Convention Hall

1920s to 1950s - 1075 Line Street
Memorial Avenue at Line Street

1950s-1970s 210 Haddon Avenue
Haddon Avenue at Mickle Street

Camden has had two buildings known as Convention Hall, which can get a bit confusing, and the issue gets even more confusing when you add the fact that Camden had four different armories in the years between 1880 and 1960, and one of them was also called Convention Hall! It doesn't help either that Convention Hall was also often referred to as the Civic Center during the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s.

Camden's first post-Civil War Armory was built on Bridge Avenue at West Street, extending south to Mickle Street. In 1877 the Farmers' and Butchers' Market Company, composed of Thomas A. Wilson, Rodolphus Bingham, Abraham Rapp, James W. Wroth, and Charles Stockham, erected a building 150 feet by 175 feet. It was intended for a wholesale and retail market, but did not prosper, for the reason that Philadelphia was so near, the wholesale trade could not be gained and the location was not suitable for retailing.

After being used for two years as a market, it was fitted up for theatrical purposes with a seating capacity of 1000 persons. It finally was secured by the Sixth Regiment, National Guard of New Jersey, and was used as the armory and headquarters until it burned down on March 16, 1906. It was the home of the Camden Electrics professional basketball team, part of the National Basketball League, the first professional league, from 1898 to 1904. Coached by William "Billy" Morgenweck, they were the league champions in 1902-1903.

On September 7, 1896 the cornerstone of the Armory on Haddon Avenue at Mickle Street was laid by New Jersey Governor Griggs. It was located across Haddon Avenue from the Camden's pre-1931 City Hall, and the present Cooper Hospital. The contract for his building was awarded to George W. Roydhouse in April of 1896. The inaugural ball was held in the new armory on Friday, February 18, 1898. The ground upon which this building was erected was purchased from the estates of Sarah W. and Elizabeth B. Cooper (Peter L. and Peter V. Voorhees, Trustees) in June of 1894, for about $16,000, and presented to the State. This Armory was the home of the Third Regiment, New Jersey National Guard, and is depicted on many postcards.

Another Armory was built nearby on Wright Avenue around the time of World War I. It was the home of Battery B, 1st Battalion, Heavy Field Artillery, National Guard of New Jersey.

After World War I, Camden built its first Convention Hall, on Memorial Avenue at Line Street. It should be noted that though the Hall's mailing address was on Line Street, the front of the building was on Argonne Street, a one block thoroughfare that ran between St. Mihiel Street and Memorial Avenue. The building opened up in time for the 1926 Sesquicentennial celebration, which was held in Philadelphia. Camden's first Convention Hall hosted sports, business, and civic events until it burned in the early 1950s. Felix Bocchicchio, who also managed Jersey Joe Walcott, Camden's world champion heavyweight boxer, promoted boxing shows at the hall for a year or so after World War II. One of the last series of events held in the old Convention Hall was a live television show called Big Top, which featured circus acts.

In June of 1953, Camden's first Convention Hall on Memorial Avenue at Line Street burned down. In short order, most of the events that were being held there were booked into the old Third Regiment Armory, which was no longer being used by the National Guard, on Mickle Street between Haddon Avenue and Carteret Street.

Things became confusing with a quickness, as the old armory was renamed Convention Hall. For those born after 1950, the only Convention Hall they would have memory of was the former Armory, the second Convention Hall.

During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s Camden's movie theaters closed one by one, but Convention Hall continued to host different events. Most notable in these years were professional basketball played by the Camden Bullets, roller derby featuring the Philadelphia (or Eastern) Warriors, and professional wrestling. Many of the most notable professional wrestlers of this era appeared at Convention Hall, including Bruno Sammartino, Gorilla Monsoon, and Lou Albano.

It all came to an end when the second Convention Hall was destroyed by fire. The site has been a parking lot for the nearby Cooper Hospital and Cooper Plaza medical buildings.

Besides pictures of the buildings, on this page you will find pictures and such of events at the Convention Halls, and a few links to sites relating to these events.


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