Mechanic Street, historically, was situated two blocks south of Kaighn Avenue and originally ran parallel to it, stretching from Front Street to Haddon Avenue, although there was a gap between 7th and 8th Streets. The street’s layout was influenced by the intersecting streets and railways that crossed its path, resulting in two distinct sections of Mechanic Street, each with its own unique characteristics. It’s worth noting that Mechanic Street is one of the older streets in Camden and was already listed in the 1850 Camden City Directory.
Today, Mechanic Street begins at Ferry Avenue. The western section, west of Sixth Street, had been developed with numerous residences and a few businesses by the mid-1880s. In the 1890-1891 Camden City Directory, a few businesses are recorded in the 1200 block of Mechanic, situated between Louis Street and Haddon Avenue. However, it appears that all the development of Mechanic Street between 7th and Louis Streets occurred after 1891.
The relatively late start in development played a significant role in shaping the character of Mechanic Street in the subsequent years. In the area between Broadway and Front Street, characterized by older homes, no single ethnic group dominated. However, to the east of 8th Street, a different story unfolds.
Between 1890 and 1920, a wave of immigrants arrived in Camden, drawn by opportunities in the city’s factories and shops, as well as the promise of freedom and opportunities for their children as Americans. The most prominent immigrant groups included Italians, Poles, and Jewish immigrants. Additionally, there were sizable communities of Ukrainians, Croats, Armenians, Greeks, and Canadians, primarily from Newfoundland, who came to work in Camden’s shipyards.
The Polish community initially settled in the vicinity of Chestnut and Louis Streets. Once organized, the deeply religious Polish immigrants raised funds and constructed their own church, St. Joseph Catholic Church, located at 10th and Mechanic Streets. The church served as a focal point for the community, attracting Polish families to the new neighborhoods of Whitman Park and Liberty Park, which emerged between 8th Street and Haddon Avenue in the early 20th century.
For many years, Mechanic Street retained its Polish character, with St. Joseph Church serving as the spiritual center for South Jersey’s Polish community. However, changes in Camden’s ethnic composition over time altered the atmosphere along this section of Mechanic Street, although a few Polish families still resided there as of 2004.
In addition to St. Joseph Church, Mechanic Street is also known for a couple of bars located on or near it. At 1050 Mechanic Street, a now-vacant building housed a bar for nearly five decades, most recently known as the Bullpen. For many years, Revallo’s Cafe stood at the corner of Mechanic and Louis Streets, and 400 Mechanic housed a bar for approximately 80 years.
Returning to the western section of Mechanic Street, west of 7th Street, much of the area now comprises vacant lots where houses once stood. The riots of 1967 and 1971 had a significant impact on businesses, the aging housing stock deteriorated, and most of the area was eventually demolished. There are still some homes on Mechanic Street west of Broadway, but aside from a few mostly-empty industrial buildings, little else of significance remains. Nevertheless, as of 2004, a few industrial businesses were still operating on Mechanic Street near Ferry Avenue.
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The relatively late start in development played a significant role in shaping Mechanic Street in the subsequent years. To the east of 8th street, a different story unfolds.
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