In the 1660s Robert Treat found things getting a little too loosey-goosey in his once strictly religious New Haven Colony in Connecticut. It took him five years of searching the early American wilderness to find property on the west bank of the Passaic River. In 1666 he gave gunpowder, one hundred bars of lead, twenty axes, twenty coats, guns, pistols, swords, kettles, blankets, knives, beer, and ten pairs of breeches to the Hackensack Indians for the land that would be called “New Ark” or “New Work.” History is a bit muddy on the naming of Newark.
Treat’s new utopian community would remain under strict religious control for almost 70 years. The original New England Puritans were scoffed at as party animals by these settlers. As a consequence the hamlet attracted few settlers. In 1733 Colonel Josiah Ogden, a well-respected member of the village, was sanctioned for gathering his wheat on a Sunday to save it from an impending storm which launched a permanent rift in the church. But a true break with the religious hierarchy in Newark town would not come until the advent of trade and commerce after the American Revolution. The stirrings of Newark’s future as an American industrial powerhouse began simply enough with the leather trade and rudimentary jewelry-making in the early 1800s. the future arrived in 1815 in the form of a Massachusetts transplant named Seth Boyden. Boyden’s tinkering with leather-making processes resulted in the discovery of patent leather. Soon most of America’s leather was being shipped from Newark, 90% of it by 1870. Boyden then turned his attention to iron and invented a way to shape it by producing malleable iron. About the same time advance in transportation brought the coal fields of Pennsylvania to Newark via the Morris Canal in 1831 and the first railroads a few years later. Newark was off to the races; in 1836 it incorporated as a city.
It was said, with only slight exaggeration, that every kind of product sold in the United States was manufactured in Newark. Financially, Newark became the second-largest insurance company in America. The population soared from 136,508 in 1880 to 347,000 by 1910. It would eventually peak at 450,000. The intersection of Broad and Market streets, where Robert Treat had built a cabin 250 years earlier, was called the busiest in the country.
The last half of the 20th century, however, brought all the plagues of big city life to Newark, magnified several-fold. City planners had envisioned a growing metropolis that would swallow surrounding towns and keep the city coffers flush with tax money. It didn’t happen. Manufacturing jobs disappeared with nothing to replace them. Urban renewal and housing shortages exacerbated racial tensions between residents. While Newark is still New Jersey’s largest city with a population of 280,000 the number of people it has lost is greater than the population of nearly every other town in the state. Newark, however, has not been immune to the renaissance that has enveloped America’s cities. In the past dozen years the downtown has sprouted a performing arts center, a baseball stadium, a major league hockey arena and several historic buildings have received multi-million dollar facelifts. Our walking tour of today’s Newark will begin with a toe in the past where business was transacted back in 1667...
Washington Street and Broad Street
This small green space, now covered in leafy shade trees, was set aside as a market place in 1667 when it was called the Upper Green. Today the park is studded with monuments. The city’s first statue was dedicated in the heart of the park in 1890 in memory of Seth Boyden. A Massachusetts native, Boyden came to Newark in 1815 at the age of 26 to work in the town’s leather industry. Working in a shop near the park, in short order he perfected the process for creating “patent leather” to turn soft, pliable leather into hard, shiny leather ideal for boots. Next, after a decade of experimentation he developed the first procedure for malleable cast iron. He also invented an air brake for locomotives, improved the process for producing zinc, and built his own steamboat. Through a lifetime of innovation, Boyden filed only one patent and while his work created millions of dollars in Newark industries, he sought no profit. It was reported that he spent his last years toiling in a strawberry factory for $1.50 a day, working on ways to grow bigger berries. Thomas Edison, America’s greatest inventor, lauded Boyden, largely forgotten, as the country’s most important early inventor. The statue of George Washington, depicting the general taking leave of his army at Rocky Hill, was executed by J. Massey Rhind. The monument to Christopher Columbus was cast in Rome by Giuseppe Ciochetti and presented to the City by its Italian societies in 1927. At the park’s north end stands The Indian and the Puritan, one of three works in Newark by Gutzon Borglum of Mount Rushmore fame.
BEGINNING AT THE WASHINGTON STATUE WALK COUNTER-CLOCKWISE AROUND WASHINGTON PARK. ACROSS BROAD STREET IS...
New Jersey Bell Telephone Building
540 Broad Street
Until 1927 telephone service to northern New Jersey came from New York Telephone when the properties were purchased by New Jersey Bell. Ralph Thomas Walker, who was busy designing phone company monoliths in the New York area, designed New Jersey Bell’s new headquarters in what he called “the American perpendicular style.” At ground level the Egyptian-style bas-relief facade was sculpted by Edward McCartan. From the time the 20-story structure opened in 1929 its top was a nighttime Newark landmark bathed in a soft orange glow.
North Reformed Church
510 Broad Street
The Third Reformed Dutch Church was organized on December 16, 1856 in the home of Joseph Bradley. Bradley, who become a United States Supreme Court Justice in 1870, led a membership roster that included many of the city’s elite. The cornerstone of the Gothic church with buttressed walls was laid on September 14, 1857. The church suffered crippling damage by fire in 1922 and 1931 but was restored and done duty for over 150 years.
CROSS OVER TO THE NORTHWEST CORNER OF THE PARK.
The Newark Public Library
5 Washington Street
The Newark Library Association organized in 1847 as a private collection; its 10,000 volumes became the city’s first public library 40 years. In 1898 the need for more space prompted the hiring of Philadelphia architects Rankin and Kellogg, fresh off their triumph of the Camden County Courthouse, to design a new building. Their four-story Italian Renaissance palazzo arrived in 1901. Its dedication was followed by the arrival of the institution’s second librarian, John Cotton Dana. Under his direction, until 1929, the functions of the library were woven into the fabric of the entirety of the city. Dana served as president of the American Library Association, which today gives out the John Cotton Dana Public Relations Award to libraries with exceptional public relations. After his death, more than 1,000 people turned out to pay tribute on “John Cotton Dana Day.”
American Insurance Company Building
15 Washington Street
The American Mutual Fire and Marine Insurance Company was chartered on March 4, 1846 in offices on the 700 block of Broad Street. By the end of the century, the business had expanded across the country and was operating as the American Insurance Company. In 1929 the firm commissioned John H. & Wilson C. Ely for this 16-story Neoclassical building of limestone and pale rose brick, with Ionic columns and a roof-top cupola.
43 Washington Street
Scottish-born Peter Ballantine began brewing a pale ale along the Passaic River in Newark 1840. His three sons joined the business and by the time this 27-room mansion was built in 1885 the brewery was one of the largest in America. George Edward Harney, a New York architect, drew up the plans for the house which cost an estimated $75,000. Another $16,000 was poured into the interior furnishings, art work and statuary. The last Ballantine son died in 1905 and control of the company passed to in-laws. The brewery, long-time sponsors of New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies baseball, closed in 1972 although the brand lives on through other brewers.
49 Washington Street
The Newark Museum was created out of the Newark Library in 1909 by John Cotton Dana as part of his vision to encourage the study of arts and sciences among the citizenry of Newark. The museum opened on the fourth floor of the library until 1926 when it was presented this $750,000 Neoclassical limestone home by its greatest benefactor, Louis Bamberger. Chicago architect Jervis Hunt drew up the design plans. Bamberger was 37 years old when he came to Newark from Baltimore in 1892 to take over the bankrupt store of Hill & Craig at Market Street and Washington Street. His transition to merchant prince was such that in 1912 he was able to construct one of America’s greatest department stores, occupying a full city block and employing nearly 3,000 Newark men and women. The store, was so big it had its own telephone exchange with direct dial numbers for most of New Jersey’s suburbs. Louis Bamberger sold out to Macy’s in 1929 and, unmarried, gave millions of dollars to Newark cultural institutions until his death at age 88. The museum building next door was originally a YMCA; today Newark Museum is the largest museum in New Jersey.
CONTINUE ON WASHINGTON STREET TO LEAVE WASHINGTON PARK.
Pro-Cathedral of Saint Patrick
91 Washington Street at Central Avenue
In the 1840s the potato famine in Ireland drove more than a million Irish to leave the country. Many sailed for New York City and its environs, swelling the foreign population of New Jersey by many thousands. St. Patrick’s Church was the response. Dedicated on march 10, 1850, the massive Gothic brick structure was dominated by a 200-foot high spire.
WALK ONE BLOCK AND TURN LEFT ON NEW STREET. CONTINUE TO ITS END AT BROAD STREET. CROSS OVER INTO MILITARY PARK AND TURN LEFT TO WALK TO THE CHURCH IN ITS NORTH END.
Trinity and St. Philip’s Cathedral
608 Broad Street
Episcopalians in Newark were serviced by circuit riders beginning in the 1720s. In 1742, the church organized and a small stone edifice with a steeple was erected on a half-acre of the town “training ground” and it remains the state’s only church in a public park. The meeting house did duty as a hospital in the Revolutionary War for wounded British and American troops and suffered heavy physical damage as a consequence. A new church, using parts of the original steeple came along in 1810; the building’s current appearance dates to 1857. Trinity Church was elevated to full cathedral status in May 1944.
TURN AND WALK BACK THROUGH MILITARY PARK, HEADING SOUTH ALONG BROAD STREET.
Broad Street between Rector Street and Raymond Boulevard
Designed as a training place for soldiers when the city was planned in 1667, it became known in 1869 as the Town Commons or Lower Commons. Of the monuments scattered through the plaza the most important is a large bronze group created by Gutzon Borglum. Wars of America was the last of three statues by Borglum in Newark, the first being the sitting Abraham Lincoln in front of the Essex County Courthouse on Market Street in 1911. Wars of America was unveiled in 1926; the next year he would be off to South Dakota to begin work on Mount Rushmore.
FROM THE WARS OF AMERICA WALK ACROSS MILITARY PARK TO PARK PLACE.
New Jersey Historical Society
52 Park Place
The historical society has had several homes since its founding across the state in Trenton in 1845. Since 1997 the collection and offices have been housed in a 1926 Georgian Revival building designed by James Oscar Betelle. His firm specialized in school buildings, including many in New Jersey and several in Newark. This five-story red brick structure wrapped in stone quoins was created for the Essex club, a men’s social society. The old squash courts now contain the Society’s library.
WITH YOUR BACK TO THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY AND FACING MILITARY PARK, TURN LEFT AND WALK TO THE SOUTHERN END OF THE PARK ALONG PARK PLACE.
Lefcourt-Newark (Eleven80) Building
1180 Raymond Boulevard
Prominent Newark architect Frank Grad created this ornate Art Deco gem as the city’s tallest building in 1930. Clad in light tan brick and limestone it stretched to 449 feet tall across 35 floors. The building stood vacant for some 20 years late in the 20th century and has recently received an award-winning restoration to residential use.
WALK BACK TO BROAD STREET AND TURN LEFT, CONTINUING SOUTH.
National Newark Building
744 Broad Street
The reign of the Lefcourt-Newark Building as Newark’s tallest building was short-lived as it was eclipsed within a year by the National Newark Building that topped out at 465 feet in 1931. This Neoclassical skyscraper features a brown brick façade and a unique top that is modeled after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. The skyscraper was built by John H. & Wilson C. Ely, the architects who one year earlier built the American Insurance Company Building on Washington Park in the same style. The National Newark Building stood as New Jersey’s highest building until 1989 when Exchange Place Centre in Jersey City surpassed it.
Prudential Plaza Building
745 Broad Street
The 24-story white marble tower in the heart of the downtown business district, known as the Plaza Building, was opened in 1960. Established in 1875, the Prudential got its start in a basement operation on Broad Street. The company subsequently occupied a mammoth Gothic structure, which was finished in 1901 and razed in 1952 to make way for the present tower. The exterior is faced in Imperial Danby Marble of Vermont, the same marble used in the Supreme Court Building and Jefferson Monument in Washington; the facade sports 1,600 windows set in aluminum frames.
TURN LEFT ON MARKET STREET.
195 Market Street
The theater opened in 1895 as the Newark, hosting vaudeville acts. It was redesigned by America’s leading theater architect, Thomas Lamb, in 1917 using an Adamesque style. Transformed into a movie palace, it provided seating for over 2,000 patrons. The Newark became the Paramount in the 1930s and operated until the 1980s when it was reported that Newark’s last two movie houses, the Paramount and the Adams went dark in when their insurance rates increased 500 percent.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS HALF-A-BLOCK BACK TO BROAD STREET AND TURN LEFT, CONTINUING SOUTH.
First National State Bank Building
810 Broad Street
This bank, which operated for over 150 years, traces its roots back to 1812, much of the time at this location. Its Victorian-era banking headquarters was replaced with this early skyscraper. It adheres to the principals of pioneering high-rise design to create a building in the form of a classical column with the powerful base (the ground floors), a relatively unadorned shaft (the middle floors) and a decorative capital (in this case the green cornice).
First Presbyterian Church
820 Broad Street
The crossing of Broad Street and Market Street became the center of town shortly after the village was settled in 1666. Founder Robert Treat built his home on the southwest corner. That year First Presbyterian was established as a meeting house a few steps away in this location. The current structure was started during the Revolutionary War but the new country was up and running by the time of its opening on January 1, 1791. The church is a satisfying remnant of Georgian Colonial architecture. The freestone used in its construction was quarried on Bloomfield Avenue and the mortar was made from piles of clam shells gathered along the banks of Newark Bay.
Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal
840 Broad Street
The Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) grew out of the Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad that was chartered on February 9, 1831 to build from Elizabeth on the Newark Bay west to Somerville. Steamboats carried passengers to New York City. By 1849 various lines were consolidated into the CNJ which evolved into two main lines: one crossing from Jersey City to Phillipsburg and across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania coal country and a southern line that traveled along the Delaware Bay. On July 23, 1869, the Newark and New York Railroad opened, providing a straight route from downtown Newark to the CNJ’s Jersey City terminal. This three-bay facade is just about all that remains of the terminal for the venerable old line that disappeared into Conrail in 1976.
920 Broad Street
Architects Mowbray, Uffinger and Ely dispensed with function to create one of America’s grandest Beaux Arts-style public buildings. Completed in 1908, the final price tag for the five story limestone building was more than $2.6 million. The enormous interior space under a heavily ornamented dome boasts carved marble and fine paneling, a grand central staircase, stained-glass skylights, and decorative plaster and wrought-iron works. The central dome inside is made of copper and is flanked by atria with glass ceilings. Developer Harry Grant paid to have the dome covered in 24 karat gold in 1986. The previous home for the City’s administrative offices was a block to the north. In 1870 Broad Street in front of City Hall was paved with asphalt courtesy of Edmund J. DeSmedt, a Belgian chemist. It was the first recorded use of asphalt on an American street. Six years later asphalt was used to pave Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. in anticipation of the nation’s Centennial in 1876. But today’s ubiquitous sticky black petroleum distillate was slow to catch on - as late as 1904 there were only 141 miles of paved asphalt roads in the entire United States.
950 Broad Street
Newark’s second oldest Episcopal parish was organized in 1837. This church building arrived eleven years later, constructed on designs from Richard Upjohn, the leading proponent of the English Gothic style in America. Nearly from its inception, the parish has been famed for its choral music and in 1882 Samuel A. Ward, a choirmaster in Grace Church, composed a hymn tune that would become the melody for “America the Beautiful.”
WALK BACK A FEW STEPS TO FRANKLIN STREET AND TURN RIGHT, WALKING DOWN THE STREET BEHIND CITY HALL.
2 Federal Square between Franklin Street and Walnut Street
Architect George Oakley Totten plied his trade mostly in Washington, D.C. in the early 1900s, designing palatial homes and embassies. His work on government buildings helped him win the commission for the $3 million post office and federal court building that opened in 1934. The massive Neoclassical structure Totten delivered would be at home among the dignified federal buildings in his hometown. The post office operated on the first floor and the upper floors housed the United States District Court and offices.
TURN LEFT ON MULBERRY STREET.
165 Mulberry Street
The $375 million multi-purpose arena was the first downtown stadium constructed in the metro New York area in 25 years when it opened in 2007. Prudential Center primarily serves as the home arena for the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils. The red and gray exterior is inspired by Newark’s bricklaying and railroad heritage.
TURN RIGHT ON EDISON PLACE.
Newark Warehouse Company
southwest corner of Edison Place and McCarter Highway
The six-story Newark Warehouse Company’s building for inbound city freight on the Central New Jersey railroad represented a leap forward in storage facilities when it was constructed in 1907. At the time large storehouses were constructed of vulnerable brick and wood. Described as “unburnable,” this new warehouse was built completely of steel frame construction with concrete walls. The floors utilized plate girders and reinforced concrete with partitions of steel frames and hollow firefproof tile.
CROSS MCCARTER HIGHWAY. TURN LEFT ON ALLING STREET AND CROSS MARKET STREET TO THE TRAIN STATION.
Newark Pennsylvania Station
Raymond Plaza West and Market Street
The City of Newark and the Pennsylvania Railroad split the $42 million tab for the construction of this showpiece of the fabled railroad line in 1935. Then at the height of its importance, the Pennsylvania Railroad operated 232 trains every day between this station and Penn station in Manhattan. The magnificent limestone building festooned with polished aluminum Art Deco detailing was one of the last projects designed by the legendary firm of McKim, Mead & White, America’s premier architects of the Gilded Age from 1890 to 1910. The interior of the main waiting room has medallions illustrating the history of transportation, from wagons to steamships to cars and airplanes. Directly to the east of Penn Station is a lift bridge over the Passaic River, the largest of its kind when first put into operation. When needed it can be raised 111 feet in 85 seconds to provide 135 feet of clearance above the water.
TURN LEFT ON RAYMOND BOULEVARD. TURN RIGHT ON MCCARTER HIGHWAY. TURN LEFT ON CENTER STREET.
St. John’s Catholic Church
off Center Street at McCarter Highway
The oldest Roman Catholic church in the city, St. John’s was built in 1826 and was the first in the state to have a resident pastor. The church also was the first in Newark to have chimes, which were installed in 1859. Through its special services and consideration of the poor, the church has been known as “the people’s church.”
New Jersey Performing Arts Center
One Center Street
Los Angeles architect Barton Myers designed the 250,000 square-foot New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) to provide a continuum of Newark’s existing open green spaces from Military Park to the Newark Riverfront. The performance spaces were intended to present a welcoming feel rather than the formality of traditional temple-like theaters.
BEAR SLIGHTLY RIGHT AS THE STREET BECOMES PARK PLACE.
Firemen’s Insurance Building
8-12 Park Place
This insurance company was founded in 1855 and was soon able to build a splendid Second Empire headquarters in the center of the city at the northeast corner of Broad and Market streets. It was replaced in 1910 with the tallest building in the city at the time. These headquarters were built during the height of the company’s expansion in 1924-1928. This ten story structure features Classical Revival ornamentation on facades and in major interior spaces. The architects were the firm of Jay H. and Wilson C. Ely, the go-to builders of business towers in Newark.
BEAR RIGHT ON BROAD STREET.
First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church
572 Broad Street
The First Baptist Church of Newark was organized in June 1801 with a congregation of 14. By 1805 the small band was able to move into its first meeting house. The present Byzantine granite structure, inspired by the Baths of Pisa in Italy, dates to 1890. It was financed by and dedicated to Thomas Baldwin Peddie, who did two tours of duty as mayor Newark before moving to the Untied States Congress. The building includes 200 doors and 173 windows, all of which on the lower floor are crafted from Tiffany glass. Inside a balcony goes around the entire church beneath a dome 80 feet above the main auditorium.
CONTINUE ON BROAD STREET ANOTHER BLOCK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT IN WASHINGTON PARK.