American Insurance Company Building

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American Insurance Company Building
American Insurance Company Building-Rutgers Newark.jpg
General information
Coordinates40°44′41″N 74°10′14″W / 40.74459°N 74.17067°W / 40.74459; -74.17067Coordinates: 40°44′41″N 74°10′14″W / 40.74459°N 74.17067°W / 40.74459; -74.17067
OwnerRutgers University -Newark
Roof326 ft (99 m)
Technical details
Floor count16
Design and construction
ArchitectJohn H. & Wilson C. Ely
James Street Commons Historic District
American Insurance Company Building is located in Essex County, New Jersey
American Insurance Company Building
American Insurance Company Building is located in New Jersey
American Insurance Company Building
American Insurance Company Building is located in the United States
American Insurance Company Building
Coordinates40°44′41″N 74°10′14″W / 40.74459°N 74.17067°W / 40.74459; -74.17067
NRHP reference #78001758[3]
NJRHP #1275[4]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJanuary 9, 1978
Designated NJRHPFebruary 10, 1977

The American Insurance Company Building is one of the oldest and tallest skyscrapers in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, United States. Located at 15 Washington Street on Washington Park it was once headquarters for the American Insurance Company and is now part of Rutgers University. The neo-classical tower is a contributing property to the James Street Commons Historic District which also encompasses Washington Park, Newark Museum, and Newark Public Library. In re-opened in November 2015 as student dorms, event space, and chancellor's apartment.[5]

American Insurance Company[edit]

Newark has been a center for the insurance industry since the early 19th century[6] and has been home to Firemen's Insurance Company and Mutual Benefit Life. The Prudential Insurance headquarters are prominent buildings within the Four Corners Historic District.

The American Insurance Company was incorporated February 20, 1846 and commenced business on April 1, 1846.[7] The company maintained offices downtown on Broad Street and later Park Place.[8] A new home office was completed in 1930. The sixteen story neo-classical tower is 326 ft (99 m) tall.[1][2] A main interior feature is a "great hall" with 20 ft (6.1 m) ceilings and 15 ft (4.6 m) windows.[9] The building was designed by the father and son architectural firm, John H. & Wilson C. Ely, which also designed the National Newark Building and Newark City Hall.[10]

The American Insurance Company later became the American Insurance Group.[11] The company was acquired by the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company in 1963[12] the combined company for a time known as the Fireman's Fund American Insurance Group.[13]

Rutgers University[edit]

SI Newhouse Center for Law and Justice[edit]

In 1977 the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company announced it would be moving its corporate headquarters from downtown Newark to a new campus in suburban Morris Plains, N.J. The company donated its soon to be vacated building to Rutgers University.

After outgrowing facilities in several buildings in downtown the Rutgers School of Law in Newark consolidated into the skyscraper located near the main campus. It was named it in honor of Samuel Irving Newhouse, Sr., a 1916 graduate of the New Jersey Law School (a forerunner of the law school) and founder of Advance Publications[14] and housed the SI Newhouse Center for Law and Justice from 1979 to 1999.[15][16] after which time the building remained empty.[9]

Graduate school housing[edit]

Rutgers originally intended to develop the building as a hotel, but the project fell through after September 11, 2001. In February 2012, the university announced that it planned to renovate the vacant structure for graduate student housing, citing the growing need and prime location near the campus and the Newark Broad Street Station. The project calls for a conversion into a mixed-use complex with furnished studio apartments and one- to four-bedroom units for 350 students. It is expected to cost $71 million and be a catalyst for continued renaissance of downtown as a residential as well as commercial community.[9] The project is financed through grants, tax credits, and bond issues. Renovations are expected to begin in 2014 and completed in 2015.[17] and will include public performance spaces and a penthouse for the school's chancellor.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "American Insurance Company Building". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  2. ^ a b "American Insurance Company Building". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  3. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  4. ^ "New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places - Essex County" (PDF). New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection - Historic Preservation Office. January 10, 2010. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 27, 2009. Retrieved April 25, 2010.
  5. ^ "How Rutgers turned an abandoned skyscraper into a luxury dorm". Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  6. ^ Hartman, David; Lewis, Barry (2002). "History of Newark". A Walk Through Newark. WNET Thirteen. Retrieved 2012-03-27. In 1804, the Newark Banking and Insurance Company opened, followed by the Newark Mutual Assurance Company (The Newark Fire Insurance Company) in 1810, and the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company in 1845. John F. Dryden founded the Prudential Insurance Company in Newark in 1875.
  7. ^ Annual report of the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Wisconsin (Report) (1906 ed.). Wisconsin Department of Insurance. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  8. ^ "Big Newark Office Building American Insurance Company Will Begin the Erection of a $250,000 Structure at Once." (PDF), The New York Times, March 1, 1902, retrieved 2012-03-27
  9. ^ a b c Corbett, Nic (February 15, 2012), "Rutgers to move forward with $71M Newark high-rise renovation", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2012-03-27
  10. ^ "John Holcomb Ely". Rootsweb. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  11. ^ "AMERICAN INSURANCE AND AFFILIATES GAIN; Gets Rights to 'Spuriscope' Bank Women to Meet", The New York Times, 1951, retrieved 2012-03-27, The American Insurance Group, comprising the American Insurance Company, parent organization, the Bankers Indemnity Insurance Company, casualty affiliate and the Columbia Fire Insurance Company, last year wrote insurance premiums totaling $64,582,591, compared with $61,760,031 in 1949.
  12. ^ "Fireman's Fund Insurance Company". Funding Universe. Retrieved 2012-03-27. In 1957 Fireman's Fund moved to a new headquarters.....The company also made several profitable additions to its business during the early 1960s, including the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company of Texas, incorporated in 1962, and the American Insurance Company plus its two subsidiaries, American Automobile Insurance Company and The Associated Indemnity Company, acquired in 1963.
  13. ^ "BRUNO C. VITT, 71, INSURANCE MAN; Former Chairman of The American Is Dead", The New York Times, February 12, 1966, retrieved 2012-03-27, Bruno C. Vitt, a leader in fire insurance who had been president and chairman of The American Insurance Company, now part of the Fireman's Fund American Insurance Companies group, died Wednesday in Pinehurst, N.C.
  14. ^ "History of Rutgers Law School Newark". law.newark.rutgers.ed. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  15. ^ Tractenberg, Paul (2010), A Centennial History of Rutgers Law School in Newark, History Press, ISBN 978-1-59629-822-4
  16. ^ "Buildings". About the School. Rutgers School of Law. Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  17. ^ "Neo-Classical Rutgers Building Will Become Graduate Student Housing". 2012-02-20. Archived from the original on 2012-03-10. Retrieved 2012-03-28.
  18. ^ "Rutgers prepares to bring new life to one of Newark's original skyscrapers". Retrieved 22 October 2016.

External links[edit]