Forest Hill is a neighborhood noted for its history, tree-lined streets and stately homes, and now community members are celebrating the installation of historic street signs throughout the nationally-designated historic neighborhood.
One of the North Ward's most celebrated areas received the new signage through the combined efforts of North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr., PSE&G, New Jersey State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, New Jersey State Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, and Newark Councilmen-at-Large Carlos Gonzalez and Luis Quintana.
Ramos spearheaded the initiative when he began receiving complaints from residents after PSE&G's capital improvements forced the elimination of a number of trees throughout the neighborhood.
Ramos went to work on the project, ultimately negotiating a deal with the utility, which offered to fully fund the new signage.
Elected officials joined members of the Forest Hill Community Association at an unveiling held at Branch Brook Park’s Ballantine Gates Monday.
Ramos said his close working relationship with the Forest Hill Community Association helped his office to identify the expansion of historic street signs as a priority some years back.
“As a result of some upgrades that PSEG was making in the area, I was able to secure a grant from them and used Hess funds to partner with city's Department of Engineering to expand, construct and install the historic signs covering the entire district,” Ramos said.
The tony neighborhood, which sits on the edge of the 360-acre park famous for its cherry blossom trees, was developed in 1890 by factory owner Elias Heller, after whom Heller Parkway is named.
Soon after its development, hundreds of wealthy Newarkers flocked to the area and began building turn-of-the-century and pre-war homes in an eclectic array of architectural styles, including Beaux-Arts, Victorian, Colonial Revival, Gothic Revival and Spanish Revival.
Famous former residents include Peter Ballantine, founder of Newark's Patterson and Ballantine Brewing Company, after whom the Ballantine gates are named; Louis Comfort Tiffany, an artist and designer best known for his work in stained glass; and William Hayes Ward, editor of The Independent, a leading Abolitionist newspaper.
“This is a unique opportunity to highlight one of the neighborhoods that contribute to the vibrancy, history and diversity of our ward and the city at large,” Ramos said, noting that homes in the district date as far back as 1712.
Byron Clark, FHCA member and director of external relations for the Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that residents wanted the signage to reflect the honor of the neighborhood’s historic designation.
“There’s something to be said for signage that reflects where you are,” Clark said. “It gives you a sense of place and brings forth a sense of civic pride. Now people can know that it’s a special place and has a special history.”
Ruiz lauded Ramos, along with the Forest Hill Community Association, for their efforts and advocacy.
"Newark is a very special city with a lot of history, and the addition of historic signs is part of preserving, protecting and celebrating those special spaces," Ruiz said.
Ramos said he plans on continuing his efforts to support and promote the area.
“My office will continue to work with the Forest Hill Association in promoting local tree plantings, garage sales, clean ups and events in the park as a way of highlighting the historic district and our beautiful city,” Ramos said.
Forest Hill was designated on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places by the state's Department of Environmental Protection’s Historic Preservation Office and the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Dept. of Interior’s National Park Service in 1990. It is the largest historic neighborhood in Newark.