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

Broadway in Camden….. a legendary street, once the “Mall of South Jersey.” Running southwest of 6th Streets past Ferry Avenue and then all the way to Gloucester City, and eventually on to Woodbury, Broadway was extended north from its beginning at Market Street through to the Delaware River (Ben Franklin) Bridge toll plaza in the 1920s.

When Camden began its period of industrial growth and expansion after the Civil War, the intersections of Broadway and Federal Street, Broadway and Kaighn Avenue, and Broadway and Ferry Avenue became anchor locations in the civic and commercial life of Camden and the surrounding areas. Homes and businesses soon filled in the “empty spaces” between these intersections. During the 1890s and the first two decades of the 20th Century, Camden-based contractor John J. Welsh was known in the city as “the man who built Broadway,” as his firm was involved with a great many projects along the thoroughfare.

Brothers George M. Holl and Lewis F. Holl also completed many projects during these years. James H. Reeve, who had worked for Welsh as a foreman, remodeled many of the homes, including those on the Holl Block, between Stevens and Mickle Street, for business purposes. Reeve and his sons also built three theatres on Broadway, the Lyric, the Towers, and the Princess.

In 1938 a proposal was floated to widen Broadway as a state highway project. This went nowhere.

When Camden began its economic decline in the 1950s, Broadway suffered right along with it. Broadway became in many ways the symbol of Camden’s economic fall. Although there have been some new buildings erected in recent years, most significantly the Walter Rand Transportation Center between Broadway and Mickle Streets, far too much of Broadway in June of 2004 consists of vacant lots and boarded up buildings.

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