Ferry Street


Ferry Street was chartered by the colonial legislature in 1765 as "Old Ferry Road." It was named for the ferry that used to go between Newark and points east.

In 1849 a private company was given a fifty year charter to replace the old logs of the roadway with smooth planks. This company was called "The Newark Plank Road Company." The name of the street was changed to "Plank Road." The charter should have expired in 1899, but the venal state legislature attempted to extend the charter for another fifty years.

The charter extension was immensely unpopular with the Newark Board of Trade. The Business Men's Committee of the Board of Trade practiced their own civil disobeidence by attempting to drive a two-horse rig and a buggy over the Passaic River bridge without paying a toll. When the bridge master refused to let them pass without paying, the businessmen did indeed pay (15 cents for a single horse buggy, 25 cents for a two horse rig), but under protest.

More productively, the Board of Trade sought legal relief in the New Jersey Supreme Court. In 1900 the New Jersey Supreme Court annulled the charter extension.

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Hilariously, the County of Essex did not immediately assume management of the Plank Road. When the Newark Plank Road was deprived of its charter, it immediately ceased maintenance on street, and the street had to be closed. By 1901, the Board of Trade found itself suing the County of Essex, for not assuming its proper duties.

Eventually, the Hudson Section of the Plank Road became the Lincoln Highway. The Essex section became the Ferry Street that we celebrate.

This office, situated on an unusual triangular plot of land, was built as the Ironbound Bank the first decade of the Twentieth century. Like almost half of Newark (exaggeration), the architectural firm was Ely & Ely.

Something special about Ferry Street and the Ironbound is that it is more than a street of sights, it is a street of sounds and smells. One such store of smells is Popular Fish. This is the place to get fresh seafood for Iberian delicacies like paella and garlic shrimp.
One of the most unusual buildings in Newark is the this restaurant-castle.
Churrasco Christmas pig, seen outside Iberia restaurant.
The Ironbound is starting to attract its share of higher end restaurants. Mompou is a wine bar and taparia. Tapas, if you have not had them, are Iberian appetizers.

Incidentally, the Ironbound has a growing population of young, artistically-minded, non-ethnics, sometimes dubbed "hipsters."

The Ironbound is full of excellent bakeries. This is Delicias, one of my favorites.
This is the office of the Luso-Americano Newspaper, the largest and oldest Portuguese language newspaper in the United States.

Initially founded in 1928 by a doctor by the name of Jose Lobo, three Ironbound merchants, Manuel Conceicao, Jr. Francisco de Castro, Valentim Rocha, and assisted by a printer by the name of Vasco Jardim, the Luso-Americano actually went out of business during the Great Depression. Fortunately for the Portuguese and Newark, the paper was refounded in 1939 by Vasco Jardim.

Seen here is another major Portuguese institution of the Ironbound, Sport Club Portuguese (Official Site. Note, SCP is on Prospect Street, just a few feet from Ferry.

SCP was founded in 1920-1922 by individuals from the then tiny (200 persons, mostly men) Portuguese colony in Newark. Although athletics was always a feature of SCP, there were from the beginning dramatic and educational missions too. In the 1930s SCP even founded a band.

Sport Club Portuguese was founded on Market Street, but this structure dates from 1939-1941. It was built specifically for SCP.

Our Lady of Fatima Church is on Jefferson Street, just east of Congress and SCP. Seen here is the rectory/parish house. The actual church is next door.

Our Lady of Fatima Church was founded in 1955 as the first Portuguese-specific parish in Newark. Our Lady of Fatima built a fine orange-brick church for itself and in 1970 moved into this building, now the rectory.

Ethnic succession is always of major interest to me, hence my use of this photo instead of a photo of the actual church. Prior to being a parish house, this building was the home of a synagogue, Torah Emes. If one examines the facade carefully one will see Stars of David on the sides of the doorway, plus a large Star of David under the cross at the apex.

The Ironbound was never a Jewish center, but for many years it did have a tight-knit Jewish community, mostly merchants on Ferry Street. This synagogue was built in 1909 and is one of the oldest standing synagogue buildings in Newark. I know this synagogue thrived until the 1930s, when many of the Ferry Street Jews moved to Weequahic and the suburbs and the synagogue formally merged with Ahavis Achim in West Orange. If anyone has additional information, please email me.

Here we come to one of the Ironbound's most notable landmarks, St. Stephen's Church.

St. Stephen's Church is itself another fine example of ethnic succession. Founded by a German evangelical congregation made up of carpenters in 1874, this church is now principally used by a Spanish-Portuguese Lutheran Congregation, with the official owners, the a German-American United Church of Christ, down to its last twelve members.

While this church, designed by George Staehln, is attractive, its fame comes more from its location at the intersection of five streets -- the Five Corners -- than its own architecture. As a symbol of the Ironbound, the Ironbound Chamber of Commerce has paid for St. Stephen's steeple to be repainted.

St. Stephen's is perhaps the most notable Ironbound church landmark, but it was not always. There used to be a St. James Church on Lafayette Street that had a 280 foot steeple. That St. James was torn down in 1979 to make way for an expansion for St. James Hospital.

The medallions above the doorway illustrate St. Stephen's history. The medallions are clearly in German. This part of Newark used to be so heavily German that Wilson Avenue was known as Hamburg Place!

West of St. Stephen's Church is an old brown brick building with "Vorwaertz" inscribed on stone.

A sign for a strip mall may not seem so interesting, but it is necessasry to show that the Ironbound isn't just mom and pop ethnic shops. The Ironbound has a Pathmark which is as large as anything you would find in the suburbs. If you are thinking of living in the Ironbound, and are concerned about paying too much for food, you need not worry.
Firehouse No. 8, one of Newark's oldest. This firehouse is now a medical outreach facility. The firefighters are long gone.
The Ironbound was one of the Ballantine Brewery's homes in Newark. This sprawling facility between Ferry Street and Fleming Avenue employed 4,500 at its peak in the 1940s.

The Ballantines came to Newark from Albany, New York in the 1840s. The first Ballantine Brewery was on Front Street, where Science High used to be. This brewery here in the Ironbound was actually first the Schalk Brothers Brewery.

Trinity Reformed Church, at 483 Ferry Street, was founded in 1850.

Trinity Reformed plays a unique role in the Ironbound, apparently it is the politically active church here. When the city administration was eager to build a minor league baseball stadium at the site of Riverbank Park, this church hosted meetings to stop the wrong-headed idea.


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