I think the label of “Cultural District” is a pretty rabid misnomer. In terms of what you would think of “culture,” we have: Newark Symphony Hall,City Without Walls Gallery ,Newark High School for the Arts and Ecuadominica restaurant (this is extremely new, and only added because it is an improvement on the neighborhood)
The rest of it is a park full of drug dealers, several halfway houses and rehab clinics, a few crappy liquor stores, some pizza-and-chicken places with bulletproof glass, the teachers’ union headquarters and a lot of burned out, broken buildings.
Sure, there’s history… Abraham Lincoln stopped here and gave a short speech, and the park was named after him. Sarah Vaughn was born and raised in the ‘hood. There’s the whole “Barbary Coast” story with the gambling dens and brothels (my apartment building was a notorious brothel for decades… then a crack house…). But none of that really washes out into something that you can see and appreciate.
So it seems appropriate that the symbol for the neighborhood is the silhouette of the old, ruined church on the corner of Broad and Lincoln Park… Something that was great once, was ruined a long time ago, and no one has bothered to clean up, really.