Camden's business district of long ago

By Barbara Dyer | Sep 20, 2014

The climate of today’s business district is very different from early Camden.  Most visitors, who come to Camden today, love to go in our quaint shops and browse for hours on end. It was only about 115 years ago that people shopped mostly for necessities.

Perhaps my readers would like to know about the businesses here in town about 1899, so I shall write about a few.  When the French Block was built, after the Great Fire of Camden, Rose and Chandler had the ground floor (located on the corner of Elm and Washington streets). Edwin Rose died and his junior partner L. M. Chandler took over the long established house (one of the oldest, if not the oldest in the country) under the name of Chandler’s Pharmacy.  Chandler had worked in the store as a boy; then went to study pharmacy and returned to the same store.  It was still a drug store in 1942, owned by Adrien Kelleher. It continued, owned by a couple after that, for several years.

The Misses Ordway created hats and bonnets for the fairer sex of Camden. They had goods on hand to suit the needs of their customers. Miss May Murphy built up a business in the same line. Ladies actually wore hats.

The “Boston Store” had changed hands a couple of years before and people were concerned they were losing a store that had become an institution here, but instead it made gains in the purchase of dry goods, while F. W. Kingman carried on the business.

G. F Burgess opened a shop for repair and sale of clocks and watches. He located directly across from the town clock on Chestnut Street, and regulated many time-pieces (before the days of Timex).

In 1899, there was Camden Tailoring Company, making fine business suits for $10 as well as offering cleaning, repairing and pressing. It was the successor to J. A. Brewster on Washington Street in back of the Opera House. They also made ladies shirts and outing suits. He later moved to Chestnut Street. The Camden Tailoring Shop, owned by Ralph Bucklin, had become an institution in Camden. After many long days at work, he spent the evening playing for dances with his own orchestra. I worked in The Rexall Drug store (owned by Kelleher) for a short period in 1942. Mr. Bucklin walked to work from Pearl Street every morning, and stopped in the drug store for a cherry Coke. At the time I thought that was odd for breakfast, but I have since figured it out. He probably needed his caffeine fix to start the day at 8 a.m. because he hadn’t had much sleep, after Bucklin’s Orchestra had played until the wee hours of the morning.

Some of the summer residents who wanted to give “Germans” found that the variety store owned by E. M. Clark had them.  I had never heard that term before, but many postcards and souvenir china, etc., were made in Germany. Maybe they got that name because Germany made many things that we imported to sell. People could purchase all sorts of out-of-the-way gimmicks from Mr. Clark that would normally be found only in large cities.  He might also produce it from his cellar or someplace not in view of the public.

The first person around Camden to introduce the English word “haberdashery” instead of "gentlemens clothing" was Tom Hunt, in his shop opposite the Post Office (on what is now the Village Green). He was a very energetic and progressive businessman. His window displays were remarkable.

Curtis and Spear were in the Opera House block, where the Camden Town Offices are today.  They were house furnishers and cottage outfitters. They sold wallpaper, rugs, bedspreads, desks, parlor chairs and the refrigerators were $3.50 and up.

The “All Right Café” was located on Main Street and run by F. P. Thomas.  He had a long day, as it was open from 7 a.m. until 12 p.m. They served coffee with whipped cream and quick lunches.

C. F. Miller had a boot and shoe repairing shop, where they made “hand-made shoes.”  That was also on Washington Street.

Carleton, Pascal & Company is still in existence today, as French and Brawn. Back then they had a crockery and china department, as well as a lamp department and of course fine groceries. They always supplied yachts with their fancy groceries, creamery butter, fancy cheese, picnic delicacies and deviled and potted meats.

Camden Lumber Company was on Bay View Street, selling long and short lumber doors, blinds, windows, screens sheathing, newels, stair rails and many other supplies. In addition they sold lumber, coal and wood. Josiah Hobbs was Superintendent and J. H. Montgomery was President and Treasurer.

There was Peoples Hand Laundry on Main Street and H. W. Parker was the proprietor. They would pick up and deliver your laundry.

F.A. Packard sold real estate and insurance.  A. W. Bartlett did blacksmithing and general work and his place was on Bay View Street. G. A. Briggs was a boat builder and yacht repairer.

Joseph W. Bowers was a plumber.  He did most of that kind of work in all the brick buildings built in the business district after the Great Fire of Camden. His shop was on the corner of Bay View and Commercial streets.

For entertainment we did have Camden Bowling and Billard Parlors, run by D. W. Pierson.  Ladies were invited, as well as the gentlemen. This was located on Washington Street. Dr. O. G. Sherman was advertising high-class summer resort property on Sherman’s Point for sale.

Headquarters for guns, rifles, gun powder and fishing rods were sold by W. E. Currier.  In addition, he had nice skunk oil, good pie and eating apples, choice butter and fresh eggs.  That was quite a combination.

Now you have an idea of how businesses have changed in the last 100 years.

Barbara Dyer is Camden's official town historian. While she has officially retired from writing Who's Who, she continues to submit "just one more" story for publication.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 26, 2014 09:45

Great article and such rich history. I came to Camden area, Hope actually, on my honeymoon in 1953. Took a job in the five and dime with Dave Crockett and enjoyed the smallness and beauty of Camden. A far cry from Boston. keep up the good historic articles.

Mickey McKeever



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