Mt. Pleasant Cemetery Walking Tour – October 5th

Hi, I’m posting to share the news that Newarkology has gotten permission to offer a walking tour of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.
Mt. Pleasant and Fairmount cemeteries were the only two options for eternal rest for well-to-do 19th century Newarkers, with Mt. Pleasant being the choice for most of the Anglo-Protestant aristocracy. The Ballantines, Murphys, Kinneys, and Frelinghuysens who did business and socialization together in life all elected to spent eternity together as well. Learn about the lives and fortunes of the men and women who made Newark an industrial colossus and Victorian mourning customs.

Come learn about the great politicians, businessmen, inventors, and divines of Newark’s Golden Age on this exciting tour.

Date: Sunday, October 5th
Time: 12:15
Cost: $10 for those coming on their first Newarkology tour
Location: 375 Broadway, Newark, New Jersey

More information is available at my website.

Reviving a Pillar of Newark

Reviving a Pillar of Newark
Daily Newarker guest blogger Jeff Bennett was interviewed for a piece in the Ledger about the South Park Presbyterian Church, the remains of which stands on the corner of Lincoln Park along Broad Street.

South Park Presbyterian, finished in 1855, was designed by John Welch, the architect behind the Gothic High Street Presbyterian Church (now the St. James A.M.E. Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard). The interior followed conventional church design, with a domed ceiling, columns with gilded capitals and a marble baptism fount, according Jeffrey Bennett, who runs the website

Its greatest claim to fame is that Abraham Lincoln stopped there and spoke on the steps of the church on his way to his first inauguration. After Lincoln’s assassination, nearby South Park was renamed Lincoln Park, and the neighborhood became one of the most fashionable in town, home to many of the city’s prominent industrialists, although the church itself was known for its progressive politics, not ritzy parishioners.

Over the years, the neighborhood deteriorated and the church’s population dwindled. After the riots, the building was leased to the Pentecostal Lighthouse Temple, which used the building to feed the homeless until the late 1980s, when the structure was deemed unsound. A fire in 1992 gutted most of the building, and everything except the façade was leveled.

“I’m proud that Newark has such a beautiful building,” Bennett said, “but on the other hand it makes me sad that it’s just a ruin.”

Jeff is running a High Street and Downtown walking tour along MLK Boulevard this Sunday at 12:15pm. Details available at

Mlk Blvd/Lower Broad Street Walking Tour this Sunday

Hi all, this is just a reminder that I’m offering my first new Newarkology walking tour this Sunday, August 10th at 12:15 in front of Arts High. Come learn about the Newark’s fascinating past and architectural legacy.
More information is available at:

High Street Tour

The cost is $10 for a first time attendee, free to those who have attended before.

MLK Blvd/Lower Broad Street Walking Tour

Hi, this is an announcement for Newarkology’s first walking tour since last October.
On Sunday, August 10th, join us for a walking tour of MLK Blvd (formerly High Street) with a bonus walk back through Lincoln Park and Downtown. High Street is one of Newark’s most historic streets. Come and learn about the fascinating history of buildings like the Hotel Riviera, B’Nai Jeshurun, the Feigenspan Mansion, the Brick Towers, the old YMHA, the Krueger Mansion, Arts High School, the Essex County Courthouse, and more!

We will be spending most of our time on High Street, but we will be walking back along Broad Street. I do not plan to go into Broad Street buildings at the same level of detail that I will be going over MLK Blvd buildings, but I will be sharing a few historic notes about Lincoln Park and then the march of downtown Newark.

The tour will begin at 12:15 and will last 2.5 hours. We will go in all weathers except torrential rain or heat above 90 degrees. If the weather is threatening, please check the front page of for an announcement of cancellation.

Interview: Darius Sollohub of the NJIT School of Architecture

Newark is the fastest growing city in the Northeast, leading the nationwide trend of people migrating into cities. The Wall Street Journal ran a piece describing the demographic aspect of this move — boomers and millennials, mostly — and identifying higher energy prices as one of the main reasons for this trend.

The Journal (and a similar CNN piece that ran the day before) described the New Urbamism phenomenon, which closely identifies with walkable neighborhoods intended to encourage community. To get some insight into the New Urbanism movement and how Newark’s future is being guided from an urban design perspective, I interviewed Darius Sollohub, Associate Professor of Architecture at NJIT.

The interview is about 31 minutes. Press the play button below to listen.


On the podcast, we discussed:


  • Darius’ history with the NJIT School of Architecture and how the school has participated in research and advisory in the city
  • What New Urbanism means, the origins of the movement, and some of the critiques and benefits
  • How Newark’s redevelopment can benefit from the New Urbanism model
  • Whether Newark is taking the right approach in its urban design, and how design can make a difference in urban problems like crime and quality of life
  • Bonus! What will Newark be like in five years?

The New Urbanism and the Communitarian Trap

The New Urbanism and the Communitarian Trap (PDF)
Great piece from the Harvard Design Magazine, Winter/Spring 1997, Number 1. New Urbanism is the model that many US cities are attempting to adopt to make sense of their post-industrial communities.

While dipping a toe into the ocean of material about urban design, I was surprised at just how many issues the practice touches — everything from battling crime to creating community to the industrial design of lampposts — and how many of the issues I was at least somewhat familiar with.

But can “community” really rescue us from the deadening world of social dissolution, grab-it-yourself materialism and individualized, selfish, market-oriented greed? Community has always meant different things to different people, so what kind of “community” is understood within the philosophy of the New Urbanism? It is here that harking back to a mythological past carries its own dangerous freight.

The New Urbanism in fact connects to a facile contemporary attempt to transform large and teeming cities, so seemingly out of control, into an interlinked series of “urban villages” where, it is believed, everyone can relate in a civil and urbane fashion to everyone else. In Britain, Prince Charles has led the way on this emotional charger toward “the urban village” as the locus of urban regeneration. Leon Krier, an oft-quoted scion of the New Urbanism, is one of his key architectural outriders. And the idea attracts, drawing support from marginalized ethnic groups, impoverished and embattled working-class populations left high and dry through deindustrialization, as well as from middle- and upper-class nostalgics who view it as a civilized form of real estate development encompassing sidewalk cafés, pedestrian precincts, and Laura Ashley shops.

Suburbs a Mile Too Far for Some

Suburbs a Mile Too Far for Some
A tipster sent in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal story on the New Urbanism phenomenon. The article cites demographic changes and rising energy costs as the culprit for the shift in housing preference away from drive-in suburbs — a model that’s been in place since World War II — to cities and walkable communities.

Despite the high concentration of fiber optic cable running through Newark serving its telecommunications industry and universities, the city missed the opportunity to capitalize on the internet-oriented economic boom of the 90s. This new national trend might just catalyze important changes in the city and provide a second chance to benefit from another national trend.

While high gas prices are a boon to New Urbanism and other “smart-growth” planning concepts, in practice such mixed-use projects often are harder to execute — from acquiring local approval to securing Wall Street financing — than the traditional suburban tract-housing model. The challenges for cities are considerable, from investing in public-transportation systems to creating incentives for developers to accommodate the new urban housing demand. 

Cities such as Denver, Charlotte, N.C., and Portland, Ore., are making investments in public transportation and spurring the construction of symbols of the new housing era: multifamily residential and retail complexes at or next to transit stations. Reconnecting America, a nonprofit group committed to transit-oriented development, estimates that the number of households near transit stations will soar to 15 million by 2030, from six million now.

Westinghouse Exhibition: Requesting Submissions

The New Jersey School of Architecture is requesting artist submissions for an upcoming exhibition of the Newark Westinghouse building. The Westinghouse building, which once housed the early industrial work of Thomas Edison, is being razed to make way for the city’s plans to build a transit village in Downtown Newark, across from Broad Street Station. The demolition — indeed, the building itself — has been a subject of controversy, and Newarkers have asked whether the building could have been rehabilitated rather than torn down.

I met with Matt Gosser, the director of the NJSOA Gallery, at his workshop at NJIT, to discuss the project and find out more about his work. I stepped into a room that was half studio, half machine shop. Bits of the Westinghouse building littered the room from late night raids on the demolition site — massive orange letters from the building signage were propped behind me and boxes full of switches, dials and gauges were stacked in a shelving unit along the opposite wall.

A student entered the room to construct a sculpture out of the debris as Gosser showed me old receipts, reference cards, cleared checks, and other detritus from a century ago. The machinery he pulled off the shelves reminded me of my own father’s machine shop from decades ago, with oversize levers that clunked and snapped into place to confirm their position. They were relics from an age that existed before the point-and-click; physical design cues that we only mimic now on screens of light and color.

I asked how long Gosser, whose exhibition of the Pabst Brewery earned him a write-up in the New York Times in 2006, had been working with “found” materials in his work in general, and how long he’d been working on the Westinghouse project in particular. His words — he had been scavenging the Westinghouse since they parked demolition machinery outside of the building — conveyed a passion for the history of architecture. He hoped to be able to purchase and personally restore a building in downtown Newark himself one day.

To see more of Gosser’s work, check out his website: For information about the Westinghouse Project, see the full release after the jump.

Continue reading “Westinghouse Exhibition: Requesting Submissions”

Same River Twice

Upon those who step into the same rivers, different and again different waters flow.


Last Sunday, I went to the Grove Street Cemetery to look for the resting place of Louis Danzig. With a cemetery administrator’s instructions, I found only five, perhaps unrelated, Danzig’s. However, I was captured by the aura of hundreds of past Jewish lives, with Downtown Newark in the distance under the dim winter sun. I could hear Louis Danzig (“Lou” to his friends), a visionary who died in 1982, telling his dreams, sorrows, and regrets in his life-long battle for Newark’s revitalization.

In 1911, Harry and Rebecca Danzig brought three-year-old Louis to Newark from Lithuania. Starting from Oriental Street at the northern edge of the thriving city, America was a dream of democratic socialism for the Danzig family and thousands of Jews who escaped from the oppressive Tsar and the Old World discrimination. Their countryman Abraham Cahan founded Forward, the most popular Yiddish newspaper with the motto: Workers all Over the World Unite. Graduating from Central High and New Jersey Law School, Louis started his legal practice in 1930. In the evenings, he went to Columbia and NYU to study housing issues, his life-long passion.

In August 1941, Danzig joined the Newark Housing Authority’s Tenant Relation Bureau as an interviewer. On February 25, 1942, he was named the manager of John W. Hyatt Court, a new public housing project in the Ironbound. He immediately closed his law office, saying, “I don’t believe you can do justice to two jobs at the same time.” In addition to Newark residents, Hyatt Court was peopled by migrant war workers from 26 states. A Star-Ledger report on May 27, 1947 summarized Danzig’s work, “He is policeman, caretaker, rent collector, administrator and complaint department. It takes a spirited social worker like Danzig, manager of Hyatt Court, for the post.” His tenant entertainment program was modeled by public housing nationwide. In April 1948, he became the Executive Director of the NHA and effectively calmed its ten-year bitter infighting.

Slum clearance was the consensus of the time, formed in the previous three decades under a variety of influences, among which was Le Corbusier’s urbanism design, with the precious amenities of “sun, space, and green.” In 1947, President Truman addressed the nation to create the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to build “a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.” The president called on the nation, “No lesser objective is commensurate with the productive capacity and resources of the country or with the dignity which a true democracy accords the individual citizen.” Danzig foresaw a new era coming, with his role as not only a public housing man, but also as an ambitious planner and general contractor to rescue his beloved city from dying. Among the first in the nation, he prepared all organizational, legal, and planning work for massive construction even before the landmark 1949 Housing Act. However, with influence from the real estate lobby and the coming Cold War, the Act fatally and contradictorily relied heavily on private development. It enabled a local authority to purchase slum land, clear it, and resell it to a private developer at a much lower price, with the Fed covering two-thirds of the loss. In addition, the FHA would insure mortgages for the construction to follow.

Danzig’s initial redevelopment site was the area around the Broad Street Station. (Mayor Booker announced the same area as one of the city’s three development centers in his recent State of the City speech.) The Lackawanna-Broad Street site in the old First Ward was located on the edge of an area marked for clearance by the Central Planning Board’s Master Plan. However, it was not so heavily blighted or inter-racial that it would repel private redevelopers or the FHA’s stringent mortgage insurance. The contours of the site were effectively defined by the natural boundaries of a railroad (no I-280 yet), a park, and the major thoroughfare of Broad Street, all located near the Central Business District, the best bet for a successful first move of Newark’s urban renewal. Danzig had no choice but to carefully avoid all 16 “hardcore” slums for developing middle-income housing, the key of urban renewal. Danzig believed that the future of American cities depended on stopping middle class families’ flee to the suburbs.

After 1949, Danzig led an all-out effort against the federal government’s withdraw of its urban housing commitment. He lobbied to expand the renewal coverage beyond strictly housing to include urban commercial and institutional construction. From his many testimonies in Congress, he developed a national reputation on housing issues and even drafted some federal urban renewal legislation. To expand the development in the Lackawanna-Broad Street project, he planned a unified Rutgers campus, which later evolved together with the Newark College of Engineering (NJIT) into University Heights. He initiated the vision of an arts and entertainment district, with a performing arts center in the James Street Commons. Later, he called the nation’s top developers for a three day conference at the Robert Treat Hotel on the Meadowlands industrial park to restore the city’s eroding economical and industrial base. (Another of Mayor Booker’s economic development emphasis is the exact airport and seaport area.) Through lobbying for amendments to the 1949 Act, Danzig made the development of Penn Plaza (the Gateway Center) possible.

Today’s urban historians often sloppily mix a failed national urban renewal policy with Louis Danzig’s character. He was called “notorious Danzig” (Kevin Mumford) and the man with a stronger iron fist than Robert Moses (Kenneth Jackson). However, to many government officials and even rival business leaders, Danzig was a surprisingly persistent yet patient, convincing yet flexible, city builder, rather than a bureaucratic housing man. In a violently scared city, the Housing Authority director became a sinister symbol of racial discrimination and government corruption. Through his long career of public service, Danzig received many awards and much recognition from organizations such as the NAACP and the League of Woman Voters. In 1951, he even collaborated with Professor Morton Deutch, the world’s most respected scholar on conflict resolution, to study racial integration in public housing. For most of his life, his family lived in modest rental apartments, such as 525 Elizabeth Street and 330 Hobson Street. Managing millions of public funds, he was never once accused of impropriety. In 1952, his doctor ordered him to take a Florida vacation, his only one in his entire career. In those two weeks, he sent postcards to his staff, “I should make everyone take a break.”

The carefully planned Lackawanna-Broad Street project, however, quickly fell into disarray. After a crude slum clearance, an entire Italian neighborhood was uprooted, while not many private speculators dared to purchase the land. Then, the FHA attempted to force Danzig to reduce the project size, threatening the integrity and viability of the plan. To compromise, he put the eight high-rises of Columbus Homes in the center of the middle-income housing project. He had no choice but to delay the market-rate housing, and advance the public housing first, contrary to his original judgment. Against politicians’ pressure and society’s prejudice, he integrated Columbus Homes’ tenants in 1954, by first introducing 600 white families and, then, sending in some 500 black families. However, many high-rise tenants came directly from the deep rural South, without any urban experience. Some were even reported to defrost refrigerators by lighting a fire in the freezer. Few of the original 99 various local businesses were relocated along Broad Street. Hundreds of removed Italian families could never resettle locally, but moved to Belleville and beyond.

The most damaging crisis was the planned middle-income housing. After months’ negotiation, Danzig secured a developer. However, the FHA refused to provide adequate mortgage insurance and left a gap of only $2 million, even after Danzig’s many trips to Washington D.C. In 1958, he lost the developer, holding the useless land and delaying renewal efforts of the entire city. With the help of Milford Vieser, Mutual Benefit’s Financial Vice-President, he found the energetic Chicago developer Herbert Greenwald, whose better Fed connections led to a better mortgage insurance. Greenwald brought the world’s most famous modern architect, Mies van der Rohe, to Newark to design three sleek buildings on the shrinking site. Unfortunately, a few months later, in a trip to New York City to meet Robert Moses, Greenwald’s jet crashed into the East River, further delaying Danzig’s dream. He found himself loosing his once thick hairs crisis after crisis. When the Colonnade and Pavilion buildings finally stood tall in 1961, the urban condition had further deteriorated and a small window of opportunity for Newark had all but closed. By 1969, he had built 5,674 public housing units, 2,500 senior citizens’ units and market-rate apartment buildings such as the Hallmark House, Brick Towers, Mount Calvary Homes, and High Park Gardens. However, the 62-year-old Danzig was a tired and broken man, seeing the riots, the steadily dwindling Newark population, and the fast deteriorating housing conditions. On May 9 in his last official trip to Washington D.C., he angrily blasted the federal policies, holding nothing back, “Should the government have helped cities like it did to suburbs, we would not be in such a difficult situation.” He said that Newark had hundreds of acres of land lying fallow because of the red tape and, more importantly, of “the FHA’s negative philosophy.” He called for the agency’s abolition. On June 19, Danzig retired from the NHA with only a $17,000 annual pension. Before his early death in 1984, he anguishly watched most of his work in jeopardy. The implosion of St. Louis’s Pruitt-Igoe Homes symbolized the end of urban renewal and the moral failure of the country.

In 2008, the country’s moral standing as a true democracy for every individual citizen has not improved, at least by observing this city. However, environmental devastation and economic bankruptcy for the country and the state have made revitalization of urban centers even more urgent. The lingering American dream, with automobiles on ever extending highways to suburban and ex-urban McMansions, will soon end. Danzig would be very happy to see Mayor Booker back to the Broad Street Station area:

The timing for the city’s revival is finally coming. The Broad Street Station area has options far beyond Danzig’s dilemma of public housing vs. privately developed middle-income housing. As Danzig envisioned 58 years ago, a university and cultural community finally takes the stand as the pillar of the area.

The timing is critical. Any feasible residential development can only happen after a clear solution to the cancerous Baxter Terrace. Fortunately, with the city’s timely full support, initiatives by the Newark Museum and NJIT will significantly improve the development environment and strengthen these institutions.

The timing is everything. The improved mass transit system makes the area more competitive if the city could decisively catch up with other cities, such as Elizabeth and Harrison, with uncompromised higher design standards. The world will not wait forever for Newark, which does not monopolize the region’s transportation advantages.

Finally, as Danzig planned but ran out of time for implementation, only the open land along Broad Street, with a better road connection, has a large capacity for regional commercial development.

Danzig would say, “Lucky you, same river twice. But no more thrice.”