CC Photography: Ghosts of the Past–Gritty Commercial and Industrial Scenes of Newark N.J.

280 Market St.  (I don’t see the term CUT RATE used anymore)


I was recently going through Dr. Samuel Berg’s collection of Newark photos from the early 1960s (and there are a lot to go through–all 2,788 of them!)  It reminded me that these amateur black & white shots really capture a lost world.  As it has been mentioned before on CC, most people did not take pictures of ordinary places and things, especially those that were not considered scenic or attractive.  Stores and factories don’t look like this anymore, and were it not for Dr. Berg’s project of capturing streetscapes he knew were doomed, no record of these businesses would survive.

Article on Dr. Berg from the Newark Sunday News, October 1968.   “Doctor Photographs Vanishing City Sights.”  Unfortunately, I can’t read the type.


So I selected a few of the more interesting shots showing storefronts, factories, and industrial buildings with their unique signage–always beckoning customers to come in with such earnestness!  If you go to the website, you can really “zoom in” and see all these little fine details!  Plus we get to see quite a few classic cars (not gleaming, restored examples, but real “working” cars and trucks in their natural environment).


230-226 Market St.  WE LOST OUR LEASE (“It was in the top desk drawer just three weeks ago!”)


323 Academy St.


81-79 West Market St.  “Newark Fishotorium”, “Television & Radio Hospital”.


Love the TV van!


Wideway Dance Hall on Broad St. converted to stores.  Inscription in archway:  “‘WHATEVER YOU DO– DO IT WELL”.  Hoffman is retiring–get your bargains now! Everybody is selling out!


Coster’s Driving School: You can learn HYDRAMATIC, FLUID, HYDRIVE, or STANDARD.


Bridal gowns at La-Nor, 1st block of South Orange Avenue


Comet Hotel, SE corner of Market & Lawrence Sts.  You may need some FLIT if you’re staying at the “fleabag” Comet Hotel!


Boyd St. from Springfield Ave.


Hotel Edison, 771 McCarter Hwy. & Kirk Pl.  (formerly Thomas Edison’s laboratory and factory)


Hubcap store, west side of Norfolk St. from West Market St.


South side 15th Ave. from Morris Ave.


South Orange Ave. from Norfolk St.


Friendly Restaurant and JUMPIN JIVE: Court St., south side, looking west from Broome St.


Golden Maid Donut Corporation, 418 N. 5th St.


Lumber shed, 40 S. 7th St.


Prince Range Co., Morton St. from Belmont Ave.  Prince Range appliances survived into the ’80s in suburban locations, but is no more.


Ricciardi Paints, 18th Ave. from Jelliff St.  Ricciardi is still in business, but not here.


Avon Ave. from Badger Ave.


Springfield & South Orange Avenues


This place has everything!


The Essex Theatre–next door to Kern’s on Springfield Ave.


Thomas St. from Austin St., Chico’s Billiard Academy


Broome & Mercer Sts.




97-95 Clay St.


Pentecostal “House of Prayer for All People”


Springfield Ave. from Morris Ave.  Flax’s burned during the 1967 riot;  they’re now in Irvington.


McCarter Hwy. & Vanderpool St.


Window signs


McCarter Hwy. & Poinier St.


Close up: “Will your brakes HOLD? INCHES MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!”


There are so many more–this is just a small sample.  You really get a “time machine” effect when you look at all of these.

Photographer Myles Zhang upped the interest level even more by pairing historical photographs with modern views of the same locations in his 2016 “Then and Now” series (viewable [and zoomable] here.)  True, Newark was a gritty industrial city, but there was a lot of beauty mixed in with the grittiness.  And sadly so much of it has been lost:


Hensler Brewery


Lyric Theatre


Prudential Headquarters


Newark Boys’ Choir


Springfield & South Orange Avenues


Lawyers Telephone Buildings


Newark Arcade


Newark Technical School (NJIT)


Murphy Mansion


Clifton & Park Avenues




Even the Historical Society couldn’t be saved!


But if you want the full color, live experience of what the city was really like in the old days, check out this YouTube video.  It was filmed in the late 1940s from a train traveling southward on the Penn Central tracks along McCarter Highway from Lafayette Avenue to the foot of Broad Street by Newark Airport:

To me, the city looks like an HO scale model railroad layout par excellence!  It’s all here:  the billboards, the cars, the factories, stores, gas stations–the entire unfolding scene as it would be viewed from a moving train.  Some people may call it ugly, but I think it has a charm all its own;  an impression that is enhanced by the fact that things can never be this way again.  A trip along the same route today is not nearly as satisfying–a scant few of these buildings remain, abandoned or badly altered.   The robust economic vitality just isn’t there anymore.


Central Ward of Newark, 1951. Many of these little streets no longer exist.


As you can probably tell, I miss the Old Newark.  In the late ’70s/early ’80s when I was much younger, it was a fascinating (if dangerous) place to explore–old, decrepit, quaint, but with its architectural wonders, so unlike my familiar suburban environment;  with its brick and cobblestone streets, faded Victorian charm, well-kept beauty on one block, total disaster on the next, faded “ghost signs” over bombed-out storefronts and factories.  All its layers of history.

A lot of “progress” has occurred since then, and many parts of Newark have been rebuilt in the modern way–cleaner, greener, largely government subsidized, and not very interesting.  Except for the Forest Hill section with its lawns and old mansions, the rest of the city is a mixture of urban renewal, blight, vacant lots, surface parking, a few surviving landmarks, and building facades badly defaced by vinyl siding and other eyesores.  Ah, well–we don’t have the glories of Atlantis, Greece, Rome, or pre-war Dresden anymore either.  On Earth, everything but nature herself is temporary.

See also:  Vintage Photography:  Documenting Newark N.J. in the 1960s–Pre-Google Streetviews in B & W

(My very first Curbside Classic post)