Streets
of
Camden, NJ

Admiral Wilson
Boulevard



ADMIRAL WILSON BOULEVARD, on most roadmaps is simply referred to as US Route 30. Of course no one who has ever lived here would even think of the thoroughfare as anything but Admiral Wilson Boulevard. The stretch of highway, which runs from the foot of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to the Airport Circle has been at different times one of the most famous and alternately the most infamous  roads in South Jersey. The road is named for Admiral Henry Braid Wilson Jr., a Camden native and World War I naval hero. His father was also a noted figure in Camden, the H.B. Wilson school at 7th and Florence Street being named in his honor. 

The thoroughfare was originally known as Bridge Boulevard, as it connected with Bridge Avenue, one of Camden's older streets, which has disappeared from the map over the years. The change in name was announced on November 11, 1929 during Camden's Armistice Day ceremonies. The change in name was a popular move, and travelers soon commonly called the highway the Admiral Wilson Boulevard. What they didn't know was that name change had not been made official.

During Mayor Winfield Price's administration, Camden's City Commission tried to correct the problem by adopting a resolution to make the name change official, but an ordinance was needed before the change could take effect. The ordinance was finally drafted in 1937 and Bridge Boulevard officially became Admiral Wilson Boulevard.

The south side of the boulevard runs parallel to the Cooper River between Memorial Avenue and the Airport Circle. When the road was originally conceived, this side of the boulevard was meant to be parkland, providing the motorist a view of the river and on its far bank, Camden High School and city- and county-owned  parks. This idea was abandoned very quickly. Anticipating the change in shopping patterns that would come with the affordability of automobiles in the 1920s, the Sears-Roebuck Company insisted on locating on the boulevard instead of in downtown Camden. During the administration of Mayor Victor S. King (1923-1927) a deal was consummated, and Sears came to Camden, building a then ultra-modern building at Admiral Wilson Boulevard and Mount Ephraim Avenue, which opened on July 1, 1927. 

Up until the late 1930s there was very little development along the Boulevard until one reached Pennsauken. The original plan, filed in 1921, for instance, called for residences on the north side of the Boulevard east of Baird Boulevard. In the mid-1930s Commissioner Frank J. Hartmann Jr. began a pushed that resulted in the rezoning of the Boulevard in Camden. Commercial development started before the end of the decade. Notable among the new businesses were the Merlin Motors car dealership and the White Tower restaurants, both near Baird Boulevard. At the Airport Circle end, in Pennsauken Township, development came much quicker. Mostly rural Pennsauken was happy to see commercial properties along the new route.   

Within a very few years after World War II the boulevard was home to many businesses besides Sears,  including gas stations, car dealerships, bars, motels, and various other commercial enterprises.  There was A LOT of traffic on the boulevard which terminated at the Airport Circle. To alleviate traffic jams various improvements were made over the years. The road was widened, bridges was built over the road at Baird Boulevard, Federal Street , and Memorial Avenue, and ramps were built so that traffic could enter and exit the Boulevard smoothly. Even with all the construction, the Admiral Wilson Boulevard was famous for traffic jams.

By the 1970s the Admiral Wilson Boulevard became known for a few things thought even less well of than traffic jams. The bars and motels had come after 1960. Despite all the absolute silliness and propaganda promoted in the press, there never were any more than three bars on the boulevard, likewise there never were more than three motels, and NEVER were there more than two adult bookstores at one time. In fact, from the early 1980s on, there was only one adult establishment, and that was in Pennsauken. However, no thanks at all to the Philadelphia newspapers and with less help from the Courier-Post, the Boulevard and by inference Camden was portrayed as having "countless by-the-hour motels, strip joints, and seedy bars".  

Still, in fact, the motels, no longer fueled by regular commercial activity in the city, became magnets for prostitutes who solicited on the boulevard. By the mid 1970s, all three bars featured scantily clad dancers, and a former car dealership, just over the city line in Pennsauken, served no alcohol, but featured nude female dancers. Oddly enough, although this establishment attracted much of the negative press that focused on the Boulevard, there was far less illegal activity there than at the bars and especially the motels.

In anticipation of the 2000 Republican Convention held in Philadelphia, then New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman spent a great amount of taxpayer dollars in acquiring all the commercial properties on the south side of the boulevard east of the Cooper River to the Airport Circle. Every building was razed, grass and trees were planted, and a park, which no one can park at or really use, was created. Camden, which was already short on tax generating commercial properties, lost a few more- but the lame-duck Governor did get a cabinet-level job in Washington after the election. 

The traffic jams have not been alleviated, as the south side of the boulevard floods during heavy rains and occasionally at high tide. The Cooper River had been dredged and the channel deepened around 1930. Over the years the river has silted back up, causing the flooding. No plans have been made public concerning a solution to this problem, which will only get worse as time goes by.

The north side of the boulevard still has many of the commercial buildings built prior to 1960. There were many large car dealerships prior to 1980, which are no longer there, but the buildings are still being utilized.

Do you have an Admiral Wilson Boulevard memory or picture? Let me know by e-mail so it can be included here.

 Phil Cohen


Looking West from the Baird Avenue Bridge
 

Postcard
from photograph
taken before 1915

The photograph was taken long before the Boulevard was built, and there is not much activity in East Camden to be seen in this picture either.


Admiral Wilson Boulevard
From the Airport Circle to the Ben Franklin Bridge
 

Photo published 1931

In this picture the only business on the south side of the Boulevard was Sears. A few businesses had located on the north side, near Baird Boulevard, and streets running parallel to the Boulevard and Marlton Avenue had been laid out. 

 

1950s-1990s

As South Jersey grew, ramps were added to expedite the flow of traffic. 

This configuration was in place until the 1990s. 

Click on Image to Enlarge

Eastbound on the Admiral Wilson Boulevard
Before the Boulevard itself is the
Benjamin Franklin Bridge Approach
US 30 East, at exit 1 in Camden.

Strangely, exit 1 has no signage what-so-ever. In the distance,
The Federal Street Railroad Bridge

July 1, 2001

1300 Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Heavy traffic in both directions
in front of Sears-Roebuck

Photo published in 1931

1300 Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Heavy traffic in both directions
in front of Sears-Roebuck

Photo published in 1931

1300 Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1960s

1300 Admiral Wilson Blvd.

February 10, 1972

1300 Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1974

1300 Admiral Wilson Blvd.

The former Sears Building on July 23, 2008. Due to neglect by its owner, the building was declared a health hazard and not fit for human occupancy in January of 2006. 

Click on Image to Enarge

1300 Admiral Wilson Blvd.

The former Sears Building on July 23, 2008 as seen from Memorial Avenue during the demolition of 1350 Admiral Wilson Boulevard, the former Sears Auto Service Center. Due to neglect by its owner, the building was declared a health hazard and not fit for human occupancy in January of 2006. 

Click on Image to Enarge

1350
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

The former Sears Auto Service building Is in the foreground during its demolition. Old Sears Building (1300 Admiral Wilson Boulevard is in background.

Photo taken July 23, 2008

Click on Image to Enarge

1350 Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Sears Auto Service
1974
Adult Mini-Twin Theater
Bullseye Messenger
C.F. Air Freight

Razed July 2008 - Photo July 23, 2008

Click on Image to Enlarge

The
Camden Connection Overpass

Eastbound on the Admiral Wilson Boulevard,
just past the old Sears Service building. 
The Cooper River bridge is just ahead.

 July 1, 2001

1420 Admiral Wilson Blvd.

June 21, 1950 to the 1970s
Save-Way Gas Station
Admiral Car Wash

Camden Courier-Post
June 21, 1950

THE WORLD'S LARGEST GAS STATION opened today at Admiral Wilson boulevard and Cooper river. Morton Sand, an official of the Save Way Stations, Inc., is pictured pumping the first tank of fuel for a motorist.

 

1420
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1980-2001
Merit Gas Station

 July 1, 2001

  1420
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1980-2001
Merit Gas Station
2003 to present
Hess Gas Station

Artist's conception
of the then nameless boulevard
As Seen From
East
of
Cooper River Bridge

1930

This bridge spanning the Cooper River was built during the construction of the Boulevard in the mid-1920s

Photograph published
1930

1836
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1955 Al's Mobil Service Station

  1840
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1977
P/B. Monahan's

  1950
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

4 Winds Motel

  4 Winds Liquor Store
2000
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1933  Camden Athletic Club
February 14, 1951 Photo
YMCA and gas station
By 1956 the YMCA was gone.


2000
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1960s-1999
Oasis Motel
1960s - mid 1970s
Oasis Lounge
1977 - 1999
Harem Lounge

Click on Image to Enlarge

The gas station was replaced by additional rooms by the 1960s. The basement of the main building was converted into a bar known as the Harem Lounge, featuring go-go dancers from 1970s until it closed.

  2000
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

In July of 2004, the South Jersey Tourism Corp. announced that the Delaware River Port Authority had received a $500,000 grant to help SJTC turn the former home of the Oasis Motel into a 3,000-square-foot welcome center. There, visitors will be able to receive information about attractions scattered throughout South Jersey. As of 2011 no building has materialized.

  2020
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1974
Taylor Esso Service
1990s-2000
Sunoco Gas Station

Intersection of
Admiral Wilson Boulevard
&
Baird Boulevard

August 19, 1948

The overpass and cloverleaf are under construction in this photograph. Visible, clockwise from upper left. Marbetts, rear of homes on Randolph street, Merlin Motors, White Tower, and the YMCA (later known as the Oasis Motel).

Below - Admiral Wilson Boulevard looking East from the Baird Boulevard Overpass circa 1958
2100
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1940s - 1960s
White Tower

Merlin Motors Lincoln-Mercury is visible on far side of the Boulevard.

2250
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Admiral Bar & Liquor Store

Another bar that featured go-go dancers, the Admiral remained open until taken for Governor Whitman's exhibition.

  2272
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1974
Holmes Used Cars
Steve Holmes Inc.
1980s
J.R. & H. Used Cars
Joe Roosevelt

  2272
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1974
Admiral Auto Parts

2350 Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Wilson Motel

Click on Image to Enlarge

See the 1960 Oldsmobile & the 1956 Buick!

2360
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1964
Holiday Tavern & Lounge
1966-1996

French Quarter Lounge

Razed 1999

  2518
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1974
Bruce's Arco
1980's-2000
Arco Gas Station

2800 block
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Rice & Holman Used & Truck

2800 block
Admiral Wilson
Blvd.
Haddon Rambler

1960
Click on Image to Enlarge

3000
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1940s
Airport Rug & Carpet Co.
J. Gordon Moffitt

3000
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1940s
Airport Rug & Carpet Co.
J. Gordon Moffitt

Camden Courier-Post
July 26, 1941

3000
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1955-1959
Cork 'n Bottle Liquor Mart & Cocktail Lounge
Bernard Weiner & Byron Shader

1957 Ad

 

 

 

3000
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1955-1959
Cork'n Bottle Inc.
bar & liquor store 
Bernard Weiner & Byron Shader

Camden Courier-Post
December 12, 1957

 

  3000
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1960s
Executive Car Leasing

3000
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1979-2000

3030
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1940s-1950s
Airport Pontiac Used Cars

3030
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1940s-1950s
Airport Pontiac Used Cars

  3030
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1974
Masson Buick Used Car

3100
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1930s-1950s
Howard Johnson Restaurant

  3100
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Jiffy Enterprises Inc.

  Admiral Wilson
Boulevard
at the
Airport Circle

Neil Deighan's
Club Shaguire
The Pub


Looking West on Admiral Wilson Boulevard
from a point just west of the Airport Circle - 1930s

Westbound on the Admiral Wilson Boulevard
Waldorf Avenue  
Dave Cole Pontiac

1959 - early 1970s

This building has been occupied by Enterprise Rent-as Car since the 1980s

Dave Cole Pontiac

about 1960

Click on Image to Enlarge

Camden International Truck, on the Airport Circle can be seen in the distance when enlarged.

Lee Avenue  
2901
Admiral Wilson Blvd
Pennsauken NJ

1950s - present day
Zinman Furs

1955 New Jersey Bell
Yellow Pages Ad

Click on Image to Enlarge

Rosemont Avenue  
Hoover's Atlantic
Gas Station

John B. Hoover

1940s

1970s-1999
Used Car Lot
 
Shell Gas Station  
2315
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Blanton Dunn
Kaiser-Frazier

2315
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Early 1950s-Early 1970s
Art Sharp Used Cars

2315
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Early 1950s-Early 1970s
Art Sharp Used Cars

 

2315
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1974-1977
Przywara Motor Company

In the early 1980s the showroom and offices were knocked down, and after a brief period as a grocery, the building has served as a liquor store

 
2305
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1956 - late 1970s
White Tower Corporation
Offices

 
Thorndyke Street  
Mobil Gas Station
-2005
Lukoil Gast Station
2006-
 
Somerset Street  
MERLIN MOTORS
1940

Note that the large service department built has not been built yet

MERLIN MOTORS
1950s
Baird Boulevard  
2035
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1930s-1940s
White Tower
1947-1970s
Marbett's Restaturant
1990s - present
Golden Pearl Chinese Restaurant

 
2007
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1965-1974
SP Liquors
1974-1980s
Minnie's Lounge
1980s - present
Carool's Liquors

 
1951
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

Admiral Gulf Service
Garnett's Sunoco Station
Biddle Car Rental
1980s-2004
Amoco Gas Station
2004
BP Gas Station

 
1800 Block
Admiral Wilson Boulevard

Camden Courier-Post
August 16, 1933

1839
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1974-2001
McNulty's Exxon
2001 to Date
Exxon Gas Station 

 
Berglund Ford
Berglund Ford
Berglund Ford
Berglund Ford
17th Street  
Public Service Electric & Gas Co.
building
 
MDTA Training School  
Bush Refrigeration  
16th Street  
Rohrer Chevrolet
Rohrer Chevrolet
Rohrer Chevrolet

1950-1980s

All Current Electrical Sales

Occupies much of the old Rohrer Chevrolet Parts & Service Departments

 
1527
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1974
Dual Control Driving School
Auto Vinyl Top Company
Car & Driver Limousine Service
Avis Rent-A-Car
Avis Truck Rental

 
1527
Admiral Wilson Blvd.

1990s
Smith & Solomon
Truck Driving School

 
Cooper River Bridge  
Camden Connection Overpass

Built in 1950

 
Rohrer Chevrolet

1930-1950


3 HURT IN COLLISION ON WILSON BOULEVARD

Three persons were injured in an automobile crash at Admiral Wilson and Baird Boulevards yesterday when a machine driven by a Camden man was in collision with an automobile driven by a Bridgeton man.

The most seriously injured was John Kaus, Jr., 19, of 1738 Tioga Street. He suffered a severed tendon of the right hand. Walter Connell, of 27 Marlton Avenue, driver of one machine, was cut about the head.

Anthony Batani, of Bridgeton, driver of the other car, was cut about the hands. J. R. Boston, of 718 Pearl Street, took all the injured to West Jersey Homeopathic Hospital.

 CAMDEN COURIER-POST

June 7, 1933

 


CAMDEN COURIER-POST - AUGUST 1, 1936
Hartmann Seeks Way to Improve Realty on Wilson Blvd.

Camden Courier-Post- June 1, 1933

MAILBAG

Danger on the Boulevard 

To the Editor:

Sir-I agree with you that the driving conditions on Wilson Boulevard and Crescent boulevard are getting worse and worse. Out by the Walkathon the drivers, many from Philly, where they don't know any better, turn left in the middle of traffic, and spin about to make a complete turn.

Of course, I don't give a doggone what happens to such poor fools. But they tie up traffic and make trouble for other people. The airport has an entrance of its own, where you can drive in without making turns in the middle of the boulevard. It ought to be made to use that entrance or else the drivers should be made to quit turning left off the boulevard.

It is dangerous and somebody is likely to be killed before long. Then everybody will howl that it is terrible about these reckless drivers

            MOTORIST


Central Airport, the Airport Circle & East Camden
circa 1928
Most of East Camden & the Boulevard had yet to be developed
courtesy N.J. Department of Transportation 
(formerly the N.J. State Highway Department)


Central Airport, the Airport Circle & East Camden
mid 1930s
courtesy N.J. Department of Transportation 
(formerly the N.J. State Highway Department)


Camden Courier-Post - June 6, 1933

AUTO MOVIE THEATRE HAS PREMIERE TONIGHT

The world's first automobile movie theatre which has aroused national interest because of its basic patents and in which motor cars literally are transformed into private theatre boxes, will have its premiere performance tonight in the Camden Drive-In Theatre.

On the Admiral Wilson Boulevard, near the Central Airport, it occupies approximately
250,000 square feet and is comparable, in size, to Franklin Field. Eight semi-circular rows, each 50 feet deep, will accommodate 500 motor cars simultaneously. Motorists and their guests will see and hear talking pictures while they smoke, talk or partake of refreshments without annoying others in the aud
ience.

There is a slight incline at the front of each aisle which guarantees uninterrupted vision.

The program will be a complete talking picture show and will be changed on Wednesdays and Sundays with three evening performances daily, at 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 o'clock. 


 

 


Central Airport & the Airport Circle
circa 1950
before the 1951 fire that destroyed Weber's Hofbrau House
courtesy N.J. Department of Transportation 
(formerly the N.J. State Highway Department)

click on image to enlarge

The Airport Circle
1953
courtesy N.J. Department of Transportation 
(formerly the N.J. State Highway Department)

click on image to enlarge

CAMDEN COURIER-POST - JUNE 10, 1960
Work Starts On Boulevard Overpasses

Construction of safety features on Admiral Wilson blvd. was started Thursday by Union Paving Co., of Wynnewood, Pa., holder of a $340,570 contract with the State Highway Department.

The program calls for construction of two pedestrian overpasses over the boulevard, and recon­struction of the concrete dividing island.

Work crews began ripping up the old three·foot wide concrete divider in preparation for construction of a new center barrier 32 inches high from a point halfway between 12th Street and the Pennsylvania Railroad overpass, to the Airport Circle, a distance of more than a mile.

The pedestrian overpasses will be constructed at 16th Street in the city and at Rodman Avenue near Rosemont Avenue in Pennsauken Township. Each will be built with safety railings, stairways and will be six feet wide.

After the overpasses and center medial strip are completed, the entire road surface of the boulevard will be covered with a blacktop. The state is paying the cost of the project.


Later Photograph of the work described above in progress


1963
Airport Circle
Click on Image to Enlarge - Click Here to Supersize Image

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