Gardening in the Jackson corner of Camden

Camden Garden Main

The Camden Community Garden, which began its operation this past week at a lot between Camden Avenue and Light Street, is surrounded by Camden history.

I like to think of its location as the Jackson corner, an area where the Jackson family, longtime lumber merchants, financed a half-dozen family dwellings in the vicinity of Camden Avenue and Newton Street.

North of the garden, the corner structure known as the William Newton Jackson house dates to the 19th century. William and his family occupied the house during the early 20th century, but the house had been erected by his grandfather William H. Jackson after purchasing the lot from Purnell Toadvine in 1867.

Next door, the Newton Street structure known as the Jackson Duplex owned by the Jacksons dates to about 1878.

And the garden is on the former property of yet another Jackson, Hugh Jackson, although it is still not clear to me if it was the elder or younger Hugh.

And opposite from this area, on what is now property of St. Francis de Sales Parish Catholic Church, was once the expansive house of Senator William P. Jackson. The house is no longer there but some of the other property structures remain.

This is only part of the Jackson story. Elihu Emory Jackson had property on Camden Avenue further north towards the bridge. And he built “The Oaks” on North Division Street where he lived when he was the Governor of Maryland.

The Jackson lumbering dynasty began with Elihu and his brother William H. Jackson amassing an immense lumbering and milling business with their first lumberyard located in downtown Salisbury.

The Jacksons had extensive property holdings in the Camden vicinity and throughout Salisbury. In the Camden area they owned property along the south side of Wicomico Street towards the river. And a Jackson lumber mill was located at the end of Newton Street near the railroad tracks. The street, named for a Jackson, likely serviced the mill, with its wide-constructed Camden Avenue entrance.

Elihu has been described as a “Gilded Age industrialist.” He established a flooring mill in Baltimore, bought a Washington, D.C., flooring and cabinet factory, and acquired timber tracts in Virginia to supply his urban factories.

He looked to the Deep South for sources of forest timber and purchased extensive holdings in Florida and Alabama. The Jackson Tract of massive sawmill camps in Southern Alabama were major operations. He reportedly built the first railroad in the South used exclusively for lumbering.

I have long heard of the stretch of homes further south on Camden Avenue referred to as “millionaire’s row.” They are largely early 20th century homes.  But the block of late 19th century homes owned by the Jacksons reflect a much earlier, lesser known and perhaps more substantial millionaire status.

Camden’s new community garden is situated among a fascinating array of historic properties, not all of them once owned by Jacksons. For example, to the south of the garden is the huge historic structure known as the L. W. Gunby house.

So next time you visit the Camden Community Garden, take a look around.  Take a peek at the buildings back behind the garden and at those throughout the area.

This new community garden is not only making history but has become a neighbor to a part of Salisbury steeped in history.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at lindaduyer1@yahoo.com

 

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