Driving around Newark, A Travelogue of Sorts

by Rich Olohan


I met up with Tom K. today, 11/25/2005, at the Arlington Diner for lunch. We had a great meal, soup and sandwiches with fries, dessert and coffee. Then we climbed into my car and headed south on River Road, through Kearny and into East Newark where we made the right at Tops Diner and crossed over the Clay St. Bridge into Newark.

Over McCarter Highway on Clay St. and a right on Broad St. (now we’re on the route of the #13 bus which I took daily going to Essex Catholic from 1969 to 1973) and a left onto Bloomfield Place (Penny Pinchin Peskins is still there) to get to Broadway. We rode up Broadway, passing by St. Michael’s, then Essex Catholic (now some type of convalescent home) and turned left onto 2nd Ave. The site of that magnificent building brought back so many memories.

We toured North Newark, driving up and down Summer Ave., Mt. Prospect and below Broadway in search of an old Masonic Lodge which when we found the site, the building had been razed. There was an old church building on Mt. Pleasant, below Broadway marked as the AME Zion Church, the building was very old but there wasn’t any marking to indicate the building’s construction date. We headed back up toward Branch Brook Park turning onto Verona Ave and turned left onto Highland Ave.

As you travel along Highland Ave. you see the older one and two family homes which you can find everywhere in Newark, but then once you pass Heller Parkway you begin to see all of the stately mansions which remind you of those you find in South Orange or Upper Montclair. This being Newark, the homes do have wrought iron type security grates over each of the windows. It really does not detract from the homes’ beauty.

We turned back down heading toward Broadway and hit Bloomfield Ave. As we drove along Bloomfield Ave, we noticed Caputo’s Florist, which looked as it did in the early 70s. We drove up Bloomfield Ave. passing Branch Brook Park and after making several turns we visited Tom’s boyhood home (Tom, I don’t remember the street address here!) Back down Bloomfield Ave and into the Park heading toward Sacred Heart Basilica (where I noted that my Essex Catholic graduating class of 1973 had their graduation ceremony). Many new, and well manicured athletic fields through out the park, and of course along the lake you could see what looked like the old boat launches and Meekers Mound which recently had the original gazebo torn down by County parks people, “by mistake”.

We drove back down to Broad St. and continued along Broad to University Ave. passing the Rutgers Newark campus and Essex County College to Market St. Crossing Market and turning down Branford Place back toward Broad St, we passed by the Branford Theater, now a dollar store believe it or not. The traffic along Branford Place was bumper to bumper all the way to Broad St., where we turned left and crossed Market St noting the Newark Police presence is increased here with the addition of their Police trailer on Broad & Market.

At Raymond Blvd. we turned right by PSE&G Plaza and headed east passing under Penn Station and into the Ironbound. As we drove along, we talked about the old Caruso’s restaurant, which stood for years where NJ Transit’s office building now stands. Down and along Market St. passing Riverbank Park, which we both agreed looked great, past the East Distrinct (3rd Precinct) building and onto Fleming Ave. where we pointed out the “Pru”, St. Al’s Church and the buildings of Ballantine Brewery along the way to Brill St. where we turned right and headed to East Ferry.

At the corner of Brill and East Ferry you can see the Truck Co. # 8 firehouse to your left. We drove down Brill St. stopping at 102 Brill where I lived after moving from Darcy St. in 1974, and my parents only moved from 3 years ago, the driveway alongside the house is gone, a new house built right where the driveway was! Further down Brill we stopped at 162 Brill St., which was the childhood home of a lifelong best friend of mine, Harry McAleavy, and I believe that it was Jack Keegan’s boyhood home! The original house is gone; a newly built home is now there. (What did they do with those great stained glass windows from the entry foyer?)

Down and around, past Eddie’s Long Bar and over the tracks to Rome St. (Berlin St.?) where we saw the Ironbound Stadium and Aquatic Center. We continued down Rome St. to Niagara St., turned right and saw St. Benedict’s Church and (former) School grounds as we went up Komorn St. to Magazine St. A quick left onto Magazine (where I noted most of the 4 corners were at one time bars) and then right onto Marne St. straight down to Wilson Ave. At Wilson Ave. we turned right, past Krug’s Tavern and then a right onto Darcy St. where we drove up in front of 29 Darcy St., my boyhood home in the Ironbound. (Barely recognizable to me if it weren’t for the house #).

Well, up to Niagara and straight back to Magazine St. As we passed the Pathmark Plaza I noted to Tom that this was the site of the Celluloid Plant, you would never know it today. Time to head out, so we turned west onto Ferry St. and made a right at Somme St., the firehouse is closed now and all along Somme St, where once stood a factory are new homes.

At Market we made the right (only turn you can make!) and then the quick left onto Fillmore St. to Raymond Blvd. Geez we missed a lot of Newark today! It was a fun day driving around the neighborhoods, wish I had stopped the car and we could have walked about at times.

Well, there will be a next time for sure! Thanks Tom! Truly a pleasure meeting you, sharing a bite to eat, and cruising the streets of our OldNewark. Next time one of us willl bring a camera!


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