Today's article looks at three Newark landmarks. Interest in America's outdoor sculpture is not restricted to Newark alone. Several years ago, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington began a nationwide program in which it attempted to place most of the country's outdoor sculpture on a data base.
Meredith Bzdek of the Montclair Art Museum was selected as the New Jersey coordinator, and the New Jersey Division staff of the Newark Public Library helped locate clippings, monographs, and historical pictures for each sculpture. 'During visits to various sites we asked questions about the monuments' conditions and attempted to photograph each one. We climbed over the sculptures, measured them, and tried to complete a questionnaire about each of them.' A copy of the New Jersey report, including the Newark section, has been deposited in the library's New Jersey Information Center, available for public use. Later columns will include additional sketches of some of the more than 60 Newark monuments.
Indian and the Puritan
In a single afternoon, on May 10, 1916, when Newark was celebrating its 250th anniversary, four historical sites were unveiled. Bronze tablets were placed on the site of the home of the Rev. Aaron Burr Sr. and at the front door of the First Congregational Church. A memorial stone marked the original settlers' site at Saybrook Place. And an elaborate statue and lightning shaft honoring the Indian and the Puritan was dedicated in Washington Park. For nearly three-quarters of a century, the Indian and Puritan statue has stood at the intersection of Washington and Broad streets across from the library as a testament to Newark's early history. It was here that Newark's first marketplace was located until 1795. Later, the area served as a transportation point for stagecoaches leaving for Belleville, Bloomfield and Paterson. Down the hill an early bridge spanned the Passaic River, connecting Newark Township with communities to the east and eventually NewYork City. The area around the park changed once again in the beginning of the 19th century to one of great townhouses and elegant mansions. It was in this new environment that Gutzon Borglum created the statue. It consists of two life-sized figures, one an Indian and the other a Puritan supporting an elaborate lighting fixture. The base of the bronze shaft bears the following inscription: 'The bridging of the rivers eastward and the rude road built across the marsh was an enterprise of patriotic citizens; an epoch-making event. It awoke the industries and made the present city possible.' Recent damage to the statue as a result of automobile accidents, air pollution and the pens of graffiti despoilers were addressed by former City Engineer Alvin Zach, who carefully supervised a restoration and moved the monument out of the traffic island to the safety and beauty of the north end of Washington Park. Today, the Indian and the Puritan of old surveys yet another Newark from a newer vantage point in Washington Park – that of a leading commercial and cultural center for not only Newark but for much of New Jersey. Imagine the stories our two stone friends could tell if only they could talk.
A colossal bust of Felix Mendelssohn, a famous German composer of the early 1800s, was located in Branch Brook Park from 1904 until the 1970s when the Essex County Park Commission removed it. The story behind it is interesting and reflects the German influence in Newark. By 1900, Newark's German residents had become the focus of the community’s industrial and cultural activities. Newark's German origins started early and ran deep roots. The city's first opera performance was Webster's Der Freischuetz, in the Newark Theatre at Halsey and Market streets in 1855. At the time, German language newspapers were read by more than half the population. Public documents were printed in both English and German, and a large number of German language books were added to the library. In addition, young athletes were joining gymnastic clubs. During an era of vocal music, great German singing societies thrived. A federation of societies in Eastern cities, later called the Nordoestliche Sangerbund, was formed in 1848. The Sangerbund sponsored a regional music festival every two to three years, and prizes were awarded. First prize was the Kaiserpreis, a silver statuette given by the German emperor. Another award was a heroic bust of a German musician. This was given for the best performance by the combined singers of each city, an event inaugurated at the Sangerfest held at Newark in1891. After competing several times in this contest, the United Singers of Newark won the prize in 1903. On May 23, 1904, a day of general celebration, the proud Newark Singers and the Sangerbund president, Major Carl Lentz of Newark, presented the Mendelssohn statue to the city during an unveiling ceremony in the park. At last, the German-Americans of Newark could point to a public symbol of their achievements.
Msgr. George Hobart Doane
Another notable Newark sculpture is that of Msgr. George Hobart Doane, former Newark Episcopalian and later Roman Catholic clergyman. Born in 1830, he lived in Newark until his death in 1905. His father was Anglican Bishop George Washington Doane, a Trenton native and former rector of Trinity Church at Military Park. The younger Doane studied to be a doctor at Philadelphia's Jefferson Medical College. After graduating in 1852, he decided to enter the Episcopal Church, serving at Grace Church in Newark as assistant. In 1855, he converted to the Roman Catholic Church, forcing his father to depose him as an Anglican clergyman. Later baptized as a Roman Catholic, he studied at the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris, completed his studies at the Collegio Pio in Rome, and entered the priesthood at Newark's St. Patrick's Cathedral on Washington Street. During his almost half-century as a Newarker, he became well-known for his secular achievements. He was a great supporter of the arts, lobbied for a city museum, was an active friend of the Essex County Park Commission, argued for the construction of a new city hall, pushed for the building of a new post office and updating of the Second Police Precinct building, and helped raise money for the bronze panel over the library's front door, 'Wisdom Instructing the Children of Men.' During the American Civil War, he joined the New Jersey Brigade and saw service at the Battle of Bull Run. He was involved in the purchase of the land for the site of the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Clifton Avenue, raised funds for the improvement and enlargement of Seton Hall College, was a founder of the House of the Good Shepherd, pushed for the development of St. Michael's Hospital, and fought for the extension of the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. The restored heroic style monument erected in his memory in Doane Park next to Trinity Cathedral was paid for by popular subscription and bears only the inscription 'Monsignor Doane.' At the time it went up, the statue was not considered necessary. But with the passing of time and Doane's lost historical identity, maybe it's time to again say thank you to a nearly forgotten Newarker of yesteryear. The recently restored Monsignor Doane statue and mini-park was originally dedicated on Jan. 9, 1908. The memorial shows Doane ready to deliver a sermon. Its sculptor was William Clark Noble, a prominent 19th century sculptor and designer of silver and gold coins from around the world.
With few exceptions, most of Newark's outdoor sculpture was put into place between the Civil War and World War I. As in other eastern cities, unbridled civic pride and prosperity resulted in the decoration of our outdoor parks, plazas, and municipal palaces. As a result, Newark's sculpturesque beauty compares favorably with even larger and richer cities. Cenotaphs to people, ideas, and accomplishments were carved in granite, marble, and limestone or fabricated from bronze or other decorative metals. Next week we will survey the Wars of America, Seated Lincoln and General Washington statues, the latter in the park that bears his name.