Constructed in 1825 as 12 row houses, this historic block evolved into six double-width private clubs, eventually known and celebrated as the Little Street of Clubs. It has also been dubbed the Avenue of the Artists more recently due to its national stature as a historic landmark of important artistic activity. The Cushman Building, located at 239 South Camac Street, was purchased in 2001 from the Charlotte Cushman Club, a club for women actresses named for Charlotte Cushman, the first woman director of the Walnut Street Theater and an internationally famous Shakespearean actress of the mid-to-late 1800's. Since 2001, it has been painstakingly restored, renovated and furnished. The Acanthus Building, located at 251 South Camac, was purchased around the New Year, 2006. An even more immaculate renovation, restoration and furnishing of 251 has been undertaken. It is a former private club that specialized in French cuisine, known as the "Coin D'Or". It later became the original home of Deux Cheminees, Philadelphia's celebrated French restaurant now located one block away. Also located in and still very active in the block is the Sketch Club, a private club of fine artists that has counted among its members Thomas Eakins. Located between the two office buildings is the Plastic Club, also an active fine artists’ club. Its members have included famous Philadelphia artist Violet Oakley, whose murals line the walls of the Governor's conference room, the Supreme Court and legislature of Commonwealth in the State Capitol at Harrisburg. Beside 251 South Camac, toward Spruce Street, a former stable purportedly belonging at one time to the Barrymore acting family has been open as the Venture Inn since at least the early 1900's. Half a block away, in the other direction, across Locust Street, is the Franklin Inn Club--- an active literary club that still hosts luncheons attended by and celebrating writers.
Etching of S. Camac Street by Frederick Robbins (Venture Inn and the Acanthus Building are in the foreground)


239 (241) S. Camac St. circa early 1900's
The general area was first developed in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. As streets were laid out westward towards Broad and south of high (Market) St. the area became home to some of Philadelphia's finest homes (John Hare Powel House later General Patterson Mansion; Built 1832-36 SW corner of thirteenth and locust) as more land was sold and divided, shops, commercial enterprises and smaller houses added to the diverse character of the area. Broad Street later developed its banking and large hotel feel.

The original name of the street was dead from when it was laid out when the parcels of land were sold and houses were planned (1822-24). Around 1875 various small street names were changed to commemorate Captain Turner Camac, a notable Irish Sea captain and land owner, whose wife's sister was married to a Penn.



The area experienced several ups and downs while maintaining some of its gentility. The area just a few blocks south of here was for many years quite interesting even prompting a guide to "Gay Houses and Ladies of Pleasure in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection"(1849). By the 1880's there is documentation that the area had become more diverse with the African-American citizenry living primarily in the area south of Spruce. In the area north of Spruce there are reports of a rather bawdy nature of drunken fights and confrontations that regularly required police involvement not uncommonly whole squads of police. The last two decades of the century started to see the beginnings of the club scene that was prompted by the city to bring back a little order and control of the area. The Sketch Club was a first in the area, then the Franklin Inn, and the Plastic Club. The Poor Richard Club formed in 1904 finding a home in 1907 at 239 Camac. Other clubs followed including Coin D'Or, the Princeton Club, the "Stragglers" and "Meridians". The original location of the Charlotte Cushman Club was the SW corner of 12th and Locust form 1907 until 1962. Across the street, addresses through the years included the studios of celebrated photographer William Rau.


Now The Cushman Building
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