20 Years of Community Partnership
By Anthony W. Schuman
There is a shared history between the neighborhood that came to be known as Lincoln Park and Prudential Financial Inc. which dates back to 1875 and the founding by John F. Dryden of what was originally called The Widows and Orphans Friendly Society, then the Prudential Friendly Society. At that time, the neighborhood was known as South Park, in the old third ward, home to the South Park Calvary United Presbyterian Church, a historic church built in 1853 and located at 1035 Broad Street in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. It is said that President-Elect Abraham Lincoln delivered an address on the steps of the church during a half day visit to Newark en route to his inauguration. The park was renamed for the President after his assassination in 1865.
The Lincoln Park of yesteryear was the place to live for industrialists such as bootmakers Isaac Bannister and John S. Peshin, jewelry manufacturer David Dodd, German brewers Christian Feigenspan and Gottfried Krueger, Henry Kessler, of the Kessler Institute, and Governor Franklin Murphy, owner of the Murphy Varnish Company. John F. Dryden, founder of The Prudential Insurance Company of America was no exception. The 13,000 square foot Dryden mansion was – and still is – an architectural masterpiece with its three-story winding staircase, Greek classical elements, hand carved molding and fireplaces, lustrous parquet floors, high ceilings, a flat roof with a geometric style stone balustrade, and stained-glass transoms above the first-floor windows. The mansion’s entrance is flanked by polished marble columns and surmounted by heavy pedimented portico with Doric entablature. As we say in “The Coast,” it is fabulous!
Thirty-five years after Newark’s 1967 Uprising, the nonprofit Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District was created to return this once prestigious neighborhood to its former glory. As with the physical location of the John F. Dryden mansion, which still stands today in Lincoln Park, Prudential Financial’s footprint looms large starting with participation in the 1999 “charette” (planning session) for a new organization founded by community activistsseeking to reclaim 23 acres once dominated by dilapidated buildings and vacant lots and turn it into a sustainable arts district. Since Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District’s incorporation in 2002, Prudential’s role has not only provided seed funding for the new nonprofit but provided hands-on guidance and thought leadership through LPCCD’s formative years in the person of former Prudential Foundation program Officer Mary Puryear. Today, Prudential Financial holds a seat on our board.
After mission drift in survival mode during the mortgage crisis and great recession of 2008-09, Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District reset its mission in 2017 as “LPCCD 2.0” through the Newark Resilience Initiative. The Non-Profit Resilience Initiative and partner Prudential Financial Inc. created the Newark Resilience Initiative (NRI) to assist Newark-based non-profits develop financing and leadership capacity. Selected as one of only 15 nonprofits through a competitive application process, LPCCD received a year of customized consulting which led to the resulting “LPCCD 2.0 Re-Imagining Lincoln Park Sustainability” plan. In 2021, the Prudential Foundation partnered with the Nonprofit Finance Fund to lead the $1M Newark Nonprofit Capacity Accelerator, which supports CDCs with services from Cause Effective, Institute for Nonprofit Practice, Nonprofit Finance Fund, Prudential Financial, and Taproot Foundation.
Thankfully, Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District was one eight organizations selected. Prudential Financial leveraged its relationship with Cause Effective to offer Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District value through intellectual support and board training in fund-raising and leadership. This assistance bore fruit in 2021 with the organization’s first-ever big-ticket fundraiser, entitled “The Lagniappe Experience”. For the staff and board, it was a muscle stretching exercise that would not have been possible without Prudential tapping into Cause Effective, which worked with leadership to develop, employ, and expand effective fundraising, governance and organizational strategies. Additionally, members of the LPCCD executive leadership underwent a sixmonth capacity building program under the Institute for Nonprofit Practice. LPCCD also participated in a probono program coordinated by Taproot where Prudential employees provided assistance on a communications strategy. Employees also helped with re-designing their website. Anthony Smith, LPCCD’ CEO, was paired with a Prudential Executive for mutual support and leadership development as part of the Nonprofit Accelerator.
And, of course, the arts. Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District (LPCCD) participated as a key partner in the unveiling of the beautiful Whitney Houston glass mosaic mural in the icon’s hometown, Newark, NJ. Anthony Smith, Executive Director, LPCCD and Keith Hamilton, Sr. Property Manager, The City of Newark, Department of Economic and Housing Development worked diligently for over three years with artist Maude Lemaire to identify the perfect location for the mural. LPCCD led negotiations for wall space with various developers and property owners before settling on the final location in Teachers Village at 45 William Street. The mural was made possible by Grammy Museum Experience Prudential Center and Prudential Financial, Inc. and the second of five murals planned for the city. The relationship betweenPrudential and Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District came full circle when in 2021, a new LPCCD initiative named the Lincoln Park Gallery Without Walls Alley Reclamation Mural Project, which launched behind the historic New Ark Cathedral Church (known as La Vid Verdadera en La Catedral New Ark, Lincoln Park) and the Dryden Mansion.
As Board Chair of Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District, I can attest to the immeasurable impact that Prudential Financial has had on our organization and the greater Lincoln Park neighborhood. Together, with Prudential Financial Inc., we look forward to the next 20 years in moving Newark forward in Lincoln Park.
Anthony W. (Tony) Schuman, professor of architecture at NJIT, is co-editor of Newark Landmark Treasures: A Guide to the Landmark Buildings, Parks, Public Art & Historic Districts in New Jersey’s Metropolis; and Board Chair, Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District.