Manuscript Group 1097, Washington Street Association, Inc., Newark, New Jersey Records, 1923 – 1927
Archives Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs
Manuscript Group 1097, Washington Street Association, Inc., Newark, New Jersey
Records, 1923 – 1927, 0.25 linear feet / 1 small manuscript box
Call Number: MG 1097
Constitution and by laws; minutes of the board of trustees; reports; correspondence; and other records of this non-profit organization. Founded in 1923 by property and business owners on Newark’s Washington Street, the association aimed at “the improvement and maintenance of Washington Street… and streets adjacent thereto.”
Gift of Mrs. David Bate, 1979.
Incorporated on February 23, 1923 as a not for profit corporation, the Washington Street Association (WSA) was formed by Newark property owners and renters to lobby the city for improvements to Washington Street and the surrounding thoroughfares. According to the organization’s by-laws its objectives included: encouraging the formation of state and municipal legislation to improve buildings along Washington Street, establishing and maintaining transportation facilities to enhance the streets (e.g., better lighting, policing, and street cleaning), and improving architectural and aesthetic standards. The ultimate goal of these enhancements was to attract “desirable” businesses and residents to the area. A lack of public funds, however, limited many of the WSA’s initial proposals to the widening, realignment, and repaving of Washington Street.
Originally located at 908 Essex Building in Newark, the WSA moved to its permanent location at 240 Washington Street around August, 1923. An elected president, seven directors, and twenty one trustees represented approximately 150 property owners and lessees (seventy seven of which were owners). Edgar S. Bamberger, owner of L. Bamberger & Co., served as president during the bulk of the association’s existence from 1923 – 1927. WSA members held regular meetings to discuss courses of action, and give updates on city hall’s response to their proposals.
Heavy automobile traffic on Washington Street bred fears that shoppers would seek a less congested emporium; thus, decreasing business and property values. The locus of the WSA’s activities concerned widening the street, eliminating a “jog” at the Market Street intersection, and eliminating a “hump” where Washington crossed the canal. The “hump” at the canal was removed by paving over the uneven grade differential; however, correcting the “jog” required extensive engineering and construction. Similarly, widening the street involved “setting back” the sidewalks along Washington a total of 16 feet for the four blocks between Campbell and Warren Streets.
As of November 10, 1924 the city of Newark was prepared to remove the “jog,” eliminate the “hump,” and had made plans to widen the street. A WSA memo dated May 8, 1924 anticipated the city would cover 50% – 80% of the costs, and the remainder would be assessed to the property owners along Washington; however, expressing that the improvements greatly benefited the city, Newark was expected to absorb a majority of the expense. By February, 1927 the city had competed the improvements and assessed 42% of the costs ($432,567.92) to property owners. Members of the WSA filed objections to the Board of Commissioners assessment. A receipt dated December 5, 1927 indicates the assessment was reduced to $5,000. No further records of the Washington Street Association exist after December, 1927; perhaps indicating the corporation disbanded.
The records were the gift of Mrs. David Bate, 1979.
These documents contain a certificate of incorporation and by-laws, general correspondence, plans for proposed improvements, and minutes and reports related to the Washington Street Association’s activities dating from 1923 – 1927. Most of the documents concern the association’s proposals and lobbying attempts to city hall for improving Washington Street. Also included is a digest of activities, ballots for the election of directors, membership and property assessments, and printed material from similar organizations of the day.
Processed by Jeffrey V. Moy, Rutgers University, March 2000