Streets
of
Camden, NJ

Morse Street


MORSE STREET in East Camden was named after Henry G. Morse, the founder and president of the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. The Yorkship Village housing project in the Fairview section of Camden was built to house workers from the New York Shipbuilding Corporation yards on Broadway at Morgan Boulevard.

Running parallel to Marlton Avenue from Carman Street, across Baird Boulevard, to Rosemont Avenue in Pennsauken, Morse Street was for many years the northeastern boundary of Stockton Park. Houses were built east of Westminster Street in the 1920s, and more were built in the 1930s and 1940s. In the early 1950s, property was acquired along Morse Street, and the Peter J. McGuire Gardens public housing project was built there, between Bank and Watson Streets.

In the 1980s, when the crack cocaine plague struck Camden, drug dealers set up shop in McGuire Gardens and in the 200 block of Morse Street, which became known as "The Alley". A multi-million dollar cocaine led by J.R. Rivera operated there, past of a web of corruption that connected to the Mayor's office and into the police department. After being convicted of drug offenses and other crimes, Rivera gave evidence that led to the conviction of Camden Mayor Milton Milan. 

In July of 2004, Mayor Gwendolyn Faison announced the demolition of houses on "The Alley". New homes are to be erected by the St. Joseph Carpenter Society, who have successfully completed other projects in East Camden.

Do you have an Morse Street memory or picture. Let me know by e-mail so it can be included here.

 Phil Cohen


Unit Block of Morse Street
  20 Morse Street

1924 Arthur Bailey

20 Morse Street

1932
Edward Marshman

Camden Courier-Post
June 7, 1932

  22 Morse Street

1924 Charles W. Dobson

  24 Morse Street

1924 Mrs. Mary Shaner

  25 Morse Street

1914-1924
Paul G Huber
photographer
1924
Edward O. Huber
photographer1910s-1924

  25 Morse Street

mid 1920s-late 1940s
A. Joseph Guarino Family
Joseph & Jennie Guarino
Dorothy Guarino
Lena Guarino
Joseph R. Guarino

  26 Morse Street

1924 Joseph Weaver

Intersection of Morse Street & Watson Street
  27 Morse Street

1914 Frederick Ballinghoff
1924 Harry K. Gray

CHARGES WATCH STOLEN; CIVIL SUIT IS ADVISED

The story of how she saw on another woman's wrist a watch which had been stolen from her "hope chest" was told in police court yesterday by Mrs. Mabel Barrett, 1535 Federal Street.

Mrs. Barrett appeared as a complaining witness against George Zimmerman 27, of 27 Morse Street, charging him with possession of a stolen wristwatch. The woman said the watch was taken from her trunk and same days later, she saw Mrs. Zimmerman wearing it.

Zimmerman admitted his wile has a new watch, but he said he purchased it from a man in Delaware.

Judge Pancoast dismissed the complaint and told Mrs. Barrett that she would have to sue in civil court to recover the watch.

27 Morse Street

1933 George Zimmerman

Camden Courier-Post
June 24, 1933

  28 Morse Street

1924 Alfred Story

  29 Morse Street

1924 John Heise

  30 Morse Street

1924 Roy Chancellor

  31 Morse Street

1924 Edward Conklin

32 Morse Street

1910
George Osler

  32 Morse Street

1924 Joseph Griffee

32 Morse Street

1929-1930s
Allen Palmer

 

33 Morse Street

1924
James Jones

  35 Morse Street

1910
Thomas O'Neil & Family
Thomas & Elizabeth O'Neil
John J. O'Neil

  35 Morse Street

1924 Harry E. Krumm
1924 Charles Haines

  37 Morse Street

1924 John Sutherland

  39 Morse Street

1924 Edward Melvin

  81 Morse Street

2001-2011
Bernardina Plumey


100 Block of Morse Street
Looking South
from
Berwick Street

February 14, 1951

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PLAT
Showing proposed site
Project No. N.J.10-4
Camden, N.J.

Peter J. McGuire Gardens

February 14, 1951

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Morse & Bank Streets

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191 Morse Street
Morse & Bank Streets
July 2004

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Looking West
on
Bank Street
from alongside
201 Morse Street

February 14, 1951

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191 Morse Street
Morse & Bank Streets
July 2004

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Looking North
from
Bank Street

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Looking North
from
Bank Street

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200 Block of Morse Street
Camden Courier-Post - January 28, 1928
227 to 253 Morse Street
New Development Near Baird Boulevard

The above photos show views of the Spanish-type bungalows on Morse Street, near Baird boulevard. Thirty attractive homes surrounded by terraced lawns, and shrubbery are being constructed on this street, newly paved, in one of the newest developments in the city.


200 Block of Morse Street
East Side of 200 Block
Northeast Corner
Morse & Bank Street

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Northeast Corner
Morse & Bank Street

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Looking East
on
Morse Street
from Bank Street

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Southeast Corner
Morse & Bank Street

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200 & 202
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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Camden Fire Department
 RESCUE COMPANY 1 "CITY WIDE"

The address, 200 Morse Street for a dwelling in the East Side section of the city,  All companies were responding when County Radio called Battalion 2 Mike Di Pascale to advise him that they are receiving numerous calls on this.  Battalion 2 arrives to find a 2 story end of the row ordinary dwelling with fire showing on the 1st floor and heavy smoke from the second the Chief immediately declared the "ALL HANDS" binging Battalion 1 Mike Harper into the job.  As the heavy snow was falling with 2 to 3 inches already on the ground  E-9 stretched their hose to the front to find both doors locked. Shortly after Battalion 2 was notified that this was an occupied structure with apartments on the 1st and 2nd floor, the battalion immediately ordered E-7 which was the FAST team to grab a hydrant and go to the rear while orders for the RESCUE were to force entry to the dwelling, E-6 was immediately dispatched as a back up FAST team.  Upon our arrival the RESCUE, 3 Truck  and Squad 7 teamed up at the front and rear of the structure to carry out our duties of Forcible Entry, Laddering, Venting and a primary search of the building.  The search was negative and the fire knocked down quickly by 9 Engine, no injuries reported.  Companies on the job were: E-9, E-11, Sq-7, TL-3, R-1 Battalion 2 with the "ALL HANDS" bringing Battalion 1 and E-6 as the replacement FAST team.  As soon as Captain Glassman transmitted the RESCUE COMPANY available, our presence was requested at Cooper Hospital by Car 3 Paul Price to assist L-1 with an elevator rescue.  1 male employee of the hospital was stuck between the 3rd and 4th floors,  Rescue 1 assisted L-1 which was already in the process of accessing and removing the employee.

200 Morse Street

The
Camden
Fire Department
in Action!

January 27, 2004

 

204 & 206
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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FUNERAL ON MONDAY FOR MRS. M. V. STAPLES

The funeral of Mrs. Mattie Virginia Staples, 67, of 204 Morse Street, mother of 13 children, 12 of whom are living, will be held at 2 p. m. Mon day at the funeral home of James R. Sudler, 60 South Twenty-seventh street

She was the wife of Robert G. Staples, Sr., retired 
shipbuilder. Mrs. Staples died Thursday after an illness of 
several months. She was a member of Camden Chapter, No. 35, Order of the Eastern Star, and Grace Baptist Church. 

Rev. Chris W. Dannenhauer, pastor of Parkside Baptist 
Church, will conduct the services. Burial will be in Harleigh 
Cemetery. The body will be on view tomorrow night. 
Mrs. Staples is survived by 23 grandchildren and the following children: Mrs. H. C. Dunn, Greenville, South Carolina; Mrs. Henry T. Prario, Marshfield Hills, Massachusetts; W. R. Staples, Buffalo, N. Y.; Mrs. William A. Kates, H. G. Staples, E. D. Staples and Robert G. Staples, all of Camden; Lee E. Staples, Baltimore, Maryland; Earl L. Staples, Wildwood; Mrs. W. J. Simpkins, Camden, and Miss Grace Staples, Camden. She also is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Eudora C. Farr and Mrs. A. E. Overman, both of Brooklyn, N.Y

204 Morse Street

Martha V. Staples

Camden Courier-Post
June 17, 1933

HOUSE FURNISHINGS STOLEN

A box of house furnishings Nora Eldridge left at the stairway to her new apartment at 204 Morse Street was stolen last night, she told police. The box contained a clock, a painting, photograph holders and frames, two diaries, a hand mirror and brush. 

204 Morse Street

Nora Edlridge

Camden Courier-Post
June 19, 1933

206 Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

Olga Palutz
This is probably Ida Paletz


Camden Courier-Post
February 29, 1936

206 Morse Street

1938
Modern Swing School

Camden Courier-Post
February 26, 1938

  206 Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

1947 Clarence W. Hubbs
1947 Edward E. Gaber
1969 Carol Van Arsdale

1980 No Listing



206 Morse Street

Long vacant, this home was badly damaged by fire on August 22, 2008

Camden Firefighters Make Quick Knockdown on 2 Alarm Blaze
Story and Photos by Bob Bartosz

 Shortly after 1:30 p.m. on August 22, 2008, Camden, New Jersey Firefighters were dispatched to the 200 Block of Morse Street, in the East Camden section of the City for a reported dwelling fire.  Fire Radio was receiving numerous calls for an heavy involved dwelling.  And additional Engine Co. and Battalion Chief was added to the assignment.  The first in Units reported that they had a heavy involved dwelling in the middle of the row of vacant and some occupied dwellings.  All Companies were going into Service with their heaviest water lines and a 2nd Alarm was quickly sounded and due to the first and second floors being unstable an exterior attack was being made.  Companies were able to open up the adjoining exposures and were able to stop the spread of the fire to the rest of the row of dwellings.  Ladder Co. 1 and Co. 3 went into Service with Ladder Pipes as fire fighters used numerous 2 1/2 and 1 3/4 inch water lines to knock the fire down.  The fire was placed Under Control in 30 minutes as fire fighters remained on the scene overhauling and assisting the Fire Marshal with the investigation.

Click Here For More Picture From This Fire

208 & 210
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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212 & 214
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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216 & 218
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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220 & 222
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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  222 Morse Street

1960-1973
John W. Wytupeck & Family
John & Nancy Wytupeck
Bob Wytupeck

My family owned 222 Morse St from about 1960-1973. I was born in 1962 and have fond memories of a nice neighborhood feeling on Morse Street. All the families knew each other. Kids playing kick-the-can, families on the back porch or in "the alley" facing Marton Pike. Carvel Ice Cream, "Flying A" gas station changed to Getty, The Acme, Panzarottis, and the J & M Bar. Yum Yum vendors on Baird Boulevard were my favorite. I went to Cramer School K- 4th. I remember air-raid drills in 1st grade, Principle Bucannon and the corner penny candy store. My world then was Bank Street to Baird Boulevard and Marlton Pike. I remember "the Projects" (Mcguire Gardens), and big beautiful oak trees down Morse. The roots would raise the sidewalks. We lived on the first floor of 222 and we rented out the second floor.

Bob Wytupeck
March 2012

232 & 234
Morse Street

There are no
224, 226, 228, or 230
Morse Street
addresses

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234 Morse Street

1930s
Judge Garfield Pancoast & Famiy
Garfield & Fannie Pancoast
Garfield S. Pancoast
Dorothy Pancoast

1930s
Judge Garfield Pancoast & Famiy
Garfield & Fannie Pancoast
Garfield S. Pancoast
Dorothy Pancoast

Left: Dorothy Pancoast

Camden Courier-Post
June 18, 1932

 

232, 234, & 236
Morse Street

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Rear of
242 to 232
&
222 to 200  236
Morse Street
as seen from
Marlton Avenue
&
Baird Boulevard
1931

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West Side of 200 Block
201 & 203
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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205 & 207
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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207
Morse Street

Private Bernard Rose

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209 & 211
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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Camden Fire Department
9 Engine 3 Truck 2 Battalion

The first Box came in at 1827 hrs, for the address of 211 Morse Street bringing E9, E11, E1, L3, L1, B2.  The Rescue Co. was not dispatched due to being on another assignment.  B2 arrived on location to find a two story ordinary, middle of the row, dwelling, with heavy fire venting from the first floor.  B2 struck the all hands Box bringing B1 as the safety officer. E9 arrived and went into service with an 1 3/4 water line . L3 went to work with forcible entry, search and vent.  E11 supplied E9 and brought a back up line to the interior.  E1 acted as the Fast Team. L1 on location acted as the Rescue Co. and assisted in opening up the rear of the dwelling.  Rescue 1 cleared their original assignment and was dispatched to the Box.  Companies cleared in 1.5 hrs.  No injuries to firefighters or civilians were reported. 

211
Morse Street

The
Camden
Fire Department
in Action!

December 2, 2003

213 & 215
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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217 & 219
Morse Street

1929 Had Not Been Built

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227, 229, 231, 233
Morse Street

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  227
Morse Street

1950s-1960s
Charles Wexlin & Family
Charles & Mary J. Wexlin
Leehamn Wexlin
Mary Jane Wexlin
Ellena Rose Wexlin

My parents operated the M&H Sweet Shop in the Fifties and sold it in 1960.  We grew up on 227 Morse Street.  We first lived on 254 Boyd Street.  That is my father Charles Wexlin pictured at the register in the M&H.

Leehman Wexlin
December 14, 2010
http://leehman.smugmug.com

  233 Morse Street

Frank Zinni & Family
1947-1969

My family moved to 237 Morse Street from Philadelphia in the year 1936. My older sister Shirley and I went through the Camden school system. Dudley School, Cramer Elementary and Junior High and then to high school, Shirley going to Woodrow Wilson and I going to Camden High. I graduated in 1952. My father Louis worked for his brother Charlie at Camden Storage Battery Company on Haddon Avenue. Moved from Morse Street to 445 Rand Street in 1944 and then to Boyd Street in 1949. Camden was a wonderful city to grow up in.

Jay Goldberg
April 2011

237 Morse Street

1936-1944
Louis Goldberg & Family
Shirley Goldberg
Jay Goldberg

 

I lived at 274 Boyd Street in Camden from sometime in the late 1930's until 1950, when my brother Bernard and I moved to New York City and our father, Jack L. Freedman, moved to Los Angeles. Our mother, Reba, had died in 1945.

Previous to that, we had lived at 243 Morse Street for a short period beginning in 1937.

Both Bernard and I went to Cramer School and Woodrow Wilson High.  I graduated from Wilson in June 1941 as valedictorian; my brother five years later.

Bernard now lives in Los Angeles with his wife.  They have two daughters and two grandchildren.  In 1972 I married Dr. Sheppard Siegal; we separated in 1974 and he died in the '80s.

Adele Freedman Siegal
June 5, 2010

243
Morse Street

1937-Late 1930s
Jack L. Freedman & Family
Jack & Reba Freedman
Bernard Freedman
Adele Freedman

I was born at Cooper hospital in 1946. My parents,
Benjamin and Rose Levin brought me home to 246 Morse Street in East Camden where I lived until I went into the Air Force in March of 1966. I graduated from Camden High in 1964. I returned to Camden in Dec 1969 with my wife Theresa and daughter Andrea. We found an apartment at 1 Maple Walk in Fairview. I worked for the post office for 6 months before I went into the service and returned to the post office when I
returned to Camden. In February of 1971 we moved to Tucson, AZ where I met my wife while stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB. I've been here ever since.

The memories brought back by your website really hit me hard. I've been back to Camden for the CHS 35th and 40th reunions. My brother Mark still
lives in Pennsauken.

Lee Levin
August 7, 2010

246
Morse Street

1940s-1960s
Benjamin Levin & Family
Benjamin & Rose levin
Lee Levin
Mark Levin

229 to 253
Morse Street

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July 2004

Although the major drug dealers had left Morse Street, By 2003 the 200 block had become infested with squatters, prostitutes, and other undesirable characters. Much of the block was condemned in July of 2004.

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Mayor
Gwendolyn Faison
operating
demolition equipment
at
Morse Street Demolition Ceremony

July 2004

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  297 Morse Street

1924 Louis A. Lebig
plasterer

  299 Morse Street

1924 John M. Hendrickson
builder


Intersection of Baird Boulevard & Morse Street
   
   

301 Block of Morse Street
  297 Morse Street

1947 Julius Dragon

  299 Morse Street

1947 Mrs. Lena Dragon

  301 Morse Street

1924 William Mummaw
1947-1969 Harry Dragon

  303 Morse Street

1924-1847 U.M. Lingenfelter

  305 Morse Street

1924 Frank Malciano
1947 Edward Cross

  305 Morse Street

1956-1970s Edward Rovner & Family
Edward & Minnie Rovner
Arlene Rovner

  307 Morse Street

1924 Thomas D. Hughes
1947 Robert Ashenfelter

  309 Morse Street

1924 Clarence Klinzine

  311 Morse Street

1924 William Kane

CALL LETTERS GIVEN RADIO AMATEURS HERE

Washington, Feb. 13.óCall letters for the operation of amateur radio stations have been assigned to several residents of Camden, N. J., and nearby communities, the Federal Communications Commission announced. 

They include: Russell W. Finger, of 312 Morse street, Camden, W3BFH; Robert W. Somers, of 310 Ellis street, Glassboro, W3HHY; Albert J. Wilkinson of 66 Mary street, Bordentown, W3HHZ, and Arthur H. Stead of 1472 
Princess avenue, Camden, W3EHU.

312 Morse Street

1938
Russell W. Finger
W3BFH

Camden Courier-Post
February 14, 1938

  312 Morse Street

1924 Vacant

1969
Frank F. Schwartz & Family
Frank & Bea Schwartz
Tobi Schwartz
Mollie Lou Schwartz

  314 Morse Street

1924 Leonard F. Heintze

315 Morse Street

1955
Camden Window Cleaning
Company

New Jersey Bell Telephone
Yellow Pages Ad

Click on Image to Enlarge

315 Morse Street

1955-1969
Julius Fox & Family
Julius & Ida Fox

I remember my grandfather and his second wife Ida carefully tending the rose garden they had at 315 Morse Street.  It was a brick single building.  He rented out  the top half and lived on the ground floor.  To get to the front door, you had to walk up some steps as there was a small incline to the property.  There was a red rail to hold onto as you went up the steps. One of my best friends , Tobi Schwartz, lived across the street at 312 Morse with her family Frank and Bea Schwartz and her sister Molly Lou.  It was so much fun to be able to play with my friend and see my grandfather at the same time!

  316 Morse Street

1924 Vacant
2005
Pedro Fuller,
Painter

  318 Morse Street

1924 Vacant

  320 Morse Street

1924 Vacant

321 Morse Street

1923-1957
John Winton Jr. & Family
builder
John & Viola Steers Winton
John Winton III
Frank M. Winton
Beatrice Winton

Camden Courier-Post
December 24, 1957

  322 Morse Street

1924 Angelo Costello

  324 Morse Street

1924 James B. Scott

  327 Morse Street

1924-1933 Samuel R. Smith

 

327 Morse Street

Camden Courier-Post
October 11, 193
3

Mrs. Samuel Smith
Mrs. M. Shaw
Morse Street
North 28th Street
Cramer School

  328-A Morse Street

1947 Not Built
early 1950s Edward Rovner & Family
Edward & Minnie Rovner
Arlene Rovner

  328-B Morse Street

1947 No Listing
early 1950s Mr. & Mrs. Hochman


Intersection of Thorndyke Street & Morse Street
   
   

300 Block of Morse Street
  344 Morse Street

Built after 1947

1950s Melvin Morria & Family
Melvin & Evelyn Morris

  346 Morse Street

Built after 1947

1950s A Lowenthal & Family

  347 Morse Street

1924 Harry S. Glover Jr.

  351 Morse Street

1924 Vacant

351 Morse Street

1950s-1970s Biaggio P. Ardire

356 Morse Street

Built after 1947

1950s Joseph Levin & Family

1955 Mirror Craft

1955 New Jersey Bell Telephone
Yellow Pages Ad

  357 Morse Street

1924 Frank Husa

  365 Morse Street

Built after 1947

1950s Morris Detofsky & Family

  367Morse Street

Built after 1947

1950s-1970s E.P. DiDio & Family

  369 Morse Street

Built after 1947

Late 1940s-1950s S. Beilowitz & Family

  371 Morse Street

Built after 1947

1950s Pollack Family

  372 Morse Street

Built after 1947

1950s W.F. Kuder

  376 Morse Street

Built after 1947

1950s Ellis Myeroff & Family

  378 Morse Street

Built after 1947

1950s-1970s M. Shultzberg & Family

  396 Morse Street

1924 C.L. Heidelbaugh

397 Morse Street

Photo taken around 1928

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Intersection of Midvale Avenue & Morse Street
   
   

400 Block of Morse Street
Click in Images to Enlarge
  402 Morse Street

1924 Andrew Luffberry

  403 Morse Street

1924 Joseph A. Grady

412 Morse Street
Camden Courier-Post
October 8, 1947

DUPLEX HOME, offered to veterans by Baird Boulevard Homes, Inc.,  Twenty- seventh Street and Marlton Pike, is shown above. The sample home, at 412 Morse Street, is open for inspection. Twenty of the first 23 available for sale, have been sold, the company reports.

  415 Morse Street

1924 Frank H. Schaefer
1932
Harold Gondolf

  423 Morse Street

1924 Thomas C. Comerford
1930
Harry C. Kreher

  423 Morse Street

1940s-1950s
Mrs. Anna Munro &  Family

426 Morse Street

Late 1950s-1970s
Alfred D. Nigro

  427 Morse Street

1924 William Johnson

BIRTH

Mr. and Mrs. Elwood Riess of 430 Morse Street, announce the birth of a baby boy Matthew Joseph born Dec. 20 at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

435 Morse Street

1970-1971 Elwood Riess & Family

Camden County Record
December 31, 1970

  435 Morse Street

1924 Frank H. Johnson


500 Block of Morse Street
  Morse Street

600 Block of Morse Street
   

Courier-Post - July 21, 2004

City Officials Hoping Eradication of Homes Will Lead to Rebirth of Area
bby KATIE GRASSO

 

In the driver's seat of a backhoe, Camden Mayor Gwendolyn A. Faison took the first chunk out of 20 dilapidated homes that will be demolished in the area of the city known as "The Alley."

"If you don't have quality of life, you don't have nothing," she said.

Once a notorious open-air drug market operated by now convicted Jose "J.R." Rivera and Luis Figueroa, the alley lies in the 200 block of Boyd and Morse streets and remains lined with boarded brick homes, sprayed with graffiti, that were once a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes.

Enid Gonzales, 45, moved to the alley four months ago and said she has seen drug activity creeping back into the alley.

"Sometimes in the morning I'll come out and see needles on the ground," she said. "I'd rather have trash than that."

She said the demolition will improve quality of life for her two children, but is worried her house will be demolished with the rest of the vacant homes.

"I found out today what was happening," Gonzales said. "If they tear down my house, I'll be homeless."

Gonzales also fears for the homeless who have made the alley their home. Wiley Greene, 40, who lives in one of the abandoned houses, said even though the demolition will leave him without shelter, it will make the area a safer place for resident children.

"This has been needed for a long time," Greene said. "The kids need this - there is only so much the parents can do. "It's the better thing to do."

Charles Grant, 17, has lived in the alley for 11 years and said he found out about the demolition on the morning news.

"It's all right," he said. "I think what they're doing is pretty cool."

Councilman Frank Moran spoke with Greene and offered to help him find temporary housing. Moran also said residents of the alley will be relocated, but discussions about when that will happen have not begun.

"If it's a matter of eminent domain, they will be entitled to benefits," Moran said.

Remembering a time when it was safe to ride his bike down the alley, Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi said the long-needed demolition is another step toward Camden's "renaissance."

"It's been a long time coming," Sarubbi said. "But there has to be economic revitalization to complete the cycle."

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey was at the site and said people should not have to live in conditions brought about by the alley.

"Tearing down these 20 structures represents a physical renovation," he said. "There needs to be a human renovation as well to stop the violence."

Faison said the demolition will be complete by July 31.

Amid the yells of encouragement as Faison began the demolition, Camden resident Robin Perkins, 49, called it the "downfall of desolation."

"This is a city of great things," Perkins said. "It is a city bolstering with hope and we're finally getting answers to our hope."

Perkins, a member of the East Side Civic Association Inc., has lived in the city her entire life and said the alley used to be a part of her family's Sunday walk.

"This used to be a place of such affluence," Perkins said. "Now residents can have a different quality of life which they so deserve."

Philadelphia Inquirer - Jul. 21, 2004

Many Cheer Troubled Block's Demise
By Sam Wood
Inquirer Staff Writer

A 79-year-old woman in a flower-print dress clambered into the cab of a backhoe yesterday morning and fired up the big machine's engine. With her right hand, Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison pulled on a lever that lifted the machine's shovel high into the air.

With jaws open wide, the apparatus rolled forward, and Faison lowered the boom on the back wall of a row house in the middle of the most notorious block in East Camden. Bricks and cinder blocks splintered, and a shower of dust fell from the shovel. The mayor flashed a broad smile as a cheer erupted among neighbors, city and state officials.

The Alley - once home to the city's biggest open-air drug market - was coming down. More than 20 houses on Boyd and Morse Streets will be demolished during the next week.

"Thank God the day has finally come," Faison said. "Let this show that we do not take our ball and bats and go home. Oh, no. We take our bats and go out and raise hell."

In 1998, city and state agencies shut down the drug market, which operated with near impunity for almost a decade, led by gang leaders Jose Luis "J.R." Rivera and Luis "Tun Tun" Figueroa. The drug empire had tentacles that reached to organized crime and City Hall. In the shuttering of the Alley, 98 people were arrested, one suspect was killed, and three police officers were wounded.

"Today was a long time coming," said Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi, who grew up on Eutaw Street two blocks away. "What we see here today is as real as it is symbolic."

The St. Joseph's Carpenter Society, which is devoted to improving housing in Camden, hopes to build 38 two-story townhouses on the site. Property lines will be redrawn to eliminate the alley between the two rows of homes, said William Whelan, the nonprofit group's executive director.

Bernice Arrington, who has lived in the neighborhood for 35 years, said that in 1969 the block was beautiful and safe. In the mid-'70s, she said, drug dealers, prostitutes and chop shops began to operate out of the row houses along the alley.

"I don't know what happened," Arrington said. "It was sudden."

The large-scale police raids of the late '90s were not enough to completely stop the trafficking of flesh and narcotics in the Alley, and prostitutes and drug dealers had begun to repopulate the derelict buildings in recent months.

Last week, most of the Alley's tenants were notified that the buildings defining their turf soon would begin to fall. One man, however, did not get the word until yesterday morning.

"It's a pain...," said Wiley Green, who had been living for the last month in the basement of an abandoned building three doors from where Faison began demolition work. "I don't know where I'm going to go. Now I've got to find me a nice place to stay."

Green, 40, was released last month from South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, N.J., after serving a sentence for dealing drugs. He said the Alley had been quiet during his stay and believed four or five other men were being displaced by the demolition.

"No one comes by here anymore," he said.

Camden Courier-Post - July 20, 2008

Camden site to get 42 houses

By DEBORAH HIRSCH
Courier-Post Staff

Fifteen years ago, an area known as "The Alley" between Morse and Boyd streets in East Camden was home to one of the city's largest open-air drug markets.

Dealers and prostitutes conducted their business in vacant buildings there. Police officers were shot during raids, one officer left paralyzed from the bullet to his chest.

Now, this same spot is slated to be the site of 42 new homes.

This month, the city planning board gave Saint Joseph's Carpenter Society approval to move forward with a redevelopment project that's been nearly eight years in the making. A state grant is expected to cover roughly half of the estimated $10 million cost. The rest will come from the sale of the homes. If the grant gets a final go-ahead in the next month, executive director Pilar Hogan Closkey said, construction could begin before the end of the year.

Closkey's local nonprofit has been rehabilitating homes here and there throughout the eastern part of the city since 1985.

"We target the worst blocks for total redevelopment," she said, carefully stepping over shards of broken glass in one of the lots along the alley. "This is a perfect spot to come in and do it correctly."

Long-time residents said The Alley's notoriety as one of the most dangerous places in the city began in the late 1970s.

By the late-1980s, a violent network of street gangs, suppliers and drug dealers led by Jose Luis "J.R." Rivera had taken control of the block bordered by Morse, Bank, Boyd and Baird streets.

Police said the dealers used the T-shaped alley to their advantage, stationing look-outs at all three entrances to warn of approaching police. Buyers could then exit in whichever direction was clear.

Police raided "The Alley" several times in the 1990s. In February 1998, city and state agencies arrested 98 people in a sting operation that left one suspect dead and three police officers wounded. One of them, Lt. Leroy Palmer, was paralyzed after being shot in the chest.

Shortly after that, Rivera was arrested and his drug ring was shut down.

But some neighbors said the area around "The Alley" continued to be a hotspot for illegal activity.

Closkey said the society started to rehabilitate two buildings there in 2000, but constant theft forced the group to stop. Each day, she said, workers arrived to find the boarded-up buildings broken into, a new bathtub or chunks of fresh drywall already stolen.

So the group changed its focus to rehabilitating vacant homes in the 15-block area west of Baird Boulevard to the Pennsauken border. The strategy, Closkey said, was to shore up the rest of the neighborhood in hopes that this would make it easier to tackle the worst part.

A major improvement came in July 2004 when the city razed 20 vacant buildings along "The Alley."

"Once we took down the homes everybody in the neighborhood reported to us that the crime had really dissipated," said Angel Osorio, community justice coordinator for the Camden County Prosecutor's office. "We know that there's an end in sight now."

Closkey said the timing is right now that her group has finished about 60 home renovations to the west of "The Alley" and the McGuire Gardens public housing development has been completed to the east.

Before construction on the homes begins, though, the entire neighborhood will get infrastructure upgrades. With a $3 million economic recovery board grant, the Cooper's Ferry Development Association will install new sewer lines, storm water drainage, sidewalks with lighting, trees and better retention walls for homeowners at no cost to them. Work could start in a little over a month.

The homes will be built on existing property lines in two phases.

The three-bedroom houses will have two and a half bathrooms, basements with a bonus room, a one-car garage and a front porch. With state subsidies, the house can be sold for $125,000 to $145,000, about half the construction cost, Hogan Closkey said. She estimated that it would take two to three years for all 42 units to be finished.

In addition to the new homes, she said, the society expects to continue purchasing and rehabilitating about 30 more homes in the area.

Neighbors Julia Jones and Bernice Arrington have seen the rise and fall of drug traffic since they moved into their homes on Baird Boulevard more than 30 years ago.

"It's still going on, but it's not like it was before," Arrington said. "You're going to see some little action, but I wish it was no action. Maybe bringing in new homes there, hopefully it would change some things. I hope it improves out here to make my property look better."

Jones said she's praying that the project will "change the neighborhood completely."

"This neighborhood does have a bad reputation but it comes from some of the people that live around here. If those people get a chance to move into a new home and make their children behave it may make a difference in their lives. In our lives, too."

Closkey said she's confident that building nice homes in "The Alley" will drive away crime as long as there's a collaborative effort with the police.

"Once we put people actually in the neighborhood, that'll make a huge difference in terms of eyes on the street," she said. "Because there's no longer that one vacant lot, it's not that easy place to go."

Despite the neighborhood's history, Osorio said she thinks the new homes will be in high demand.

"All we need is a couple of people willing to take the gamble," she said. "It'll begin to spread and you'll see a different area."


Fire at 206 Morse Street - August 22, 2008

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