Weequahic High School is now 83 years old. The building is located at 279 Chancellor Avenue in Newark. The construction of the high school, designed in the art deco style of architecture by the firm, Guilbert and Betelle, was completed in 1932. The high school opened for classes on September 11, 1933 with 2,056 students.
The name Weequahic refers to “the head of the creek”, the high ground that served as a boundary between the lands of the Hackensack and Raritan and later as the partition between the cities of Newark and Elizabeth, known today as Weequahic Park. The high school and nearby park was named Weequahic to honor Newark’s Native American roots.
Max Herzberg was Weequahic’s first Principal and remained as the leader of the high school for 18 years until his retirement in 1951. He was a noted educator and writer. As an author and editor he wrote or edited fifty seven books and pamphlets. In 1920 he became literary editor of the Newark Evening News, and from its inception in 1947 until his death, he edited the Sunday Book Page.
In 1934, Professor Albert Einstein sent a letter to the high school, entitled “Thoughts on Education and on American Schools in Particular,” that was published in the school paper. The letter was printed by newspapers all over the world.
from its inception in 1933 through the middle of the 1960’s, Weequahic was considered to the finest academic high school in New Jersey. In August 1950, Weequahic was rated as ” one of the most outstanding high schools in the country” by the Commission of Secondary Schools of the Middle Atlantic States Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges. On June 17,1960, this same organization praised Weequahic’s college program. On December 17, 1963, Weequahic was ranked 1st in New Jersey and 56th in the nation in the number of graduates who had earned a Ph.D during the preceding five years. In 1964, Weequahic had more national merit scholars than any high school in the tri-state area.
For many years, Weequahic offered more foreign languages- French, Spanish, Latin, German, Russian and Hebrew- than any other high school in the city. In the early 1960’s, it also had a Swahili language club.
In addition, Weequahic was known for its athletic prowess. Throughout the years it experienced great success in basketball, track and swimming. The high school is well known for its outstanding basketball teams under the leadership of coaches Art Lustig, Les Fein, Dave Klurman and Frank Gavin.
Throughout the generations, Weequahic has always had a fine music department, orchestra and an outstanding marching band. On an ongoing basis, the band won honors both in local and national competitions. In 1944, Dr. Henry Melnik was honored by receiving the Music War Council of America’s distinguished service citation in recognition of the band’s outstanding contribution to the home front war effort under his leadership.
Many Weequahic students enlisted during World War II. At home, students faculty and families raised almost one million dollars selling war bonds through rallies, drives and shows. A plaque outside the auditorium memorializes the 57 Weequahic students who made the ultimate sacrifice.
In 1951, Eleanor Roosevelt, addressed more than 1500 students at an assembly at Weequahic. The former First Lady and widow of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was introduced as “First lady of The World”. Mrs. Roosevelt, was revered in many circles as an advocate for world peace, social justice and civil rights.