The neighborhood put me in the mind of company housing, arranged on a modified grid. One road wound against the Delaware River and a small inlet, marking the outside border of the neighborhood. Other roads branched from a central Paris Avenue like veins on a leaf, with names evoking the local geography (Pennsylvania, New Jersey) and World War I (Pershing, Marne). It all seemed to have been planned to get the maximum density of housing into a peninsula hemmed in by river and creek. Might this might have been a quickly-built village for workers at the Gloucester City and Camden shipyards?
|A recent look at Noreg Village housing|
In a strategy that would later be echoed in World War II developments like Winfield Park and Victory Gardens, the federal government financed the construction of homes for about 6500 shipyard workers in a riverside portion of what was then known as Centre Township. Built by the U.S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation, the middle-income community was completed in 1917. New residents surged into the neighborhood, which was then called Noreg Village.
In 1923, well after the end of hostilities in Europe, the government held a massive auction of the 450 properties, including some commercial buildings and undeveloped lots. Home prices ranged from $1875 to $4000 for two- and three-bedroom properties described in promotional materials as the "ideal place of residence" for "the highest type of men and their families."
Brooklawn was officially formed as a borough in 1924 when it joined a growing number of hamlets separating from Centre Township by referendum. (Lawnside did the same two years later, rendering its parent township defunct.) Now home to about 2000 residents, its residential stock includes additional homes built to the east of Broadway, the road I'd taken to discover this little-known evidence of New Jersey's contribution to America's World War history.