One of the old Newark "City Subway" entrance signs at the Branch Brook Park Station


Title of Installation:

WPA Morris Canal Murals

Materials Used:

Ceramic tiles

General Description:

During the Great Depression, as opposed to the current "Great Recession", the U. S. government put its citizens back to work through job-creation agencies such as the Works Progress Administration. Many cultural workers created works of public art through the auspices of the WPA. One such artist was Domenico Mortellito (1906-1994), who created a series of tile murals depicting life along the Morris Canal for the Newark Subway System (now NJ Transit's Newark Light Rail).

The Morris Canal connected the Delaware and Passaic and Hudson Rivers. It flowed through Newark and emptied into the Passaic River from the 19th century until the Newark City Subway was built from 1929 to 1935. For much of that time it provided a livelihood, food, other goods and entertainment to the people of the State. Although it is probably not much remembered any more, it is only proper that the canal was memorialized in this way by the WPA.

There are at least eight different murals in this series.

Technical Information (Size,mfg., etc.):

In an undated, unattributed article written by Domenico Mortellito, probably in the late 1930s-1940s, and sent to me by Riley Doty, Mr. Mortellito states that "The subway has a body colored tile throughout which is a soft warm grey. There are different color bands in each station, with the decorative [Morris Canal] panels... . The station names are done to harmonize with the concrete vaulted soffits. ...The tiles  were made by the underglazed method and were executed in the kilns of the Mueller [Mosaic] Tile Company at Trenton, New Jersey. Mr. Ralph Smilie [sic.] was the construction engineer[,]who is at present working on the Hudson Tunnel [i.e., Lincoln Tunnel]." ("Tile Panels In Subway At Newark New Jersey" by Domenico Mortellito, unknown periodical, unknown September date, pp. 16-17, emphasis added)

Year Created:

c. 1935

Does Installation Still Exist?


Location of Installation:

The murals--about two different per station--are on the walls of the underground Light Rail Stations at Penn Station, Broad Street (Military Park), Washington Street and Warren Street (at Lock Street). Additionally, there is a tile mural memorial to Domenico Mortellito in the above-ground Branch Brook Park Light Rail Station, which, at one time, was the last stop on the Newark City Subway.

Additional Information, Websites, Citations:

I wish to thank Ms. Angela Battle, Revenue Contract Administrator, and Allen Kratz, Director of Revenue Contract Programs, NJ Transit, for their help in obtaining a photo permit. Without their help the photos below and this webpage would not exist.

One photo website shows part of the Morris Canal in Warren County, NJ:

Photos courtesy of Michael Padwee.

Submitted by and Year:

Submitted by Michael Padwee (tileback101'at' in January 2012. This topic was suggested by my friends Marie Lawrence and Jan Braverman, who live in Newark, and who helped me take the photos.

The Broad Street (Military Park) Station Murals

Transporting vegetables to market

Warren Street was the site of a lock on the canal

Pulling a barge through the lock

Murals in the Washington Street Station

Constructing the subway

These tile murals have not held up as well as the original, interior murals, possibly because of vandalism, the materials used, and/or poor maintenance.

Carrying lumber to a barge

Swimming in the canal

On the canal

The mural in Pennsylvania Station

The 2003 Mortellito Memorial Murals