Newark is the county seat of Essex County and the biggest city in the state of New Jersey. The city covers an area of twenty-six square miles and has a population of almost two hundred and eighty thousand residents. Newark is situated approximately eight miles west of Manhattan and two miles north of Staten Island. The city’s location on Newark Bay near the Atlantic Ocean makes Port Newark the main container shipping port of New York Harbor. Newark’s economy is very diverse and contains over three hundred different types of businesses. Within these three hundred business classifications are eighteen hundred retail outlets, five hundred and forty wholesale businesses, eight bank headquarters and twelve savings & loans. The city is also the third biggest insurance hub in the U.S. behind Hartford and New York City.
Newark also has many institutions dedicated to education. Major colleges and universities in the city include Rutgers University at Newark, Berkeley College, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Essex County College, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Seton Hall University School of Law.
The public school system of the city enrolls approximately seventy-five thousand students annually. Unfortunately, Newark’s public schools are some of the worst performing schools in the state and the school district struggles with low standardized test scores and low graduation rate. As of 2007, sixty-five percent of adult citizens of Newark over the age of twenty-four have graduated from high school and ten percent had at least a bachelor’s degree. Among the sixteen to nineteen year old age group, approximately one in ten had dropped out of school.
A favorite attraction to visitors of the city is the Newark Museum. This museum is the biggest in the entire state of New Jersey and contains a collection of Asian, African, American, decorative and contemporary art. Newark Museum also has a section dedicated to natural science. This section of the museum has a small zoo that contains over one hundred live animals and the Victoria Hall of Science, which contains a collection of seventy-five thousand specimens.
This museum was founded in 1909 by John Cotton Dana for the purpose of establishing an institution dedicated to history, science art and technology. It was originally placed on the fourth floor of the public library, but during the 1920s it was housed in its own building. The building in which its located was designed by Jarvis Hunt. Over the years, the museum has continued to expand, usurping adjacent buildings. The museum also contains a shop and a cafe.
Another popular attraction is the New Jersey Historical Society. This museum and historical society was established in 1845 by William Whitehead, Joseph C. Hornblower and Peter D. Vroom. This institution was first located at Market Street, but was relocated in 1997 to a Georgian building next to Military Park. The New Jersey Historical Society has two floors of exhibition space, a lecture hall and a gift shop. On its uppermost floor is a permanent exhibition on the natural resources of the state of New Jersey. This is an interesting place to visit and admission is free, but as of February of 2009 an appointment has to be made to enter the building.
Newark also has one of the biggest Gothic cathedrals in the United States, Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This cathedral was started in 1899 and construction was completed on the church in 1954. The original design of the church was in the Irish Gothic architectural design, but to reduce costs the design was changed to a French Gothic one in 1913. This change in architectural styles allowed the church to be completed faster and cheaper. The new design incorporated several changes which included reducing the height of the front towers by one hundred feet, eliminating the spires and pinnacles, using rose windows instead of concentric spheres and the addition of sculptures at the entrance. After fifty-five years of construction, Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart was finally dedicated on October 19, 1954 by the Archbishop of Newark, Thomas Boland.
- Located near the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is Branch Brook Park.
- This Essex County park is located on three hundred and sixty acres of land and is situated between the Forest Hill and Belleville neighborhoods.
- This park is most well known for its esquisite collection of over four thousand cherry trees taken from fourteen different varieties.
- This collection of cherry blossom trees is known as Cherry Blosom Land and an annual Cherry Blossom Festival is held in this location during the month of April.
- Branch Brook Park was founded in 1895 and was the first county park in the United States.
- Before its incorporation as a county park it had served as a training ground for the United States Army during the Civil War.
- Originally, the park was only situated on sixty acres, but grew steadily during the 1920s due to private donations.
- The cherry trees were a gift from Caroline Fuld in 1927.
- Branch Brooke Park was placed on the New Jersey Historical Register in 1980 and the National Historical Register of the United States in 1981.
- In 2010, a thousand more cherry trees are due to be planted due to a half a million dollar grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, as well as private donations.