Town By Town: A big year for a small Camden County town

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A house for sale on Fairmount Avenue, Laurel Springs. Sellers may be older, says a Realtor, but buyers are younger. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)

One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in this region's communities.

 

It's a big year for little Laurel Springs and the nearly 2,000 people who live in this Camden County borough.

Fivescore years and five months ago, on April 2, 1913, Laurel Springs left Clementon Township and has been on its own since.

Adopting the slogan "Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future," Laurel Springs' centennial has been full of celebrations, some recorded in a window display at architect Eric Hafer's office on Stone Road.

There are photos of the July Fourth parade and the Blueberry Festival, but there's always something going on, such as the fire department's fund-raiser at Aunt Lo's Ice Cream Parlor on Aug. 16.

Sidewalks in front of Gregorio Bros. Market, Bella Vita Pizza, Aunt Lo's, and Hafer's office are embedded with diamond-shaped patterns of commemorative bricks, purchased by residents at $20 each and personalized.

Prudential Fox & Roach agent Barbara McKale likes to call Laurel Springs a "smaller version of Haddonfield," which is just seven miles to the west.

"It is kind of tucked away from the busier places surrounding it - Stratford, Somerdale and Lindenwold - yet convenient and affordable," said McKale, who is based in PruFox's office in Marlton.

Real estate has always been important to Laurel Springs. Even before it was a separate borough, developers began subdividing here in the late 1880s.

You could buy an eight-room house with a bath, a heater and porches on a 50-by-150-foot lot for $300 cash and $20 monthly. The slogan: "Laurel Springs. A Place to Live."

Conrad Kuhn, of Weichert Realtors' Washington Township office, puts the current sale price here at about $150,000, which will get you a three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath Cape Cod-style house.

"The highest you'll pay is probably $225,000 for a larger place that has been updated," Kuhn says, acknowledging, though, that most homes in Laurel Springs are in need of "tender loving care."

"You'll rarely find anything that has been completely gutted," he says.

The last two properties McKale sold were listed "as is," she says.

"You will find all sorts of older homes, lots of them with Victorian charm, that don't take long to sell and for which buyers will be paying reasonable prices," Kuhn says of the market.

Sale prices here are within 5 percent of the average list price, he says.

There's no new construction to add to the mix, Kuhn says. There aren't many homes for sale these days, period, and most of what goes on the market are listings by sellers who have owned them since they were married.

"It does seem that way," McKale says, noting that a recent sale of hers was part of an estate being sold by the daughter of the deceased owner.

One of her listings, reduced to $189,500, is a three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath Cape Cod owned for 10 years by a couple retiring to North Carolina.

"He collects cars and has the last permitted pole barn in Laurel Springs," McKale says of the 24-by-40-foot structure.

Sellers here may be older, but Kuhn says the buyers average around 35 years old with families, "attracted to Laurel Springs' closeness to the PATCO High Speed Line and NJ Transit rail station in Lindenwold, the Voorhees Town Center, and the Deptford Mall."

Near downtown, there is a smattering of rental apartments.

Laurel Springs has tracks between East and West Atlantic Avenues, but there have been no passenger trains since the 1950s.

The train station at Stone and Atlantic Avenues was built 25 years ago as a memorial to the 1883 original - a stop on the Philadelphia & Atlantic City line when people from the big city and Camden came here for the waters for the price of a 29-cent fare. The Laurel Springs Beautification Committee now maintains the station.

In 2010, Conrail sought to renegotiate the station lease at a rent higher than the town could afford. Then-Mayor Jack Severson and U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews intervened, and the new lease had terms the borough could handle.

Until Dec. 7, when the centennial time capsule is buried, Laurel Springs' first century will be in the spotlight, and veteran borough clerk Dawn Amadio offers some highlights.

One is Laurel Lake, best seen over the dam on Laurel Road, she says.

The Gray Stone Mansion at West Atlantic and Tomlinson Avenues, built in mid-1800s by developer Samuel S. Cord, houses the police station. Cord was murdered over a business deal in September 1913.

And there's the Whitman-Stafford House on East Maple Avenue, the farmstead where Walt Whitman spent summers from 1876 to 1884.

But for Whitman fans, the must-see is Crystal Springs, at Lakeview and West Elma Avenues, which a 1902 Reading Co. brochure described as "clear as crystal and as cold as ice, and its value as a therapeutic agent has been testified to by numerous physicians."

The "Good Gray Poet" suffered from arthritis and took mud baths near the springs that he said were the reason for his return to good health.

History records that, in the view of residents who came to the springs for drinking water, Whitman was just "that dirty old man."

All was forgiven long ago, however: Laurel Springs' non-centennial-year slogan is "Walt Whitman's Summer Home."

By the Numbers

Population: 1,908 (2010)

Median income: $62,684 (2009)

Area: 0.47 square miles

Homes for sale: 29

Settlements in the last three months: 6

Median days on market: 106

Median sale price (single-family homes): $127,320

Median sale price (all homes): $127,320

Housing stock: Rental apartments and a mix of bungalows and Cape Cod-style homes.

School district: Laurel Springs to Grade 6; Stratford District (Grades 7-8); Sterling High School (regional)

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Realtor.com' Prudential Fox & Roach HomExpert Report

 


Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, aheavens@phillynews.com or @alheavens at Twitter.