Thursday, 20 September 2012

Prudential Apartments AKA Sing-Sing

1928 - 1932

In 1928, Newark mayor Jerome T. Congleton called on the Prudential to contribute to the comforts of Newark's large labouring population. After a law was passed in the state legislature enabling Prudential to invest in real estate, Prudential responded by building four "model tenements" in Newark. There were the Harrison and Douglas Apartments (reserved for blacks) in the Third Ward; another complex in Weequahic on Frelinghuysen Avenue; and last but not least there were these apartments here in the Ironbound.

1931 The Prudentian Apartment construction - the 'middle courtyard', with more of the old brewery showing above the construction in the background.

The great residential structure on Fleming Avenue is the Prudential Apartments. The Chellis-Austen Apartments, now called the Aspen Riverbank apartments, were built by the Prudential Insurance Company from 1928 to 1932.

The Prudential Apartments were built to be a low-income alternative to the shabby tenements and tiny woodframe houses of the Ironbound. Private sector public housing might seem like a strange idea to someone who grew up with the Newark Housing Authority's projects, but in the late 1920s and 1930s there was actually a wave of privately built housing for the less-well off.

In Chicago, Sears, Roebuck CEO Julius Rosenwald built the "Rosenwald Gardens" apartments in Bronzeville, Chicago's black neighborhood.

In New York City, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. built the Paul Laurance Dunbar Apartments in Harlem.

1931 Prudential Apartment construction - the Pru building is mostly complete, the shops on Fleming Ave. are apparent and one of the most famous arched entrances to the interior is visible on the right along Oxford Street.
Actually this photo was taken in 1931 before the Pru building was finished. Photos by Gary Quien.
 In the mid to late 60s and the 70s the Prudential Apartments were really run-down and people dubbed it 'Sing-Sing' because its brick structure reminded one of a big prison.
The inner courtyard of the Prudential Apartments in the 2000s.

This is the real Sing Sing Prison. This picture was taken in the summer of 1971, in Ossining, New York State. It is located on the Hudson River, north of New York City. This is the prison that added phrases like "Up the river" and "The Big House" to our lexicon.
my friend Damazio walking down Lexington Street in the spring of 1972.

Fleming Avenue's parish church is St. Aloysius', seen here. This 1880 church building was designed by Charles Edwards.

If you need a measure of how important St. Al's was to Fleming Avenue, consider that Fleming Avenue was named after Walter M. Fleming, St. Al's founding priest. Before it was Fleming Avenue, Fleming Avenue was Bowery Street. The name "bowery" comes from a Germanic word meaning "field," presumably the street was named after the cattails of the Passaic River wetlands. The actual renaming took place in the early 1900s, and was partly due to the bad reputation of New York City's Bowery section.

The great Ballantine Brewery was once Newark's largest industrial establishment, employing over 4,500 workers at its peak in the 1940s. The forty acre site was almost a city within a city and brewed 4,000,000 barrels of beer a year.

Peter Ballantine came to Newark in 1840 from Albany, New York. Ballantine set up his own brewery on Front Street, in a building now occupied by Science High School. Ballantine, a Scot, originally only brewed heavy English ale, but as the demograhics of Newark changed, Ballantine moved into light beer.

Beer making in Newark goes back to the 1600s, and brewing in the Ironbound dates back to the early 19th century. The site that eventually became the Ballantine brewery was originally the Schalk Brothers brewery. Ballantine and Company bought the Schalk brewery in the 1870s.
The great Ballantine Brewery was once Newark's largest industrial establishment, employing over 4,500 workers at its peak in the 1940s. The forty acre site was almost a city within a city and brewed 4,000,000 barrels of beer a year.

Peter Ballantine came to Newark in 1840 from Albany, . Ballantine set up his own brewery on Front Street, in a building now occupied by Science High School. Ballantine, a Scot, originally only brewed heavy English ale, but as the demograhics of Newark changed, Ballantine moved into light beer.
Beer making in Newark goes back to the 1600s, and brewing in the Ironbound dates back to the early 19th century. The site that eventually became the Ballantine brewery was originally the Schalk Brothers brewery. Ballantine and Company bought the Schalk brewery in the 1870s.
The three Ballantine rings stood for "Purity, Body, and Flavor." According to legend, Peter Ballantine got the idea for the three ring logo by seeing the water marks of his beer bottle on a table. This seal was first used in 1879.
The Euro BBQ restaurant recently opened in a building formerly occupied by the Down Neck Diner.

After Ballantine's, Fleming Avenue starts to alternate between run-down and prosperous, even gentrified. At right we have Golda's Bar, which is said to be temporarily closed for two years.

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