Introduction: STARTING & STAYING THE COURSE
The first official meeting of the Landmarks Committee was held November 26, 1973, at the Plume House, one of the oldest buildings in Newark. The formation of the group grew out of a series of small, informal meetings organized by Donald T. Dust, a former newspaper reporter who was then the editor of the Greater Newark Chamber of Commerce magazine. The committee picked up where an earlier effort, known as the Historic Sites and Buildings Committee and based at the Newark Public Library, had left off in the early 1960s.
The original NPLC board consisted of 11 trustees, some appointed by Mayor Kenneth A. Gibson and the Chamber of Commerce. Dust was the first chairman of the board. The other members of the original executive committee and their positions at that time were Samuel Miller, director of The Newark Museum; Bernard Schein, director of the Newark Public Library; in 1974 Alfred Schapiro, director of city planning; Bernard Grad, partner in a Newark architectural firm; Joseph Aramanda, president of a real estate and mortgage company; Rev. Joseph Jaremczuk of St. James Roman Catholic Church; William M. Ashby, a retired social worker; Dr. E. Alma Flagg, an assistant superintendent of schools; Rev. Doris Belcher of St. Stephan's United Church; and Harlyn Thompson, first dean of the School of Architecture at Newark College of Engineering. Several of the founders are now deceased or gone from Newark. Dr. Flagg served the longest period of any trustee, from the Committee's founding in 1973 until 2006, when she had to retire after moving to South Jersey.
After becoming incorporated as a private, nonprofit organization in 1974, the Committee became fully independent of city government and the business community. Later the board was reorganized and all the trustees were elected by dues-paying general members.
Since Dust, the other heads of the board have been Edward Nebb, a bank executive; Elizabeth Del Tufo, a community activist and tour leader; Douglas Eldridge, a newspaper reporter and city official; Victoria Snoy, an advertising official of Prudential Insurance Co.; Rose Spears, a retired federal official; and William Mikesell, an architect. At various times the organization has employed four directors: Margaret Manhardt, Anthony Vacca, Dust, and Eldridge.
This nonprofit citizens' group has weathered many strains and is still the only private organization devoted entirely to saving and promoting Newark's past. Supported by dues from more than 200 members, contributions from foundations and businesses, and gifts and bequests, the Committee pursues its work through a tiny staff, volunteers, and consultants.
The most important, most persistent work has been the nomination of significant sites for the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. Thanks largely to the efforts of NPLC, six different districts and more than 60 individual places -- houses, churches, factories, statues, parks, and cemeteries -- are now on the official registers. Two dozen of them display the Committee's plaques, which quickly inform passersby about their importance.
As the Landmarks Committee moves into its fourth decade, it is looking forward as well as backward -- planning more nominations, plaques, and projects, and always preparing for new battles to save endangered buildings or neighborhoods.
During its first quarter-century the Newark Preservation & Landmarks Committee has scored some noteworthy victories, but also suffered some bruising defeats.
Through the committee's efforts the city's grandest mansion, its smallest County park, and its oldest synagogue have been saved from demolition. Historic designations arranged by the Committee have opened the door to several million dollars of State restoration grants, and spurred the sale and rehabilitation of fine old homes.
Thanks to a long campaign by the Committee, the City has established its own commission to help identify and safeguard landmarks. Members of NPLC have spoken out at public hearings and taken to the streets to try to stop the wrecking ball. Seemingly inevitable plans to demolish irreplaceable buildings and erase a precious park have been thwarted.
Unfortunately, however, splendid old churches and other buildings have been razed, and author Stephen Crane's birthplace memorial was bulldozed. Worse still, the Committee could not save the only landmark it ever owned, the Lloyd Houses. But the city might have even fewer great buildings and even more parking lots if NPLC had never been formed and gone into action.
The Newark Preservation & Landmarks Committee has handed out many honors and staged many events to encourage efforts to save and enhance the city's most valuable places.
Recognition Awards have been given out every year since 1975 to individuals and organizations that have advanced the cause of preservation. Tours through the entire city and various neighborhoods have given thousands of people new awareness of the beautiful and distinctive structures and areas in our city.
Exhibits, forums, meetings and receptions have been held to help educate the public about the importance of landmarks in our lives -- and just to give the varied people in this common cause a chance to get together for good talk and good times.
Through a special project sponsored by the Committee at the New Jersey Historical Society, children at local public schools gained a fresh appreciation of the historical features of their neighborhoods.
During the last 30 years the Newark Preservation & Landmarks Committee has issued a variety of publications -- from hard-cover books to bumper stickers -- to help spread knowledge and appreciation of the city's historic treasures.
The Committee's newsletter, "Yesterday's News," has evolved greatly in format as it chronicled the varied fates of local landmarks. A series of tour guides has described the major buildings and sites in James Street Commons, Lincoln Park, Forest Hill, and the Ironbound.
Recognition Awards are given in an annual ceremony by NPLC Spreading the Word.
Holiday greeting cards depicted city scenes through the 1890s drawings of C. Durand Chapman. New note cards published for NPLC's 25th anniversary in 1978 featured brand-new sketches of six local landmarks by Richard La Rovere. NPLC helped sponsor a handsome map of Branch Brook Park.
TALES WITHOUT HATE
The Committee is proudest of its biggest publishing venture -- "Tales Without Hate," the memoirs of William Ashby. He founded the Urban League in 1917, and chronicled the development of Newark's African-American community through much of the 20th century. Revered as "A Living Landmark," he died in 1991 at the age of 101.
The book was published first in 1981 in paperback, and reissued in an expanded hardcover edition in 1996.
In more than 200 pages of vivid memoirs, Ashby chronicles the development of Newark's African-American community through the first half of the 20th century. His stories are sometimes rollicking and sometimes grim, but always engrossing. The noted historian, Dr. Clement A. Price, has written that Ashby wrote about his experiences "with an eloquence and sophistication that are virtually unparalleled in New Jersey historical literature."
Copies of the illustrated book can still be ordered for $15, including postage and handling. Checks can be made payable to"Landmarks Committee" and sent to P.O. Box 1066, Newark, NJ 07101.
In addition, a flyer with pictures and an order form for the Committee's other publications is available from the same address.