Alexander Merchant (1872-1952), was Highland Park's most influential architect in the first half of the 20th century. His first major commission was the Reformed Church on South Second Avenue. Merchant was born in Glasgow, Scotland on January 7, 1872. His father was a purser on the National Line sailing between Liverpool and New York City. In the late 1870s, Merchant’s family settled in Long Island City, Queens, where Alexander received his elementary education. He had no formal secondary education. As a sixteen-year old in 1888, he began his life-long work by being an apprentice to architect D. D. Williamson in New Brunswick. He remained there for five years.
Around 1893, Merchant began to work in the office of Carrere & Hastings in New York. He stayed with the New York firm until he was granted a license and he returned to settle in Highland Park. His long career included the designs for hundreds of schools, commercial buildings, and houses throughout central New Jersey.
Buildings in Highland Park designed by Alexander Merchant:
- 55 South Adelaide Avenue (1909)
- Lafayette School on South Second Avenue and Benner Street (original school-1907 and Second Avenue wing-1915. The third wing on Second Avenue was designed by Merchant's son Alexander Merchant, Jr. in 1952)
- Reformed Church on South Second Avenue (original church-1897 and auditorium wing circa 1920)
- Irving School on Central Avenue (original building-1916)
- The Center School on North Third Avenue (formerly the Hamilton School in 1915)
- The Pomeranz Building on Raritan Avenue and South Third Avenue (1920)
- 82 Harrison Avenue (1913)
- Two houses on Cliff Court (circa 1914)
- Several houses on South Adelaide Avenue near Cliff Court (circa 1910-1914)
- The Highland Park High School (original building-1926)
- The Masonic Temple on Raritan Avenue at North Fourth Avenue (1923)
- The Brody House at the corner of Raritan and North Adelaide Avenues (built 1911--demolished 1997)
- The Police Department building and jail at 137 Raritan Avenue (built in 1925)