From High Street to King Boulevard/St. Luke's AME to the Krueger/Scott Mansion High Street, now Martin Luther King Boulevard, is one of Newark's most important thoroughfares in the minds of many, second only to Broad Street.
It includes old city mansions, great public buildings, important houses of worship, beauty spots as well as eyesores. Its history is a microcosm of the city itself.
In its earliest days, High Street formed the western boundary of what was a little township. The far side of the street was, to Colonial Newarkers, the beginning of the countryside. A 'High Street' could be found in most English towns, and it seemed natural to apply the name to Newark's highest points above sea level. The name stuck for well over 2 centuries, until it was changed in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1983.
In our imaginary trip alongHigh Street/King Boulevard, we are going to travel from south to north in two stages, looking at the rich historical mix that has contributed to Newark's multicultural neighborhoods of today. Beginning at Clinton Avenue, we find St. Luke's African Methodist Episcopal church, a Norman-style building that stood from 1881 until it burned in 1981 and was replaced by a brick structure. The Riviera Hotel, built in the early 1920s, is located catty-corner from the church, an eight-story brick and terra cotta structure purchased by Father Divine in 1949 for $500,000 in small bills. This famous transaction at Newark's Federal Trust Co. took 3 hours of counting by 10 men. Documents show that B'nai Jeshurun was 'one of the oldest and most influential reformed (Jewish) congregations in the country.' Located at High Street and 13th Avenue, the synagogue was opened in 1915. It remained there until 1968, when it moved, along with much of the city's Jewish population, to suburban Essex County. The Albright Mansion stood at the intersection of High and Spruce. It was built by Inslee A. Hopper, president of the Singer Sewing Machine Co. of Elizabeth. The great green stone castle, as it was called, was replaced by an apartment house in the 1920s. A famous drawing by an artist named Chapman shows sleigh-riding outside the front door.
The Feigenspan Mansion at 718 High St. is a 30-room classical mansion designed by William M. Kendall and finished in 1903. This is the last of the great High Street homes to be built in this century. It has been carefully preserved and is owned by the Mirabella family. Glencoe, at 698 High St., has been owned by only two families since it was built in 1871. For years, it was the property of James Coe. It is now the property of Richard Grossklaus. The house boasts fine black walnut interior paneling. A massive stained-glass hall window contains the owner's family crest. A compact, smaller house at 683 High St. was one of the homes of the Newark Camera Club, founded in 1888. The building is a typical Queen Anne design. Across the street at 672 is Oheb Shalom, today Wells Cathedral, built in 1910 by Bohemian Jews under the leadership of Rabbi Isaac Schwartz. The two-story, Ionic-style pediment was built on land once owned by Newark-born Gov. William Pennington, who also was speaker of the House of Representatives. Next door at 652 High St., the three-story Georgian brick building was the YM-YWHA. Built in 1923 of classical design, it has palladium windows, ceremonial urns and a Roman-style balustrade. Today it is home to the Citadel of Hope, and is listed on the state and national landmarks registers. The National Register calls it an 'excellent example of Georgian and Greek revival-influenced architectural style frequently used for prominent civic structures in the early part of the 20th century in the United States.' From 1923 to 1954, more than 10 million visitors from both the Jewish and non-Jewish Newark communities made this their intellectual home. Names associated with the 'Y' included Moss Hart, Dore Schary, Norman Toake and Alan V. Lowenstein.
AtHigh and Court streets, Gottfried Krueger built his great mansion in 1888, one of the finest Victorian-eclectic buildings in the state. A 43-room structure in the style of Louis XIV, its architect/designer, Herman Schultz, installed Newark's first residential elevator, a pipe organ, elaborate wainscoting, parquet floors and frescoed ceilings. The mansion's owner, a wealthy Newark beer baron, constructed the city's largest home for his 14-member family. For a time, the house was owned by the Scottish Masonic Rite, but it was Newark businesswoman Louise Scott who purchased it in the 1940s and converted it into a beauty college and her personal residence. Without Scott, the house would not be standing today. Both Krueger and Scott were examples of rags-to-riches stories, and the mansion is a living testimony to both. At present, the mansion is being restored as a memorial to the accomplishments of these two individuals under the supervision of Catherine Lenix-Hooker. Plans call for it to be the state's premiere African-American cultural center.