The first elementary school on Newark’s Morton Street was built in 1873 and known as the 13th Ward Public School. It was later expanded and renamed after the street where it was located, and in 1908 the original building was razed and replaced with a well-equipped, modern facility. By 1898 the Morton Street School had undergone a major rebuild. A large new section was added to the rear of the existing school, on parcels that formerly held houses.
Ten years later, the original building was demolished and a large, state of the art addition designed by Ernest Guilbert replaced it. The new construction, carried out by the E.M. Waldron Company, seamlessly matched the 1898 structure. The new space included a handful of luxuries. The building was so extravagant that several newspapers ran articles about it. The nearly 65,000 square foot addition included an incredibly ornate 750 seat auditorium, a gymnasium, 35 classrooms and a large playground on the roof.
The $240,000 addition also included 2 kindergarden rooms, each with a stained glass window. One August night in 1912 the school roof was open to the public so everyone could enjoy the facilities. A concert was held, as well as athletic contests for guests to participate in. It was such a success that the school was once again in the news.
A century after being completed, the Morton Street School was closed by the district. At first the building was maintained and used for storage by the school district. However, after repeated break ins and storm damage, the school was quickly being destroyed. A 2013 assesment by the school district deemed the school to be in very poor condition.
The building was sold to a developer for $1 million in 2018—a far cry from its appraised value of nearly $5 million—but there are currently no definitive plans for the property, although the appraisal report recommended demolition to allow for construction of multifamily housing on the site.
Today, the historic school building at 75 Morton Street remains vacant, its prior beauty overshadowed by its water-damaged walls, crumbling ceilings and debris-strewn classrooms. There are gaping holes in the walls where scavengers have stripped the building of plumbing, wiring and anything else that might be of value. Most tragically, the magnificent stained-glass ceiling in the auditorium has been damaged beyond repair, with many of its colorful panes shattered or covered in leaves and other debris.