According to Newarkology, ” The Puritan founders of Newark laid out their village on New England lines, with town squares for meetings, not necessarily relaxation. Puritan Newark had three main open spaces, a training ground for the militia, a market place for merchants, and a watering place for animals. In time, these three open spaces would develop into Military Park, Washington Park, and Lincoln Park.”

WASHINGTON PARK

Washington Park existed formally in 1666, when the Puritans settled in Newark (prior to that the Dutch were still in New York and northern New Jersey). The park was used as a marketplace. While the park is only 3.3 acres, making it the smallest, it literally holds a MONUMENTAL statue. The Indian and the Puritan, also known as the Bridge Memorial, was created by Gutzon Borglum (yeah Mount Rushmore guy) who has four works in Newark. In honor of Newark’s 250th Anniversary, the work was dedicated in 1916 at the intersection by the Newark Library, whose home also sits on the park. In 1977,  it was relocated to a traffic island a few yards away.

Indian and Puritan, photo by Wally Gobetz

Being the colonial marketplace, the park was hub. As the city grew older and bigger, important people and institutions built their homes along it – the Newark Public Library, the Ballantine House, and the Newark Museum. Today, the park also anchors the Rutgers Business School and Audible.com, The vibrant marketplace still exists in Washington Park. Every Wednesday, from June to October, the park explodes with scents and sounds. Food trucks, great live music, and a farmers’ market fill the park with people and fun! Check out the details here.

MILITARY PARK

You have probably already figured out where Military Park gets its name. It was used as a military training ground from 1667, when the city was planned, until 1869. In 1869, it became the town commons, or green. In 1926,  Gutzon Borglum (yeah, that guy again) sculpted Wars of America, a great monument to the history of the park and America. In February, a $3.25 million renovation was announced and in late May, construction began. Below are photos of the transformation taking place.

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Discussed upgrades include wireless internet. In fact, the City of Newark has the opportunity to run the fastest internet connection ANYWHERE, but seeks support (of around $100,000) to tap into the already existing (crazy, right!) infrastructure. Contact me in the comments below for more information.

 

LINCOLN PARK

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Once again, according to Newarkology, while Washington and Lincoln Parks had definite uses a marketplace and training ground, Lincoln Park was underutilized. Initially a watering and grazing area for livestock, later the park had a serious problem with squatters which resulted in a town ordinance being passed requiring that every townsperson must vote to insure the parkland “was not to be disposed of or added to a man’s property” without public consent. Despite these efforts, Lincoln Park was so little used that in 1792 Captain Jabez Parkhurst set up a schoolhouse which would stand until 1848 on what should have been open space. Lincoln Park has played an important role in American history. President Lincoln gave a speech at the nearby South Park Presbyterian Church. Following the Civil War, Lincoln Park became home to some of Newark’s business and cultural elite – Leather manufacturers John Peshine and Isaac Bannister and jewelry maker David Dodd. Soon they were joined by wealthy German brewers Christian Feigenspan and Gottfried Krueger. When Feigenspan moved to a larger mansion on High Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd), his home was purchased by Henry Kessler, after whom the Kessler Institute is named. In 1919 the Newark Academy of Medicine moved into the former Kirkpatrick mansion at 91 Lincoln Park. The Medical Tower was built in 1930. Today the park is vibrant – families play, pedestrians enjoy the view. In the summer of 2008, the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District began restoration work on what remains of the South Park Presbyterian Church’s facade (Seen below). Additionally, the park is host to an annual music festival, have hosted the 8th annual event this past July.

Former South Park Presbyterian Church, on whose steps President Lincoln gave a speech.

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