Boudinots Mark Pivotal Point Downtown

History and Landscape
Published May 30, 1996

Boudinots Mark Pivotal Point Downtown

| Published May 30, 1996

Afternoon tea on the back lawn of the Boudinot mansion during the 19th century.
The Newark Public Library

The last time you stood in the middle of the PSE&G Plaza at Broad Street and Raymond Boulevard on the site of the old PSE&G Terminal building, you may have seen a large vertical marker pointing to important downtown sites. On the column is a bronze tablet commemorating the home of Newark's well-known Boudinot family.

While our only tie to the Boudinots is this bronze signpost, it is an important one. Unlike other prominent Newark families, the Boudinots were not of English descent. They were fourth generation Huguenots whose ancestors had fled France to settle in the new world following the Edict of Nantes in 1598. The best known member of this generation is Elisha Boudinot of Elizabeth. He was born in Burlington in 1740, and his service in various capacities during the Revolutionary War and as director of the United States Mint earned him national significance.

Our attention today is on another Elisha Boudinot of Newark, who was born in Philadelphia nine years after his brother. According to one contemporary source, he was a man of great importance. It was said of him that 'no professional man stood so high in Newark as Elisha Boudinot, lawyer, rigid Presbyterian, strong Federalist, and supporter of the Federal Constitution.' Elisha became a prominent attorney at an early age and later served as a judge on the state Supreme Court for seven years. He starting the Newark Banking and Insurance Company with an initial deposit of $300 and subsequently became that institution's first president. He also was head of the Passaic and Hackensack Bridge Corp. But not all his career was devoted to money making enterprises even though he was considered a wealthy man. He also served on a committee to raise funds to rebuild the Academy destroyed in the Revolutionary War. And he was deeply involved with the Newark Sunday Sabbath Observance Association. As part of a moral epidemic which swept Newark and the nation in 1798, he fully supported the association that agreed 'not to partake in pleasures of Sunday entertainment, not to ride or travel except in cases of emergency, to attend Sunday worship, to keep children and servants home, to suppress all manner of employment and worldly business, and to keep all aspects of the law.'

For the better part of two centuries the signature of the Boudinot family was their great home which stood at the apex of Raymond, Broad and Park on the present site of PSE&G. The family's first house was built in 1785 and faced Park Place with gardens and yards behind it, extending down to the Passaic River. In a disastrous fire in January 1797, this mansion burned to the ground before 500 helpless bystanders. Before the ashes had cooled, friends and neighbors resolved to help rebuild the house which was to last well into the first quarter of the present century. An early newspaper described it as 'the most pretentious house in the city. It was 54 feet wide and 48 feet deep. It was of imported English bricks…and was painted at different times white, cream, and brown.' Its early federal/colonial style was later overlaid with Victorian decoration. Later a kitchen wing was added. A south wing was to serve as the judge's law office. The house was also the site where Newark's well-known Female Charitable Society was founded in 1803, the nation's third oldest social welfare organization. When Judge Boudinot died, the local newspaper, the Centinel of Freedom said of him that his life was 'a long and useful one, and totally devoted to his fellow men.'

After Elisha's death the property was sold to Isaac Meeker who lived there until 1850 when he moved to New York. The building served as a girl's school for the next five years, and at that time it became the home of Stephen Hays Condict, who made it his residence until his death in 1895. In 1912 the building was demolished, and it was replaced by the PSE&G Terminal Building. From colonial mansion, to transportation terminal, to headquarters office, this site has been a pivotal point in downtown Newark.