The quintessentially ornate Victorian-era Krueger-Scott Mansion, rising above Newark on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard is a long-neglected remnant of the city’s powerful industrial era. When the 26-room mansion was built between 1887 and 1889 by Gottfried Krueger, a German immigrant turned wealthy beer baron, it was the largest home in Newark. It was built on what was then called High Street, in the premier residential neighborhood for the city’s German elite. The story goes that Mr. Krueger told his unidentified architect to “outdo” the home of fellow Newark brewery owner and competitor, Mr. Ballantine.
The mansion is said to have been inspired by the Baroque castles of Mr. Krueger’s native Baden, Germany, evidence of which can be seen in the intricate porch, the six elaborate chimneys, and most notably, the soaring turret. Extensive terra-cotta, sandstone, and cast iron trim, ornate cornices, and a picturesque profile exemplify the house’s High Victorian style. Despite vandalism and looting, equally impressive extant interior features include ornate plasterwork, wood trim and wainscoting, and parquet floors. The mansion was truly a symbol of Mr. Krueger’s “arrival:” it was the most expensive house ever built in Newark at the time, and boasted the initials “GK” in the sandstone portico and entry tile floor. The Krueger-Scott Mansion is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
In 1925, the Krueger family moved out of Newark and their mansion became the headquarters of the Scottish Rite, a Masonic organization. The Scottish Rite owned the house for 30 years. In 1929, the organization constructed a 700-seat auditorium that joined the mansion and its former stables at the southwest corner of the property, designed by Newark architects Guilbert and Betelle. This building and the former stables no longer exist.
The last private owner of the Krueger-Scott Mansion was Louise Scott, a South Carolina-born self-made entrepreneur who worked as a domestic during the day and attended beauty school at night. She was a dynamic businesswoman who established a successful chain of beauty salons in Newark and is believed to have been the city’s first African-American female millionaire. Ms. Scott purchased the home in 1959 and maintained it both as her residence and the location of her Scott College of Beauty Culture. The house later became the Scott Cultural and Civic Center and hosted a variety of community-focused events. During 1960s urban renewal, the Krueger-Scott Mansion narrowly escaped demolition more than once. In 1982, the city acquired the home, since which time the property has remained vacant.
Over the past nearly 30 years, some well-intentioned attempts have been made by the city and local preservationists, with financial assistance from the New Jersey Historic Trust and the federal government, to adaptively reuse the mansion for community purposes, including plans to establish an African-American Cultural Center in the 1990s. At that time, the mansion’s roof was restored and significant exterior stabilization was undertaken, but the funds allotted were not sufficient to complete the project. Despite millions of dollars of investment toward restoration, this landmark remains vacant, with an uncertain future, particularly in these stark economic times.
A unique collaboration between the community, city, private entities and other stakeholders may soon result in increased attention and opportunity for the Krueger-Scott Mansion. The MLK Stakeholders Group, so named for their focus on the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard corridor that includes the Krueger-Scot Mansion, has advanced efforts to raise awareness of the corridor’s significance and potential, including investigation of opportunities for restoration and use of the mansion. Additionally, the Krueger-Scott Mansion Urban Farm is a project in the works that would return a portion of the mansion property to productive use. Urban Farm Fresh, the City of Newark’s Office of Housing and Economic Development, and Rutgers University have joined forces to create a working urban farm, farmer’s market and community gardens for area residents on an acre of land surrounding the landmark.
The Krueger-Scott Mansion is one of few remaining traces of the wealth that once not only did business in but populated, the city of Newark. Gottfried Krueger, the Scottish Rite, and Louise Scott all help tell this story and that of the changes that shaped the city and its population throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. This landmark stands as emblematic of the city of Newark’s highs and lows, but more importantly, opportunity present in the city right now. This one-of-a-kind property awaits its next chance to serve once again as a symbol of outstanding success.
Ms. Louise Scott-Rountree
Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard Stakeholders Group