Mickle Street

Alley Street Stock Photo

Mickle Street was named after John W. Mickle, a prominent figure in both local and State affairs in the 1840’s and 1850’s. He was one of the organizers and a shareholder for many years in the Federal Street Ferry, and had a large stake in the Camden and Amboy Railroad. More recently, Mickle Street can also be known as Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

On of the major East-West roads in Camden, Mickle Street runs from the Delaware River west past Haddon Avenue toward the Cooper River. The famous poet, Walt Whitman, made his home for many years in the 300 block of Mickle Street; Walt Whitman’s home is still standing, and has been converted into a museum in his honor. During the ferry and railroad era, the trains that served South Jersey ran east parallel to Mickle Street. The tracks were elevated so that street traffic to South Camden would not be interrupted. This was known as the “Chinese Wall” and was eliminated in the 1960s.

Mickle Boulevard runs parallel to Federal Street in East Camden. One section of Mickle Street runs from 15th to 17th Street. A second section runs from Marlton Avenue to South 26th street, While a third section of Mickle Street begins at Eutaw Street, in front of the Joseph Hatch House, and continues East to Woodrow Wilson High School at South 31st Street. Mickle picks back up for four blocks, between South 33rd and South 36th Streets. St George Methodist Episcopal Church was located here from the 1890s until it burned down sometime after 1980. The William McKinley Elementary School was also located here, from the 1890s until it closed in the 1950s, also a victim of fire.

In the late 1990s the City Council of the City of Camden renamed many streets. Most of these names have failed to gain popular acceptance over the years. Mickle Street in Central Camden, which had been renamed Mickle Boulevard when the railroad tracks were taken out and the street was widened to six lanes, was again renamed, this time as Martin Luther King Boulevard. While Dr. King’s deeds are beyond doubt deserving of some recognition, John Mickle did much for Camden, and the decision to rename, like several others made during this period, showed an acute lack of knowledge and sensitivity on the part of City Council and the Mayor’s Office. Tourists, scholars and students from out of town and foreign lands now have a difficult time finding the Walt Whitman House, as every literary and biographical text written concerning him refers to Mickle Street. Fortunately, most Camden residents have, to date, ignored the assorted name changes. Mickle Street in East Camden was not made part of the renaming campaign.

Besides the Walt Whitman House, the Joseph Hatch House, Woodrow Wilson High School, and St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, several other significant business and buildings have stood or presently stand on Mickle Street, including the Alfred Cramer Elementary School, Mickle and Riverview Towers, apartment homes for senior citizens, the Garden Hotel, Broadway Eddie’s record store, the Water Rand Transportation Center, and the Camden County Jail. Wiggins Park is at Mickle Boulevard’s eastern end, as is the Tweeter Center and the Adventure Aquarium (formerly the New Jersey State Aquarium); Cooper Hospital, the Camden Police Administration Building, and Camden’s Civil War Soldier’s Monument are just a few steps from Mickle. The Holl Block stood on Broadway between Stevens and Mickle Street for over 50 years. The New Jersey National Guard Armory (the home of the Camden Public Works Department for many years) is on Wright Avenue at Mickle Street. Camden’s City Hall stood on Haddon Avenue near Mickle prior to the opening in 1931 of the building presently in use.

Sadly, Mickle Street has also been the subject of criminal activity in the 1990s and the first years of the 21st century. A convicted drug dealer was removed from the streets permanently in 1996 by law enforcement officers serving our community, at the Happy Dragon Chinese Restaurant at 29th & Mickle Street, which in prior years had been a corner grocery. Sadly, eight years later other social parasites returned to the corner, robbed, pistol-whipped, and shot the hard-working immigrant owner, Bao Xing Lin, in front of his son, on March 11, 2004. The killers took $150.00 from the restaurant and were arrested later that year. The store has since been converted into a private residence.


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