Camden, New Jersey, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, was a major industrial, ship-building, manufacturing and transportation center into the mid-1960s. The best known manufacturers in Camden were Campbell’s Soup and RCA Victrola, both of which had large factories downtown served by PRR.
When I lived in southern New Jersey in the late 1990s I often drove by an abandoned factory near Camden that was just north of US 30, near the corner of 16th Street, 17th Street and Mickle Ave. US 30 is now known as Admiral Wilson Boulevard. I finally stopped and photographed it in 2016 and thought you might enjoy the information.
This is the first of what will be a long series on US industries that fellow modelers can use for freight car/lading origin and destination.
This interesting building, located at 1764 Mickle Street in Camden, was the home of the Keystone Leather Company. The Keystone Leather Company was a large employer in Camden, manufacturing fine leather goods. This plant in particular manufactured “kid” leather, which was soft leather normally used to make gloves and other fine materials. The plant was built in the 1920s. It was located a block south of Pavonia Yard, which was PRR’s major classification facility in Camden. Maps and aerial imagery indicate the tracks that served the plant originated at Pavonia.
Above. A postcard view of the factory in it’s heyday. Below. This is a view of almost the entire side of the structure that faces north along Mickle Street.
Below is an excerpt from a Sanborn map from about 1930. Admiral Wilson Boulevard is now built between the creek and the Keystone Leather Co., running northwest-southeast.
Below. This employee entrance was on Mickle Street. See the Keystone symbol on top of the doorway?
Another entrance on the corner of Mickle and 16th Street. Perhaps this was a customer entrance.
Many factories across the US such as this one were fire traps. Many of them had wood floors, which over time became saturated with spilled chemicals, or flammable or toxic materials. A spark or a small fire could become an out-of-control inferno in seconds, or cause an explosion. A fire could race through the building so fast that workers could not get out. Similar buildings in Camden burned down in spectacular fires.
From a modelers perspective this is a fascinating building. The building still retains much of its former glory despite the dirt and graffiti.
These freight doors are on the long side of the building along Mickle Street. Love those cobblestone roads.
Railroad track routed into the building (below) was a common practice in pre-1940 industrial structures so cars could be loaded or unloaded in any weather. A second track ran south along 16th Street and split, with one siding running behind the plant. Neither track is shown on the accompanying Sanborn image.
The photo below shows tons of detail that modelers are interested in. This shot shows both employee entrances, the freight doors on the left, and the railroad entrance. Note the windows with the swing-open vents, the power lines, the cobblestone streets–this is what attracted me to the building.
Around on the 16th Street side of the building was a track that ran into the lot south of the structure. I’m sure it also served the factory.
One last view (below) of what I consider the back of the plant. This is the side along Stevens Street, adjacent to Admiral Wilson Boulevard.
An industry such as this would receive cleaned leather or perhaps hides, along with chemicals, packaging material, machinery, and other items needed for processing and leather products. Outbound shipments would be almost entirely finished leather goods. This would be an excellent point-of-origin or destination for our freight cars across the US, routed via PRR-Camden.
If you have photos or more information on the Keystone Leather Company I’d be pleased to hear from you. Much of the information here came from a most interesting site: http://www.dvrbs.com/. This site has great information on Camden’s people, businesses, industries, and history. There are some neat aerial images of Camden buried in the site too—they’re worth a look if you’re into PRR’s South Jersey facilities.