417 Cooper Street

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Title

417 Cooper Street

Description

Contributing structure, Cooper Street Historic District.

Illustrations

1. 417 Cooper Street in 2019. (Photograph by Jacob Lechner)
2. 400 block of Cooper Street, early twentieth century prior to 1913, with arrow indicating 417. (Camden County Historical Society)

Significance

417 Cooper Street is a contributing structure of the Cooper Street Historic District, listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. Together with others in the row 415-21 Cooper Street, 417 represents a significant transition in the evolution of Camden during the 1840s and 1850s as homes were built for the first time on land formerly owned by the Cooper family on the north side of the street. The building is are among the nineteenth-century structures that support the nomination of the Cooper Street Historic District for the National Register: "The buildings within the district include Camden's best remaining examples of Federal houses and its most intact examples of nineteenth-century houses as well as important office and bank buildings of more recent vintage. These buildings demonstrate the street's change from residential and professional to commercial." This transition is illustrated by 417 Cooper Street, where residents over time also reflect histories of public health, public safety, the experiences of widows as boarding house operators, and connections between Camden and Philadelphia. Rutgers purchased the building in 2010.

Architectural style

Greek Revival

Date of construction

1853

History

In March 1853 the Philadelphia Public Ledger observed, "Mr. Atwood has nearly finished two exquisitely, ornamentally and conveniently arranged dwelling houses on Cooper Street. They are fine additions to the improvements of that part of the city." With this brief note, the newspaper documented the construction of 417 and 415 Cooper Street. "Mr. Atwood" was Jesse Atwood, a Philadelphia-based artist whose wife, Hannah, had purchased property on the north side of Cooper Street from the Cooper family in 1845. The frontage of the property accommodated three houses, initially a wood-frame house at 413 Cooper Street followed by the two brick houses erected in 1853. The Atwoods also developed four smaller dwellings on the back of the property, facing Lawrence Street. 

For most of the century following their construction, the houses at 417 and 415 Cooper Street were jointly owned with one or both treated as investment properties rented out to others. Hannah Atwood derived a steady rental income as her husband pursued his career as an itinerant artist, and she bequeathed the houses to her granddaughter for the same purpose in 1883. The family sold the houses to others, but they remained rental properties.

It is possible that the Atwoods lived in either 413, 415, or 417 Cooper Street between 1853 and 1860, as they appear in city directories at "Cooper above Fourth." Starting in 1860, the house at 417 was rented to others, first to a bookkeeper, William Farr, his wife Adelaide, and their three young children. The household also included a domestic servant, Rachael Askins, identified in the 1860 Census as "mulatto."

Little is known about the next tenant, a dealer in boots and shoes named James J. Morrison,  but in 1868 a public sale of contents of the home provided a glimpse of the Victorian-era ambiance at this address. As advertised in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the sale revealed a home with rosewood and brocatelle drawing-room furniture made in Philadelphia, velvet carpets, a marble-topped center table, and a fireplace with a French-plate mantel and pier mirror. Music filled the home from a seven-octave pianoforte made by the Philadelphia firm Schomacker & Co., which had been founded by a Viennese craftsman. The contents of 417 Cooper Street included dining room and chamber furniture, beds and bedding, china, glassware, and kitchen utensils. The furnishings provide a glimpse of domestic life on Cooper Street in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Philadelphia Connections

By 1870 and continuing until at least 1874, 417 Cooper Street became home for the extended family of William Jenks, a produce dealer on the Philadelphia waterfront. In addition to his Irish-born wife, Kate, the household included Kate's sister Mary Cassidy, a music teacher; and her widowed mother, Catharine Cassidy. The household also included Henry Cooper, a bricklayer, who might have been a boarder. Domestic servants--Maggie Harrison in 1870 and Mary Mullene in 1873--worked and lived in the home. Another family with Philadelphia ties followed in the early 1880s: Robert E. Thompson, a Philadelphia insurance agent with his wife, Sarah, their adult son Charles (a clerk), and Sara's sister. They moved to this address from up the street, at 425 Cooper, and stayed at least four years, from 1881 to 1885.

Personal Losses, Property Losses

In the late 1880s, 417 Cooper Street became an owner-occupied home when Willard Hinchman, a fish merchant on the Philadelphia waterfront, purchased the house at this address as well as the house next door, 415 Cooper. While the Hinchman family lived in 417 Cooper, 415 continued to be a boarding house operated by a relative who had long lived at the address, Margaret Browning. The Hinchmans had other family connections in Camden as well, especially through Hinchman's wife, M. Ella Hinchman, one of six children of prominent local businessman John Stockham. He had made a fortune during the Civil War by importing Carolina pine from the South and then selling it to the U.S. government. By the 1880s, Stockham had retired to a Maryland farm, but he previously lived at 215 Cooper Street.

The Hinchmans' early years at 417 Cooper were years of loss. First, John Stockham died in 1887 at the age of 70, and his funeral took place at the Hinchman home. Just three years later, the Hinchmans' infant son named for his grandfather, John Stockham Hinchman, also died at just eight months of age. His funeral, too, took place at 417 Cooper Street. Shortly thereafter, they rented out 417 Cooper to others; in 1896 both 417 and 415 Cooper Street went to sheriff's sale. The Hinchmans left New Jersey to farm on Stockham family land in Maryland, although they returned by 1905 to a rented home in Haddonfield.

Health Professionals

At the turn of the twentieth century, 417 Cooper Street was an investment property that belonged to the new owner-occupant of the house next door at 415, Joshua B. Franklin. The owner of a livery stable near the Camden waterfront, Franklin had become well-known as he rented horses and carriages to the city's social and political elites. This may have helped him attract tenants for 417 Cooper. He also improved the properties with wood front porches (added in 1913 but later removed).

Cooper Street's evolution into a location for medical offices became evident at 417 Cooper Street with the tenants of the early twentieth century. For more than a decade, between 1908 and 1919, Franklin rented to the extended family of Dr. Elmer Bower, a dentist who previously had both home and office at two other Cooper Street addresses (405 and 419). When Bower arrived in Camden in the 1880s, he had been fresh out of dental school at the University of Pennsylvania. Now, at 417 Cooper Street, he continued his practice from age 46 until retirement and shared the home with his wife, Catherine; his newly married son, Chester, and Chester's wife, Mary; and an adult daughter, Sarah. Dr. Bower was active in the Camden Republican Club, then at 312 Cooper Street, and his accomplishments as a fisherman occasionally made the Camden papers. When Bower retired in 1919 for health reasons, he moved briefly to another address in Camden and then returned to his birthplace, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

The Bower family's successor at 417 Cooper Street also was culminating a long career in health care, particularly public health and the treatment of infectious disease. Dr. Henry Hill Davis, 70 years old when he rented 417 Cooper, lived at this address with his wife, Harriett, for about five years while serving as medical inspector for Camden's public schools. He had been appointed to the position at the turn of the century--the first post of its kind in New Jersey and only the second in the nation, after New York City. Davis instituted annual physical examinations for Camden pupils and required vaccinations before any child could be admitted to school. While continuing in this work, he was among the leaders in founding a new Camden Municipal Hospital for Contagious Diseases, which opened in 1916, and he served for twenty years as president of the Camden Board of Health. Over his long career, he led Camden's responses to smallpox oubreaks and the influenza epidemic of 1918-19. When he retired from his Camden schools position in 1925, the city honored him not only with a pension but also by giving his name to a new public school--still operating in 2020 as the Dr. Henry H. Davis Family School in East Camden. A street near the former site of the Municipal Hospital also bears his name.

A Widow's Boarding House

Emma Jarvis experienced two deep losses in the mid-1920s: the death by suicide of her brother, John Knott, who lived on Point Street, and the death of her husband, Edgar, who operated an auto repair shop in North Camden. Perhaps it was the automotive business connected her with 417 Cooper Street, whose owner next door also sold and serviced automobiles as they gained in popularity during the 1920s. By 1927, perhaps a year or two earlier, Emma Jarvis moved from her earlier home in the 700 block of Lawrence Street to operate a boarding house at 417 Cooper.

Unusual documentation of Jarvis's new address appeared in the Camden Courier-Post of January 28, 1929: a testimonial advertisement featuring her photograph. name, and address, with the headline "Woman Cries Aloud with Joy When Rheumatic Pain Goes." The advertisement purported to describe Jarvis's excruciating pain and the miraculous cure afforded by a powder called Nurito, available nearby at Weiser's Pharmacy, Fifth and Market Streets. This was, however, one of many such advertisements that appeared across the country to tout the Chicago-manufactured product. The ads soon attracted the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which found the powder to be akin to aspirin and ordered the ads to be discontinued.

For her more sustained venture, the boarding house, Jarvis rented 417 Cooper Street for $60 a month from the owner next door, Joshua Franklin. The 1930 U.S. Census found her at this address at age 59 with two of her four adult children (David, 35, an auto repairman, and Marion, 26, a book keeper) and six boarders. The boarders included a cook, a laundry manager, a saleswoman and a salesman, and a newspaper reporter. Many of the home's occupants shared the experience of being children of immigrants to the United States. Jarvis had been born in Pennsylvania to a father who immigrated from German (her mother had been born in Delaware). Jarvis's late husband had been born England. Among her boarders in 1930, one had parents born in Germany and another had parents born in Ireland. Two others demonstrated the fluidity of movement within the country; one had been born in New York and another, while born in New Jersey, had a father born in Montana.

Jarvis operated the boarding house until at least 1931 (when she was listed in the last Camden city directory published during the 1930s) and likely longer, as advertisements offering furnished rooms or apartments at 417 Cooper Street continued to appear in Camden newspapers until 1938. In the late 1930s, she moved to Haddonfield to live with her daughter, Marion, who was employed there as a book keeper.

Physician's Office, Retirement Home

By 1939, 417 Cooper Street had a new owner and transitioned to a common pattern of use for Cooper Street houses during the remaining decades of the twentieth century. The new owner, Dr. Edmund Hessert, lived in Collingswood (and later Rancocas) while maintaining his office on the first floor of the building he had purchased in Camden. He rented out the two floors above as apartments.

The building remained in part a family home, however, because the most long-term occupants of the second-floor apartment were Hessert's in-laws, Thomas J. and Anna Murphy, both in their 70s, together with one and sometimes two of their adult sons. Thomas J. Murphy was retired from the Camden police force; his son Thomas P. Murphy had followed him onto the force and also retired in 1943. The other son living at 417 Cooper periodically, John, served in Europe during World War II and then returned to his office job with RCA (in Camden, later in Cherry Hill).

Maintaining a home for the Murphys seems to have been a factor in Hessert's continued ownership of 417 Cooper Street through the 1950s. A year after the death of Anna Murphy in 1958, at the age of 86, the building was advertised "for quick sale." The listing promised the buyer professional offices on the first floor and two apartments, completely modernized, including Venetian blinds and carpeting.

Professional Services and Apartments

In the second half of the twentieth century, 417 Cooper Street transitioned to an office building for insurance and legal services, with rental apartments above. Richard C. Hardenbergh operated his insurance agency at this address beginning in 1961, and in 1963 he bought the building. Although living in Haddon Township, he remained active in Camden civic activities, for example collecting registration forms for the Spring Queen competition held in Johnson Park in 1961. His business grew to twelve employees in Camden, with an additional office in Willingboro by 1966. During Hardenbergh's ownership, the tenants in the building included a training school for data processing equipment operators.

A lawyer, Barry Weinberg, owned 417 Cooper in the 1970s and 1980s, when office tenants also included an accounting firm. Thereafter the building passed through a sequence of absentee and corporate owners and often appeared in notices for sheriff's sales to satisfy back taxes. In 2002, a Rutgers-Camden graduate, Elizabeth Ashley, bought the building and rehabilitated it into apartments for students while also opening a restaurant in the house next door (215). After one more change of ownership, to a Philadelphia entity Park Properties Unlimited, Rutgers University purchased the building in 2010 for $367,000.

Associated Individuals

For a list of individuals and businesses associated with this address, visit the Cooper Street Database and scroll down to 417.

Sources

Camden City Directories (Ancestry.com).
Camden County Property Records.
Camden and Philadelphia Newspapers (Newspapers.com and Geneaology Bank).
National Register for Historic Places, Cooper Street Historic District Nomination, U.S. Department of Interior.
New Jersey Office of Cultural and Environmental Services Structures Surveys (1985) and Office of Environmental Protection, Historic Preservation Office, Property Reports (2007).
U.S. Census, 1850-1950; New Jersey State Census, 1885-1915.

Note on sources: Historic structures surveys identify this house as constructed c. 1846, consistent with the deed for purchase for the land. This research updates and corrects the date of construction for the home.

Research by

Charlene Mires

Posted by

Charlene Mires
Send corrections to cmires@camden.rutgers.edu

Collection

Citation

“417 Cooper Street,” Learning From Cooper Street, accessed October 1, 2022, https://omeka.camden.rutgers.edu/items/show/48.

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