took a turn in 1938 when plans to widen the street as part of a state highway project faltered, reflecting the complexities of urban planning and infrastructure development amidst shifting socio-economic landscapes.

By the mid-20th century, Camden’s economic fortunes began to wane, precipitating Broadway’s gradual decline. Urban decay and disinvestment left scars on the street’s once-thriving thoroughfare, as vacant lots and boarded-up buildings became poignant symbols of urban blight and neglect.

Despite these challenges, Broadway endures as a resilient testament to Camden’s rich heritage and enduring spirit. Revitalization efforts, exemplified by initiatives like the Walter Rand Transportation Center, underscore the city’s commitment to reclaiming its historic thoroughfare as a vibrant hub of commerce, culture, and community life.

Today, Broadway stands as both a relic of the past and a beacon of hope for Camden’s future — a reminder of its storied legacy and a catalyst for its ongoing revitalization journey.


Location










Related Photos


Related Articles

  • Bulson Street

    Bulson Street

    Bulson Street once stretched eastward from Broadway to South 11th Street alongside the railroad tracks connecting Camden to the rest of South Jersey. The street is believed to have been named after Gilbert Bulson, a farmer who owned a sizable parcel of land in the area during the 19th century. City Directories dating back to…

    Read More…

  • Bridge Avenue

    Bridge Avenue, once a prominent thoroughfare in Camden, is now little more than a memory. Situated between Federal and Mickle Streets, it boasted buildings on both sides stretching as far east as South 5th Street by the 1890s. By 1924, Bridge Avenue ran along the north side of the railroad tracks originating at the Market…

    Read More…

  • Branch Street

    Branch Street

    Branch Street is a one-block street that extends from 1460 Broadway east to South 6th Street. It first appeared in City Directories in 1878. According to the 1906 Camden City Directory, it had been referred to as Commerce Street until some point between the publication of the 1888-1889 and 1890-1891 City Directories.

    Read More…

  • Ralph W. E. Donges

    Ralph W. E. Donges

    Ralph Waldo Emerson Donges, born on May 5, 1868, in Donaldson, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, to Dr. John Washington Donges and Rose Marguerite Renaud Donges, was a distinguished legal and political figure in Camden, NJ. His father, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a practicing physician, and his French-born mother, provided a nurturing environment…

    Read More…

  • Roy R. Stewart

    Roy R. Stewart

    Roy R. Stewart was born in Quakake, PA, a small mining town, in 1887. During his youth, he worked as a breaker boy in the mines. After completing business college, he relocated to Camden in 1909 and secured employment at Hurley’s Department Store located at Broadway and Spruce Street. In 1912, he established his own…

    Read More…

  • Old Cooper Street

    Old Cooper Street

    Reprinted from the series of stories of Camden’s earlier days, under the title Sixty Years in Camden County – Gosh! by Will Paul, appearing in The Community news, of Merchantville, NJ. In an earlier chapter I suggested that a young writer seeking a subject for a story could take any Camden street that leads to…

    Read More…


Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.