Neighborhood snapshot: Ironbound
By Vinessa Erminio
Facts & Figures
Start of development: 1830s
Boundaries: In the 19th century, when trains transported everything from people to produce to products, the Ironbound was literally bound by the iron railroad tracks that ran through NewarkÂ´s East Ward. Today there arenÂ´t as many trains rolling through the neighborhood, but PATH, Amtrak, NJ Transit and Conrail still do business on tracks that buffer McCarter Highway to the west and Routes 1 & 9 to the east. The Passaic River defines the northern neck of the Ironbound. To the south are more railroad tracks, factories and Newark Liberty International Airport.
1970 Newark population: 381,930
1980 Newark population: 329,248
1990 Newark population: 275,221
2000 Newark population: 273,546
2006 Newark population: 281,402
Newark government: Mayor, City Council (9 members); Augusto Amador represents the Ironbound on the City Council
Newark municipal employees: Approximately 5,000
Ironbound schools: Lafayette Street School, Wilson Avenue School, Oliver Street School, Ann Street School, South Street School, Hawkins Street School, East Side High School
Ironbound property taxes: $4,169 is the average tax bill in Newark. While some residents in the Ironbound pay the average, others pay in excess of $7,000 or $8,000.
At a glance
At first glance, the Ironbound appears to be a Portuguese neighborhood with Brazilian features. Flags of both nations can be found flying everywhere, especially during futbol season and Copa Mundial de Futbol, sometimes out of the same window. The bakeries, restaurants and businesses bend toward Portuguese sensitivities, with some offering English translations for those whose tongues donÂ´t bend toward Latin influences. A closer look will expose the Ironbound as a gumbo of cultures, including Puerto Rican, Cuban, Italian, Slavic, Lithuanian, Jewish, German, Irish and African American, all working and winding their way through the neighborhoodÂ´s narrow streets.
Did you know?
* The Ironbound was once largely composed of swampland or farmland, and this land indirectly led to the founding of Trinity Church. Col. Josiah Ogden, who attended Old First Church, owned a salt-marsh hay tract, which was threatened by rain. The colonel wanted to extend the harvesting work week into Sunday. Church leaders stood firmly against this and a rift developed in the congregation. One side of that rift stayed at Old First and the other helped found Trinity Church, which is now Trinity Church/St. PhillipÂ´s Cathedral.
* In the early 1800s, employees began working on the railroad "all the live-long day," which would usher agriculture out of, and the Industrial Revolution into, the neighborhood. Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams, located in the Ironbound, were two of the names that contributed to NewarkÂ´s thriving paint industry. On the Passaic River, steamboats were shuffling goods and services in and out of the city, requiring men to move the goods on and off the ships. For decades, immigrants and their families came from as close by as New York City and as far away as Europe and South America to work those jobs.
* Today´s Ironbound, sometimes referred to as "Little Portugal," began to take shape after 1910 when Portuguese-speaking immigrants moved into the neighborhood. Sport Club Portuguese opened in 1921 and was the first of more than 20 Portuguese social clubs to call the Ironbound home. In 1959, a new immigration law expanded the number of people allowed to pass into America, which expanded Portuguese numbers from the low hundreds into the tens of thousands.
* Among those early immigrants were Dan Rodrigues, Mario Teixeira Jr. and Vasco S. Jardim, all of whom made their way to the Ironbound. DanÂ´s Friendly Service packed containers for overseas shipping, hauled ice, kerosene and fuel oil, and brokered real estate in the Ironbound. Teixeira worked as the "unofficial postmaster and banker of Wilson Avenue," filling out legal forms, in come tax forms, assisting with affidavits and completing wine permits for countless Portuguese Newarkers. Jardim moved to Newark after immigrating to New England in 1939 to take over publishing Luso-Americano, which is still one of the largest Portuguese-language newspapers in the United States.
* In pop culture, the Ironbound was destroyed in the 2005 movie "War of the Worlds." In episode 7 of season 1 of the HBO mob drama "The Sopranos," titled "Down Neck," it is revealed that Tony Soprano grew up in the Ironbound.
Ferry Street: Created in 1765 by an act of the colonial Legislature, which authorized the Old Ferry Road, this street became part of the first direct route between Newark and the Hudson River. In 1849, the old roadbed of rough logs was lifted and replaced with smooth planks. The name was also changed to Plank Road and tolls were instituted. In 1899, when its charter expired, the road was turned over to Essex and Hudson counties. Today the street offers just about everything anyone could ever need, from food shops, clothing stores and supermarkets to fine dining, baked goods, insurance, school supplies, sports supplies and even the occasional parking space.
91 McWhorter St.: On March 28, 1946, Dan Rodrigues and his wife, Elvira, moved into their newly built home at 91 McWhorter St. Today, the initials of the "Mayor of McWhorter Street" are still on the iron gateway.
Newark Penn Station: Opened in 1935, the transportation hub was designed to be part of the Pennsylvania RailroadÂ´s train network. A mixture of Art Deco and Neo-Classical, the interior of the main waiting room boasts medallions illustrating the history of transportation -- from wagons to steamships to cars and airplanes, which, ironically, are credited with the decline of train use. Today, Amtrak, NJ Transit, PATH and the Newark City Subway use the station, along with Greyhound and Peter Pan bus service.
Hensler House: 426 Lafayette St. is now the Buyus Funeral Home, once owned by Mario Teixiera Jr. It was originally built by Joseph Hensler in the late 19th century across the street from his brewery, which allowed him to supervise business at all times. Some original pieces, including stained-glass windows, woodwork and interior arches, are still in the current structure.
Parks and recreation
Riverbank Park, located between Raymond Boulevard and Market Street, at Somme Street.
Independence Park, located between Walnut Street and Oliver Street, at Adams Street and Van Buren Street.
Hayes Park East, located between Raymond Boulevard and Ferry Street, at Waydell Street.
Tours of the city are available for groups interested in taking an informative trip through Newark, including the Ironbound. For more information, visit www.newarktours.com.
Official Newark Web site: www.ci.newark.nj.us
Ironbound Community Corporation www.ironboundcc.org
Go Ironbound: www.goironbound.com
Newark Landmarks: www.newarklandmarks.org/landmarkslist.htm
Newark School District: www.nps.k12.nj.us
Essex County site: www.essex-countynj.org
SOURCES: State Department of Labor and Workforce Development, U.S. Census Bureau, The Star-Ledger