Graduate students at Rutgers-Camden are exploring the history of the Cooper Street Historic District, which borders our campus. Watch this blog for our discoveries in the archives!
The Federal-style residence at 312 Cooper Street is one of the two oldest structures in the Cooper Street Historic District, dating to around 1810. Over time, it has been a family home, a school, a political clubhouse, and an office building. In recent times, it has been best known as the “Red Cross House,” the home of the Red Cross in Camden from the 1950s until 2007.
On August 21, 2013, Rutgers-Camden kicked off a campaign to transform 312 Cooper Street into the university’s first Alumni House. We were proud to share our research on the house and its occupants with more than two hundred people who attended the kick-off event. Viewed over time, the many uses of 312 Cooper Street connect well with the history and mission of Rutgers-Camden as a place where generations have lived, worked, played, learned, and devoted service to the community.
To contribute to the Alumni House campaign, visit http://Ralumni.com/alumnihouse. And to learn more about 312 Cooper Street, see the following posts by Rutgers-Camden graduate students enrolled in the Historic Interpretation Seminar during the Spring 2013 semester:
- Edward Smith, Ironmaster, by Brian Albright
- The Fashionable Mr. Smith, by Kim Coulter
- Grayson Mallet-Prevost: Surgeon and Mexican-American War Veteran, by Joshua Lisowski
- Female Education in Camden County: 312 Cooper Street – Young Ladies’ Seminary School, by Jacob Downs
- Republicans Up and Down Cooper Street, by William Roulett
- Helping Hands: The American Red Cross at 312 Cooper Street, by Mikaela Maria
At the corner of Fifth and Cooper Streets, two large residences built in the 1880s represent the height of Camden’s nineteenth-century prosperity and the transition of a fashionable neighborhood following the 1926 completion of the first bridge across the Delaware River to Philadelphia. Anchoring a key intersection within the Cooper Street Historic District, these houses contribute to the National Register of Historic Places’ recognition of Cooper Street’s significance in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, “when industry, commerce, and agriculture combined to make this city the economic and urban center of Southern New Jersey.” They demonstrate transitions from nineteenth-century trades, to real estate development, to the practice of medicine in the houses on Cooper Street. Read more about the buildings that currently house the Rutgers-Camden Departments of History and Religion and Philosophy.
The Republican Club in Camden:
Camden’s Republican Club used 312 Cooper Street as its clubhouse from 1889 until at least 1916. The Camden County Historical Society (CCHS) possesses some interesting resources pertaining to the Republican Club in Camden. The club’s 1888-1889 ledger was a great find and revealed the club’s members, the dues they paid, and accounts where those dues were spent. The members included several prominent Camden residents, and each paid annual dues of $10 during that period. These dues were used for accounts documented in the ledger, which included a fund for a new club house.
By 1889 the Republican Club had saved $18,761.10 in their new clubhouse fund. This coincides with the year the club moved into the house. Continue reading
The American Red Cross of Camden County was the last organization to occupy 312 Cooper Street before Rutgers began implementing plans for restoration. To better understand the organization’s role in Camden, I began my research by delving in to the beginnings of the Red Cross abroad and within the United States. Continue reading
The proximity of Camden to Philadelphia has had mixed results throughout Camden’s history, but one benefit to the close proximity between the cities is the range of occupants that made Camden their home. The family of Grayson Mallet-Prevost may have only lived in Camden for a duration of three years, but they give an international flair to the history of the Cooper Street Historic District and can show how easy people made the transition between living in Philadelphia and Camden in the late nineteenth century. Continue reading
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an ironmaster succinctly as “a manufacturer of iron.” And uncritically applied, Edward Smith (c.1771-1857) of 312 Cooper Street, owner of the Cumberland Furnace would surely qualify as an ironmaster. But a more nuanced understanding of the title might undermine his credentials—or better—lead to a fuller understanding how the role of the ironmaster and the organization of the charcoal iron industry changed between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. Continue reading
The building located at 312 Cooper Street, Camden, New Jersey has served many purposes since it’s construction in the early nineteenth century. However, between the years of 1883 and 1886, the building was a school for Camden’s affluent young ladies. While little is known about this school, Much can be inferred by better understanding education in the city of Camden throughout the nineteenth century.
From Camden’s establishment to the early twentieth century, the development of education in Camden County followed two distinct phases. During the first phase, which began when Camden County was established, little concern was dedicated to the education of the area’s children. Only one school, The Camden Academy, existed through much of the late eighteenth century and into the early nineteenth century. The Camden Academy was established exclusively for boys and charged $2.50 a term. The tuition was substantial enough to keep working class or other lower class Camden residents from attending the school. Young ladies and girls would be completely excluded from the education system in the area throughout the eighteenth century and into the early nineteenth century. Continue reading
About the time Edward Smith was building his summer home in Camden, New Jersey at the very beginning of the nineteenth century, there were about 4,500 residents and most lived in simple one-story wood frame houses. Most of Cooper Street was empty; there are very few entries for residences on Cooper Street in the even in the 1850 Camden city directory. Now consider how impressive the massive brick, three-story, two-lot mansion that belonged to the Smith family looked to the average person on the street. Reflect back on the fact that this was only their summer home. Edward Smith and his family were not just well off, they were an extremely wealthy family that sprang from generations of prosperity. We can only speculate as to the number and quality of luxury items that filled the Smith home. Judging from the lavish architectural details and items found in the archeological excavation of 312 and 318 Cooper Street (done prior to building the new dormitory at Rutgers Camden), one suspects the items that were in the inside the Smith home were as impressive as the scale of the building.
When the Smiths were constructing their new summer home in the early 1800s, a revolutionary change happened in home construction: the position of architect was professionalized. Prior to 1800 a group of carpenters and masons mutually decided the details and architectural elements that would go into your home. If you were lucky enough to have a skilled carpenter, then you might end up with a beautiful mantle. Similarly if you happened to hire a good mason, the quality of stone work in your home could be stunning; it all depended on what who you hired could do. However, when the Smiths built their summer home, an architect likely planned what and where each detail would go. If your carpenter could not build the desired spiral staircase, the architect would find one who could. As a result the home of gentry became more and more elaborate architecturally. Millwork was elaborately carved, mantles beautifully decorated, and every stone placed perfectly. The architect was a revolution. Architects began by designing large buildings such as banks, government structures and elite homes but soon moved on to design most types of buildings.
Today 312 Cooper sits next to the ultra modern dormitories and in comparison appears antique. 312 Cooper is one of the oldest homes still standing on Cooper Street, its relatively plain brick façade looks unimpressive to our modern eyes. I can’t help but wonder how the new dorm will appear to Cooper Street visitors in two hundred years.
Rutgers University- Camden
The property at 511 Cooper Street can easily be divided into three distinct sections, because the building has a relatively stable line of ownership since it was first constructed in 1883. 511 Cooper was originally built by John C. Rogers for Dr. Henry Hunt, then became an office for a revolving number of doctors, and finally housed a law firm that still occupies the building into the present day. The official documents by the New Jersey Office of Historic Preservation, which disclosed why 511 Cooper Street was part of the Cooper Street Historical District, only mention Dr. Henry Hunt and therefore only the first phase of this site’s development.
As the Camden City Directories revealed, Dr. Henry Hunt lived in 511 Cooper Street until his death in 1896. From 1883-1896, Dr. Hunt lived and had his homeopathic medicine practice within 511 Cooper. The Hunt family had at least four different domestic servants living with them during this period, and they were able to afford a dedicated coachman throughout the 1890’s. Children were not listed in census records or city directories during this time period, but Henry Hunt was already in his 50’s, so his children were potentially living elsewhere. Dr. Hunt’s wife Teresa continued to live on the property until 1901. Teresa’s sister Ann Beatty was a widow and moved into 511 Cooper in 1892. Both Teresa and Ann moved to 431 Penn Street in 1901, and their departure finished the first section of 511 Cooper’s history.
There is a slight research gap between 1901 and 1906 when the property was purchased by Albert Davis. The Camden County Historical Society did not have any information about deed exchanges or the sale of 511 Cooper Street, and city directories did not mention who lived within the property during the five-year gap. There is still a question of who lived on the site during this time, but that addition research will have to be done at a later date.
The city directory for 1905 lists Albert Davis as a student residing in 300 Cooper Street, but the Camden City Directory for 1906 lists Albert Davis as the only resident of 511 Cooper and provides office hours for his medical practice. 1906 Could have been the year Albert graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a medical degree in surgery. It is interesting to note that Albert Davis’s father William went to the University of Pennsylvania, owned a pharmacy at 300 Cooper Street, and was a founding doctor of Cooper Hospital in Camden. Albert would have been well connected with the medical Community throughout Camden County, and he served as the Secretary for the Medical Society of New Jersey throughout the 1910’s and 1920’s. After Davis’ family grew by a wife, two children, and some in-laws, Albert Davis purchased a home in Haddonfield in 1925 and started to rent out sections of 511 Cooper Street. A number of doctors started to practice medicine alongside Albert Davis from the 1920’s until the early 1950’s. Some only rented for a year, while others like George German or Lydia Wright, worked in 511 Cooper for over a decade. A few doctors were listed as residing at 511 Cooper during this period, so the transition to a full commercial building was not yet complete.
The current owners of 511 Cooper Street, the DuBois, Sheehan, Hamilton, Levin & Weissman LLC, purchased the building in 1954, back when they were only known as DuBois & Dubois. None of the lawyers or aids listed at 511 Cooper Street lived within the building, so the building became a full commercial area for the first time in the 1970’s. The DuBois & DubBois Law Firm grew substantially during the later twentieth century, but its main office is still 511 Cooper Street.
There are a number of gaps in this research, both because of time constraints and record availability. Research at the Camden County Historical Society pointed to the loose outline of this three-part structure for 511 Cooper, but a fully descriptive narrative is still many research-hours away. The narrative of 511 Cooper Street does fit within the narrative established by the Cooper Street Historical District. 511 Cooper Street transitioned from a building where professionals lived and worked, to a hub for many professionals to work during the day and lived in the surrounding suburbs at night.
Camden County Historical Society City Directories
Ancestry.com Census Data
Date, last name, first name, address, occupation; these are the components of the Camden city directory. But what does this seemingly minimal information disclose across time and space? First and most obvious, the city directory reveals the occupants at a certain address. When compiled into a list, the directory listings for 224 Cooper Street narrate a portion of a greater narrative about Camden New Jersey.
After paging through decades of city directories at the Camden Country Historical Society, Between 1850 and 1890 the Scull family lived at 224 Cooper Street. Joab and Ann had at least six children, four daughters and two sons, who survived into adulthood. 224 Cooper Street identified the head of household as retired grocer Joab Scull. His son William seems to have taken up the family business and in 1860 he too was listed as grocer. Joab lived until eighty and, presumably upon his death in1875, left the family home to his wife Ann. The widow Ann continued to live at 224 Cooper with daughters Anna, Caroline, Emma, and Mary. These women dwelt in 224 Cooper for nearly twenty more years until 1891 when Ann, presumably now passed away at age 91, disappeared from the directory altogether. Year 1892 reveals that the Emma, Anna, and Mary had removed to Philadelphia with Andrew Scull, a business owner who recently moved his company A. Scull and Son Machinists to Philadelphia. Though it is not said why the family moved, one can surmise it was not for want of money. Several businesses are listed under the Scull name, William S. Scull Company and A Scull and Son. Joab’s widow Ann, never held a job outside of the home and never had to take in boarders to supplement her income. No males were listed between 1881 and 1891 at the property, yet the women remained for nearly a decade.
Though I was unable to uncover much about A Scull & Son, William S. Scull and Company, later known as Boscul’s Coffee, was a major dealer in coffee, tea, and spices in the Mid-Atlantic region. Founded in 1831 by Joab Scull, the business was located at Front and Federal Streets in Camden until the 1940s, when the company moved to Philadelphia under the name Boscul’s. Two of three company owners lived at 224 Cooper, so indeed the widow Ann and her daughters would have been well taken care of financially. Beyond the walls of the family home however, wages earned at the Scull family businesses provided other Camden residents with some sense of financial security. The William S. Scull Company iwa one of Camden’s earliest businesses to employ immigrant labor and throughout the years employed hundreds of local workers. 224 Cooper Street emerges as more than just a home for the Sculls, it is the story of a local family, a small business turned national brand, and the movement of people and business to and from Camden New Jersey.
Rutgers University- Camden