the first city planning

by Leonard Harmon Robbins

Image: S. H. Congar, in Jonathan F. Stearns, First Church in Newark (1851)
Image: S. H. Congar, in Jonathan F. Stearns, First Church in Newark (1851)

Jasper Crane,
With rod and chain,
Plotted down
Newark Town.
Gray with age,
Grave and sage,
The plan he laid
When the town was made.

Pierson, pastor
And Treat, the master,
Lent him aid
When the lines were laid;
Wisest three
In the colony,
And Crane was quick
At arithmetic.

“Build,” quoth he,
“Fair to see;
Serve them well
Who here shall dwell.”
The years increase
To centuries—
His work was good
And his work has stood.

Broad Street wide,
The city’s pride,
Throve and grew
On the lines he drew;
And the Training Place,
Our breathing space
In the city’s heart,
He set apart.

To him we owe
The pretty show
Of living green,
The spot serene
Now Washington Square.
The townsfolk there
Drove cart and shay
On Market Day.

The Corners Four
His imprint bore—
A wildwood then,
Untrod by men.
He could not see
That the cross would be
The busiest way
In the land one day.

The East Back Street
And the West Back Street,
Though each may claim
A prettier name,
Follow the lines
Of his designs;
Still run by the chain
Of Jasper Crane.

Thousands go
To and fro
In the lanes he broke
For the Founder folk.
The town’s still new;
There is work for you,
There are paths to lay
As in his day.

Jasper Crane is credited with laying out the original commons and streets of New Haven.  He left Connecticut in 1666 for Newark, of which he and Captain Robert Treat became the first magistrates. Evidence is scarce that Crane in fact delineated Broad Street, the Training Place (now called Military Park), the present Mulberry and Washington Streets or other components of Newark’s earliest town plan.

Leonard Harmon Robbins wrote for the Newark Evening News, producing light verse which he later published as Jersey Jingles (1907). “The First City Planning” appeared in the News of May 6, 1916.

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