Main Streets 2016: New Jersey
Just east of Philadelphia and Camden in western New Jersey, suburban Collingswood’s Haddon Avenue is alive with appealing restaurants, art galleries, stores and history — so much so that in 2009, it was designated one of the nation’s “Great Streets” by the American Planning Association. “The tree-lined avenue with its historic buildings, wide sidewalks, town clock, period lamp posts, flower baskets, and pole banners captures the look and feel of late 19th and early 20th century small town America,” the Planning Association reports.
Collingswood is a small community, a borough with almost 14,000 residents, but it has handsomely blended its historic features with modern-day growth and contemporary uses. For example, the historic Collingswood Theatre, a 1928-vintage movie house and performance venue that was active until 1962 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, is now home to several local businesses.
Like many communities, Collingswood prospered with the arrival of the railroad. It was a stop on the run between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. But the downtown went into a period of decline that was reversed in the 1990s, when community leaders led the revitalizing of Haddon Avenue. The streetscape was modernized, buildings were spruced up, and businesses invested.
Today, a combination of arts, entertainment, dining and shopping have again made the borough’s downtown a vibrant attraction for residents and visitors. Each Saturday from May to November, the Collingswood Farmers’ Market brings the best of New Jersey’s rich farming tradition to town. A mile of Haddon Avenue is taken over in May for the annual May Fair art and music festival, drawing 50,000 people. There are also “2nd Saturdays” every month, when local art galleries, stores and restaurants host new mini-shows of artwork, with local artists and musicians on every block.
Haddon Avenue closes to traffic for extra-special events, like the Crafts and Fine Arts Festival in August and the Collingswood Book Festival in October. The Pop Up Gala in September starts on Haddon Avenue, but then diners move on to a dinner party in a spot – one that’s otherwise an ordinary public space – that is kept secret until the much-anticipated event.
All photos courtesy of Borough of Collingswood