Why Newark? Maybe because I was born there?

by Glenn Geisheimer

Why a web site on Newark? I’m asked that question quite frequently. Maybe it’s because I was born there? I don't really know.

I was born in St. Michaels’ hospital in 1951. The Sisters of the Poor of Saint Francis incorporated Saint Michael’s Hospital in 1871 making it one of Newark’s first hospitals. The hospital, now a medical center, still stands on the corner of Central Avenue and King Boulevard. Newark’s early hospitals were all religiously affiliated, St. Michael’s – Catholic, St. Barnabas – Episcopal, and the German Hospital – Lutheran/Reformed. It wasn’t until ten years after the organizing of these hospitals did the city of Newark finally cut through the bureaucracy and build a hospital. Since my family was Reformed, when I was young, I always wondered why I was born in a Catholic Hospital. The answer, of course, was simple. It was where my mother’s doctor was affiliated.

After a few days in the hospital I was brought home to the Geisheimer residence at 33 Hawkins Street. It was a 2 and a half story house, the kind that are all over the Ironbound. I lived there for 3 years until we moved to the suburbs. What do I remember about my time there, nothing. Hey, I was young. But I do have pictures and movies from that time. Not many but they do give me a glimpse into my past and the time there before I was born. My paternal grandparents owned the house on Brill Street, right behind the house on Hawkins Street. Across from the Brill Street house was the parking lot for one of Newark’s biggest breweries, Ballantine. My grandfather and both my uncles worked for the brewery. My grandfather had long passed when Ballantine closed but my two uncles still worked there. One of them retired and one moved over to the Pabst Brewery on Grove Street and South Orange Avenue. Pabst was soon to close leaving Newark, which once had many breweries, with one. The remaining one being the Budweiser plant on Route 1 & 9 by the airport. The irony is that with all the breweries that originated in Newark, the last one is an outsider.

My family went to the Trinity Reformed Church on the corner of Hawkins and Ferry Streets. This was a small church that was organized in 1869 as the East Reformed Church. The church still stands but I don’t think Reformed services have been held there for the past few months. Other than the church services my memories include their annual church fairs. These were held in the meeting room off to the side of the church. Games included throwing rubber rings onto hooks and tossing a beanbag through various holes in a board. My grandfather was an elder in the church and was in charge of fundraising. When we moved to the suburbs my family still attended the church for a short period. On the trip home I can recall always seeing a man selling pretzels under the Route 1 & 9 viaduct. Trinity Reformed Church never held Christmas Eve services, instead they worshipped with the St. Stephan’s congregation at St. Stephan’s at the corner of Ferry Street and Wilson Avenue.

Other than the occasional trip back to Newark, I didn’t return until late 1969. It was in that year that I enrolled in Newark College of Engineering. The easiest way to get to the college from home was taking the Penn. Central train into Penn Station. Once in the station I would go down two flights from the elevated tracks to the City Subway. I would then take the converted trolley cars to the Warren Street station. The City Subway was built on the bed of the old Morris Canal. The canal was filled in over the subway tubes and South and North Canal Street became Raymond Boulevard. When I rode the subway there was only one tunnel, which followed the canal bed, but in earlier years there were other branches of the subway. Some of these branches fed the lower floors of the major Department stores and originated from the Public Service building, which stood on Park Place, in front of the current building. These tunnels still exist but are closed.

After school, I took a job with the Newark Newsdealer Supply Company at 520 South Orange Avenue. The company was in an old bus repair building surrounded on one side by a Jewish Cemetery and across from the trailer parking lot for Pabst Brewery. The NNSC was a newspaper wholesaler. We delivered all types of newspapers to stores in the northern counties of New Jersey. We also delivered the Newark Star Ledger. These stories will have to wait for another day.

In those times I knew very little about my ancestors. When I made my trips to NCE from Penn Station on the City Subway, I never realized that I passed under my great-grandfather’s brewery on South Canal Street. To make matters worse, I never knew that in my trips from the Newark Newsdealers to the Star Ledger, I would pass my grandfather’s grave in Fairmount Cemetery, a mere 150 feet off the roadway. But I now have that knowledge, so maybe I built this website, not because I was born there, but maybe because my ancestors lived in the city for over 100 years……..


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