Artifacts Represent the Incredible Diversity That is Newark

History and Landscape
Published July 22, 1999

Artifacts Represent the Incredible Diversity That is Newark

| Published July 22, 1999

The two-ton steam engine that powered the Jackson Street Bridge was built in Harrison in 1906. It was saved from the scrap heap when individuals and institutions teamed up to donate it to the Newark Museum, where it now stands on display. The Newark Public Library

Bits and pieces, relics of old Newark continue to appear and reappear here in the city, in the suburbs, and across the country.

Wherever they've landed, residents of the area may admire them, but have little or no idea where they might have originated. Other reminders of Newark's past have been lost to the wrecker's ball. Some have disappeared because of neglect or greed. Some were damaged after being hastily removed in the dark of night. Fortunately, the survival rate is more favorable than the death toll.

Don Luis Munoz Rivera Bust

The fate of the Don Luis Munoz Rivera bust unfortunately falls into the same category as the Spanish-American 'Hiker.' It was stolen by a low-down thief. The statue was placed in Washington Park to honor the father of Puerto Rico's first elected governor and main architect of the 1897 treaty with Spain. It is a copy of the original Rivera bust in the Puerto Rican capital, sculpted by Spanish artist Francesco Vasquez Diaz. The Newark statue stood on a pedestal in the park for several years. It disappeared in a South Street warehouse 1978 where the city had taken it for cleaning. An extensive investigation into the statue's disappearance by officials of the city and Downtown Park Committee, followed, but failed to turn up any lead to its whereabouts. Committee members assumed it had been melted down for the value of its bronze. A replacement – which has remained untouched – subsequently was created and installed in the park.

The Turkey Frieze

One of the most interesting and colorful architectural motifs in the city once enhanced the old Essex Market at Washington and Linden streets, site of Newark's first high school. An endeavor of the Centre Market Merchants Inc., a group of some of the city's oldest and most successful merchants, the market was a 14,000-square-foot warehouse which offered free parking and delivery service. Operations were confined to the distribution of food products. Officers included Meyer Kraemer, president, and Fred A. Schwartz, secretary. The building was erected by the Stuben Holding Co. The first floor was occupied by standholders and served as club headquarters. The architect was F.H. Koenigsberger. The basement included a restaurant which seated 380 people. The Washington Street facade was brick with a polychrome terra cotta front, an aluminum marquee and storefronts. After the building was torn down in 1998, Evan Blum of Irreplaceable Artifacts in Manhattan reported that his company purchased the famous turkey and peacock frieze. Several birds are still on display and for sale in his Manhattan showroom. Blum also purchased other Newark artifacts including several elaborate bars, among them the one from the old Pen and Pencil restaurant on Beaver Street and a 24-foot-long carved oak bar from the Van Buren Tavern. Another bar, purchased 20 years ago, came from an old Italian passenger liner. For many years it was part of a Newark tavern. Eventually the nude ladies supporting the massive piece of furniture found a home in Duluth, Minn. The bar from Charley Charles' saloon at Broad and Market, that had the feeling of an Anglo-Irish pub, was shipped off to Havana Cuba, and perhaps oblivion after nearly a 90-year stay in Newark.

Krueger Castle Furniture

The antique furniture dealer's catalog from 'John P. Wilson: The Largest Auction of Architectural Antiques. The 10th Annual Golden Movement Emporium Auction of June 6th and 7th, 1980,' (San Francisco, California) appeared with the following entry: 'The Complete Library of Exotic German fruitwoods from the landmark Krueger Castle in Newark, New Jersey. Built in 1888, the library contains 48 feet (1463.04 cm) of shelving and display. Heights from 10 1/2 (306.07 cm) to 12 feet, 11 inches (397.7 cm). One of 39 total rooms and period interiors.' So, somewhere in the United States is the Krueger library which once occupied one of Newark's greatest mansions. A recent telephone conversation with a well-known New York City antique furniture and architectural parts dealer confirmed that the stained glass dome of Krueger's tower was sold some years ago to a mid-western dealer. While these sales were conducted among 'consulting partners,' the vandals of the early 1990s who stripped the fireplaces, wainscoting, and even the grand staircase, were illegal. Following the last owner's death, the departure of former tenants and the boarding up of the building, members of community and the city landmarks committee called for police help to stop further looting. Hammers, chisels and other pieces of equipment were found strewn around the first floor and additional architectural elements were missing before the building was again secured and the city began a yet-to-be-completed restoration.

Bust of Felix Mendelssohn

Not all news about Newark's old signs and symbols is bad. The great bronze bust of Felix Mendelssohn was won by Newark's United Singers in 1903 as part of the German Day celebration. They competed with many other German singing groups, offering a successful presentation of Reinhold Becker's 'High Mass in the Forest.' The bust was then given to Mayor Henry M. Doremus who placed it in the hands of Essex County Park Commissioner Cyrus Peck for safe keeping. It was put on a pedestal in Branch Brook Park opposite Barringer High School at the lake until the 1970s. There it stood until it was removed by the county for fear of being stolen and because it was subject to increasing graffiti attacks. For the past quarter century, the bust been stored in the Essex County greenhouse at Heller Parkway. Recent discussion among city, county and cultural officials have centered the possibility of bringing it back to public view on or near the New Jersey Performing Arts Center or in Military Park. Funding for minor repairs seems to be the only issue involved in its return to public view.

Father Washington Cross

The 13-foot granite monumental cross dedicated to Rev. John P. Washington, whose home parish was St. Rose of Lima, was unveiled by Newark Archbishop Thomas Boland on October 1960. It was dedicated to the memory of the priest who gave up his lifejacket to another World War II shipmate aboard the torpedoed USS Dorchester in the icy waters off Greenland on Feb. 3, 1943. Father Washington and three other clergymen gave their lives to save fellow crewmen and were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by President Eisenhower in July 1960. Born in Newark on July 16, 1908, Washington was educated at St. Rose of Lima School, Seton Hall Prep, and Seton Hall College. He later studied theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary, where he was ordained June 15, 1935, by Archbishop Walsh. Commissioned First Lieutenant in May 1942, his life and Roseville origins once were celebrated by a granite cross on a triangular plot at the intersection of 9th Street and 7th Avenue opposite the Lackawanna Roseville Avenue station. But vandals and graffiti artists covered the statue. A fellow parishioner said of it 'Now it's been defaced, the face is blackened with paint, and worse there's graffiti all over the base.' This brought demands by the Newark St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee to move the defaced monument to 'a new place of honor and respect.' While former Newark Councilman Michael Bottone, and Rev. William Linder both wanted to keep it in the city, former county counsel Francis McQuade spearheaded its move to Seton Hall's South Orange campus. A report in The Star-Ledger in March 1981 described the projected move as 'an attempt by suburbanites to 'rob' a part of Newark's heritage.'

Jackson Street Engine

When mentioning one of the significant symbols of old Newark, nothing could be more appropriate than the now antique engine that once powered the Jackson Street Bridge between Essex and Hudson counties. The 1,175-ton bridge was moved by a two-ton engine built by W. E. and G. Greenfield in Harrison in 1906. In a less historically conscious town, when it came time to modernize or replace an old device, it probably would have ended up on the town junk pile. Not so here, when an individual and an institution teamed up to preserve it. D. J. Henderson, at the time a 91-year-old engineer and former state drawbridge supervisor in New Jersey's old Highway Department, and Samuel C. Miller, former director of the Newark Museum, saved this piece of local transportation and engineering history. Miller noted, 'We (at the museum) are willing to take the responsibility of preserving this unique piece of machinery for future generations. Eventually, we hope it could be the focal point of a permanent exhibition illustrating Newark's role as one of the nation's leading industrial cities.' Miller continued, 'This steam engine is of great importance as an artifact of Newark's industrial past … and I understand there are few, if any of this type left in New Jersey.' For Newark to preserve such an item from its 19th century industrial past was as logical as the cranberry industry of Cape Cod, a cotton exchange in the Deep South, or a Spanish mission in the southwest holding onto bits of their history. Henderson pointed out the need to save the engine, and Miller gave it a home in the museum. You might remember that D.J. Henderson and his wife, Elizabeth, were responsible for restoring Newark's oldest residence—the 1710 Sydenham House on the Old Road to Bloomfield in north Newark.

The Stanchion Clock at Wiss

From 1906 until 1974, a 16-foot pendulum clock made by Seth Thomas for Wiss Jeweler stood in front of the famous Newark jewelry store, telling time for countless Broad Street travelers. It was one of the first pendulum clocks made by Thomas, and was a well- known landmark as well as an attractive decoration along Broad Street. But as companies moved out of the neighborhood in the 1960s, Wiss, too, relocated to suburban headquarters and the clock went to the Mall at Short Hills. Richard S. Paul, Wiss president, turned the clock key over to Larry W. Smith, general manager of real estate investments for the Prudential. In 1977, when the Mall at Short Hills was remodeled, the clock disappeared.

The USS Newark clock

Another timepiece to take a place in Newark history was the ship captain's clock from the tanker USS Newark. The small Seth Thomas mantle clock was presented to former Mayor Ralph A. Villani in whose home it was a centerpiece until the late 1980s. His widow, former Councilwoman Marie Villani, then presented it, along with various Villani memorabilia, to the Newark Public Library during one of the library's Italian-American exhibitions. Today, the clock sits in the office of library director Dr. Alex Boyd.

For the past two weeks, we have looked at some of Newark's historical artifacts, some preserved and some lost. Like the city itself, these things' represent the incredible diversity that is Newark. What fun some future social historian or archaeologist will have when trying to puzzle why city subway cars were sealed in abandoned tunnels under the transportation complex, if some monster actually possessed a 34-inch wooden bicep or if the 16-foot stanchion clock on the east side of Broad Street was the original Wiss clock or a later reproduction. So, year after year, this astounding city will continue to produce even more mysteries for future problem-solvers. You have seen my list, what would you add to it?