The Four Corners Traffic Tower

by Nat Bodian


If you grew up on Newark in the 1920s and 1930s and frequented downtown Newark as I did, you are likely to share my recollection of the old traffic control tower that stood in the center of the Broad And Market Street intersection for 14 years between the two World Wars.

This steel-framed tower with its tiny police control viewing booth 24 feet above the ground was the identifying landmark for what was, in the late 1920s the world's busiest traffic intersection1 and the centerpiece of the bustling downtown Newark business community.

The Four Corners traffic tower was placed into service in 1925. It had been designed by Newark architect Nathan Harris. The steel framed and bronze finished tower had been built at a cost of $25,000, which had been jointly financed by the city of Newark and the Broad Street Association.

The viewing booth, astride four steel legs, was glass enclosed, with nine rectangular glass panes on each of the four sides. At the top of the tower were four eagles, one perched at each corner of the roof.

The tower was mounted on a 26-inch high round concrete base, brightly painted with diagonal black and white stripes.

A traffic policeman sat on duty inside the viewing booth, keeping traffic flowing smoothly in all four directions with hand-controlled lights above the window which indicated stop, go, and caution. The officer would gain access to the booth by climbing 14 feet up a fixed ladder and entering through a swing-open door in the floor.

The Four Corners tower, after fourteen years of service, was removed in 1939 to accommodate a repaving of Broad Street,2 one of the most comprehensive since its first paving in 1857 with a covering of cobblestones.

The city of Newark saved the $2000 cost of removing the tower by permitting Newark attorney Samuel Kessler to pay the cost and remove the tower to a property he owned.3

The tower site had served the city well. The site on which it stood, in colonial days, had been the site of the town water pump, at a time when Newark's city border was just 5/8ths of a mile to the west on what subsequently became High Street and is now King Boulevard.


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