CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY
THE HOUSE WAS ABANDONED
The Augustus Reeve Mansion at 301 State Street
Camden - January of 1928
Here is another one of those forgotten stories that were front page news back in the day- ANOTHER. story where a lesson can be learned that applies to city life today. Augustus Reeve was a brick manufacturer and a very big deal in his day. After he died, his family left Camden, sold the mansion to absentee owners who failed to secure the property, and what happened to the home and in the neighborhood then is pretty much the same as what happens today.
I've just discovered the story, and will be adding to it as I go through the microfilmed newspapers of the era.
Camden Courier-Post - January 26, 1928
LAID TO OLD MANSION AS THIEVES DEN
of city officials to heed repeated complaints that a deserted and
dilapidated mansion at Third
and State Streets is a
‘rendezvous of thieves, a haven for spooners, and a general
nightmare” was blamed today by residents of that neighborhood for
three robberies in one State
Street block in two weeks.
residents declared today that they have appealed to officials for help
without avail. They said that the former palatial residence of the
late Augustus Reeve,
brick manufacturer, has been a ‘den of thieves for some time. The
police have been apprised of the situation, they reported, but have
done nothing except “promise to investigate”.
have made public no reports of the three robberies that have occurred
in the one block in two weeks. The victims themselves said today that
city detectives told them “to keep quiet,” as release of any
information might interfere with the arrest of a certain young man
under suspicion in their own neighborhood.
The first robbery occurred at the home of Mr. and
Mrs. George T. Moore, 313 State
Street, on January 7. The Moore home is next to the
broken down mansion and only a few feet away. Thieves, watching from
the deserted house, whose side windows face those of the Moore
residence, ransacked the dwelling after the family left that night for
dinner at the home of friends. Entrance was gained by jimmying a side
window, and money, jewelry, and two overcoats belonging to Mrs.
Moore’s son, produce salesman, were stolen.
Rob Bonstedt Home
A second robbery occurred six days later on January 13, at the home of W.G Bonstedt,327 State Street, a few doors from the Moore home. The third was at 302 State Street, January 21. In the family’s absence, $250 and a number of silk dresses were stolen. This house is directly opposite the Reeve property.
“It was from the deserted old mansion, next door
to us, that the thieves watched our movements and waited until we had
left the house”, said Mrs. Moore today, “Them, when they saw we
would be away for the night, they broke in and robbed us. It was the
same case with the other two robberies in the block. The burglars
could see when the families were leaving the house- they had a good
view from their hiding place. Having no police protection, the owners
of the ransacked houses were at their mercy.”
Moore said police have been told “time and
again” that the abandoned mansion at the corner is a “public
nuisance,” and that “it is frequented by thieves, spooners, and
tramps.” He said the condition has existed since relatives of the
late brick manufacturer moved out of the place five years ago, but
city officials have ignored all complaints made by residents of the
neighborhood. The place was sold to other parties and a “for rent”
sign had been on it for a long period.
Declared a Menace
“Not only do thieves and other undesirables make
their rendezvous there, but the property is used for immoral
purposes” Moore asserted. “It is one of the worst menaces in the
city, both from a sanitary and a moral standpoint. Women—except the
class that has gone there to spoon— fear to go near the place by
night, and the neighborhood in general has suffered considerably
because city officials have failed to take steps to have the nuisance
eliminated. It is a disgraceful condition, and the authorities should
see to it that the owners be compelled to board up the property at
once. Otherwise it will continue to strike terror in the hearts of the
residents of the neighborhood, many of whom express the fear that
unless something is done before long, more robberies might occur, or
the old building might go up in flames and perhaps damage theirs and
other property nearby.”
Moore declared that increasing robberies in the
neighborhood might have been averted had the police been more alert,
“Laxity of the Camden police department in
giving residents of our neighborhood adequate protection was plainly
evident in the three robberies in the one block in two weeks,” Moore
said. “I have not seen one policeman near my home for more than a
year, neither morning, noon, or night. I understand, however, that two
or three members of the force live in this very neighborhood, and that
one of them passes the old mansion every day. Why they, or the men
assigned to this beat, have not had their superiors take some action
on the corner property I cannot understand
To Be Own Policemen
“As for myself, I will shoot the first man to make another attempt to burglarize our home. If the police won’t help us, I suppose the best thing we can do is to be our own policemen and protect ourselves.
Similar complaints were made by other residents of the neighborhood who requested that their names be withheld, as they feared political reprisals and in one case loss of business, if it were known that they criticized any of the city officials.
In the meantime, a number of those interviews
reported that plans are being made for the circulation of a petition,
to be presented to the city commissioners, requesting them to take
steps to have the abandoned mansion- which they termed a
“nightmare” ”—locked against invasion by the thieves and other
undesirables who have been making the ramshackle building their
The property is directly across from the James
Cassady School, and part of its exterior d covered with theater
The building to which the
Cassady School pupils
allude as “the haunted house,” in the time of its occupancy by the
Reeves was the center of many noted social gatherings. Most of its
windows have been broken by boys and other marauders have torn away
the staircase and ripped the plaster from its walls.
Surviving members of the Reeve family, who had lived
there, left the mansion after Mr.
Reeve died; and the place has
been gradually falling to ruin since. According to residents of the
neighborhood, it is today not only a menace, but “one of the
city’s worst eyesores”.
Camden Courier-Post - January 28, 1928
MANSION ORDERED RAZED BY CITY OFFICIAL
Termed a ‘rendezvous of thieves, a haven for spooners and a general
nightmare, the deserted and broken down mansion at Third
and State Streets, was ordered torn down by Commissioner David
S. Rhone, director of public safety.
‘It’s been a it public nuisance for several years and if the owners
don’t raze it after they are so notified, the city will,”
Commissioner Rhone said.
Residents of the neighborhood declared yesterday that the old mansion
has been a den for thieves, and that complaints to the city have gone
unheeded. They said three robberies in one block in one week occurred
this month because of it. The thieves, they explain watched the
movements of the families from the deserted house, and robbed the
dwellings after they had left for a few hours at night.
Once Palatial Home
The ramshackle building is at the northeast corner of Third
Streets, opposite the James
M. Cassady School. It was once the palatial residence of the late Augustus Reeve, brick manufacturer, but has been in a state of decay for about five
A “For Rent” sign has been on the property for a long period.
Theater posters cover part of the exterior, its staircase has been
torn away, practically all windows have been smashed by schoolboys and
other marauders have removed doors, front steps and fence, and have
ripped plaster from the walls.
Robberies attributed in the neighborhood to thieves, who used the
dilapidated property as a “den”’ were those at 313 State
Street, next door, on January 7, 327 State
Street, January 13, and 302 State
Street, January 21. Police made no report of the facts, explaining to the
victims that any release of information would interfere with the
arrest of “a young man under suspicion in your own neighborhood.”
Orders Not Revealed
declined to explain what orders he had given the building inspector and the fire marshal relative to the
the windows are out and the doors are off,” he said, reporting on an
inspection he asserted he conducted. “If there is a health menace
there, that comes under the health Department, not the building
Asked what he would do about the place which was declared unsafe by the
residents of the neighborhood, he said he did not know until he
received “further orders” from Commissioner Rhone.
Gallagher, the fire marshal, could not be reached this morning.
Aerial Photos taken about 1925
These two pictures were taken in 1925 or early 1926, prior to the opening of the Delaware River (Ben Franklin) Bridge.
In the upper left hand photo, The James M. Cassady School on State Street is seen from the south-west, with the Reeve Mansion, which had been the home of industrialist Augustus Reeve, is visible across North 3rd Street.
In the lower picture, the view is from the south-east. The Cassady school is for the most part obscured by its label. The Reeve Mansion, is clearly visible, a large 3 story house, painted in a light color, with four windows on the third floor facing State Street.
....on the Reeves house, I went to Cassady School in the mid-40's, right after the war. It was just a big vacant lot then but sticking out of the ground was parts of a wrought iron fence. That was a nice block.
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