According to the HPO structure survey form for the property, the Honorable Charles P. Stratton (1827-1884), first President Law Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Camden County (1872-1877) sold 300-302 Cooper Street to Mary Smith on March 6, 1875. Eight years later, Mary and John E. Smith sold one or both of the properties to William A. Davis, pharmacist and physician, who resided at 300 Cooper with his family until 1906. To date, no census or city directory data have been found indicating that Mary or John E. Smith ever resided at 300-302 Cooper Street during their ownership.
Clues to the identity of John E. and Mary Smith came from two historic maps housed at the Camden County Historical Society. In 1877, two years after Mary’s purchase, G.M. Hopkins’ City Atlas of Camden New Jersey depicts two wooden frame structures at the southeast corner of the intersection of North Third Street and Cooper Street labeled 302 and 304 Cooper Street. It is likely that the handsome brick twin houses that now stand at 300-302 were already built at the time of Davis’ purchase in 1883 since it is confirmed that the brick twins were present by 1902 and that the Davis family occupied 300 Cooper until 1906.
The Smiths may have purchased 300-302 Cooper as a development property. Historic census data and city directories suggest that the developer-owners may have been a local builder, John E. Smith, husband of Anna Smith, of 319 Walnut Street and Mary Smith, a female relative—perhaps his mother or sister. Directory and census entries include:
- John E. Smith, carpenter 325 Walnut Street (1874)
- John E. Smith, builder, 325 Walnut Street (1877)
- John Smith, carpenter, 325 Walnut Street (1879)
- John E. Smith, carpenter, 319 Walnut Street, husband of Anna (1880)
- J. E. Smith, carpenter, 319 Walnut Street (1881)
- John E. Smith, carpenter, 319 Walnut Street (1882)
- John E. Smith, building inspector, 319 Walnut Street (1886)
- John E. Smith, carpenter, 319 Walnut Street (1887)
Unfortunately, John and Mary Smith are rather common names—even in Camden in the 1880s—and additional research might indicate the owners were an entirely different John E. and Mary Smith.
Camden County Historical Society
G.M. Hopkins’ 1877 City Atlas of Camden New Jersey
G. Wm. Baist’s 1902 Property Atlas of the City of Camden New Jersey
George R. Prowell’s 1886 History of Camden County, New Jersey