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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.