Down Neck Part 1

by Doris Campbell Hector

Doris Campbell Hector passed away on June 2, 2002 at the age of 81

The definition of Down Neck refers to a parcel of land between Lister Street and the Pulaski Highway, which juts out into the Passaic River, forming a neck, in the river; hence "Down Neck". However, in short time, all of the land east of the Pennsylvania Railroad became known as Down Neck, which was the precursor of its present name Ironbound.


a) Irish
b) German
c) Polish/Lithuanian
d) Italian
e) miscellaneous

Whenever you were asked where you lived in Down Neck you mentioned the church you attended because, in the Diocese of Newark, there were boundaries for each parish. Thus, when you said that your ancestors were Irish it was known that you attended one of two churches St. James or St. Aloysius. (But never both.)

a) Irish

There were two parishes to accommodate and address the religious needs of the large congregations of first and second generations, whose ancestors came from Ireland from 1845 to 1870.

St. James Church was founded in 1859 and, prior to that date, it was a satellite of St. John's Church located on Mulberry St. in Newark. The boundaries of the newly-founded St. James encompassed the entire Down Neck area, and, as the congregation grew, so did the need to establish a second church. In the late 1800's St. Aloysius was established. The boundaries for St. James Church were reduced to encompass the following area McWhorter St. (just below Penn Station) east to Lang Street; west to New York Avenue to the Passaic River. St. Aloysius parishioners lived from East Ferry Street and Ferguson Street to the Passaic River to Route 1 to Niagara Street. The border streets had some mixture of people from different nationalities.

b. German

There was and still is only one German Roman Catholic Church, St. Benedict's, located on Niagara Street. These parishioners lived from New York Avenue and Lang Street to Magazine Street to Route 1, to New York Avenue. This area was locally known as Dutch Neck and had a religious mixture of Catholics and Protestants, the latter attended the Wolfe Memorial Church (Presbyterian) on Wilson Avenue on the corner of Ann Street, or St. Stephen's Lutheran Church located at the juncture of East Ferry Street and Wilson Avenue. This area is locally called "Five Corners." Wolfe Memorial and St. Stephen's still have services.

c) Polish/Lithuanian

I am not as certain of the boundaries of this ethnic group. I believe they started at Walnut Street and Pulaski Street (Pulaski Street was formerly named after a president Tyler), to Lang Street to Elm Road to VanBuren Street opposite Independence Park (formerly known as East Side Park). The parishioners attended St. Casimir's Church located on Pulaski Street and, I believe, this church still addresses the religious needs of those still residing in that area.


The boundaries of this ethnic group are also a little uncertain. It starts with the location of Holy Trinity Church, which is located on Adams Street opposite Independence Park. I am not sure of its present status.

d) Italians

There are (were?) two churches the main church was Our Lady of Mount Carmel located at Ferry and McWhorter Streets (one block east of Penn Station), and another Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, located on Oliver or Malvern Street, near South Street. Before 1900 it did not appear that the Italian immigrants clustered in one area. After 1900; however, the Italians gravitated to the North Ward in large clusters. That area, although now reduced in size is still predominately Italian.

e) Miscellaneous Data

SCHOOLS, PAROCHIAL St. James, St. Aloysius, St. Benedict, St. Casimir and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. With the exception of St. James and St. Aloysius, some school classes were taught in the native tongues of the parishioners.

SCHOOLS, PUBLIC Wilson Avenue (formerly Hamburg Place School), Ann Street, Lafayette Street (at Congress St.) and Hawkins Street. There may have been more but that is all I can remember in the Down Neck area.

PARKS Independence, Riverside and Hayes Parks.

TRANSPORTATION Public Service (the same PS in Newark today) had a monopoly on public transportation which included trolley cars, buses and even the Yellow Taxi Cab Co. The transportation system in the Down Neck area was superb. The main arteries were Ferry St., East Ferry St., Wilson Ave., Lafayette St., New York Ave., South St., Van Buren St., Walnut St. and Jackson St. All of these routes would get you to Broad Street near Market Street. From there you could get transportation to other areas.


Email this memory to a friend.
Enter recipient's e-mail: