The Fifth Ward is a district of New Brunswick, New Jersey. running parallel to French and Somerset Streets, the latter of which creates a border with the 6th Ward and neighboring Somerset. Civic Square and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital lie at the north of the ward, while the Northeast Corridor south of New Brunswick Station transverses it.
For much of the 20th century the neighborhood was the heart of the Hungarian-American community. Around the turn of the 20th century, New Brunswick began attracting a Hungarian immigrant population who primarily attracted to the city by employment at Johnson & Johnson and United Cigar factories. The population continued to grow and many settled mainly in the Fifth Ward and abutting neighborhoods. During the Cold War, the community was revitalized by refugees from the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution who had initially been housed at Camp Kilmer in nearby Piscataway and Edison. Many soccer teams composed of Hungarians, including the New Brunswick Hungarian Americans, were part of the German-American Soccer League. While much the Hungarian population has relocated to the suburbs and been largely supplanted by newer immigrants, many institutions founded by the community remain active in the neighborhood, including: Magyar Bank,Magyar Reformed Church, Ascension Lutheran Church,St. Ladislaus Roman Catholic Church, St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church, Hungarian American Athletic Club, Aprokfalva Montessori Preschool, Széchenyi Hungarian Community School & Kindergarten, Teleki Pál Scout Home, Hungarian American Foundation, Vers Hangja, Hungarian Poetry Group, Bolyai Lecture Series on Arts and Sciences, Hungarian Alumni Association, Hungarian Radio Program, Hungarian Civic Association, Committee of Hungarian Churches and Organizations of New Brunswick, and Cs?rdöngöl? Folk Dance Ensemble.
Several landmarks in the area also testify to its Hungarian heritage. There is a street and a recreation park named after Lajos Kossuth, the famous leader of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. The corner of Somerset Street and Plum Street is named Mindszenty Square where the first ever statue of Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty was erected. A nearby stone memorial to the victims of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution was dedicated in 2006. The Hungarian Festival is held on Somerset Street on the first Saturday of June each year. In 1990, New Brunswick and Debrecen, Hungary became sister cities and the following year Rutgers - New Brunswick established the Institute of Hungarian Studies.
Meanwhile, the Fifth Ward is the smallest of the Wards, but also includes the largest chunk of the city's rapidly-expanding downtown, which spans every ward except the Second. The Fifth Ward is home to a large number of renters, including many Rutgers University students. It is also home to the massive campus of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
While the Hungarian community has diminished over the years -- in the 1930's it made up a third of New Brunswick's population -- much of what it built remains.
Somerset Street. This is part of the Hungarian Neighborhood. New Brunswick has been called "the most Hungarian city in the US" because proportionately it once had more Hungarians than any other city. In 1915, out of a total population of 30,013, there were 5,572 Hungarians. The first immigrants came in 1888 and there followed, in the early twentieth century, many skilled workers who found employment in the former cigar factory on Somerset Street and at J and J. It is estimated that, at one time, nearly two thirds of J and J employees were Hungarian. While some immigrants returned to Hungary after WW1, many came back to New Brunswick within a few years and in the 1920s built homes in this area, many financed through the Magyar Building and Loan Association. After 1956 and the Hungarian Uprising, 30,000 refugees were resettled through Camp Kilmer in nearby Piscataway. About a thousand of these refugees settled in New Brunswick. On this walk we pass Hungarian restaurants, the Hungarian Civic Association, Athletic Club (founded in 1913), St Ladislaus Church (with a statue of Cardinal Mindszenty commemorating the visit of the cardinal here in 1973). Nearby is the Hungarian Cultural Center with a library and gallery.
They were drawn to New Brunswick by the offer of equitable work and wages in the Johnson and Johnson headquarters. The original Mr. Johnson, who founded the company, said that he "would hire any Hungarian who came to work for him" because he had learned by fond experience to rely on their industriousness, honesty, piety, integrity and community spirit. And so they came. As family members sponsored new arrivals for citizenship, the Hungarian-American community grew and flourished. Eventually those immigrant families built three Hungarian churches on Somerset St.: one Reformed, one Catholic, and one Lutheran - our church, Ascension - representing the traditional faiths of the Magyar people.
Many Hungarian-Americans who grew up or started families in the Hub City have since moved to the suburbs, but the festival, a daylong celebration of Hungarian culture, music, dance, art -- and yes, food -- remains.