Collingswood Commercial Historic District
The Collingswood Commercial Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
The response to development efforts in Collingswood was slow at first, but then the borough underwent a building boom. The population was 200 in 1882; 1,625 in 1900; 4,795 in 1910; 8,714 in 1920; and 12,723 in 1930. The early-twentieth century growth corresponds with the opening of a street car line along Haddon Avenue to Camden in the early 1900s. Accompanying the suburban growth of Collingswood was a commercial and social infrastructure. The principal commercial core of Collingswood originally developed along Haddon Avenue which was known as the Camden and Haddonfield Turnpike. (Note: West Collingswood, too, has a commercial center, although much smaller.) In the 1860s and 1870s, most of the land that was to evolve into the commercial section of Haddon Avenue between Fern and Woodlawn Avenues was part of a 95-acre parcel owned by William P. Tatem. His was one of several farms scattered along the Haddonfield Turnpike. The completion of the new Camden and Atlantic Railroad station at Atlantic and Collings Avenues in 1886 coincided with modest development of Haddon Avenue, mostly residential. The few commercial buildings included J. Stokes Collings' store and post office at the corner of Collings and Haddon Avenues and Mahlon Bosterick's Hotel on Haddon Avenue, near what is now Lincoln Avenue. A drug store, across from Collings' store, was in operation by 1893, but the more significant commercial growth of Haddon Avenue was not to occur for almost a decade. That growth was largely in response to the residential community beginning to form in developments laid out by the Collingswood Real Estate Company, Collingswood Realty Company, and Collingswood Land Company.
By 1904, Haddon Avenue between Woodlawn and Fern started its transformation into Collingswood's commercial "main street." Chamberlain's drug store was erected next to the Collingswood National Bank site which at that time had a real estate and insurance office. A wallpaper store stood where S.B. Dobbs' stores were soon to be erected at 741-57 Haddon Avenue. The Baptist Church was erected at the corner of Washington and Haddon, adjacent to which were a wagon shop, painting and wheelwright business, and hardware and carriage trimming store. Haddon Avenue was still lined with several single and double residences and a grandstand and baseball field where Newton B.T. Roney, later a Florida real estate tycoon, was to build his commercial and residential development. In the next few years, the Presbyterian congregation erected their church on the site of the current public library, the Collingswood National Bank built its Classical Revival-style building next door, and the Board of Education erected Public School No. 1 at Haddon and Irvin Avenue. Merchantville architect Henry Alexander Macomb designed that school as well as two others in the borough.
An event which further shaped Haddon Avenue into its current appearance was the 1913 fire which started during the construction of Collingswood's first modern moving picture house on Haddon opposite Frazer Avenue. The fire destroyed almost a block of Haddon Avenue, including a residence, post office, Town Hall, and stores. In its place, "modern" stores and the "The Palms," movie house (Masonic Hall by 1920) were erected. During the remainder of the 1910s and throughout the 1920s, more and more Haddon Avenue residences were demolished for commercial buildings as Collingswood's growing population demanded a larger and more diverse retail center.
The resources of the Collingswood Commercial Historic District form a classic example of the "main street" of a late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century suburb, assuming significance in the area of community development and commerce. It is a district which has undergone various transitions: farmland to mixed use residential/commercial, to a mature twentieth century commercial core that provided goods, services, and employment to an expanding borough. While many suburban communities sharing a similar history with Collingswood have lost their downtown to neglect, absenteeism, and new construction, the buildings along Haddon Avenue maintain the integrity to convey the important relationship between a community and its "main street."
† Carol A. Benenson, M.S., Kise, Franks & Straw, Collingswood Commercial Historic District, Camden County, New Jersey, nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.