Polhemus House

Washington Street



Photo from Glenn G Geisheimer

The Polhemus House is owned by the City of Newark and leased by the Newark Museum from 1982 until it was torn down. The house was a contributing element of the James Street Commons Historic District. It was one of the earliest mansions built around Washington Park, the most exclusive residential address in mid-19th century Newark. The house was constructed as the original manse for the North Reformed Church; both were completed in 1859. Dr. Abraham Polhemus came from Hopewell, New York, to be the pastor of the new congregation. He arrived with his family in the spring of 1857; unfortunately, he died in October of 1857. Apparently the church donated the manse to Dr. Polhemus' widow and nine children, where the family lived until they sold the house to an advertising agency in 1949.

Strong local oral tradition states that the Polhemus House was a stop on the Underground Railroad. A tunnel in the basement is said to lead to University Avenue. Dr. Polhemus was a close friend of Henry Ward Beecher, an ardent abolitionist and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, so it is possible.