For immediate release: March 29, 2005
For further information contact:
Collins Ijoma, Trial Court Administrator
Phone: (973) 693-5701
Essex Superior Court and Essex County Bar Association Celebrate Historic Restoration
Gilbert-Designed Courthouse to Come Alive with Civil Division Cases
Almost 100 years after the first judges and lawyers entered its marble halls, the historic Essex County Courthouse ("Old Courthouse"), designed by architect Cass Gilbert, will again proudly house judges, staff and courtrooms for the administration of justice in Essex County. The completion of this restoration and renovation project represents a merger of function and art: a state of the art, working courthouse encapsulated in an architectural masterpiece.
To mark this remarkable accomplishment, Judiciary and Essex County Bar Association officials jointly will host a ceremony and reception on Thursday, March 31, at 5:30 p.m., at the courthouse, at 470 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard in Newark. After the program, invited guests may tour the courtrooms. Project managers will be on-site to answer questions and to talk about the restoration process and the historical significance of the structure and the artwork housed within.
Essex County Assignment Judge Patricia K. Costello will welcome guests and introduce New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz and Chief Judge John W. Bissell of the U. S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, who will offer remarks.
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., a driving force on this 20-year effort to restore the Historic Courthouse, will address the guests. Also participating in the ceremony will be Superior Court Judge Eugene J. Codey, Jr., Presiding Judge of the Civil Division; Patrick G. Brady, President of the Essex County Bar Association; and Paul G. Nittoly of Drinker Biddle & Shanley. Mr. Nittoly, a past president, served as pro bono counsel to the Essex County Bar Association for over a decade in the legal action to bring about the renovation and restoration of the "Historic Courthouse."
Cass Gilbert's architectural masterpiece was built between 1902 and 1906. He also designed the U.S. Supreme Court building and the Woolworth building in New York City. For generations, Newark visitors and local residents alike have identified the building by its most famous feature, "Seated Lincoln," a statue created by Gutzon Borglum, famed sculptor of Mount Rushmore, which graces the front lawn.
The $50 million project rescued and restored nine marble statues originally designed by Andrew O'Connor Jr., more than 900 pieces of furniture and other treasures from the past, priceless stained-glass windows and numerous murals featured in courtrooms and throughout the building. These breathtaking and majestic murals include "The Landing of Carteret" by Howard Pyle, "The Power and Beneficence of the Law" by H.O. Walker, "The Beneficence of the Law" by Kenyon Cox and "Diogenes" by Will H. Law.
The first case in the refurbished courthouse will be heard on April 4 in one of the 11 Civil Division courtrooms, including 10 restored and one newly built. The building also houses judges' chambers, staff offices, arbitration offices, a civil records room, a café, and a lawyers' lounge and reading room.
Restoring the courthouse has been a long and arduous journey. In 1985 bonds were approved to restore and renovate the "Historic Courthouse." By 1990, when the project stalled, then Essex County Bar Association President William C. Carey commenced an action to require the County to use the bond proceeds for their intended purpose and to address the deteriorating physical condition of the courthouse. Through this odyssey, the leadership of the Court, the Essex County Bar Association and the County remained committed to the restoration project because the Historic Courthouse was a symbol of the rich history and enduring legacy of Essex County.
Many organizations and individuals have played a pivotal role in guiding the renovation project. The Essex County Bar Association, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders have provided their continued support and commitment to ensuring the completion of the renovation. The architectural firm responsible for overseeing the restoration and renovation of the Historic Courthouse is Farewell Mills Gatsch Architects, LLC.
To view color photos of the restoration project, please visit the bar association Web site at http://www.essexbar.com/courthouse.htm.
Reporters and photographers are invited to attend.