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Home arrowNews arrowAugust 7, 2012

First Lady Designates Two New Preserve America Communities

First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama has signed and sent designation letters to two new Preserve America Neighborhoods, bringing the nationwide total of designated Preserve America Communities to 879.

“Preserve America Communities are committed to preserving their past by using their heritage to build a better future,” said Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, chairman of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). “We are particularly gratified to see the residents of urban neighborhoods demonstrate how much they care about the economic, educational, environmental, and sustainability benefits preservation provides, while creating more vibrant and desirable places to live, work and visit.”

The newly designated communities are the James Street Commons Historic District, and the Ironbound community, both historic neighborhoods in Newark, New Jersey. Newark is the largest city in New Jersey and is the county seat of Essex County. The city is divided into five geographical wards, and the two neighborhoods represent the city’s Central Ward (James Street Commons) and its formerly industrial and working class East Ward (Ironbound).

“Newark is one of our nation’s oldest and most historic cities, and the narrative of American history is written in the buildings, streets, and neighborhoods of our beloved ‘Brick City,’ ” said Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker. “My administration is committed to protecting our great architectural and spatial heritage, as a central part of our efforts to transform our City and restore its grandeur. We are proud that the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and First Lady Michelle Obama are recognizing two of our most exciting neighborhoods, the James Street Commons Historic District and the Ironbound community, for their rich heritage. These designations are a tribute to the energy, unity, and love that our residents give to our beloved City.”

The James Street Commons Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, has long been the residential and cultural center of the city, and retains late 19th century homes, landmark buildings from the mid-1800s through the 1930s, and Washington Park with its monumental statuary from the early 20th century. Rutgers University-Newark and the New Jersey Institute of Technology occupy portions of the area, and the Halsey Street corridor is becoming a revitalized commercial and arts destination.

The name “Ironbound” was once said to have originated from the many forges and foundries that were found in this area during the latter half of the 19th century, but may refer to the railroad tracks that surrounded the area when the rail lines were constructed in the mid-1800s. An industrial and working class neighborhood in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Ironbound had factory and brewery workers living next to railroad and port workers. The area remains a diverse community that has had inhabitants from many ethnic groups and countries of origin over the years. A shopping, dining, and nightlife destination, today it is sometimes known as “Little Portugal” because of its large population of Portuguese-Americans.

The Preserve America program recognizes a select group of communities, including neighborhoods in cities larger than 200,000, that use their heritage resources for community revitalization. These places share the myriad benefits of historic preservation and an appreciation for their history and culture with residents and visitors. The latest designations are the first historic neighborhoods to be designated in New Jersey, and bring New Jersey’s total designated Preserve America Communities to seven.

Preserve America Communities are located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several overseas U.S. territories. A full list of Preserve America Communities, along with profiles and contact information, can be found at

Applications from prospective new Preserve America Communities are accepted quarterly; the next deadline for submission is September 1, 2012. Preserve America is administered by the ACHP with assistance from the U.S. Department of the Interior. For more information, including community designation criteria and application forms, see

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