Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Walt Whitman House, Camden, New Jersey

It is "Poetic Injustice"... that in 2004 there were few if any visitors to this lovely house at 328 [now 330] Mickle Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey. A more recent report in 2007 indicates the house receives on average 3,000 visitors annually (according to Dana Loschiavo, a spokeswoman for the N.J. Division of Parks & Forestry, which oversees the house).

According to American Memory, "The little house on Mickle Street, Camden, with "W. Whitman' on a brass plate on the door, was a source of pride to the aging poet. It was the only house he ever owned.

He used to sit in a front window and visit with the children on their way to school. His upstairs study, which he called his den or cabin was just as he wanted it--filled with books and pictures, with a luxurious litter of his own bold manuscript..."

"In the following summer (1885) Whitman had a slight sunstroke which rendered walking much more difficult. For months he was a good deal confined to his little house, but his friends promptly came to the rescue with a horse and a light American wagon. He was overcome with gratitude for the gift--driving, as we have seen, was one of his delights--and he promptly began to make full use of his new toy..."

This house was erected before 1884, but there is no record of the architect. It stands 2 stories high, made of wood, with a cellar. Walt Whitman bought this house for $1,750 in 1884. He invited Mary O. Davis, the widow of a sea captain to become his housekeeper, and she did so until his death. Walt Whitman referred to Mrs. Davis also as his friend.

Whitman is quoted as saying,"Camden was originally an accident, but I shall never be sorry I was left over in Camden. It has brought me blessed returns." While living there some of this country's most prominent literary figures visited him there, including Charles Dickens, Willaim M. Thackeray, and Oscar Wilde.

A tablet at the house reads:"Here lived the 'Good Gray Poet', Walt Whitman, from 1884 to the date of his death, March 26, 1892. This house is now owned and dedicated by the city of Camden to the memory of its famous citizen."

Photograph and some information from American Memory, Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey. Nathaniel R. Ewan, Photographer, April 15, 1936, Card #NJ0399


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