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Lawrence Street

The 400 block of Lawrence Street is a remnant of working-class life in Camden as the city industrialized and its population grew rapidly. The surviving two-story rowhouses in this block date to the late 1840s and early 1850s, when Cooper family landholders began to divide their property north of Cooper Street into building lots. Because the lots extended from Cooper Street, a dominant thoroughfare, to narrow Lawrence Street, buyers had the opportunity to build houses facing both streets. This produced the dual character of the 400 block, with its substantial three-story homes facing Cooper Street as well as the smaller two-story rowhouses facing Lawrence Street. When the Cooper Street Historic Street was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, the Lawrence Street buildings were included 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.” The first owners in this block lived in their Cooper Street-facing houses or leased them to prosperous tenants; the smaller Lawrence Street rowhouses, in contrast, became working-class rental properties.

The Lawrence Street houses developed in four segments. In 1845, one of the buyers of Cooper family land, Hannah Atwood, bought three adjoining lots and over time erected seven structures: three on Cooper Street (413, 415, and 417) and four on Lawrence Street (416, 418, 420, and 422). When rented to tenants, the houses provided a steady income while Hannah’s husband, Jesse Atwood, pursued a career as a traveling portrait artist. In 1846, a Camden County public official and ferry company officer, Isaac Porter, also purchased a parcel in the 400 block for his residence at 425 Cooper Street and added two adjoining smaller houses on Lawrence Street (432 and 434). The lots between the Atwood and Porter properties sold in 1847: A Philadelphia merchant, Joseph R. Paulson, put up two houses facing Cooper Street (419 and 421) and two on Lawrence Street with a small alley between them (424 and 426). Bank teller Jesse Townsend erected one house on Cooper Street (423) and two on Lawrence Street (428 and 430). These transactions and investments filled in much of Cooper and Lawrence Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets. Of the ten houses built on Lawrence Street, six survived into the twenty-first century. A wood-framed house at 416 Lawrence was demolished in the 1880s; three others (428, 430, and 434) were replaced or adapted as automobile garages in the twentieth century.

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