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A home for words

Rutgers-Camden opens its Writers House

Rutgers-Camden on Tuesday dedicated a gloriously restored 19th century mansion that will become "a 21st century writing center," in English department Chairman Tyler Hoffman's words.

The former Henry Genet Taylor house at 305 Cooper Street was designed by the esteemed Philadelphia architect Wilson Eyre Jr. and has been a downtown landmark since it was built in the mid-1880s.

But despite its exuberantly eclectic architecture, the 3-story, 6,500 square ft. structure had been vacant and deteriorating for more than a decade when the university began a $4.2 million renovation project two years ago.

Hoffman and Rutgers-Camden Chancellor Phoebe Haddon said the Writers House will include classrooms, meeting space, and a design lab for digital writing programs.

The house is expected to begin full operations in 2016; plans also call for eventual construction of a rear addition that would allow the building to accommodate the entire English department.

About 60 people attended the festivities, during which the names of Walt Whitman – whose former home is a short walk away – as well as Camden's own haiku master, Nick Virgilio. Like Whitman, Virgilio rests at the city's Harleigh Cemetery.

But as of Tuesday, the Rutgers-Camden Writers House was looking very much alive.