Reviving a Pillar of Newark
Daily Newarker guest blogger Jeff Bennett was interviewed for a piece in the Ledger about the South Park Presbyterian Church, the remains of which stands on the corner of Lincoln Park along Broad Street.
South Park Presbyterian, finished in 1855, was designed by John Welch, the architect behind the Gothic High Street Presbyterian Church (now the St. James A.M.E. Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard). The interior followed conventional church design, with a domed ceiling, columns with gilded capitals and a marble baptism fount, according Jeffrey Bennett, who runs the website NewarkHistory.com.
Its greatest claim to fame is that Abraham Lincoln stopped there and spoke on the steps of the church on his way to his first inauguration. After Lincoln’s assassination, nearby South Park was renamed Lincoln Park, and the neighborhood became one of the most fashionable in town, home to many of the city’s prominent industrialists, although the church itself was known for its progressive politics, not ritzy parishioners.
Over the years, the neighborhood deteriorated and the church’s population dwindled. After the riots, the building was leased to the Pentecostal Lighthouse Temple, which used the building to feed the homeless until the late 1980s, when the structure was deemed unsound. A fire in 1992 gutted most of the building, and everything except the façade was leveled.
“I’m proud that Newark has such a beautiful building,” Bennett said, “but on the other hand it makes me sad that it’s just a ruin.”
Jeff is running a High Street and Downtown walking tour along MLK Boulevard this Sunday at 12:15pm. Details available at Newarkology.com.