420 Lawrence Street

420LawrenceOct23.jpg

Title

420 Lawrence Street

Description

Nineteenth-century working-class rental property, Cooper Street Historic District.

Significance

420 Lawrence Street forms part of a row of nineteenth-century, working-class houses that originated as rental properties erected by owners of grander homes facing Cooper Street. The row was included in the Cooper Street Historic District’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 to provide a “comprehensive view of Cooper Street’s social history" and “a clear view of the economic and social dichotomy that has continued to typify Camden.”

Date of construction

c. early 1850s

History

At the back of three Cooper Street-facing properties (413 through 417), four two-story houses were added facing Lawrence Street during the late 1840s and early 1850s. The collective development of seven residences stood on land purchased in 1845 and 1846 by Hannah Atwood, who lived at various times in one of the Cooper Street homes or in Philadelphia. When rented to others, the houses on Cooper and Lawrence Streets provided a steady income while Hannah’s husband, Jesse Atwood, pursued a career as a traveling portrait artist. He was best known for an 1847 portrait of General Zachary Taylor, the Mexican-American War hero who later became president of the United States.

420 Lawrence Street

The two-story, four-room brick house at 420 Lawrence Street likely dates to the early 1850s, when other similar houses are known to have been built in the same row. The absence of house numbering prevents identifying tenants by address prior to 1861, but city directories documented people living in this block of Lawrence Street beginning in 1854. Directories during the 1860s identify skilled tradespeople among the occupants of 420 Lawrence Street, including a butcher and a glazier (glass fitter).

Between 1865 and 1870, a butcher’s family lived at 420 Lawrence Street. The butcher, Peter C. Cliver, was a white man born in New Jersey, 53 years old in 1870. His household that year included at least six other people: his wife, Hannah, a white woman, 49 years old; four children ranging in age from 13 to 22 years of age; and an unrelated 25-year-old man who may have been a boarder. The Clivers’ oldest son worked as a box maker, and a 16-year-old son worked as a store clerk. For two years, 1869-70, city directories also list 420 Lawrence Street as the residence of Elizabeth A. Mood, a widow and dressmaker. If that listing is correct, she may have been the next tenant after the Clivers or co-inhabited the house with one or more of them. (The Census of 1870 found her at a different location, on Market Street.) Mood headed an extended family of five people. A white woman 46 years old, born in New Jersey, Mood lived with her three children, two of whom were old enough to contribute to the family economy: William, 18 years old, was an apprentice carpenter, and Lewis, 15, worked as a clerk in a grocery store. The household also included Mood’s 11-year-old daughter, Annie, and 63-year-old Ann Penn, likely Mood’s mother.

Longer-term tenants moved into 420 Lawrence Street by 1877. A laborer, John Stow, a white man in his late 30s, arrived that year with his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Mary; they occupied the home until 1890. The 1880 Census recorded that the parents could not write (but apparently could read). Their daughter was attending school and had a “wounded hip,” the Census recorded. The next year, 1881, 11-year-old Mary’s life began to diverge from her parents when she was baptized at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Market Street under the sponsorship of another adult. By 1885, Mary lived with another family in Stockton Township, possibly as a domestic servant. Her parents remained at 420 Lawrence Street until John Stow’s death in 1890, at the age of 51, from causes not publicly reported. A succession of other tenants followed during the 1890s, including laborers, a gardener, a bricklayer, a packer, a coachman, and a washerwoman. In 1896, hostler Herbert Batey and his wife, Emma, suffered the death of their infant son Horace while living at 420 Lawrence Street.

At the turn of the twentieth century, a large family headed by German immigrants moved into the small house. William Heider, a 37-year-old baker, had immigrated to the United States in in 1878; his wife, 36-year-old Lena, came later, in 1883. When recorded in the Census of 1900, they had been married fourteen years and had seven children ranging in age from 3 months to 13 years, two of them twin daughters. Two other children had not survived. The Heiders lived at 420 Lawrence Street from 1900 until 1903, when the house was put up for sale together with the adjoining 418 Lawrence Street. The agent advertised that the houses “will show a good investment, either for the man who is seeking a home or investment, and are real bargains.” The house remained a rental property, occupied by 1905 by a household headed by a 48-year-old Irish immigrant, a widow named Nora Healey (or Haley). Her two daughters, ages 17 and 22, worked in lace making and later in domestic service, and a 15-year-old son worked in farming.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, tenants at 420 Lawrence Street included a succession of married couples in their 20s and 30s, with occupations including salesman, shoemaker, chef, timekeeper, and laborer. Another large family moved into the home in 1920, headed by shipyard worker Thomas A. Montgomery, a white man 45 years old. He and his wife, Sadie, were both born in Pennsylvania but had lived in New Jersey for most of their married life. By 1920, their two oldest sons, ages 20 and 17, worked as truck drivers for a laundry; an 8-year-old daughter was attending school. Two younger children, ages 1 and 4, completed the family of seven. They remained at 420 Lawrence Street for seven years, followed by another household headed by a shipyard worker, a rigger named Lawrence Lauinger and his wife, Helen.

Records of tenants during the Great Depression are sparse because city directories were not published in Camden between 1931 and 1940. The decade opened with a 45-year-old white woman, Margaret Peterson, who was divorced, renting the home for herself and her 18-year old son, who operated machines at a laundry. By 1940, Earl Nelson, a 36-year-old immigrant from Norway who worked as a railroad machinist, shared the home with a family of lodgers. His lodgers were a family of five headed by Paul E. Rube, an immigrant from Sweden, 54 years old, who worked as a car cleaner; with his wife, Catherine (who was born in Pennsylvania), he had three children ranging in age from 1 to 8. The lodgers also included a 12-year-old boy, Joseph Armstrong, whose age suggests he may have been Catherine Rube’s son from a previous marriage.

By 1942, the house was vacant and put up for sale along with adjacent 418 and 422 Lawrence Streets. Under new ownership, during World War II the sequence of next tenants included a wounded Army private and a welder. Another large family moved into the home in 1950, headed by a 45-year-old white woman, Mary Brennan, who told Census takers she was separated from her husband. She shared the house with four sons ranging in age from 16 to 20, her 20-year-old daughter, and a 4-year-old granddaughter.

Several tenants later, by 1957 the house at 420 Lawrence Street had been conveyed to an investment company, and a woman who rented the house next door at 418 Lawrence took the opportunity to buy both properties. Alice Pharo, a white woman, had rented 418 Lawrence since 1950 and chose to stay despite a 1952 incident of a man breaking through the window of her kitchen. Divorced and living independently, Pharo served as secretary of the Burlington-Camden-Gloucester Society for Crippled Children and Adults. She rented out 420 Lawrence Street to tenants while living at 418 Lawrence until her death in 1977.

The next owners, Eric and Ellen Eifert, acquired both 418 and 420 Lawrence Street from Alice Pharo’s estate in 1984. In 2007, the Eiferts sold 418, 420, and 422 Lawrence Street to Rutgers University.

Associated Individuals

For a list of known residents of 420 Lawrence Street, link to the Lawrence Street Database. For earlier residents of the block (prior to house numbering), see Lawrence Street by Block, 1854-1860.

Sources

Camden and Philadelphia City Directories.
Camden and Philadelphia Newspapers.
Camden County Deeds.
Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1885-1950.
U.S. and New Jersey Census, 1870-1950.

Note on sources: When documented for the National Register of Historic Places, the Lawrence Street rowhouses were thought to have been occupied by servants for the homeowners on Cooper Street. This research updates and corrects the record.

Research by

Charlene Mires and Kaya Durkee

Posted by

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

Collection

Citation

“420 Lawrence Street,” Learning From Cooper Street, accessed April 22, 2024, https://omeka.camden.rutgers.edu/items/show/92.

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