From South Park to Lincoln Park

The Lincoln Park Façade Project Has A Story To Tell
By Roger Smith, Assoc. AIA, LEED Green Associate

There is a plaque on the wall at the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District office and the inscription reads “In February 1861, president-elect Abraham Lincoln passed through Newark on his way to the inauguration and spoke on the steps of the South Park Calvary Presbyterian Church in front of a crowd of approximately 25,000, at the behest of founders John P. and Elizabeth Jackson.” The question of whether President Lincoln actually stood on the steps of the old South Park Calvary Presbyterian Church or somewhere in the vicinity has been fodder for debate among historians for decades. In 1903 the church celebrated its semi-centennial (50 years) which means that next year when groundbreaking begins behind the façade, the milestone will coincide with its 170th anniversary.

Lincoln Park’s South Park Calvary Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest anchor institutions in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and symbol of freedom for Black, Indigenous and People of Color in Newark. It was a house of worship where Black ministers were often invited to preach while it also served as the home to Newark’s largest woman’s club – the Contemporary Club. It was Newark’s first racially integrated presbyterian church and an architectural marvel to behold. John Welch (1824-1894), the Architect for the High Street Presbyterian church and orphanage currently located on the NJIT campus, designed the exquisite 1850s Greek Revival edifice which has served as a gathering space for the community, even after the destructive fire in 1992. The fire leveled the building, but the gracious façade remained. Structurally unsound, it languished for years until it was conveyed to upstart non-profit Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District, which began restoration around 2008, just before the economic downturn. Next year, Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District, along with Gensler and partner Baldwin Equities will break ground on the site behind the façade, on what will become a new mixed-use project with approximately 60new residential units, amenities, retail space and a new home for LPCCD offices.

“Baldwin works to identify unique characteristics in in each project that will enhance the community and resonate with the history and culture of the neighborhood. No two projects are alike” says Avi Benamu, Co-Founder of Baldwin Equities. Benamu continues “Baldwin sat down with LPCCD and designed a project that is not only practical and efficient, but has the potential to change the Lincoln Park Neighborhood and set LPCCD on a path of becoming financially independent.”

The next chapter of Lincoln Park will be defined by its evolving identity as a community – a community grounded in its rich history, culture and the arts. We hope this project will breathe new life and purpose into an iconic Newark landmark as well as anchor and preserve the rich legacy of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood for generations to come.

Roger Smith is a Principal and Design Director at Gensler (a global architecture, design and planning firm) in Morristown NJ. Roger is also the Co-Director of Gensler’s Center for Research on Equity and the Built Environment and a member of Gensler’s Global Race and Diversity Committee.

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