The Ironbound is a neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey. It’s one of the largest Portuguese-speaking communities outside Portugal with an estimated 20% to 30% of residents speaking only Portuguese at home and many young people are bilingual. The area has been described as “the most densely populated square mile in the United States.”
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Ironbound was once dominated by industry but became residential since World War II when its commercial activities migrated elsewhere. Downtown Newark had suffered from economic decline for decades until it was revitalized after 1996, helped along by new housing developments within walking distance of mass transit lines and proximity to Manhattan via commuter trains on NJ Transit’s Morris & Essex Lines—ironically called “Newark lights” because they run through downtown Newark.
The Ironbound is well-known for its Portuguese restaurants and bakeries, as well as Brazilian steak houses in the Jumbo Center commercial district of Ferry Street near the Passaic River waterfront with outdoor cafes lined along a boardwalk on what was once an abandoned railroad line to serve commuters who work in Manhattan. The new Central Library opened at One Washington Park in 2006, replacing one that had been located two blocks away from Branch Brook Park since 1954; it features over 190 computers available free to library users, internet access terminals, laptop loaner program and cafe.