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Courtesy Newark Museum

Horizon Plaza
Washington Street and Central Avenue
Newark, New Jersey
Designer: Michael Graves & Associates

On October 16, the City of Newark opened Horizon Plaza, Newark’s first new green space in decades. Designed by the Princeton, New Jersey, office of Michael Graves & Associates and sited at the intersection of Washington Street and Central Avenue, adjacent to the Newark Museum’s southeast entrance, the 11,000-square-foot park marks the first milestone in Newark’s effort to regenerate its Washington Park neighborhood and James Street Commons Historic District.

The $2.6 million plaza fills a lot formerly occupied by abolitionist Abraham Polhemus’s 1858 house. The Polhemus House, razed earlier this year, was celebrated throughout the community as the defining element of the historic district. Michael Graves said that saving the house would have been too expensive, and explained how the structure “fell into disarray after the mortar deteriorated and the cement got wet,” causing the building’s eventual collapse.

Graves designed Horizon Plaza to serve as a community gateway to the museum, where, upon entering, visitors can “follow the building’s skylights and embark down a yellow brick road of the museum’s history.”

To preserve the history of the site, the architect “mapped out the landscape to replicate” the original blueprint of the house as an outline for the garden. Rows of low-maintenance shrubs and greenery native to Essex County delineate the exact floor plan of the Polhemus House, with two steel and marble structures marking the location of the home’s hearths.

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