NEWARK, NJ — Restoration of the historic Ballantine Gate in Essex County's Branch Brook Park is complete, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced.

“The Ballantine Gate is a recognized feature of Branch Brook Park and a landmark in the Forest Hill neighborhood on Newark. Restoring this entrance during the 125th anniversary of the Essex County Parks System underscores the rich history of and beautiful architecture found in our open spaces,” DiVincenzo said. “

Attention to the two gatehouses was needed because of the age and wear and tear on the 120-year-old structures. The two gate houses received a complete facelift with new roofing installed, masonry and brownstone repaired, non-historic windows replaced and the interior completely restored.

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Lighting inside and outside of the building was upgraded, drainage around the site was improved, the fence was repaired and paving was done around the site was recreated based on historical documents. Landscaping and plantings by the gate houses were installed based on historical documents.

The Ballantine family donated 32 acres of property to be added to Branch Brook Park in the late 1800s. In 1898, Robert Ballantine presented the park with the beaux-arts entrance gateway at the corner of Lake Street and Ballantine Parkway.

“You can’t lose sight that a national treasure, Branch Brook Park, the first county park created in the United States, is right here in our backyard. This project demonstrates County government listens to the concerns of the public and functions as a partner with the community,” NJ State Senator and Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said.

“It’s amazing that this project to beautify a symbol of Newark’s history was done during the pandemic. I am lucky to reside in a community filled with such great activists,” Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos said. 

For 125 years, Branch Brook Park has been at the heart of the City of Newark and an anchor for the Forest Hill community. The regal presence of the Ballantine Gates serves as a gateway into the park and links the historic Forest Hill neighborhood with its surrounding community, city and park, Paul A. Agostini, President of the Forest Hill Community Association said.

Netta Architects from Springfield was awarded a professional services contract for $145,760 to design the improvements. ZN Construction LLC from Saddle Brook was awarded a publicly bid contract for $760,000 to perform the construction work. The restoration project was funded with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Work began in March and was completed in six months.