County: Hudson County
The Park Theater was erected 1930-1932 as The Passion Play Theatre, named for the then popular annual Lenten performance put on by the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church featuring a mostly local German-American community cast of players, make-up artists, costume and set designers, lighting technicians, stage hands, ushers, and a full-scale orchestra.
The Spanish-Renaissance style and Art Deco influenced facility included classrooms, a state of the art stage with a wide screen, an organ, and an orchestra pit worthy of any grand movie palace of its day. Many notables in political and religious circles of Hudson County attended the theatre opening in February 1932. The site was a magical venue for both secular events, as well as The Passion Play that continued under the direction of successive church leadership into the 21st Century.
Now largely vacant, save for a couple caring tenants in former classrooms on the upper floors, the building urgently needs repairs. A non-profit Board held a lease with the Archdiocese of Newark and ran it as a cultural center. The last remaining Trustee of that Board, who often kept the building going at his own expense, resigned in June 2018. One of many buildings owned by the Archdiocese, the Park Theater’s fate is in limbo making it the perfect time for a developer to swoop in and tear in down.
This is the only theater owned by the Archdiocese of Newark, and it would be wonderful to see it restored as a community cultural facility with The Passion Play continuing. This is unlikely, however, since the diocese has so many buildings to care for with limited funds. What is needed is an outside organization or a group of partners, assisted by local government and/or preservation organizations, to take on the project and make it a destination similar to other restored downtown sites such as the Loew’s Jersey Theatre in Jersey City or the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. Someone is needed to champion the cause before this architectural and cultural treasure is lost forever.