The Brick City is finally getting its due, historically speaking. President Obama’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation converged on Newark this week for the first time ever. The vice chair of that council happens to be one of Newark’s most distinguished citizens, Rutgers Professor Clement Price.
Price, who is originally from Washington D.C., arrived in Newark in the late 1960s. Despite Newark’s historic importance, Price told Managing Editor Mike Schneider that even then Newark’s past was not as recognized as it deserved to be.
“There were in those days very few historical markers,” recalls Price. “Many of the old neighborhoods were tattered by age and neglect and many of the people of Newark had contemporary memories of the city. But those memories had not been enriched by what we know about 19th century Newark — the Newark of the Irish, the Germans, if you will, earlier Newark of the Lenape Indians.”
The infamous demise of Newark in the late 20th century which began with the riots 45 years ago have cast a negative light on the city for many Americans. Even his colleagues on the advisory council, says Price, were struck by Newark’s notable sites.
“A lot of people I spent most of the day with for the first time they’ve seen the grandeur of Broad Street, the beauty of the University Heights area. Today, we went to the first historic district in Newark and that’s an area called the James Street Commons.” Located in Newark’s Central Ward, historic James Street Commons is in the midst of a downtown district comprised of three major universities, a major art museum and a major public library.
James Street Commons is one of three areas in Newark identified by the council for recognition. Like James Street Commons, Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood in the East Ward has been designated as a “Preserve America Community.”
In addition to those communities, the Branch Brook Park Alliance has been named a “Preserve America Steward.”
“For Branch Brook Park aficionados, and they’re in the thousands, it’ll mean that a park over the last 10, 15 years has been reinvented through the planting of thousands of cherry trees, this award will matter to those people and to their progeny.”
According to Price, the recognition of these sites will have an impact beyond the city.
“I think it will give people who live in Princeton and people who live in Woodbridge and our fellow New Jerseyans who live in South Jersey, they might just say ‘you know something our neighborhood is old and we should act accordingly and we should be its stewards.'”