Ten to be thankful for

Alex Toth, posing in the Newark History Museum, created the Save Old Newark group.

Often, the people most passionate about local history tend to be older – folks with a lifetime of memories and a nostalgia for days gone by.

But for 16-year-old Alex Toth, that passion developed early.

“I really love history, and I love stories,” Toth said. “Being able to make a personal connection with the past, whether it be touching a building or reading a newspaper clipping from back in the day, is an opportunity to look into the past and to gain a new perspective. And for me, it’s not just about the positives of the past. It’s definitely also about learning about some of the awful things that have happened, but that’s what contextualizes history and that’s what makes it human.”

The Newark Charter School junior has channeled that passion into creating the group Save Old Newark, which aims to raise awareness of Newark’s history and preserve as much of it as possible.

Toth, with the help of a few classmates, started the group during the 2019 debate over the fate of the Green Mansion, the façade of which will be incorporated into a new hotel. He started a petition and spoke out against the project at a city council meeting. Though the project was approved, Toth was able to start a dialog with Lang Development Group and other developers about doing more to preserve historic buildings.

“I don’t want it just to be screaming at the developers and saying ‘why aren’t you doing things?’ without presenting concrete requests,” he said. “You’d be surprised what just talking and sharing the stories can do. I’ve seen it when I’ve shared stories about the Press of Kells building with people. The level of interest that is there is fascinating. It just takes the extra step of making that connection.”

Toth has spent countless hours at the Newark History Museum, doing research and scanning old photos, which he shares on Save Old Newark’s social media platforms as a way to get more people interested in local history.

He credits his grandfather with instilling in him a love of Newark history.

“I love the fact that I can go and walk around and touch a building and realize, wow, this has been here for 100 years,” he said. “It’s that personal connection with history that I really love.”

–Josh Shannon

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