Verona Lake Park
The history of Verona Park can be traced back as early as 1814, when Doctor Bohn dammed the Peckman River, which was an old swamp for a grist mill. The water behind that dam formed a 13-acre Lake. Later this beautiful lake surrounded by weeping-willow trees and winding paths became an ideal location for family activities. Verona Lake proved a popular attraction for weekend picnicking by the 1890s, with commercial boathouses and concession stands. Meanwhile, the Trolley that ran up Bloomfield Avenue from Newark brought additional visitors.
Verona Lake Park’s first land acquisitions occurred in 1920; this action was delayed only due to economic conditions caused by World War I. Initially, acquiring part of this land owned by the Erie Railroad Company required an agreement allowing the ERC to retain a right-of-way across the park by means of a bridge. (Sketches showed a bridge with a series of high arches that spanned the lake and roadway.) Fortunately, this bridge never materialized. Instead, the existing arched pedestrian bridge over the lake presents a quaint architectural highlight.
Local citizens conceived the idea of a formal Verona Lake Park around the lake, joining with the Essex County Parks Commission to purchase enough land by the 1920s to bring the total area of the Park to 54 acres. Essex County later brought in the Olmstead Brothers Landscape firm to design a showcase public space, just as the Olmstead Brothers had done for New York City’s Central Park a generation earlier. The landscape plans prepared by the Olmstead Brothers were approved the same year Verona Park was acquired. Actual development did not start until several years later due to court proceedings concerning condemnation of some of the land. There was no inconvenience to the public during the delay because the park was already being used for boating, bathing, skating, picnics, and band concerts.