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Bloomfield Green Historic District


The Bloomfield Green Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.

The Bloomfield Green is a tree-lined five-acre rectangular park which remains much the same today as it appeared in 1797 when the Commons was officially created. The Green is surrounded by many distinctive and historic buildings of the 19th and early 20th century. Few modern structures interfere with the overall aesthetic character of the Bloomfield Green Historic District.

The Green provides the center, the soul, for the city.

Within the Bloomfield Green Historic District is the religious, political, and educational focus of Bloomfield Township. Also within the area resided some of the most prominent figures of the city.

The Green of Bloomfield continues to perform today as the cultural and communal center around which the city revolves.

Originally called Watesson, there was a settlement in Bloomfield by 1769 and the Green was informally established as early as 1775 as a military training ground and meeting place for area settlers. When the Presbyterian Church was constructed in 1796, the Green had already become the hub of this northern portion of the township of Newark.

Bloomfield's expansion was not atypical of many New Jersey communities. Growing slowly in the early 19th century, the first major impetus to development was the Morris Canal, which passed through the town. Shortly after, the railroads established stations in the town further stimulating economic growth and increasing population. The Civil War, temporarily delayed the growth of Bloomfield, but established the industrial foundations of the city for decades to come. By the time Bloomfield was incorporated as a town in 1900, it had been firmly established as a rapidly growing community.

While the buildings herein singled out are architecturally front line, numerous others represent the work of master builders evident in the area. Their buildings reflect traditional values and the conservative nature of the construction trade combined with newly espoused ideas, methods, and designs of a particular era, oftentimes manifested in an awkward product.

The First Presbyterian Church on the Green is an excellent example of Federal Church architecture as adapted to the red sandstone construction techniques of Essex County. This meetinghouse form edifice is one of the few remaining 18th century buildings of its type in the state.

Seibert Hall (467 Broad Street). Although capped by a Mansard roof in 1887, this pretentious Federal style edifice is one of the last remaining early 19th century massive educational buildings in New Jersey. The elaborate wrought-iron grillwork on the front portico is particularly noteworthy.

Madame Cooke's School (112 Broad Street). Although with some cosmetic alterations this house still exhibits characteristics and details establishing the structure as one of the premier Greek Revival/Second Empire building in Essex County.

The Joseph Davis House (407 Franklin Street) is a very good example of the Gothic Revival style. Quite similar to Andrew Jackson Downing's designs in The Architecture of Country Houses, the detailing in this building, however, is meager.

Davey House (317 Belleville Avenue) is a good example of a simplified 19th century Victorian Italianate suburban residence.

The form of the Theodore Ward House (41 Park Place) is excellent, but this late 19th century residence has been somewhat diminished in appearance by unsympathetic renovations. Still retains some exceptional Eastlake detailing.

Wilson House (35 Park Place, at Monroe Place) is a superior Queen Anne style building with particularly noteworthy rope-work design on the south facade.

Architecture

There are a number of architecturally valuable structures in the Bloomfield Green Historic District ranging from the late 18th century to the early 20th century.

The S. C. Stout House is a particularly fine example of Shingle style architecture. Almost totally unaltered featuring egg-and-dart molding, shingle pattern variations, and entrance doorway. The total being visually enhanced by the corner lot landscape features.

Westminster Presbyterian Church and Jarvie Memorial Library. The church was built in 1890 and is a good example of the Richarsonian Romanesque style. The Jarvie Library was built over a decade later but conforms to the overall style of the church.

The architecture of the Jarvie Library was John F. Capen (1865-1927). His two other commissions in Bloomfield, the Public Library (1927) and Helen's Manse (1917), are totally unlike the Jarvie Memorial, a complementary addition to the church. The Library and Helen's Manse are Colonial Revival buildings as were, apparently, most of Capen's works.

The Sacred Heart Church, designed by noted Catholic architect Jeremiah O'Rourke (1833-1915), done in polychrome brick, is an excellent example of Romanesque Revival style. O'Rourke designed numerous churches and buildings in nearby Newark (including the Sacred Heart Cathedral), but this is his only known commission in Bloomfield.

Bloomfield Center School (185 Liberty Street), built in 1884 and added to in 1893, is a combination of two styles — Classical Renaissance Revival and the Queen Anne Colonial. The Renaissance Revival can be viewed in the overhanging roof, the articulation of the upper story as an entablature, the heavy horizontal base and the frontal pilaster colonnade. The Queen Anne influence is seen in the brick quoining, elliptical arches, Georgian proportions, diamond panes, and baroque terra cotta motifs. The school is a fine example of educational architecture with decorative treatment seldom seen in New Jersey schools of the period.

Knox Hall (463 Franklin Street) is a small Classical Revival style building which is unusual in that it is overshadowed in size and scale by Seibert Hall, a building one hundred years its senior. Knox, however, is quite pleasant with its six Ionic columns in antis and sturdy appearance.

Bloomfield High School (160 Broad Street) is a good example of the Neo-Classical Revival style. Attached to the south of the main block is an Art Deco gymnasium. The main school was designed by J. Granville Jones.

Community Planning

The Bloomfield Green is one of the few extant town greens in New Jersey's urban landscape. Of the towns established in the state in the 18th century, only Morristown in Morris County can boast of a similar town green. The Morristown Green, however, in addition to being smaller, does not have the aesthetic suburban surroundings as does the Bloomfield Green.

The majority of New Jersey's urban places of the 18th century appear unplanned and irregular. Consequently, the Bloomfield Green, established in the late 18th century, is quite unusual for New Jersey in form and unique in application since it is the largest town green in the state.

While this unusual green was not the product of the founding fathers intentional plan, the virtual fact that it has remained relatively intact establishes this as an early example of successful park planning in the state.

In the 19th century the Green was always described as the center of one of the most helpful and pleasant villages in New Jersey. The Green today still remains the cultural and communal center around which the town revolves.

Education

As Bloomfield expanded, its education system reflected that growth, if sometimes only belatedly. Earlier schools were either private religiously oriented institutions or academies restricted to only families of substantial means. These seminaries responded only to the needs of a few — those who could afford education for their children.

Three of the earliest schools in Bloomfield — the Seminary, Madam Cooke's School, and Dr. Seymour's Academy were private and did not provide for a broad-based education system.

By the last quarter of the 19th century a strong sentiment had been generated for a full public education system, at least on the elementary level. One of these schools, the Park Grammar School (1871) was erected at about the beginning of this movement, and, another, the Center Street School, represents the final stages of this program.

With the turn of the 20th century came the maturation of the state's public secondary school system. The Center School hints of such a transition and the change is clearly evidenced by the Bloomfield High School, a regional facility built in 1911 to accommodate all of Bloomfield's secondary students in one massive complex. While the educators did not anticipate the subsequent spectacular growth of the city and needed additional schools, this facility is still functioning.

Within the Bloomfield Green Historic District of the Bloomfield Green, then, can be traced evolution of over 150 years of education in New Jersey — from its elitist beginnings to its massive populist concepts of contemporary culture.

The Bloomfield Academy was founded in 1807 as an education center for young men training for the Presbyterian ministry. Considering the small nature of the village at the time, this 3-1/2 story brick building was a most pretentious early 19th century educational facility. It was one of New Jersey's leading institutions. While the building passed into private hands sometime in the 19th century, it continued to function as a private school until 1866 when James H. Rundell sold the building to the German Theological School of Newark. This school was oriented to preparing German immigrants for the ministry. It was founded in the late 1840's in response to the tremendous influx of Germans into New Jersey as a result of the Revolution of 1848 in Europe. Originally headquartered in Newark, the Board of Directors ordered a move to the Bloomfield Academy in 1866. Instruction began sometime between 1868, when an educational charter was granted, and 1872. The Academy building was known as the German Theological School of Newark until 1913 when it became the Bloomfield Theological Seminary. In 1886, while still the German School, the directors added ten rooms to the building via a Mansard roof. Later named Seibert Hall, this building continues to be used for educational/administrative purposes for Bloomfield College.

Alongside Seibert Hall is Knox Hall, built in 1914 just after the Seminary was renamed and while it was experiencing a major growth period. This Neo-Classical Revival edifice functions as a gymnasium chapel, library, and classrooms for Bloomfield College.

The early success of the Academy was probably a partial encouragement for other boarding schools to locate nearby. The most prominent was Madame Harriet B. Cooke's School or the Bloomfield Female Seminary which provided a religiously and intellectually oriented but limited education for women. This school was established in 1836 functioning late into the 19th century. It is one of the oldest extant buildings in New Jersey which was devoted exclusively to educating women. The Dr. Seymour Academy is another of these academies.

Bloomfield was a pioneering city in establishing a free public school system in 1849. Although no buildings are extant from that era, City High School, built in 1871 at a cost of $29,000, still stands. This is probably the oldest consolidated public high school in the county and one of the oldest in New Jersey.

The first permanent public library in Bloomfield was housed in the Jarvie Memorial Building, a gift from James N. Jarvie in memory of his mother and father.

Later, in 1927, the Bloomfield Public Library replaced Jarvie as a full service library facility.

Military

The Bloomfield "Green" was originally created as a parade grounds for training militiamen during the American Revolution.

Religion

The deity has also had a firm role in the development of Bloomfield and the Green. Being the residential and community core of the town, many of the city's most important religious edifices are within the Bloomfield Green district and span a time period of the late 18th to late 19th century. This only refers to the buildings architecturally, however. As religious buildings, all the churches continue to be influential organizations in the city.

The earliest and most prominent church was the Presbyterian Church on the Green. Built in 1796 this fine Federal-style meetinghouse edifice functioned as the only Presbyterian church in Bloomfield until the 1880's when the larger Westminster Church was erected. The First Presbyterian Church, though, is still active.

Due to the subsequent population increase, Westminster Presbyterian Church was built to accommodate the additional resultant parishioners. This Romanesque structure cost some $50,000 to erect. While Westminster was meant to replace Old First on the Green, it never totally supplanted the traditional meetinghouse.

The Episcopal Church in Bloomfield was established in 1858 and at first was located at Liberty Street. Destroyed by fire in 1893, the new edifice was erected at Bloomfield and Park Avenues and served the needs of Episcopalians of both Bloomfield and Glen Ridge.

In 1878 the Church of the Sacred Heart was organized to serve the rapidly expanding Catholicism of Bloomfield. The first chapel was erected in the 1880's, but the current Romanesque style church, at the corner of Broad and Liberty streets, was built in 1892.

References

Gazetteer of New Jersey. Thomas Gordon. 1834. (pp.104-5).

Historical Collections of New Jersey. John W. Barber and Henry Howe, 1868. (pp. 156-7).

History of Essex and Hudson Counties, New Jersey. William H. Shaw. Philadelphia: 1884. (pp.858-876).

† Terry Karschnet, Historic Preservation Specialist, New Jersey Office of Historic Preservation, Bloomfield Green Historic District, Essex County, NJ, nomination document, 1975, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Bloomfield Green Historic District Map

Street Names
Austin Place • Beach Street • Belleville Avenue • Broad Street • Church Street • Church Street East • Elm Street • Franklin Street • Fremont Street • Liberty Street • Monroe Place • Montgomery Street • Oak Street • Oakland Avenue • Park Place • Park Street • Spruce Street • State Street

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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