New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) will receive the highest annual honor from the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee for the restoration of the first building on campus, a 35,000-square foot, three-story gothic Victorian castle. The castle, at the corner of Bleeker St and Martin Luther King Blvd, is known to generations of NJIT students, alumni, staff and faculty as Eberhardt Hall.
“We feel that NJIT richly deserves acclaim for not only saving but enhancing and celebrating the Victorian splendor of this nearly 150-year-old landmark,” said Douglas Eldridge, executive director of the committee. “Eberhardt Hall is by far the oldest building on any Newark campus and certainly one of the finest. Your restoration project is one of the most impressive we have seen in Newark in recent years. We hope that our award can help make many more people aware of this architectural treasure and your unstinting commitment to it.”
NJIT President Robert A. Altenkirch, PhD, will receive the Donald T. Dust Recognition Award at a ceremony in Eberhardt Hall, Feb. 28, 2006 from 5-7 p.m. (Attention Editors: Contact Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436 for photos, building tours or to attend the upcoming ceremony.)
The university completed a $13 million restoration of the structure last fall. The building was designed as an orphan asylum in 1857 by noted 19th century church architect John Welch. Today it is considered a rare example of Victorian architecture. NJIT will use the building for alumni activity, administrative space and conference facilities.
“The renaissance of Eberhardt Hall NJIT Alumni Center, with its Victorian charm, was planned as a counterpoint to the nearby sleek, contemporary Campus Center,” said Robert A. Altenkirch, PhD, president of NJIT. “The juxtaposition of the two makes a strong statement about NJIT’s identity — the pioneering technological university leading the way into the future, but also an institution with a rich history.”
The university purchased the castle in 1948 from the late industrialist Frederick Eberhardt, an alumnus, long-time university friend and former trustee. Cody Eckert & Associates PA, Princeton, was the architect of record, supervising the interior work on upper levels as well as the floors, moldings and other woodwork. David Gibson, of DF Gibson, Inc, Newark, was a consultant to Cody Eckert, supervising the historic renovation of the grand stair and board room on the first floor as well as adjoining areas. Gibson conducted extensive research to choose the most authentic period wall and floor coverings. He also chose the lighting and furniture.
Israel Berger & Associates, New York City, provided consulting services to NJIT for exterior restoration work. Turner Construction, Somerset, handled building and construction. A&J Consultants, Clifton, was responsible for the mechanical and electrical design. Harrison – Hammet PC, Pennington performed the structural engineering analysis.
The exterior was restored using authentic 19th-century materials — red brick and brownstone with mortars chemically matched to those used by the original builders. The university removed and repaired 20th-century adaptations such as holes for air conditioners. The front parking lot was replaced with a terraced green and a bluestone forecourt for outdoor events. Inside, the public areas on the first floor were restored, with simulated gaslight fixtures, authentic reproductions of late Victorian wallpapers and wood trims. Restorations include the creation of a grand, central lobby, board room, dining room and more.
Charles R. Dees, Jr, PhD, senior vice president of advancement at NJIT, noted that Eberhardt reminds everyone of the university’s roots in Newark’s industrial age. “The structure reminds us all of the technology giants like Thomas Edison who had a hand in anchoring the city’s industrial base.”
Eberhardt is also the link that ties alumni together across many generations. “Ask any graduate of the last 50 years what the NJIT campus looked like, and he’ll likely describe the castle,” said Bernard Coopersmith, Union, a 1944 graduate of Newark College of Engineering. “Eberhardt is a visual symbol of the common tradition that the university has imparted to the technological leaders of three centuries.”
Eberhardt Hall is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a beautiful example of the Gothic architecture of the mid-19th century, built in the Elizabethan style with elements reminiscent of 15th and 16th century castles. “It’s a rare building,” noted Gibson. “There’s only one other Elizabethan Gothic in New Jersey and maybe a handful on the entire Eastern Seaboard.” Welch, a founder of the American Institute of Architects, was a noted church architect, who in 1850 designed another nearby Newark landmark structure, St. James A.M.E. Church, noted for its stained glass windows.
Records note that the NJIT structure was completed as the Newark Orphan Asylum. According to Gibson, the architect, the interior was designed for the comfort of the children, which the low banister height on the grand staircase demonstrates.
The building was state-of-the-art for 1857, with modern conveniences including gaslight, steam heat and hot-and-cold running water, amenities that were rare even in the period’s most affluent homes. Contemporary records show unusual safety features including an early fire-extinguishing system and emergency exits.
“In many ways, the building is a monument to the City of Newark and its tradition of compassionate humanitarianism, in providing such a gracious and well-equipped structure solely for the benefit of orphaned children,” said Altenkirch.
Eberhardt, the man, embodied the NJIT spirit and still provides a role model. He was an alumnus, a graduate of one of the very first classes of Newark Technical School, NJIT’s predecessor institution. He became president of his family’s company, Gould & Eberhardt, a Newark-based manufacturer of gear cutters and shapers, and led the firm’s growth as a major supplier to the auto industry, as well as to the military during World War II. He joined the board of trustees in 1910 and serving until his death in 1946.
“The restored Eberhardt will be an important enhancement to campus life,” said Altenkirch. “The other buildings on our campus are modern and utilitarian, and that’s as it should be. An institution that focuses on technology and science should emphasize contemporary style and functionality. But a university also needs some space that expresses graciousness and tradition, an enclave away from the rapid-fire distractions of 21st century life. That’s the role we see for Eberhardt Hall.”
The Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee is the only private organization devoted fully to saving, restoring and promoting the city’s rich historical and architectural heritage. Since 1973 the Committee has helped save and restore irreplaceable structures and sculptures, won official protection and public appreciation for many landmarks and sponsored publications, tours and activities. There are more than 70 Newark buildings, districts, parks and sites listed on the National and New Jersey registers of historic places. Buildings, once registered but later demolished are not listed.
Newark College of Engineering, established in 1919, was the predecessor of NJIT. In 1973, the State of New Jersey selected the engineering college in Newark as the home for a new public school of architecture. Reflecting a now expanded mission, the institution was renamed New Jersey Institute of Technology. Today the New Jersey School of Architecture at NJIT is the eighth largest architecture school in the nation and is widely recognized for its innovative integration of computer technology into the design curriculum.
Before 1919, the engineering college was a technological school with roots dating to 1881. Today NJIT is comprised of the two earlier colleges, plus four new ones: College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences.