Rutgers University presents "Visions of Camden"

February 19, 2013 3:18:58 AM PST
Much of the news coming out of Camden these days is what most people would call negative. But do you remember a time when the city was a booming industrial center, a history-making place?

From now through March 1st, you don't have to can see for yourself.

Rutgers University's Stedman Gallery offers "Visions of Camden", an exhibit merging artifacts from Camden's glorious past, images of its present, and more.

Dr. Cyril Reade curated the exhibit, which draws heavily on resources from the Camden County Historical Society and local artists.

If you're old enough to remember it, you'll connect with the Camden that was. If you're younger, you'll be impressed by the city that did so much for America in the early 20th century.

A hundred years ago, Camden and Philadelphia were connected by ferries so busy that, together, they couldn't handle the traffic. So plans were commissioned for a Delaware River bridge, and that's what the Ben Franklin was called when it opened in 1926...there was no other span.

"Visions of Camden" lets you follow its construction from a pair of towers peering up from the river to a completed structure.

You'll see part of Bridge Boulevard, which is what the approaching road was called before being named in honor of Admiral Thomas Wilson.

You'll also enjoy historic images from Campbell Soup in the day when the creator of condensed soup produced most of its famous product in town.

Right nearby, the Victor Talking Machine Company was merging with Radio Corporation of America. RCA Victor had stained glass windows in its tower depicting Nipper the dog, listening to his master's voice on a Victrola.

The windows now in the RCA Tower are replacements but the window you'll see up-close and personal at "Visions of Camden" is a carefully-preserved original.

You'll see photos of a downtown bustling with traffic, taken in the era when South Jersey shopped Camden. It was the norm before malls were invented.

The city had a J.C. Penney store right downtown in those days, and one of the first Sears department stores nearby on Admiral Wilson Boulevard.

The Penney building closed in the 1960's and was demolished in short order. The Sears building stayed open a few more years but is now vacant.

It will be torn down soon to make way for the expansion of Campbell Soup's world headquarters. A visit to "Visions of Camden" will give you a window into the city's past.

It's hoped that the images of the past will seed thinking about what Camden might be again, with lively residential neighborhoods, shops, dining and commerce.

Stedman Gallery is on Third Street between Pearl and Linden Streets in Camden, adjacent to the Ben Franklin Bridge.

This exhibit is a partnership between Stedman Galley and MARCH, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities. For more information about the exhibit, access Camden Center for the Arts.