Jesus and the Bulldozer: Religion, Suburbanization, and Urban Renewal in a New Jersey Camp Meeting Community
The history of suburbanization in New Jersey is a well-established topic in the scholarly literature. Since the middle decades of the nineteenth century, the state’s northeastern and southwestern areas have become dense with suburban communities tied, culturally and economically, to New York City or Philadelphia. By the early twentieth century, these areas were a mix of middle-class white enclaves, Black towns, immigrant and working-class communities, agricultural hamlets, and industrial suburbs. However, in the late nineteenth century, some suburbs emerged as religious retreats. This article explores how suburbanization and, by the 1960s, urban renewal, transformed the Gloucester County borough of Pitman’s landscape. Founded in 1871 as a Methodist camp meeting resort, the history of Pitman demonstrates ways that religion complemented suburbanization, and suburbanization, amid religious decline and secularization, reshaped the religious landscape of one South Jersey community.
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