The Real Down Neck - Part 1 "Down Neck," "Dutch Neck," and "The Island"

by Tom Murphy


Today, the terms "Down Neck", "Ironbound," and "East Ward" are basically used interchangeably, but the real Down Neck was not the whole of the Ironbound. It applied to a small "neck" of land down along the lower Passaic River.

I'm not certain of its exact boundaries, but if you start at Riverbank Park and follow Raymond Blvd (and/or the old Morris Canal bed it was built on) east to where it joins the Rtes 1 & 9 Truck Spur to cross the river you have it's approximate length. It's width was seldom more than three to five blocks south of there.

It did not cross Ferry Street until after St Charles. Christie Street was the first street to still be a part of Down Neck south of Ferry. Likewise, east of Chapel Street, where the Passaic pulls away to form an oxbow, that land is not part of Down Neck.

Down Neck's neighbors were "Dutch Neck," and "The Island." "The Island" was the land within the oxbow to the northeast of Down Neck. It got it's name because it had been cut off from the rest of the city by water when the canal was active. "Dutch Neck" was the German (Down Neck and The Island were mostly Irish and Slavs -- mainly Poles) neighborhood to the southwest. It began at Ferry Street between Hamburg Place (Wilson Ave) and St Charles and continued between those two streets to at least Komorn, perhaps farther.

The Island was mostly take up by various factories along the river, and by the great Farmers' Market which filled most of the center. There were a few residential areas around the Farmers' Market, on streets such as Esther, Joseph, and Cornelia (all off of Albert Avenue).

When I was growing up, there were three ways onto and off of The Island. Chapel Street to the west, Lockwood Street to the east, and "the Jungle." This was the railroad right-of-way. It was overgrown with weeds and small bushes (hence the name), and in order to cross Raymond Blvd, you had to walk on the tracks across the bridge, but if you were walking, it was preferable to going north to Lister Street and dodging the factory traffic to get to Chapel so you could come south again. "The Jungle" opened up on Ferry Street just east of Manufactures' Place, which made it convenient to get to Hayes Pool, or to school (or on Sundays to Church).


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