The City Treasures Project
The City Treasures Project is an important program of the Historical Society; Elizabeth, NJ Inc. The overall
target of the program rests with the power and significance of places. One of the first points of interchange

between old-residents and newcomers is the
commercial district, which itself changes over
time. Our intention is to focus on key commercial
areas such as Broad Street, Elizabeth Avenue,
First Street, and Elmora Avenue - finding the flashpoints of both commercial and cultural
exchange in this city.

Each city neighborhood has a building or a park
or a store or a house of worship that is especially
significant to the residents and City’s public
history. Some might even be defined as secular
yet sacred. We want to understand historically
how those sites function in the sustenance of
distinct ethnic and racial cultures. In addition,
we want to know how these sites connect
individual neighborhoods to the heart of our City
and its function.

Learning From our Past
By working to capture the history of places in
the city, the City Treasures Project helps connect
the past to the present; and helps plan for the future. When we see how a place in the city has been transformed over time – changing along with the people who live there – we gain a deeper understanding of the history
and influence of individuals, neighborhoods and decision-makers along this rich story of Elizabeth, NJ
    The City Treasures Project has several ongoing projects.
    Click here to find out more about this current featured project
    The City Treasures Project has 3 ongoing projects.
Click below to find out more about each project:

The Historical Society: Elizabeth, NJ Inc has begun to explore the neighborhood surrounding the old Liederkranz building which centered the activities of the German residents in Peterstown in the early years of the 20th century. Support from the New Jersey Historical commission helped the society to integrate material from the Federal Census records and from Oral Interviews to compile the narrative below:

The building that is now called The James T. Kirk Center, affectionately named after the Elizabeth Mayor James T. Kirk, was once called the Liederkranz Gesang Verein and was built to house the German choral association in the neighborhood. The present residents of the neighborhood (predominantly working class Latinos) know the building as a once active youth center. The Kirk Center’s transformation from a choral house to youth center and now in the process of becoming elderly housing after being out of commission for many years exemplifies the changing needs of the neighborhood. This attractive restoration was the work of Vilu Construction Company (Luis Rodriguez, President) and Elizabeth architect, James Guerra.

The City of Elizabeth saw another surge in immigration at the end of the 19th century. The neighborhood around where the Liederkranz was to be built (a predominantly Irish 2nd and 3rd generation neighborhood) experienced a dramatic influx of German immigrants in the 1880’s and then a swell of Italian immigrants in the 1890’s. In 1900 many of these two populations held laboring jobs and consistently sent their children through school until age fifteen when girls would soon marry and boys would find work. The Germans and the Italians divided themselves into very distinct subsections of the neighborhood.

By 1910 the local industries had become even more significant players in the growth of the neighborhood. Many men regardless of ethnicity found jobs at the oil refinery, at the chemical factory and the brewery. Railroad and street laborers were also common but in this section of the Elizabeth many men found work and the Singer Sewing machine factory not ten blocks away. The men weren’t the only ones to be working.
Many mothers and daughters who previously seemed not to hold jobs for very long between school and marriage were working more frequently from home as washerwomen and tailors.



Councilman Bill Gallman

City leaders –
Mayor Chris Bollwage and Councilman Bill Gallman – joined the State Green Acres Program. The Tree Foundation and especially Future City, Inc to rededicate Woodruff Park on Catherine Street on October 12, 2007. The park had experienced several transformations and in it latest mutation was a black-topped public space known locally as the “battleground.” The combination of city leaders and imaginative organizations resulted in the conversion of the park to a beautiful open, green space: new flowers, new sod, and new lampposts and a new design by Elizabeth Architect James Guerra.


David Pierce

David Pierce for Future City Inc.


Mayor Bollwage and Council Gallman unveiling

BRONZE PLAQUE, Woodruff Park Dedication
October 12, 2007

At the rededication, Historical Society President, Paul H Mattingly put the effort in context. Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park in Manhattan, created what many consider the “gold standard” of urban parks. But he also gave us a powerful way of thinking about such parks that apply to all versions of the genre: parks are “the lungs of the city;” parks offer alternatives to the stresses and tensions of our workaday routines; but most of all, parks permit us to observe people unlike ourselves, to break down stereotypes of social class as well as ethnic and racial inheritance. Parks, Olmsted forcefully argued, are active agents in the shaping of urban civility; they are democratic resources, necessary to constructive city life. Mattingly reminded those present that Olmsted became disenchanted with Central Park because its outer fringe contained only apartments. Residents of apartments did not take a proprietary role toward park maintenance and improvement. They observed, as it were, from above, as spectators of a park’s natural possibility. Later Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Olmsted felt, was a more satisfactory alternative, precisely because of the single-family townhouses on Prospect Park’s western edge. The dedication of Woodruff Park would be for Olmsted, Mattingly said, a starting point. The City leaders have done their part and orchestrated resources for its rehabilitation. Now its citizens, especially home-owners facing the park but also residents of the neighborhood, have a responsibility to maintain and improve this uplift. Were they to do so, Woodruff Park would become not only a democratic resource for the neighborhood, but for all of Elizabeth.



Redesigned by Elizabeth Architect, JAMES GUERRA PA