CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY

The HOTEL PLAZA
North 5th Streets & Cooper Streets

PLAZA HOTEL - 2002
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The Hotel Plaza was built at Fifth and Cooper Street in 1927, and was originally called the Plaza Club Hotel.  In 1947 it underwent a complete remodeling.  Hotel owner S.N. Petchers of New York explained that the high cost of modernization was "justified in my belief that Camden will continue one of the leading industrial cities in the country and entitled to the kind of top flight hotel service we provide."

S.N. Petchers undertook another modernization in the summer of 1950.

The hotel featured banquet and meeting rooms, a bar known at different times as the Plaza Hotel Bar and the Lantern Lounge, The Cornerstone dining room, and a coffee shop.

The Hotel Plaza closed in 1985. For almost 30 years it stood empty, with various redevelopment schemes proposed every now and then The old hotel was finally demolished in February of 2014. Like the nearby Parkade Building, which had been taken down a couple of years earlier, the Plaza's razing was far more a symptom of Camden's reality than an event marking a new day of progress.  

PLAZA CLUB HOTEL - 1935
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Camden Courier-Post

October 31, 1931

Camden Courier-Post

June 1, 1932

HOTEL COOK IS ROBBED OF HIS WALLET AND $30

John D. Fague, a cook at the Plaza Club Hotel, reported to the police yesterday that a wallet containing $30 and his automobile driver's license was taken from his trousers while he was changing clothes at the hotel.

Fague said that preparatory to leaving Thursday night he put the wallet in a pair of old trousers and put them in a locker. He was two blocks away, he declared, when he discovered he had not taken his wallet. When he returned the wallet was gone. 

Camden
Courier-Post

June 10, 1933


FAREWELL PARTY

Mrs. David Hormats, of 1468 Belleview Avenue, who with her family leaves shortly to make her future home in Los Angeles, California was the honor guest at a farewell luncheon and brIdge given on Tuesday at the Plaza Hotel by the following: Mrs. Louis Rosenberg, Mrs. Herman Kaplan, Mrs. Morris Abrams, Mrs. Phillip Rosenfeld, Mrs. Isadore Kahlowsky, Mrs. Herman Rosenberg, Mrs. Stanley Levy and Mrs. Julius Rosenberg. 

Camden Courier-Post
June 22, 1933


Camden Courier-Post * June 29, 1933

ALPHA GAMMA FRAT HAS BANQUET TONIGHT 

Beta Rho Chapter of Alpha Gamma Sigma Fraternity will hold its annual banquet tonight in the Plaza Hotel  The speaker will be· Herbert R. Ferguson, chairman of the national organization committee. Ferguson will present awards to retiring officers.

Those to receive awards are Perry Conant, Alpha; Edward Harris, Beta; Edward McGarrigan, Sigma; Philemon Rickett Gamma, and Nelson Hodges, Chi.

Camden Courier-Post

February 8, 1936

Camden Courier-Post

October 5, 1936

HOTEL PLAZA - about 1950
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Camden Courier-Post - June 2, 1950
 

HOTEL PLAZA mid-1950s to early 60s

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for Enlarged View

 

The Plaza Motor Hotel - 1960s Envelope

The car in the logo is an early 1960s Cadillac, and the inclusion of a zip code in the address line also dates the envelope.

 

PLAZA HOTEL - 2002
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PLAZA HOTEL -BREAKFAST MENU from about 1964
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PLAZA HOTEL - 2002
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Many thanks to Beatrice Caraballo for information provided concerning the Hotel Plaza

PLAZA HOTEL - May 2008
Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times

New York Times - May 6, 2008

In a Faded City, Plans to Build a Hotel Build Hope

By KAREEM FAHIM

CAMDEN, N.J. — The old Plaza Hotel downtown is a tomb, sealed shut for more than 20 years now, its windows shattered and its green marquee worn and stripped of letters.

Trapped inside the hotel are the memories of a once-thriving industrial town, where business people and job seekers and even the occasional entertainer came to visit and dine. Since it closed in 1985, the hotel, battered by the city’s decline, seemed to deliver a warning: Camden was not a place to linger after dark, not a place one stayed. But a group of developers is seeking the planning board’s approval this week for a 140-room Hilton Garden Inn on Camden’s waterfront, what would be the first new hotel built here in about 70 years.

A rendering of a Hilton hotel that is being planned for Camden

“We want to get in at a time when there are things to be done here,” said Vijnan Chandra, of PRA Development and Management, the Philadelphia-based company that would build the Hilton. “We don’t paint Camden with a broad brush. This signals to the public that the city is open for business.”

For a city struggling to revitalize, a hotel is a signature, a symbol. It suggests there is a critical mass of tourists — in Camden’s case, lured by a new aquarium and a minor-league baseball team — and supporters of the new hotel say that Camden, offering tax breaks and cheap rents, has started to lure businesses again, too, and that there are not enough hotel rooms in Philadelphia, a 10-minute drive over the river, to house the new visitors.

“A hotel can start to leverage quite a bit,” said William H. Hudnut III, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, an education and research group in Washington, D.C. “It brings people, and it brings rooftops — restaurants, bars and eateries. One hotel won’t do the trick, but it’s certainly a positive piece in the jigsaw.”

In the years since the Plaza closed, the business that thrived here was the drug trade, and the superlatives thrown at Camden usually concerned its status as one of the nation’s poorest or most dangerous cities. Thousands of residents have left the city, leaving

behind neighborhoods of boarded-up row houses and empty lots. For those people who have remained, there are few comforts: no supermarkets or movie theaters, and, for a generation, no hotel rooms.

Camden was different place in the 1930s and 1940s, when employers like Campbell Soup, RCA Victor and New York Shipbuilding Corporation made the city, positioned strategically on the Delaware River, a center of industry. Several hotels operated here over the years, including the Walt Whitman Hotel, where Red Skelton is said to have requested a room on the second floor, so he could lower his dog, rather than walk it, according to Paul W. Schopp, a local historian.

The hotels were not just way stations for businessmen and itinerant salespeople, Mr. Schopp said; the region was considered a “mecca for the jazz supper clubs,” and entertainers would stop in Camden as well.

The Plaza was a business hotel, where professionals who worked on Cooper Street would gather for lunch. The Walt Whitman was the scene of the city’s fancier soirees, where M. Allan Vogelson, a retired judge, saw several friends get married.

“Our high school fraternity had its annual sweetheart ball there,” recalled Judge Vogelson, who grew up in Camden. “The Walt Whitman brings back wonderful memories. It was a different time for Camden.”

By the time the Rev. Michael Doyle arrived in Camden in the late 1960s, middle-class residents had begun fleeing the city, an exodus that accelerated after race riots in 1971. He found that the city’s shoreline — its great treasure — was “gobbled up by crude industry,” Father Doyle said.

“I remember walking through abandoned factories and sumac trees to get to that river,” he said.

Efforts to revive Camden have focused on that waterfront, and in the last two decades, large swaths of the riverfront property under the Benjamin Franklin Bridge have been transformed, with new office buildings, an aquarium, a concert hall and upscale apartments. About nine months ago, a developer was found for the hotel, according to Thomas P. Corcoran, the president of Cooper’s Ferry Development Association, the master developer of the waterfront.

The five-story hotel, with an indoor pool, would cater to several different kinds of travelers, Mr. Corcoran said, including business people and visitors to Campbell Soup, Cooper University Hospital and Rutgers University’s satellite campus here. The developers also hope to lure families visiting the waterfront’s entertainment attractions, as well as visitors to a new convention center in Philadelphia, where hotel rooms can cost far more than the Hilton’s planned rate of $125 per night. Mr. Corcoran said that rock stars playing the concert hall, the Susquehanna Bank Center, usually stay at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia, but their road crews could stay at the proposed Hilton.

Several hurdles remain, he said, including gaining approval from the local planning board and obtaining large bank loans in a weakening economy.

Talk of the new hotel could revive the debate about the revitalization process here. Community activists have complained that Camden’s beleaguered neighborhoods have garnered far less attention from developers than the waterfront, and they worry that the riverfront is becoming an enclave — an annex to Philadelphia — rather than part of Camden.

But Mr. Corcoran said that the waterfront plan was designed to be an extension of Camden’s downtown, and not a “gated community.” Projects like the hotel, he added, also promised to bring the city badly needed tax revenues.

Father Doyle is among those working to restore Camden’s neighborhoods, and last month an organization affiliated with his church, Sacred Heart, broke ground on a new community theater. That new building gained far less attention than the plans for the new hotel, but Father Doyle and several people involved in the project say that it is no less important, and will be the first theater for live performances to be built in the city in decades.

None of that diminished the pastor’s enthusiasm for the new Hilton. “It’s a long time since I walked through that sumac,” he said. “I want to go in that hotel, hold a glass of wine and look across that river.”

1950s

February 8, 2014

 

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