BY JILLIAN HAMMOND
As locals and students walk along North Chapel Street, the mural of Edgar Allan Poe, an American writer famous for his tales of mystery, welcomes them from the wall of the Newark Cemetery.
The mural is an artistic creation that portrays an image of Poe in the center, as the year “1758” appears in the background. It’s further decorated with ravens, while the words “City of Legend, Myth, Romance, History, Mystery—New Ark” are written over the mural.
Five years ago, in celebration of the 350th anniversary of Newark’s founding, the Downtown Newark Partnership decided to have the design committee add art to the underpass of the railroad bridge, since this is one entrance into the city, according to Marilyn Minster, a committee member and owner of Minster Jewelers.
“We came up with the idea that we should do something that is history,” Minster says.
The design committee reached out to local artist Michael Brock of Hardcastle Galleries. Brock was asked to come up with an idea and visual for the project, Minster says. After some thinking, Brock came up with the vision of Poe because of the rumored connection between the author and the town of Newark.
Years ago, before Deer Park Tavern existed, it originally stood as St. Patrick’s Inn. Deer Park was created after the original building was burned down by a fire. It has been rumored that Poe stayed at the tavern.
Sandy Ashby, co-owner of Deer Park Tavern, says it is rumored that Poe lectured at Newark Academy, now Old College, and frequently stayed at the tavern. It is also rumored Poe once slipped on mud outside and cursed the building, Ashby said.
“Nobody has ever really proved that he stayed there, but it has always been that he did,” Minster says.
As Brock began to prepare for creating the visual for the mural, he thought that the wall of the cemetery would be a better fit than the underpass.
“Because of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry and literature, we put it on the side of the cemetery,” Brock says.
Brock, however, only created the idea and portrait. Anne Yoncha, a former employee of his, recommended that he partner with students involved with the art program. Brock liked the suggestion, and thought working on the mural would give students experience.
Eight students volunteered their time to complete the two-day project, Brock says. He oversaw the project and helped as the students brought the mural to life.
“I didn’t want it too bright, because Edgar Allan Poe is a solemn sort of thing,” Brock says.
As the group looked at the finished project, Brock saw how proud the students were of their artwork, as their parents and families drove to the mural to take pictures. Though it seems the city will never know the truth behind the myth, the connection to Poe has become permanent in Newark.
“What is more prominent in history than what happened at Deer Park?” Minster says.