New London Road Walking Tour: a glimpse into Newark’s history
The university's Art Conservation department now allows Newark residents to take a glimpse into the city's history through its New London Road Walking Tour.
The university’s Art Conservation department now allows Newark residents to take a glimpse into the city’s history through its New London Road Walking Tour. The tour has 12 stops, each with its own history behind it.
The New London Road area, which was originally called New London Avenue, is a historically African American community in Newark, according to Mary Torbey, the collections care team leader at the Newark History Museum.
“When there were restrictions in many of the neighborhoods that kept African Americans from purchasing homes in those areas, the New London Road area was always a place where they could purchase property, and they were able to build a community,” Torbey said. “And it’s also historic because of the community that they built, and the fact that African Americans were excluded from many of the opportunities in town, so they created their own opportunities in their neighborhood.”
The Newark History Museum also has a New London Road area exhibit, which includes objects such as an original road sign that says “New London Avenue,” a Rose Bowl jacket from Frank Cephous, a former football player, the credentials of a teacher who worked at the segregated school and much more.
The tour includes stops at the three major churches in the area — Pilgrim Baptist Church, Mt. Zion Church and St. John Church. According to some of the residents, the churches were a staple for the community, holding events such as church socials and Bible school for the community’s youth.
Another stop on the tour is the formerly named “New London Avenue Colored School,” previously the only primary school available for Black students between 1922 and 1958. This school acts as “the longest standing testament to this community’s dedication to education,” according to the tour’s webpage. The school functioned not only as a place of education, but also as a meeting place for the community’s children. After 1958, the school shut down, and it is currently known as the George Wilson Community Center.
One of the other stops on the tour is Terry Manor, a subdivision of houses that includes Terry Lane, Kennard Drive and Wilson Street, which was built by George Wilson. Wilson was the first and only African American man elected to Newark City Council, and he was said to be one of the “most influential men in this neighborhood, and the city of Newark,” according to the tour’s webpage.
There are several other stops on the tour, all rich with history.
Torbey said that walking tours are a great way to learn about history because seeing something face-to-face is much more impactful than just seeing a picture.
“When you see something face-to-face, you immediately connect the image of the thing you are seeing with the story that you’re being told about the people and the history and what has happened in that location,” Torbey said.
The walking tour initiative was largely led by Dr. Vicki Cassman, who passed away on Aug. 6, 2020. One of her colleagues, Dr. Debra Hess Norris, said that Cassman was devoted to community outreach and was committed to community engagement. It is the first tour of its kind run by the department.
“[Cassman] recognized that there were so many stories to be told by the community members, and this would be a wonderful opportunity for our undergraduate students to engage with the community,” Norris said. “And it resulted in all kinds of other initiatives around gathering community members to talk about the family treasures and the preservation of their objects that they had saved and that they valued.”
The team gathered information largely through interviews with residents and family members.
“It was highly collaborative with the community, and I know Vicki Cassman became very close with many members of the community and continued to work with them for many, many years around all different kinds of initiatives they were really excited about,” Norris said.
Norris said that this was a fantastic opportunity for the students involved as well.
“I know that the students who were involved found this work to be incredibly rewarding, you know, learning about our history and working together as a community to study this history and plan for the future, it’s so important for all of us — in Newark, Wilmington, throughout the state of Delaware, and United States, and around the world,” Norris said.
The New London Road Walking Tour continues to keep the history of the area alive through the interactiveness and the depth of the research done on each stop. Torbey discussed how well done the tour was, and how it was completed at a great time to capture some things that have been recently torn down.
“So much of it has disappeared just within the last couple of years; we’ve lost most of the homes that were fronting on New London Road,” Torbey said. “It’s just become a brand new development within the last couple of years, and with so much of the history of the neighborhood disappearing, it’s really important that people remember what happened here, and the community that grew up in that area, and the people who lived there, who contributed so much to Newark.”
To take the tour and view more information, please visit: https://www.artcons.udel.edu/outreach/diversity-initiatives/new-london-road