Historic Structures

Marcus Garvey School, Newark New Jersey

Date added: September 10, 2021 Categories: New Jersey School

This school was constructed in 1888 as an eight-room primary school and was called the 13th Avenue Public School. Successive enlargements between 1891 and 1915 accommodated and reflected the growth of Newark's immigrant populations.

The first addition was constructed just three years after its opening and increased its capacity to 17 rooms. This addition completed the original design of the school building as planned in 1887-88. A photograph of the 13th Avenue facade taken after the construction of the first addition and before 1903 indicates that the building, as originally designed was a three-story Romanesque Revival Style brick and brownstone school. The 1891 addition is indistinguishable from the original portion in this photograph; the two combined read as one seamless school building. The main entrance fronted 13th Avenue; a second side entrance was at the comer of Richmond Street and Thirteenth Avenue. There were two detached bathrooms immediately behind the school suggesting that the school did not have indoor plumbing at that time.

Nine additional classrooms were added in 1903. The 1903 addition was constructed perpendicular to the 13th Avenue facade fronting but set back from Norfolk Street. This addition contained two staircases and was three stories in height.

Historic maps indicate that boys and girls bathrooms were added in a small appendage to the rear of the school sometime before 1908. The two outhouses remained but were noted as "not used" on the 1908 Sanborn map.

Additional ground was purchased and a 15 classroom addition was constructed beginning in 1906 and opening in December 1908. This addition is L-shaped and fronts Richmond Street. It is the oldest portion of the building remaining before the building was completely demolished although the corner stair tower had been demolished. There is a terra cotta plaque with "A. D. 1906" near the Richmond Street entrance. This addition is brick and brownstone and repeated the Romanesque detailing of the original and 1891 sections.

In 1915, the 18-classroom Norfolk Street addition was constructed with standard size, well-lit classrooms, a gymnasium and an auditorium known as Robert Treat Hall. In January of that year, the name of the school was officially changed to the "Robert Treat School" in honor of the leader of the first group of European American settlers in Newark. The Norfolk Street addition remained intact and contained a carved plaque with the name "Robert Treat School." This addition departed from the Romanesque Revival Style of the earlier sections and utilized a classical renaissance vocabulary executed in brick, terra cotta and cast concrete. The auditorium has its own entrance lobby accessed by three arched doorways. A separate entrance leads to a stair hall and corridor for classroom access. This addition enclosed the schoolyard on the Norfolk Street side creating a center courtyard plan.

The 13th Avenue Public School opened November 19, 1888 and became a "full grammar" school in 1895. The grammar school served a district bounded by South Orange Avenue, Howard Street, Bank Street and Hunterdon Street and later a district bounded by High Street, Bank Street, Littleton Avenue, South Orange Avenue and Springfield Avenue.

In 1916, the K through 8 "day school" had three separate kindergarten classes, and about six separate classes for grades 1 through 8. There were also cooking classes, physical and manual training classes, speech improvement and special classes. Athletic competitions were held with other schools. The grammar school also educated blind students in a separate classroom setting. Newark was the only school district in Essex county offering classes for the blind at this time. Eight blind boys and 6 blind girls were schooled in 1915 presumably at the Robert Treat School.

An evening High School program was offered at this school from 1903 to 1928 and was one of four Newark schools offering an evening high school program in 1906. Newark's Evening High School program ranked 6th largest in the nation in 1903. In 1916, the evening high school program at this school offered stenography and English classes, bookkeeping, dress making, millinery, nursing, cooking, physical training, manual training, mechanical drawing, civil service classes and state examination classes.

By the early twentieth century, the Newark board of education saw many benefits in adding an auditorium and gymnasium to an older school building and many of Newark's schools were updated with such facilities. The auditorium at the Robert Treat School seated 900, and was used for many types of school functions, which prior to its construction were held in the courtyard. The auditorium was originally equipped with a fireproof booth for a stereopticon and moving picture machine, and dressing rooms near the stage. Lantern slides and moving picture films were shown. A biannual pageant performed by grade students to celebrate the early history of Newark, became a school tradition.

The board of education promoted and encouraged the use of school auditoriums and gymnasiums by the general public. Guilbert's 1915 addition allowed the school to play a greater role in the community. A free public lecture series was offered "every Sunday afternoon during lecture season" for "older children, graduates and their parents"; the school hosted a monthly, winter, Friday night concert series selling tickets at 10¢, 15¢ and 20¢ a concert or $1 for five concerts.

A social hour held in the gymnasium followed the concerts. The school library was used as a "reading room before and after school sessions". There was a "Robert Treat Alumni Association" which hosted events for graduates of both the day grammar school and the evening high school. The auditorium and gym were also rented to private organizations for political meetings, and social purposes. A bronze-finished statue of Robert Treat by sculptor Peter Zampol was presented to the school by a local business, L. Bamberger & Co.

By 1929, the school was called the Robert Treat Junior High School but the school facilities also housed the Robert Treat Elementary School. There were approximately 1000 students in the elementary grades and 600 in the junior high in 1958. Overcrowding resulted in "part time classes". Combined elementary and junior high school facilities appear to have continued at this school to about 1960 at which time the school went back to being an elementary school and "part time classes" were eliminated.