The Ironbound is a neighborhood in the city of Newark in Essex County, New Jersey, United States. It is a large working-class, close-knit, multi-ethnic community & suburb, covering approximately 4 square miles (10 km2) of well maintained streets and homes. Historically, the area was called "Dutch Neck," "Down Neck," or simply "the Neck," due to the appearance of the curve of the Passaic River. The Ironbound is part of Newark's East Ward and is directly east of Newark Penn Station and Downtown Newark, and south and west of the river, over which passes the Jackson Street Bridge, connecting to Harrison and Kearny.
The name "The Ironbound" is said to derive from the large metalworking industry in the area or from the network of railroad tracks that surrounded the neighborhood. Balbach Smelting & Refining Company, now the location of Riverbank Park, was the second largest metal processing enterprise in the United States until its closure in the 1920s.
The Ironbound was an industrial neighborhood in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Workers at Benjamin Moore paints, Ballantine Beer, the Murphy Varnish Company and Conmar Zippers lived next to railroad and port workers. The neighborhood was also home to Hensler's Beer Brewery and Pride of Newark ("P.O.N.") beer by the Feigenspan Brewery. The Ironbound was poorer than was the rest of Newark at that time. A legacy of that 19th century poverty can be seen in the neighborhood's architecture - there are very few brownstones or even brick-faced buildings in the district. The inhabitants were considered to be in such need of help that Protestant reformers established the Bethel Mission there in 1850.
As it does today, the Ironbound had inhabitants of many ethnic groups in the 19th century, with Germans, Lithuanians, Italians and Poles being prominent. Lithuanians built the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in 1894 and Trinity Church in 1902. St. Casimir's Church was founded under Polish auspices in 1908. As an example of the size of the German community in the Ironbound, prior to World War I, Wilson Avenue was called Hamburg Place.
Saloons were major meeting places for Ironbound workers in the era before radio and television. A 1912 survey found 122 saloons in the neighborhood. "The men, after eating a hasty supper in a dirty, crowded home or boarding house," a social worker noted, "quite naturally leave such unattractive surroundings to spend the evenings playing cards and drinking in a warm, well lighted saloon."
The first Portuguese immigrants arrived in the 1910s. By 1921 there was a large enough Portuguese population to found Sport Club Portuguese, the first of over twenty Portuguese social clubs that would call the Ironbound home.
Galician & Jewish immigrants also settled in the Ironbound. In the 1930s Spanish Catholics built elaborate catacombs underneath the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In the catacombs are placed lifelike wax effigies of saints and martyrs, as there are no burials there. The walls, ceilings and floors of the catacombs are decorated with mosaics and murals. The church above the catacombs was built in the 1850s for a German Baptist congregation, an example of ethnic succession.
In 1983, dangerous levels of dioxin were discovered at an abandoned chemical factory in the Ironbound. The Diamond Alkali Company was largely responsible for this pollution through their heavy production of Agent Orange between 1951 and 1969. The off-site cleanup was completed by 1986, and in 1989 the site received a permanent impermeable cap.
In 2017, the New York Times described the neighborhood as:
Four square miles populated in large part by Portuguese, Spanish and Latin American immigrants and their descendants, the Ironbound has the intimacy and hustle of a European market town. “We walk to the bakery, the fishmonger, the wine store,” said [the director of the Newark Museum]. (He also walks to work.) “It really is an extraordinarily agreeable lifestyle.”
Today, the Ironbound is known for being a Portuguese neighborhood. Tap Air Portugal has its corporate office in the neighborhood and the Ironbound Volunteer Ambulance Squad has been serving the community since 1969. Ironbound also has its own newspaper. Many Portuguese still live in Ironbound, but many are moving out to other neighborhoods in New Jersey, Including South River, Livingston, Clark, Westfield, Watchung, Old Bridge, etc.
Every year, people flock to the annual Portuguese Parade & Festival, known as Portugal Day, "Dia de Portugal" (typically held the first or second weekend in June), an enormous celebration of Portuguese culture which attracts nearly half a million people, almost double the population of all of Newark.
During Portugal Day Weekend, many people come out to celebrate Portuguese-American culture. Ferry Street is also the location for most soccer fans to come and celebrate. Fans walk up and down the street while others decorate their cars and celebrate the victory of their soccer team.
(Typically held in the first or second weekend of August), the Ecuadorian Day Parade & festival take place in Ferry Street. In this event various businesses and politicians attend the parade and support the Ecuadorian culture in a statewide recognized festivity. This attracts nearly quarter of a million people to the Ironbound.
(Typically held in the first or second weekend of September), the Brazilian day festival takes place also in Ferry Street. Various street vendors, musical concerts, and restaurants show support to the Brazilian Culture. This attracts nearly two hundred thousand people to the Ironbound.
The Ironbound mainly used to consist of Italians, Polish, Portuguese, and Spaniard Immigrants, as time went on many Italian, and Polish immigrants have moved out of the Ironbound. However there are still some Italians and Polish people residing in the Ironbound. Todays Demographics Include;
57.46% Caucasian (Mainly consisting of Portuguese, Spaniard, and Italian Ethnicity)
34.94% Latino (Mainly consisting of Brazilians, Ecuadorians, Etc.)
0.95% Asian/American Indian
4.68% Black/African American
1.97% Mixed Race
This park is in the Ironbound district. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the Ironbound's first Italian parish, faces the park. The church holds an annual Italian Festival which attracts Italian-American people that live in the neighborhood, and Italians who moved out of the Ironbound.
A chain of parkland along the Passaic River, especially along the downward "curve" in the river that gave the Ironbound neighborhood its nickname of "Down Neck," offers waterfront recreation in the city. Kayaking and riverboat tours of the city are offered in the summer months. From east to west along the downward "neck" of the Passaic, parkland includes:
The Newark Public Schools operates six elementary and K-8 schools in the area. Schools serving Ironbound include Wilson Avenue School, Hawkins Street School, Lafayette Street School and Oliver Street School. In addition is Ann Street School, which is considered by many to be one of the best elementary schools in the city and the K-5 South Street School. In fact, Ann Street School received the Blue Ribbon School of Excellence from the US Department of Education. This competitive award had not been awarded to a Newark Public School before. In addition, the award prompted then Vice President of the US, Al Gore, to visit Ann Street to promote the importance of the upcoming 2000 US Census. East Side High School serves Ironbound high school students. As of 2004 most of the elementary schools were built over 100 years prior to the time. In the 2000s, an increase in housing lead to an overcrowding of Ironbound-area schools. At the time the school district planned to replace several of the elementary schools and build a new East Side High School in the former Ballantine brewery site.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark operates the Ironbound Catholic Academy, a PK-8 school in Ironbound. As of 2004 many residents of Ironbound send their children to parochial schools. Ironbound used to have three other Catholic elementary schools, including Academy of St. Benedict, a PreK-8 school, St. James, both elementary and high school, and St. Lucy Filippini Academy. In 2005 the archdiocese announced that St. Casimir, St. Benedict, and St. Lucy Filippini would merge into the Ironbound Catholic Academy on the St. Casimir site. There is also the Our Lady of Fatima Nursery, a Pre-K institution and one Portuguese Language School known at Escola Luis de Camões.
Newark Public Library's Van Buren Branch Library serves the Ironbound neighborhood. The library opened on September 23, 1923. A renovated and expanded branch opened on November 19, 1997.
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