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Newark USA

A fotojournal about LIVING in Newark USA, New Jersey's largest and most cultured city, by the author of the foto-essay website RESURGENCE CITY: Newark USA.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Another Mystery Solved — Finally

This "Church Sunday" at Newark USA I regale you with the tale of a long quest that started on July 7, 2011, when I posted the following foto that Gaetano found somewhere online, and asked readers if they knew what the great stone church in the foreground was and what happened to it.

As you can see, the 1960 white marble HQ of The Prudential had been built before this church vanished, so you'd think many people still alive would know what it was and what became of it. Maybe so, but nobody who contacted me had complete info.

Foto courtesy of and © Michael Postaski 2011.

Reader Michael Postaski emailed me, and took a foto of the same area nowadays, which I use above. (I could have cropped his foto to show only the portion of the skyline in the older foto, but I like the wider view, and think you might too.) He also found this foto and info at page 102 of a book from 2003, Newark: The Golden Age (NJ) (Postcard History Series).

So we knew it was a Methodist church, but still did not know which Methodist church, nor what happened to it.
Michael did a bit more research and came up with a name at the Old Newark website.
The Sixth Methodist Church, also known as Central Methodist, was organized on December 9, 1849. The church was built in stone at 181 Market Street and dedicated on Thanksgiving Day in 1851. The Central Methodist Church has been influential in Methodism throughout its history. Merged with First Methodist in 1937.
However, that entry has problems. 181 Market Street is west of Beaver Street, but the church in question was just west of Mulberry, a block farther east. Hm. That webpage also did not have info beyond 1913.
I waited a while longer for someone to come up with what happened to this vanished church, but by early September 2012 was about to give up and put here such info as we had managed to find, when I got an email with a bit more info.
On a site I was on, Newark NJ life as it was, w/ FB we were talking about your photo of the sign of the bank in your article:

Thursday, July 07, 2011
Mystery Solved; New Mystery

the church that you were asking about is the Central Methodist Church I will send a pic along

Here's that foto, which Debby found at newarkphotos.com, part of the Old Newark Group of websites. (If Old Newark objects to its use here, I will of course delete it.)

(Foto courtesy newarkphotos.com)

I replied, in part:
I went to the Old Newark site to search for more info on Central Methodist, but it has no Search function. I think I had sent email to Old Newark about this months ago but got no answer. I'll do some more research.
Debby followed up:
No one [in the Facebook group] knew anything about the church as of yet, I happened to come across the pic so we know the name at least one of the members also got the address if that helps[:] Central Methodist Church on 227 Market St. I remember from a site that the Architect was Minard Lafever[,] 1798-1854

also just found this:

First United Methodist Church (added 1977 - - #72000775)
Also known as Central Methodist Episcopal Church
227 Market St. , Newark
Historic Significance: Event, Architecture/Engineering
Architect, builder, or engineer: Lafever,Minard
Architectural Style: Gothic Revival
Area of Significance: Architecture, Religion
Period of Significance: 1850-1874
Owner: Private
Historic Function: Religion
Historic Sub-function: Religious Structure
Current Function: Religion
Current Sub-function: Religious Structure

I thanked her and said:
I find it very odd that a great big stone church could disappear from Market Street, one of the two most important streets in Newark, at some point between the 19[6]0s and 2000, and nobody knows what happened to it.
Debby soon thereafter found this passage from a book by Frank J[ohn] Urquhart: A history of the city of Newark, NJ.

Then I asked a friend from the Old Newark Group, Julius Spohn, if he remembered the church and what happened to it. He had some info to offer, but did not know the reason for its demolition.
I remember that church very well. Had passed it hundreds of times over the years. It was torn down sometime in the 70's I think it was. People passed that church on their way from the downtown offices on their way to Penn Station. That corner of that photo brings back a lot of memories. That was the corner of Mulberry Street and that was the street were there were many butcher shops and it was always very crowded. * * *

One thing I can say with certainty is that it was not damaged by the riots. The riots did not get into this part of Newark. They were all up along Springfield Ave and South Orange [Avenue] area going West from the court house — 1967 riots. Then the 1968 arson riots took place over in the Bergen Street Clinton Ave area. The 1974 Puerto Rican riot took place in the North Ward. After the 1967 riots White people who worked in the downtown area were being mugged ... on their way walking back toward Penn Station. At a certain point the Police Dept put out a message to all citizens that instead of walking down Market Street, where the church was, to get to Penn Station, that they should walk down Raymond Blvd and that there would be police protection along that route toward Penn Station. Much of the foot traffic evaporated from Market Street after that. What also ruined the foot traffic along Market street was when they built the new office buildings across the street from Penn Station and then across the street over Raymond Blvd and built those "bridges" connecting the buildings. Newer people to this city after the 1980's feel that these bridges were to keep people out of the rain, etc., but the real reason was to protect them from [crime]. Right after the 1967 and 1968 riots it was harder and harder for the downtown businesses to attract White people to come to work in the downtown area. They were afraid for their lives. Several friends of mine were robbed at knifepoint while waiting for a bus to get home, etc. The Whites fled this city in fear of their lives....

The best I can remember is that the Congregation dried up and for whatever reason the church was torn down. I don't remember what happened though. I'll put out a few more feelers to see if I can come up with something else. * * *

A little bit of history regarding the neighborhood of Central Methodist Church. If you take a look at that photo you have showing the church, Newark Evening News bldg, etc., then just picture yourself taking a walk right around the corner onto Mulberry Street going north. For the next few blocks on both sides of the street were the old "meat packing"-butcher shops. Many of them had their meat cases out on the sidewalks and people would walk around there and buy their fresh cut meat supplies. That was a great shopping area.
I certainly never pictured a meat-packing district where Gateway Plaza now stands. But still no explanation for why a great stone church was torn down.
I told Jule that I was going to email the Methodists. I found an email address online for the national organization, and sent this message:
Several months ago I was sent a foto of a portion of our Downtown skyline that included a distinguished stone church on Market Street near Mulberry Street in Downtown Newark, which no longer exists.
I have been unable to find any explanation as to why it was demolished, nor exactly when. The Prudential HQ building is in that view, and it wasn't built until 1960.
There is now a parking lot there. Many churches have been sold for use by other denominations or as other things. Here in Newark, for instance, one old Catholic church now serves as a restaurant and performance space. But this great stone church (which I have also heard referred to as First Methodist) was torn down. Can you help me tell my readers why it was demolished?
Thank you in advance for any insight you might provide.
The "InfoServ" people at the national level referred me to our local Methodist office, Gateway North District, in Verona. So I sent them an email inquiry on November 23, 2012, comprising mainly a forward of my original message to InfoServ. No answer. Two months later, on January 23, 2013, I sent this followup.
On November 23rd, I sent you email to inquire what happened to a great stone church on Market Street at Mulberry Street in Downtown Newark. Here's a foto:
It was called either/both Central Methodist or First Methodist. No one seems to know why it was torn down, nor when. I have a well-regarded fotoblog about Newark, and I'd like to tell my readers about the reason that fine-looking church is no longer part of Newark's architectural legacy. I myself have lived in Newark only 12½ years, so do not have personal knowledge of that church. I understand that it was still standing as late as 1967, and was not burned down nor otherwise damaged in the infamous Riots. Please advise.
Again, no answer. Why the heck not?
I was again about to give up and try to gather all this info into a blogpost without an explanation for the demolition, when reader Michael Wierzbicki sent me the name of the predecessor to Newark Penn Station, a drawing of which I had shown in my post of January 21st: Market Street Depot. After I'd thanked him, I asked if he happened to know why this church, only two blocks from Newark Penn, was demolished. That was at 4:18pm.
At 4:27pm, he sent a graffic version of the quote from the Urquhart book that Debby had sent as text. I use the graffic version above. At 4:34pm, he sent this info, also in graffic form, from a .PDF file of an article, "Newark Long Ago", from The Newark Museum Quarterly, Fall 1975:

I followed the link and lifted this foto, to which that text refers. It appears on page 4 of that .PDF file. I trust the Newark Museum won't mind my using this foto, which might otherwise not be seen by much of anybody anytime soon, but if they object, I'll delete it and let readers follow the link and scroll down to it for themselves.

Foto (drawing/etching?) from The Newark Museum. Thank you, NuMu.

So, Michael Wierzbicki found in 16 minutes what four of us could not find in a year and a half! I wrote my thanks:
MAGIC. I'll send that info on to the people who were helping but couldn't find that.
And so I have alerted them and offer all readers this information. This narrative also demonstrates how this blog has become, at times, a collective project to which more people than I contribute.
I thought you might like to know the lengths I sometimes (but, fortunately, only rarely) have to go in order to provide a blog that is not just picturesque but also, on occasion, educational, in this case, part of the narrative of the long history of this fine city. Since the Connecticut Puritans, who established Newark, landed on our Passaic shore in 1666, Newark has participated in all the great movements of (what became) American history, in all their ups and downs. The downs have been bad, as Jule's remembrances remind us. But the ups have been grand, and seem now likely never to end. We have weathered the Great Recession. It has been a hard dip, but not a crushing hit. And we now have a lot of good people working to bring great things to Newark.

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