How much do you know about the History of Military Park?
Military Park has been in the news recently since it is currently undergoing a significant revitalization project. Are you familiar with the history of Military Park? You might be surprised!
Military Park, a triangular park between Park Place, Rector Street and Broad Street, was created in 1667 when the city of Newark was planned. The 6-acre park was used as a training ground for soldiers from 1667 until 1869 when it became the town commons. During this time a Market House for trading goods existed on the southern tip of the park. It was eventually razed in the late 19th century.
During the American Revolution the grounds of Military Park became the homes of recruits and troops. Training was conducted within the park. Cities of tents were formed. During George Washington’s retreat from Fort Lee he and his army set up camp in Military Park.
Some historians also claim that Thomas Paine wrote the first words of The American Crisis under a Sycamore tree in Military Park.
Many of the monuments in Military Park have historical significance. The “Wars of America” monument is located in the southwestern part of the park. It was created by the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum and contains 42 humans and 2 horses. The monument was built in 1926 to honor all of those from America who died in World War I.
A bust of President Kennedy was erected in 1965 by Jacques Lipchitz. In addition statues of Frederick Frelinghuysen and Phillip Kearny are located within Military Park.
Trying to Change with the Times
With the arrival of cars it became clear that Military Park needed updating. Four levels of parking beneath Military Park were installed. Included in this project were a surface restoration and attractive exit pavillions.
However, over the subsequent years the city shrank and the egress stairs were replaced with concrete block huts. The reflecting pool in the park dried and the surrounding greenery died. The park became known for criminals and drug deals. Entering the park meant you risked being mugged.
A $3.25 million renovation project led by Dan Biederman is anticipated to be completed in 2014. Included in this restoration project is the addition of the first restaurant inside the park. Significant landscaping improvements are being undertaken. The dried up reflecting pool is being filled in and turned into a garden. The egress stairs will have new lighting and glass walls for a more welcoming feel. The area outside of Military Park is also undergoing transformation with new apartment and retail centers being built. The 20 story new Prudential office towers are being constructed on Broad Street.