Historic Structures

History Marcus Garvey School, Newark New Jersey

Newark is located on the banks of the navigable Passaic River and grew from an eighteenth century agricultural and mercantile village into a nationally important nineteenth century industrial city. By the early nineteenth century, Newark had at least one bricklayer, brewer, carpenter, shipwright, iron foundry, saddler, smithy, watchmaker, printer, and wheelwright. The Morris Canal was completed from Newark to Phillipsburg in 1831 and fostered further industrial development. The population was 10,000 at that time, which far exceeded the populations of any other city in the state. By 1830, the quantity and diversity of Newark's industries exceeded that of any other New Jersey town. Irish immigrants and later German began to arrive in Newark, seeking work in industries, on the docks and on the canal.

The railroad was the third means of transportation responsible for Newark's industrial growth. The earliest railroad charters to service Newark date to the early 1830s. The Morris and Essex railroad was chartered in 1835. Service to Jersey City was completed in 1838. Steam power was just as important to Newark's industrial growth as transportation. By 1846, Newark had more than 100 factories powered by steam engines.

Substantial growth occurred in the period between 1840 and 1860. The population increased from 17,290 in 1840 to 71,941 in 1860. Two thousand eight hundred new houses, factories and stores were constructed in Newark between 1836 and 1850. Newark's reputation of being a place "where anyone who is willing to work can earn enough to make both ends meet and have something left over at the end of the year if economy is exercised" attracted many to this city.

Newark's public school system began in 1850 following a mandate by state legislation. Prior to that time, education was received in private institutions or by private tutors for those whose parents were of means. Pubic schools were only for "poor children." Newark's first public school building was erected in 1843-44. Gradually the stigma of education for the poor was replaced with the concept of "free" schools. But as late as 1856, objections to a public school system were prevalent. Nonetheless, Newark's public school system soon became an important component of the growing city.

Newark's first high school building was constructed in 1853-54, and was the third in the United States. Newark's public evening school program began in 1855. Newark was one of the first American cities to supply free text books and the first to offer summer schools.

Early school buildings were relatively small structures. Church basements and other facilities were rented for classroom space, including the African Presbyterian Church which was first rented in 1851 to house Newark's colored school.

By 1870, Newark's population exceeded 100,000. In 1870, Essex County businesses produced over 115 different items. There were 69 cigar manufactories, 59 hat and cap companies and 37 bakeries. Newark's industrial giants included Peter Ballantine, brewer, George A. Clark, who by 1870, employed more then 1000 at his thread works, and Thomas Edison, who's "major inventing period began in Newark." Leather was Newark's leading industry; $8,600,000 worth of leather products were produced in Newark in 1870. Newark's industries continued to attract throngs of immigrant populations; Newark's eager and growing workforce continued to attract new industries.

By 1888, the founding year of the 13th Avenue Public School, there were 42 school buildings in the city of Newark with a seating capacity of 20,517; the total enrollment for both day and evening schools was 26,111. Four years later the total enrollment in all 42 Newark schools had increased to 29,208 but the seating capacity was only increased to 23,568. There were never enough seats. The city of Newark was divided into 15 wards or districts. The 13th Avenue Public School building is located in the 6th ward. The first public school building in the 6th ward was constructed in 1851. In 1888, the 6th ward had 5 schools and 48 classes in 4 city owned buildings and one rented building. The 6th ward was one of the most populated districts.

The 13th Avenue School building as completed in 1891 and designed in 1887, was typical in size, style and layout of its day. The Romanesque style made popular by prominent architects including H. H. Richardson, was commonly utilized for banks, train stations and other public buildings in towns and cities across the nation in this period. The Romanesque style was popular during the 1880s and into the 1890s. Since the majority of the remaining New Jersey Public Schools was constructed after this period, Romanesque style school houses are not prevalent.

With the constant growth of Newark's immigrant populations, the Board of Education reported it "difficult to meet the demands for more school room." Newark's school system grew rapidly. In 1892, Classroom sizes averaged 53 seats per classroom but some were over 100. Overcrowding and unhygienic conditions were prevalent. Within the 42 school buildings were the following 58 "departments": 17 grammar schools, 34 primary schools, 2 high schools, 1 training school, 2 industrial schools, 1 normal school, and 1 colored school. The majority of the school children were under the age of 14; 72 percent left before the eighth grade. The Newark evening school program was designed to benefit children who worked during the day, but reports of difficulties "that day schools are free from" included tardiness, irregular attendance, and physical exhaustion were said to be the consequence of long hours of labor in the shop or factory.

Between 1870 and 1910, 242,000 new people moved to Newark, most of who were immigrants. The shear number of people "forced the city school system to near crisis." By 1907, there were 62 school buildings in the city of Newark. The total seating capacity was 49,399, a 20,000 seat increase from 1892.

A new school superintendent was hired in 1896 who worked to make conditions better. He cut average classroom sizes to 48, hired nearly 100 more teachers and started an aggressive building campaign adding 9000 seats. But even with this, the educational system could not keep pace with population growth. In 1910, there were 10,000 more pupils than seats.

In 1906, the Thirteenth Avenue School enrolled 462 Americans (classified as whites), 743 Hebrews (classified as foreign), 163 Germans, 74 Italians and 36 English. There were reportedly "comparatively few pupils in the Newark Public schools whose American ancestry dated back to Colonial days". Ethnic proportions varied per district. There was a school district in the first ward with nearly 100 percent Italian student population.

A movement for better school buildings began about 1900. The Board of Education was organized in 1907 and hired Ernest Foss Guilbert as the first school architect one year later. Between 1909 and 1913, fifteen schools were built or entirely refurbished and thirteen new gymnasiums and auditoriums were built. The school system became Newark's pride. Guilbert's contribution to Newark's school system is seldom commended or even remembered but his role as the school architect was significant. At the time of Guilbert's death in 1916, Newark's school buildings "ranked high among the cities of the United States". The structures planned and erected after 1907 and under his direction were considered to be "among the best examples of public school architecture to be found anywhere in the country".

Newark's industrial boom years ended with the depression. Many people moved to the suburbs. Ethnic makeup of the neighborhood changed over the years and by 1969 the school had a "100 percent black student body" (Newark Evening News Morgue, 1913-69). In 1971, the school's name was changed to the Marcus Garvey School in honor of the Black Nationalist leader and was one of six Newark schools renamed for an important African American public figure in the early 1970s. In 1971, South Side High School became Malcolm X Shabazz High School; the South 8th Street School was renamed in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King; South 10th Street school was renamed the Harriet Tubman School, and the Waverly Avenue school was renamed in honor of Rosa Parks. In 1973, Garfield School was renamed in honor Dr. William H. Horton.

Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica in 1887. After witnessing the universal injustices endured by people of color in South America, North America, Africa and Europe, Garvey campaigned for black sovereign nations at a time of colonial rule. Garvey established the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and his own newspaper (Negro World) to promote black solidarity and welfare. Garvey was an energetic and enthusiastic speaker. Establishing headquarters in New York City in 1916, Garvey was said to have one million followers by 1921. Garvey' vision included black economic independence, pride of race, and a return to Africa; to this end he founded a steamship shipping company called the 'Black Star Line'. Garvey's popularity brought him under government surveillance; he was incarcerated for mail fraud and deported from the US in 1927. Garvey never regained his following; he moved to London in 1935 and died in near obscurity in 1940. Twenty four years later he was voted Jamaica's first national hero.

The first floor was utilized for special needs classes and continued as such until its demolition; the second and third floors are not utilized. Newark currently has 82 school buildings. The demolition of the Robert Treat School is part of a city wide school facilities management plan to revamp the school system. Nine new schools are planned for new sites. Thirty four replacement schools are planned to be constructed near or on existing school sites requiring the demolition of many historic school buildings. Thirty schools will be renovated or have additions.