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Jersey City - History

Jersey City - History

Jersey City

Hampton Court Terrace: A History Of Jersey City’s Handsomest Street

Hampton Court Terrace, Jersey City

Like all great art, architecture relays secrets of centuries past and offers a window into the culture and history of those who came before us. Renowned for its rich history, Jersey City’s most iconic buildings, and the people who dwelled within, provide a unique insight into how the city we’ve come to know and love has evolved over the years. Dixon Leasing understands that every historic property contributes to Jersey City’s story. That’s why we make every effort to restore or recreate the architectural elements that make each home unique. Join us as we take a trip through history and look behind the facades of some of Jersey City’s beautiful buildings in an ongoing collaboration with Jersey Digs.

In this first installment, we walk you through a unique set of homes on Hampton Court Terrace one of the few streets in the nation with consecutively numbered houses on the same side of the street.

Meet Hampton Court Terrace: A set of seven row houses situated in Jersey City’s Van Vorst Neighborhood, well known for their distinct facades and ornate architectural elements. Built in 1880, these homes were featured in the Evening Journal of Jersey City and described as, “The handsomest and most unique buildings in the city… The narrow frontage harmonizes beautifully with the modern Gothic style of these buildings, and the seven houses in the terrace are so blended as to look like one symmetrical whole.”

In the late 19th century, Gothic Revival Style was popular in both the United States and England, lending to the architectural influence for this set of homes. These terraces, or row houses as they are more commonly called in the States, share striking similarities to architecture from this time period, presenting red-toned brick facades with white stone detailing. However, the Hampton Court homes feature special additions specific to this set of row houses. Each boasts ornate decorations seen in the façade’s unique tiling and the details used on the peaks of their Mansard roofs.

English terrace homes in a similar style

The original builders and owners of the Hampton Court homes were the Paulmiers, a family with roots dating back to the founding of Jersey City. The short section of street itself is likely named after Hampton Court on the Thames, a castle in London, as the Paulmier family had deep connections to England. Susan Paulmier first acquired the land upon which Hampton Court Terrace was founded for a whopping $52,000 (roughly equivalent to $800,000 today), and for several decades, these homes were owned by the Paulmiers and eventually passed down to their children. At one point, the seven homes were divided amongst Susan’s daughters, with 1, 2 and 3 going to Cornelia E. Paulmier, 4 and 5 to Jennie Paulmier and the remaining to Lily Paulmier. Over time, all three sisters married and began selling their property inheritances. By 1910, all of the homes once owned by the Paulmiers had been sold.

1873 map of Hampton Court Terrace

From 1910 onward, people from various cultural backgrounds moved into and out of these properties, with professions ranging from physicians to detectives. By taking a detailed look at those who dwelled in these Hampton Court homes, we begin to understand the changing demographics of Jersey City across time.

In the late 1900s, the Hampton Court homes were primarily owned by single families with live-in servants. Most were born in America while the majority of their servants were immigrants. However, within just a few decades, there would be a noticeable shift in the number and type of people who would make Hampton Court their home. Instead of single families, the number of inhabitants per home would expand, with most housing eight to ten residents at any time with about half living as boarders. As the years progressed, this trend reversed, and most of Hampton Court have again become single-family homes.

1 Hampton Court Terrace

Today, we invite you to explore two of Cornelia’s properties, 1 and 2 Hampton Court Terrace, acquired by Dixon Leasing in 2013. Situated on the corner of Barrow and Wayne Street, 1 Hampton Court Terrace has long captivated the attention of Jersey City residents and visitors alike through its stunning Oriel windows, Mansard roof and decorative embellishments. Almost perfectly blended with the façade of 1 Hampton Court, is its sister, number 2, featuring the same ornate intricacies.

2 Hampton Court Terrace

These homes have only recently returned to their former glory after falling into disrepair throughout the 1900s. Painstaking attention to detail went into reestablishing original elements on both the interiors and exteriors of both homes, while updated amenities were added inside to ensure current and future residents alike could enjoy modern living in homes that still perfectly encapsulate trends from the Victorian era. Throughout both 1 and 2 Hampton Court, visitors will find perfectly restored original parlor doors, staircases and fireplace mantels, each offering a peek into the Paulmier’s construction and design aesthetic. Additional preservation efforts include restoring the pine hardwood floors and antique lighting fixtures at 2 Hampton Court, as well as replacing 1 Hampton Court’s Oriel window which had been removed in the 1950s.

While both 1 and 2 Hampton Court Terrace are currently off the market, we invite you to see the homes for yourself through Dixon Leasing. See 1 Hampton Court here, and take a virtual tour of 2 Hampton Court here. We look forward to sharing more of the interesting stories of the people, places and buildings that make Jersey City so unique. Until next time…

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An elevator at Congress Street and Paterson Plank Road descends to the 9th Street-Congress Street station of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. [6] Mountain Ave [7] and New York Ave [8] are the two streets that travel along the face of the cliffs. New Jersey Transit bus routes 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87 and 88, and serve the district locally to North Hudson and Journal Square while the 123 and 125 also continue to Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT). New Jersey Transit 119 Bayonne to PABT via Journal Square and Central Avenue also serves the area.

The Heights was part of the colony of Pavonia, New Netherland, the superintendent of which was the American patriarch of the Van Vorst family. A Van Vorst House built in 1742 by the family (now on Palisade Avenue) is considered to be the oldest building in Hudson County. Summit Avenue, slightly to the west follows an Hackensack Indian trail that became the main road from the villages of Communipaw and Bergen and eventually connected to the Paterson and Hackensack Plank Roads. [9]

The area comprising most of the Heights was once an independent municipality, known as Hudson City. It was incorporated as a town in 1852, and later into a city in 1855. The Town Hall, erected on Oakland Avenue, still stands today. Garrett D. Van Reipen was that city's first mayor. [10] (According to the NY Times, E.R.V Wright was the first Mayor of Hudson City. [11] ) Hudson City, along with the Town of Bergen and the Township of Greenville, merged with Jersey City in 1873. [10]

On March 27, 1868 Hudson City became the birthplace of its most famous namesake, the new Hudson City Savings Bank, when it received a special charter from the State of New Jersey Legislature to open in what was then the small City of Hudson, New Jersey. Hudson's mayor Garrett D. Van Reipen became the first President of the small bank, which was located on Newark Avenue. [10] By the end of the 19th Century, Hudson City Savings Bank had accumulated assets and deposits of over US$1 million. In the 1920s, the savings bank opened its second branch, and moved from Newark Avenue to 587 Summit Avenue in Jersey City, and later moved its headquarters to Bergen County.

America's first motion picture industry can trace its roots to the Hudson River towns of New Jersey, especially Fort Lee. [12] Nestor Studios (which merged into Universal Studios) began in Bayonne. Pathé, the France-based company that during the first part of the 20th century was the largest film equipment and production company in the world, established an American factory and studio facility in The Heights in 1910, the building of which still stands overlooking Paterson Plank Road. It also established the Eclectic Film Company as a subsidiary distribution company for both its American and European product. Although the Jersey City plant produced moderately popular comedies, dramas, and newsreels largely directed at the US market, Perils of Pauline was the first American-made Pathé effort to achieve worldwide success under the Eclectic banner. [13] [14] [15]

Jersey City Public Schools operates area public schools.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark operates area Catholic Schools. St. Anne School was located in Jersey City Heights, and opened in 1904. [16] Its enrollment declined by 33 in 2011 and increased by 22 in 2012. James Carroll, a member of the Jersey City Police Department and a member of the school board, Carroll stated that the 2011 decline was due to parents being afraid that the school would close. [17] In 2011 the archdiocese considered closing the school, but a fundraising generated sufficient money to keep it open. [16] It closed in 2012. [17] That year the building housed the K-8 grades of the Hoboken Charter School on a temporary basis as the regular K-8 building of the charter school had a fire. [18]

Jersey City - History

The Van Vorst Mansion
Jersey City Whose kitchen step was a “corner-stone of Liberty”

Cornelius Van Vorst was a descendant of the old Patroons. His father,” Faddy” Van Vorst, was quite a noted figure in the society of colonial days, partly owing to his ownership of a private race-course at Harsimus, then the delight of the sporting gentlemen of old New York. It must have been from “Faddy,” of whom it is recorded that he was a lover of fine horses and fine clothes, that Cornelius Van Vorst obtained his taste for lavish display, unusual at a time when everywhere in the Northern States the manner of living was comparatively simple. The interior of his- mansion, with its immense square rooms, engaged the attention of the first artisans of the country. The wide entrance hall was tiled with marble, the walls were hung with damask papers from France, the window glasses and chandeliers imported from Venice, and the doors embellished with solid silver trimmings, all of which reminders of past elegance still remain in the house.

There, some distance from Jersey City proper, and partly surrounded by luxuriant bog-land and narrow strips of forest, crowned by the hills of Bergen, the family flourished in something of the style of that vanished race known as the old Southern planters. It is said of Cornelius Van Vorst that he was very fond of the people of the South and although it is a strange fact, it is true, nevertheless, that many residents below the Mason and Dixon line found their way to Jersey City both before and after the Civil War. Among the most prominent were the Bacots, of South Carolina, one of whom married into another branch of the Van Vorst family, and the Greenes, of Virginia, who brought quite a retinue of Black servants with them. One old-time Kentuckian, who was beautiful and distinguished enough to be a rival of Sally Ward, “the queen of the South” in her own city, remembers distinctly the appearance of the Van Vorst Mansion and its large garden in the year 1 850, as viewed from a window of one of the old omnibuses, then the popular mode of conveyance in the city. She tells of later visiting its curiosity, the kitchen step, which used to attract so many people to the Van Vorst garden gate, where, sad to relate, most of them were refused admission by the gardener.

Very little has been written of this famous stone, though it was the pedestal of the Bowling Green lead equestrian statue of King George III, which” Tory pride and folly” raised in the year 1770. The New York Journal, of May 31 of that year, mentions the fact briefly that “the ship ‘Britannia’ has arrived with statues of his Majesty and Mr. Pitt, now Earl of Chatham.” A few months later the first statue was erected at the foot of Broadway, on Bowling Green, but the aristocratic features of his Majesty, under their covering of gold-leaf. did not give much pleasure to the patriotic portion of the city’s inhabitants. His countenance, which they at first thought “simpering and idiotic,” began to look tyrannical under the glow of independence, and in the summer of i 776, the opening of the Revolution, the “Sons of Freedom,” unable longer to endure its gilded glory, assembled a band of patriotic citizens and hacked it to pieces with clubs and hatchets. General Washington greatly disapproved of this riotous melee, and directed in his general orders that such affairs” shall be avoided by the soldiery and left to be executed by proper authority.”

Lead was very scarce in that first year of the war, and all the portions of his Royal Highness’s noble effigy were collected and transported to Litchfield, Connecticut, where the ladies of the town, assisted by Colonel Wegglesworth’s regiment, converted them into bullets. The soldiers that assisted on this occasion are open to the imputation of laziness, for, according to Governor Walcott’s unique list of the number made, “forty-two thousand” are credited to the ladies, and three hundred to the regiment.

Where the base of the statue, a stone of Portland marble about five and a half feet long and four inches thick, then disappeared to is not known. A few years later it found its way to Paulus Hook as the gravestone of Major John Smith, of the British army, who was buried near the site of the old St. Matthew’s, on Sussex Street, the first English church of the city of Jersey. When this street was levelled by the Jersey Associates in 1804, the gravestone was upturned by some workmen, who sold it to the father of Cornelius Van Vorst. He is said to have used it as a kitchen step for the old Van Vorst Mansion on the waterfront. At his death it passed into the possession of his son, who appreciated its interest by making it one of the attractions of his garden, so noted in the by-gone annals of old Jersey City. Shortly before Cornelius Van Vorst sold his Jersey City property to the Edge family, he received an offer of a large sum of money for his kitchen step from a descendant of Major Smith, whose grave it had marked for a few peaceful years. The offer was declined, as he preferred to keep in America his “corner-stone of liberty,” as he was wont to call it. On his removal from his mansion he had had it dug out of the ground and sent to the New York Historical Society, in whose rooms all that remains of the gilded statue of George III. can be viewed to-day by the public. It still bears the marks of his Majesty’s steed and the epitaph of Major Smith, which is as follows:
In the memory of Major John Smith,
of the XLII., or Royal Highland Regiment,
who died 25 July, 1768,
in the 48th year of his age
This stone is erected
By the brave officers of that Regiment.
His bravery, generosity, and humanity during an
honorable service of 29 years
endeared him to the soldiers, to his acquaintances, and
This is, indeed, a noble chronicle to mark the headstone of any brave soldier, and reading it we cannot help thinking kindly of the redcoat who once slept under the shadow of England’s most cordially hated king.

Among the traditions of the Van Vorst Mansion, there is one repeated, without much foundation, that Henry Clay once stopped there. Henry Clay might have visited in Jersey City for a short time when on his way to New York, as there were several among the city’s Southern colony whom he numbered among his friends but they themselves surely would have known of it. The old Kentuckian previously mentioned became well acquainted with him in the days before the war, when the South’s most distinguished son was a frequent guest of the Gault House in its golden-time under Major Throckmorton’s regime, and he tells delightful stories of him standing in the Gault House hall at dinner-hour and whispering to a merry audience the social status of the ladies as they descended the stairs, learned by the color of the stockings which showed above their satin-slippered feet and again of the kisses he demanded from every maiden and matron of his near acquaintance when he returned to the hotel after a fortnight’s absence at Ashland but she has no recollection that he ever came to Jersey City, and she surely would have known and treasured the remembrance.

The Edge family, who succeeded the Van Vorst’s, are descended from the owners of the oft-written-of and pictured Edge windmill, a quaint landmark of the early city, destroyed in 1839 to make room for the New Jersey Railroad tracks. The Edge windmill was erected by Isaac Edge in 1806. According to family tradition it was sent in portions from Derbyshire, England, by his father, as a present in appreciation of his son’s success in the New World. Miss M. Louise Edge has in her possession one of the old ledgers used by Isaac Edge. The accounts were kept in English currency until 1816 and many of the entries are very interesting. During the war of 1812 flour was sold at the mill for eighteen dollars per barrel, and in New York City bread brought as high as three shillings a loaf.

The interior as well as the exterior of the Edge family home has an air of stateliness which is rivaled by few houses in New Jersey, and the many antiques and historical souvenirs it contains give it some degree of the fame it once had when its now destroyed garden possessed a “corner-stone of liberty.”

Historic Jersey City Building With Ties to Mayor Frank Hague at Risk of Demolition

From the 1930s through the early 1970s, 500 Communipaw Avenue was owned by the family of John Longo, the biggest opponent of Jersey City Mayor, Frank Hague. Image via Google Maps/Street View.

The Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy pushes for the preservation of a historic building at The Junction in Bergen-Lafayette with ties to Jersey City’s Mayor Hague era politics and cultural history.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, February 25th at 6:30pm before the Jersey City Zoning Board, where the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy will advocate to protect the building at 500 – 504 Communipaw Avenue from demolition. Built in the 1920s, this Art Deco style building is located in The Junction of Bergen-Lafayette. Your public comments in favor of preserving this historic structure matter. The details for participating in the hearing are below.

As the only Art Deco-inspired commercial building remaining in the Junction, it is an important symbol of the successful past of this commercial area. However, this building’s historic significance runs deeper than its façade, with connections to Jersey City’s political and cultural past. The last commercial use of the building at 500 Communipaw Avenue was a well-known, Black-owned business in the community called the Junction Kitchen/Junction Fishery.

Historic postcard of The Junction, Jersey City. Image courtesy of Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy.

Joyce Willis, a resident of the area since 1958 has fond memories of the Junction. “It was a safe place for teens to hangout and socialize. Brummer’s Ice Cream Parlor was the highlight of the Junction when I was a kid,” she remembers. Brummer’s was open from 1904 to 1989 at 731 Grand Street where the Taylor Insurance Agency is located. Brummer’s moved shop to Westfield, NJ and closed that location in July 2020. The Brummer family owned several properties in the Junction. Roscoe Taylor purchased the original Brummer’s building in 1996 and has operated Taylor Insurance Agency from there ever since.

Roscoe Taylor shares his first day living in the Junction, “I lived in various parts of Jersey City and moved into 727 Grand Street on April 4th, 1968, the day Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated.” The building was where the vacant lot is, behind the triangle with the chess tables and benches. “I worked in insurance for Peacock Realty, owned by Tom Pakidis. The office was located at 494 Communipaw Avenue, next to Sabor Mixteca Taqueria, where the Red Door Realty conference room is. Rackley’s Upholstery was located where the main office space for the Red Door Realty is now. Eventually, I bought the business from Pakidis and opened my own insurance agency.” Willis adds, “Tom Pakidis was Kool and Gang’s first band manager.

Historic postcard of The Junction, Jersey City. Image courtesy of Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy.

Willis continues, “My father used to go to Field’s Barbershop at 490 Communipaw Avenue where West Kee’s Barbershop is now. There was also the Round Up where the 747 Grand Street building is now. They served milkshakes, hamburgers and hot dogs. As I grew older, I went to the Junction Fishery at 500 Communipaw Avenue every Friday. They had the best, southern style, fried fish. Mildred, the owner would take your order and fry it up right in front of you.”

“Dino’s Restaurant was in the one-story space at 737 Grand Street that the laundromat expanded into recently. The Junction was kind of a hub for musicians. Sometimes it was someone practicing in their apartment or a live performance at the Junction Lounge that was located at 488 Communipaw Avenue where the variety store is at the corner of Prescott. I always remember hearing music in the Junction,” Taylor concludes.

1938 image of 500 Communipaw Avenue. Image courtesy of Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy.

The Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy (JCLC) believes the Junction holds an important place in Jersey City’s history and the building at 500 Communipaw Avenue is no exception.

John Gomez, a historic preservation expert, former board member and founder of the JCLC had some knowledge of the building’s history. Then the JCLC consulted with historic preservation consultant, Ulana Zakalak of Zakalak Associates for a report on additional facts that make 500 – 504 Communipaw Avenue historically significant. Zakalak was the Architectural Conservator for the Beacon (the former Jersey City Medical Center) for more than a decade. She also worked passionately to protect St. Johns Church on Summit Avenue and St. Anthony of Padua Church on Monmouth Street in Jersey City among other projects.

From the 1930s through the early 1970s, 500 Communipaw Avenue was owned by the family of John Longo, who grew up in and operated several organizations from the building including the Longo Association. Longo was the biggest opponent of Jersey City Mayor, Frank Hague. Longo and the association made several attempts to liberate Jersey City of Hague. The association was also known for promoting the well-being of the City and helping the community. The Jersey City Community Chest was an umbrella organization for 25 agencies around the Junction that would help fellow citizens in need.

In 1937, in an effort to dismantle Hague’s power, Longo assembled an anti-Hague slate for the Democratic primary. Hague retaliated against Longo’s efforts by having him arrested on fabricated charges of filing petitions with illegal names in an effort to enter an opposition ticket in the Democratic primary. The prosecution did not bring forward any evidence of these petitions being filed, yet a Hague-appointed judge sentenced Longo to the Hudson County penitentiary in Secaucus for nine months. There he had to break rocks with a sledgehammer. Hague was re-elected, again. J. Owen Grundy, Longo’s best friend at the time, threw Longo a celebration party when he was released from prison.

Hague had Longo arrested again in 1943 on charges of altering his own registration card for the 1941 primaries. Longo was eventually exonerated of the charges. Despite the obstacles Hague created, Longo persisted in his fight to oust him. He also had growing support from African-American residents to join him in his “Clean House-Smash Hague Bossism” movement.

The Longo Association backed the change in Jersey City government from a commission form to a mayor-council plan. The Association demanded that no matter what, Hague would not be allowed to run for Mayor once the government form was changed, before they would throw their support behind the mayor-council plan. They also endorsed State Republican Committeeman Joshua Ringle for Mayor, James J. Creegan, the father of the Freedom movement, or John R. Longo for mayor.

John Longo was one of the most important political figures in Jersey City from the 1930s through the 1960s, and the main opponent to incumbent Mayor, Frank Hague. The building at 500 – 504 Communipaw Avenue is a testament to John Longo and his passion for clean government. This building was the home for a quarter-of-a-century of an important local civic association that had a significant role in the political history of Jersey City. Longo’s organization was able to bring all residents of Jersey City together, during the Jim Crow years, to defeat a boss mayor.

Please support the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy’s effort to protect this historic building at 500 Communipaw Avenue by making a public comment during the Zoning Board hearing this Thursday.

Zoning Board Hearing – Appeal to Preserve 500 Communipaw Avenue

Thursday, February 25 th at 6:30pm

Hosted on Zoom.com video/phone conference call online at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83520454971

Email us at [email protected] to be added to our email list, and for updates on preserving 500 Communipaw Avenue. Visit www.jclandmarks.org to learn more about the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy.

Visit www.jclandmarks.org to support the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, explore becoming a board member or make a donation.

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Find out what's happening in Jersey City with free, real-time updates from Patch.

  1. It Was Originally Called Decoration Day: Remembering veterans who died while in military service in late May dates back to 1868, when Gen. John A. Logan called for a day of remembrance to honor the Northern lives lost amid battle during the Civil War that had ended just a few years earlier, according to History.com. Logan called it "Decoration Day," which it was known as for several years. As time passed, more and more people called it Memorial Day, History.com reported, and it became a federal holiday in 1971.

2. Local Services: Memorial Day this year in Jersey City will be celebrated through the library at noon on Memorial Day. Master Sergeant Jonathan V. Taylor and JCFPL'S Mr. Issac Green will pay tribute and honor to the military men and women who lost their lives in service. Master Sergeant Jonathan V. Taylor is the Wing Integrated Resilience Manager, assigned to the 552 Air Control Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He provides integrated resilience training for over 4800 personnel wing-wide and covers three geographically separated units in Idaho, Utah, and Texas. The event can be live-streamed on Facebook.

Historical Walking Tour: A Guide to Journal Square in Jersey City

When you stop and smell the flowers along the waterfront at Exchange Place or trek through Hoboken Terminal, do you ever wonder the history beneath your feet? It may not occur to you daily, but there’s plenty of history in Hudson County to discover just outside your door. We invite you to take a walk back-in-time and follow along with our curated self-guided walking tours that highlight local “treasures” and history to help you truly discover different neighborhoods throughout Hoboken and Jersey City. First up, Journal Square!

Getting There

Journal Square is a neighborhood, business center and transit hub in Jersey City situated at the intersection of Bergen Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City. You can travel to Journal Square via public transportation by the PATH train or bus. If you’re feeling adventurous, it takes about 30 minutes to walk from the Grove Street PATH Station in downtown Jersey City or 45 minutes from the Hoboken Transit Terminal to the JSQ Path.

The History of the Name

The area was dubbed “Journal Square” as the Jersey Journal headquarters was right in the square between 1911 to 2013. The Jersey Journal is a local newspaper that ran its first edition in 1867 under the name Evening Journal. It wasn’t until 1909 that the newspaper became known at the Jersey Journal and covered more cultural and political events throughout Hudson County. The headquarters, which opened in Jersey City in 1911, is no longer in Journal Square but it’s presence lives on.

Journal Square Today

The area contains the county’s social services, the Court House, the Division of Motor Vehicles, and a few chain stores, with some newer restaurants. For a full guide on JSQ today, check out our article, Exploring Jersey City: Journal Square.

Stop #1: JSQ PATH Plaza <1 PATH Plaza>

While Stop #1 may not seem historic, or even exciting, transport yourself back to April 14th, 1912 and imagine just how important the PATH transit hub would have been on its opening day. The Journal Square PATH Plaza houses multiple hubs of transportation, including the PATH train that operates the Journal Square–33rd Street and Newark-World Trade Center lines and a NJ Transit bus terminal. This transportation terminal is an integral piece of Hudson County history as it allowed passengers to travel to the waterfront and into Manhattan. The PATH Plaza is also home to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey headquarters. Fun fact: when the PATH Plaza originally opened and until 1925, it was known as “Summit Avenue Station” of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad.

Stop #2: Jackie Robinson Statue

No need to leave Stop #1, just look around. Situated in the PATH Plaza you’ll find the Jackie Robinson statue.

Jackie Robinson was the first African-American man to play professionally in Major League Baseball. He started his career in the MLB for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. But what links him specifically to Journal Square is that before he made it to the MLB, Jackie made his professional baseball debut on a triple AAA minor league team. His first-ever game as a Montreal Royal was at Roosevelt Field in Journal Square. Roosevelt Field was built in 1936 but demolished in 1982. It was the home field of local high school football and baseball teams, the Jersey City Giants and even the Brooklyn Dodgers for a handful of games. Needless to say, the legendary Jackie Robinson statue in JSQ honors the player who broke barriers for not just the sport of baseball, but all sports. The statue was crafted by a sculptor by the name of Susan Wagner and dedicated on February 26th, 1998 by the Jackie Robinson Foundation, in partnership with the city of Jersey City, the New Jersey Sports History Commission, the Port Authority, and others. The 14 foot tall, bronze statue has an inscription that reads: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Stop #3: The Stanley Theatre

There are two theaters in the neighborhood, but thankfully their names are quite visible on each building. Look for the theater with a copper facade, and you’ll find The Stanley Theater.

The Stanley Theater was built in 1928 to serve as a movie house and “vaudeville,” which is defined as “a type of entertainment popular in the U.S. in the early 20th century, featuring a mixture of specialty acts such as burlesque comedy and song and dance.” The theater was built in the classic Gothic-style and is a massive structure. The interior of the building is said to be quite extravagant — with a copper marquee greeting you at the entrance, followed by a grand staircase and impressive chandeliers. In fact, the largest chandelier in the home is from New York’s original Waldorf Astoria of the 1880s. The Stanley Theater has welcomed performers like The Three Stooges, Tony Bennett, Janis Joplin, Dolly Parton, and the Grateful Dead to its stage until the theater closed in 1978. Since 1983, the Theater has been owned by the Watch Tower Society for use as a Jehovah’s Witness Convention Hall.

Stop #4: The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre

Off to the next theater, back past the PATH Plaza, we go!

The Loew’s Jersey Theater opened on September 28th, 1929, and was founded by Marcus Loew, who was also one of the founders of the MGM Studios. The ornate decor and structure of the building made for a $2MM investment and was what Loew considered one of his five “Wonder Theaters” in the New York City area for its grandiosity. The first show to ever play at the Loew’s Jersey Theater was Madame X, a live musical about a mother yearning to reunite with her son. Tickets cost only .35! Past and present, the Loew’s Theater is committed to showcasing a diverse set of programming, both film and stage performances, that speak to varying generations and cultures in the Hudson County community. In 1986, the Theater closed indefinitely. In 1993, it was purchased by an organization known now as “Friends of the Loews,” which relies on the help of volunteers to preserve and maintain the beauty of the space. In addition to showcasing movies and films, the Loew’s Theater has become the home of the Golden Door Film Festival, acts as a venue for corporate and fundraising events, and occasionally invites musicians to perform on their stage. Check out our article highlighting the Loew’s Theater after it celebrated its 90th-anniversary last year. According to recent news, Jersey City is moving forward on a $40 million renovation of the Theater, who is currently seeking a commercial operator.

Stop #5: Boulevard Drinks

Hop, skip or dance your way over from Stop #4 next door, and make sure you arrive on an empty stomach.

Arguably the most delicious piece of Journal Square history lies on the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Bergen Avenue, just across the street from the PATH plaza. Boulevard Drinks has been serving up award-winning hot dogs to its loyal customers since 1937. That’s 83 years! This local and historical spot is known for its chili dogs. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the hot dog.

Stop #6: Van Wagenen House

Follow Bergen Avenue away from the PATH plaza. Make a right when you hit Academic Street and you’ll find Stop #6.

The Apple Tree House, also known as the Van Wagenen House, gained its name from the story of the 1780 meeting of General George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette during the American Revolution. Legends state that while camped in the village of Bergen for days, Washington and Lafayette dined in the yard of the house “underneath an apple tree” and discussed strategy for French naval intervention in the war. Today, it is currently used as office space for lectures, community meetings, and gatherings of the Jersey City Office of Cultural Affairs.

Stop #7: Jersey City Armory

Walk back down Academic Street towards the Waterfront until you reach Summit Avenue. Make a right and walk until you hit Montgomery Street and stumble upon Stop #7 .

The Jersey City Armory is home to the New Jersey National Guard and was built in 1937 . The armory also operates as a sports arena for high school and collegiate levels, most often for track and field, basketball, boxing, and mixed martial arts. A few fun facts: The Jersey City Armory was the home court for the New Jersey Nets inaugural season. Due to its massive size <175,000 square feet>, the Armory was often used as a film studio. A Bronx Tale <1993>filmed scenes there!

Stop #8: Jersey City and Harismus Cemetery

Walk uptown on Summit Avenue and make a right when you reach Magnolia Avenue.

The historic Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery was created in 1829, although its historical significance draws back even further. The land is said to have been the site of battles of the Revolutionary War in the 1700s, and even an active Ammunition Bunker during the War of 1812. According to the website, the cemetery is the final resting place of thousands who lost their lives in the Revolutionary & Civil Wars, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, WWI, and WW II, forward, as well as home to our earliest Jersey City founders, leaders, residents, and legends. While the property had been neglected and abandoned for quite some time, in early 2008 a volunteer Board of Trustees was formed to maintain and preserve the cemetery. Earlier this year, NJ.com shared a wonderful story about the cemetery’s live-in caretaker, John Wilson, who has transformed the ground’s gardens from ruins to a thriving community space over the past 10 years in his role.

Stop #9: William L. Dickinson High School

From Stop #8, follow Newark Avenue until it hits Palisade Avenue and you’ll spot Stop #9.

Once called Jersey City High School, the monstrosity of a building opened its doors to students on September 6th, 1906 for the first time. At the time, local politicians pushed for the school’s opening in an effort to help alleviate a major city issue— overcrowded public schools. The school was renamed to William L. Dickinson High School in 1913 to celebrate and pay homage to the superintendent who had advocated for the school’s opening during his term between 1872-1833. Famous events held in Dickinson High School’s original, 2,000 seat auditorium include a lecture by Helen Keller and political rallies for United States Presidents Taft, Wilson, and Roosevelt.

The school is three stories high and recognizable by its Corinthian-style columns in the front of the building. The property sits atop Bergen Hill and overlooks downtown Jersey City. According to New Jersey City University research, the land where the high school resides is known to have been an ideal vantage point used by George Washington during the Revolutionary War as it allowed him and his troops to observe British movements in Paulus Hook as well as across the Hudson River in lower Manhattan. In 1813, an arsenal was built on the property to protect the NY Harbor from potential destruction and to house a hospital for soldiers.

Stop #10: Hudson County Courthouse or William J. Brennan Courthouse

Continue walking uptown on Newark Ave from Stop #9 until this big building comes into sight.

The six-story tall Hudson County Courthouse opened on September 10th, 1910. The courthouse was used as the primary government house in Hudson County until the Hudson County Administration Building opened in 1966. As the story goes, the building was up for demolition after years of vacancy. But in 1970, the building was listed under the National Register of Historic places thanks to the work of volunteers. From there, restoration on the courthouse began. In 1984, The Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted to rename the building to honor Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Today, the courthouse has eight working courtrooms and holds the offices of the County Executive, the Hudson County Surrogate, and the Hudson County Bar Association. Fun fact: The courthouse has been filmed in multiple commercials, scenes in Law & Order, and The Joker!

Stop #11: Newkirk / Summit House

Walk down Baldwin Avenue from Stop #10, and make a right onto Magnolia Avenue. From there, make your way to Summit Street. When you arrive at Newkirk House, you’ll find yourself just a block away from where we started at Stop #1: the JSQ Path Plaza.

Known to be the oldest surviving structure in Hudson County, the Newkirk House is a two-story Dutch Colonial-style home that dates back to 1960. The building stands just outside of the boundaries of the historic village of Bergen that was originally home to Dutch settlers. The Newkirk House was a piece of real estate that remained in the Newkirk family from 1659 until 1889, when John Newkirk and his son Jacob, Hudson County freeholders, sold the property. It was then used as an orphanage, and later as a slew of retail businesses. It wasn’t until 1979 that the Newkirk House was listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. That same year, it became a restaurant known as the Summit House, which unfortunately closed in 2018. The building is vacant today.

Written by: Nicole Gittleman

Nicole is a born and bred Jersey girl. Originally from Bergen County, she's called Jersey City home since 2016. After years of working in NYC at marketing agencies for big brands, her entrepreneurial spirit led her to turn her side hustle into her day job. An all-around champion for small businesses, Nicole loves to shop, eat, drink, and share all things local to New Jersey on her Instagram page, @heynicoleraye. When she isn't curating content or networking, she can be found exploring NJ neighborhoods with her college sweetheart, whipping up a home-cooked meal, planning a get-together for her friends, redecorating her apartment, rooting for her favorite teams (go NJ Devils!), or plotting her next adventure.

Our History

The longest continuous congregation in New Jersey is the Old Bergen Church in Jersey City. It began at the time of Dutch settlement in the area its more than 340-year history grants it a special place in the history of Jersey City.

In 1660, the settlers of the village of Bergen sought the founding of a place of worship. They began by holding services in a log schoolhouse and then decided to build a new structure for their congregation, the First Dutch Reformed Church. Shortly, in 1661, a burial ground and about four acres of land for a church were reserved for that purpose. They also started raising funds for the construction by collecting 417 guilders by taxation the following year.

In 1680, the octagonal, sandstone church with roof sloping to a point was constructed by William Day. It was located at the highest section of the Old Bergen Cemetery at Vroom Street, between Bergen and Tuers Avenues. A history of the church, describes the building as follows: “Its windows were quite high from the ground probably as much for protection from the Indians as to prevent the children from looking out during the services. The archways over the door and windows were ornamented with small bricks imported from Holland. The church was surmounted by a brass rooster used as a weathercock” (“Brief History of Old Bergen Church,” 2-3).

At the opening of the Old Octagonal Church on May 23, 1681, the Reverend Casper Van Zuiren from Long Island preached the first sermon. The congregation, consisting of members from the Bergen Township and Communipaw, eventually outgrew the Octagonal Church. Under its first regular pastor, Dominie William Jackson (1757-1793), the congregation built a second church on the southeast corner at Bergen Avenue and Vroom Street in 1773. It too was built of sandstone the weather vane from the previous church was attached to its spire. It was eventually placed on the cupola of the Columbian Academy, now the site of the Martin Luther King, Jr. School on Academy Street and Bergen Academy.

New Jersey colonists were divided in their sympathies during the Revolutionary War. Historian Richard McCormack claims that “The Conservative branch of the Dutch Reformed Church . . . was preponderantly Tory, especially in Bergen County (128).” However, the Reverend Jackson, a skilled orator, openly addressed his congregation about support for the patriots. His comments resulted in a personal reprimand before Lord Howe, the British Commander of New York. The Reverend John Cornelison (1793-1828) succeeded Jackson during his long tenure, Cornelison held services for slaves in his home, some becoming members of the congregation.

The third and present structure, now called the Old Bergen Church, was builtin 1841 on the site of the old parsonage and dedicated on July 14, 1842. Located on Bergen Avenue at Highland Avenue, it is one hundred yards from the earlier two buildings. The Greek Revival style one-story structure features a full-length portico with post supported by six columns in front of a brownstone façade. It was built by William H. Kirk and Company and Clark and Van Nest of Newark, New Jersey. In the center of the façade is the church tablet of white marble on black marble and inserted cornerstone. Also from the façade, two doors open to the vestibule. Stone from the 1773 church is embedded in the south wall of the church. Atop the church is a wooden belfry. Below the eave is a wooden facia around the roof line.

The interior has a balcony and features mahogany decor. The stained glass windows reveal the benefactors and founding members of the congregation and community. They were contributed by the Van Reypen, Newkirk, Van Horne, Sip, and Van Winkle families, among others. An original signed Louis Tiffany stained glass window is in the sanctuary. Until the early nineteenth century, church records and sermons were preserved in Dutch.

In 1900 a Sunday school was added at the northwest corner. A Memorial Chapel, constructed in 1959, honors the men and women of the congregation who served in the military during World War II. A meeting room, named for the Reverend Dr. Cornelius Brett (1876-1916) built in 1924, contains artifacts from the earlier churches. Among the items are two communion cups made from silver by Hendrikus Boele in 1730. They have been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 1970, the Old Bergen Church and the Trinity United Presbyterian Church formed a union. The Trinity Church, which served the same area of Jersey City, was an outgrowth of the merger of the First Presbyterian Church founded in 1809) and the Westminster Presbyterian Church (founded in 1869). The new federated church retains the name “Old Bergen” Church.

In the 1980s, the Old Bergen Church helped to develop the Newport Interfaith Center sponsored by six denominations to a ddress the religious needs of Jersey City’s new residents at the Newport section of Jersey City. T he Chapel of Peace is also used by the new Filipino congregation of the Evangelical Methodist Church and the Asian Indian congregation of the Reformed (RCA) and Presbyterian (PCUSA)Churches.

Jersey City - History

Jersey City, NJ from

JERSEY CITY lies on the west hank of the Hudson, opposite New York, on a peninsula, the Indian name of which was Arese-heck. It was sometimes called, by the Dutch, Areseck-Houck. Soon after the arrival, in 1638, of William Kieft, Director-general of the Dutch West India Co., he had in his possession a farm, described as a lot of land called Paulus Hoeck, which is the first application of the name of Paulus Hook to this peninsula.

Powles Hook, from a very remote period, belonged to the Van Vorst family and in 1804 was vested in Cornelius Van Vorst. On the 10th Nov. 1804, an act to incorporate the Associates of the Jersey Co. was passed by the legislature of the state, to whom the title by this time was conveyed. On the 28th Jan. 1820, an act to incorporate the City of Jersey, in the county of Bergen, was passed under which, and the various supplements and amendments thereto since passed, this city has continued to this time.

The city, although small, is well laid out, with wide and commodious streets, and contains many large and elegant dwellings. It is the seat of justice for Hudson co., and a port of entry, annexed 1:o the collection ttistrict of New York, together with all that part of New Jersey lying north and east of Elizabethtown and Staten Island. It was a mere village at the time of its incorporation, in 1820, containing only about 300 inhabitants. It has since been very thriving, and now has a population of about 4,000. It contains 5 churches. of which the first-named is the oldest 1 Episcopal, 1 Reformed Dutch, 1 Congregational, 1 Methodist, and 1 Catholic a female academy, in fine repute, (Misses Edwards, principals) an excellent high-school for males, (W. L. Dickinson, Esq., principal) the American Pottery Co., who make beautiful deiftware the Jersey City Glass Co., conducted by Phineas C. Dummer & Co., which employs 100 hands, and manufactures plain and cut glass 1 newspaper printing-office, 3 lumber-yards, 2 ironfoundries, and many stores and mechanic shops. The city is well lighted with street-lamps.

This is now the principal starting-point of the great line of southern travel. The New Jersey railroad commences here, and, in connection with other railroads, extends to Philadelphia. The Paterson and Hudson railroad also commences at this place, diverging from the New Jersey railroad at Bergen Hill thence running to Paterson, a distance of 16½ miles. This road will ultimately ex tend amd unite with the Eric railroad, in which event this city will be vastly benefited. The Morris canal also terminates at J ersey City, after pursuing a circuitous route, from the Delaware river, of 101 miles. In its course it has a total rise and fall of 1669 feet, which is overcome by locks and inclined planes. The summit level is 915 feet above the Atlantic ocean. From the magnitude of the public works terminating at this point, Jersey City must fast increase in importance and population, being closely allied to New York, (distant one mile,) with which communication is had every 15 minutes, by a line of excellent ferry-boats, nowhere4surpassed.

In the war of the revolution, the spot where Jersey City now stands was an outpost of the British army, during their occupancy of New York. Their fort on Powles Hook, as the place was then called, was located near the building lately used by the Morris Canal and Banking Co., for their banking-house, at the corner of Grand and Greene sts. The graveyard was near the site of the Episcopal church. In grading the streets, a few years since, in that neighborhood, human remains were disinterred, together with a variety of military relics. In the latter part of the summer of 1779, this fortress was surprised by Maj. Lee the following account of which is from Marshall's Life of Washington:

While Sir Henry Clinton continued encamped just above Haerlem, with his upper posts at Kingsbridge, and the American army preserved its. station in the Highlands, a bold plan was formed for surprising a British post at Powles Hook, which was executed with great address by Maj. Lee.

This officcr was employed on the west side of the river, with directions to observe the situation of the British in Stony Point, but, principally, to watch the motions of their main army. While his parties scoured the country, he obtained intelligence which suggested the idea of surprising and carrying off the garrison at Powles Hook, immediately opposite the town of New York, penetrating deep into the river. On the point nearest New York, some works had been constructed, which were garrisoned by four or five hundred men.

A deep ditch, into which the water of the river flowed, having over it a drawbridge connected with a barred gate, had been cut across the istlunus, so as to make the Hook, in reality, an island. This ditch could be passed only at low water. Thirty feet within it was a row of abattis running into the river and sonic distance in front of it is a creek, fordable only in two places.

This difficulty of access, added to the remoteness of the nearest corps of the American army, impressed the garrison with the opinion that they were perfectly secure and this opinion produced an unmilitary remissness in the commanding officer, which did not escape the vigilance of Lee.

On receiving his communication, Gen. Washington was inclined to favor the enterprise they suggested but withheld his full assent until he was satisfied that the assailants would be able to make good their retreat.

The Hackensack, which communicates with the waters of the Hudson below New York, runs ahnost parallel with that river quite to its source, and is separated from it only a few miles. This neck is still further narrowed by a deep creek which divides it, and empties into the Hackensack below Fort Lee. West of that river runs the Passaic, which unites with it near Newark, and forms another long and narrow neck of land. From Powies Hook to the new bridge, the first place where the Hackensack could be crossed without boats, the distance is fourteen miles and from the North river to the road leading from the one place to the other, there are three points of interception, the nearest of which is less than two miles, and the farthest not more than three. The British were encamped in full force along the North river, opposite to the points of interception. To diminish the danger of the retreat, it was intended to occupy the roads leading through the mountains of the Hudson, to the Hackensack, with a select body oLtroops.

Every preparatory arrangement being made, the night of the 18th of August was fixed on for the enterprise. A detachment from the division of Lord Stirling, including 300 men, designed for the expedition, was ordered down as a foraging party. As there was nothing unusual in this movement, it excited no suspicion. Lord Stirling followed with 500 men, and encamped at the new bridge.

Maj. Lee, at the head of 300 men, took the road through the mountains, which ran parallel to the North river and, having secured all the passes into York island, reached the creek which surrounds the Hook, between two and three in the morning. He passed first the creek, and then the ditch, undiscovered, and about three in the morning entered the main work and, with the loss of only two killed and three wounded, made 159 prisoners, including three officers. Very few of the British were killed. Maj. Sutherland, who commanded the garrison, threw himself, with 40 or 50 Hessians, into a strong redoubt, which it was thought unadvisable to attack, because the time occupied in carrying it might endanger the retreat. Wasting no time in destroying what could easily be replaced, Maj. Lee hastened to bring off his prisoners and his detachment.

To avoid the danger of retreating up the narrow neck of land which has already been described, some boats had been brought, in the course of the night, to Dow's Ferry, on the Hackensack, not far from Powles Hook. The officer who guarded them was direct.. cd to remain until the arrival of the troops engaged in the expedition, which, it was understood, would happen before day. The light having made its appearance without any intelligence from Maj. Lee, the officer having charge of the boats conjectured that the attack had been postponed and, to avoid discovery, retired with them to Newark. The head of the retreating column soon afterward reached the ferry and, fatigued as they were by the toilsome march of the preceding night, were compelled to pass as rapidly as possible up the narrow neck of land, between the two rivers, to the new bridge. A horseman was dispatched, with this information, to Lord Stirling, and the line of march was resumed.

About in the preceding evening, Maj. Buskirk had been detached up the North river, with a considerable part of the garrison of Powles Hook, and some other troops, for the purpose ol falling in with the American party, supposed to be foraging about the English Neighborhood.

On receiving intelligence of the disappointment respecting the boats, Lord Stirling tock the precaution to detach Col. Ball, with 200 fresh men, to meet Lee, and cover his retreat. Just after Ball had passed, Buskirk entered the main road, and fired on his rear. Taking it for granted that this was only the advanced corps of a large detachment, sent to intercept the party retreating from Powles Hook, Ball made a circuit to avoid the enemy and Buskirk, finding a detachment be had not expected, took the same measure to secure his own retreat. The two parties, narrowly missing each other, returned to their respective points of departure and Lee reached the new bridge without interruption.

This critical enterprise reflected much honor on the partisan with whom it originated, and by whom it was conductcd. Gen. Washington announced it to the army, in his orders, with ]nuch approbation and congress bestowed upon it a degree of applause more adapted to the talent displayed in performing the service than to its magnitude.

Stanley Theatre

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Additional Info

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 201.377.3100

Nearby Theaters

Built as the flagship of the Stanley-Fabian chain, the massive and ornate Stanley Theatre was the 6th largest movie palace in the country at the time of its opening. It was also the 2nd largest Atmospheric style movie theatre ever built in the USA, and ultimately the 11th largest movie theatre ever built in America.

The Stanley Theatre was opened on March 28, 1928 with the feature film &ldquoThe Dove&rdquo starring Norma Tallmadge and Gilbert Roland. The supporting progam included a stage show entitled &ldquoSky Blues&rdquo, a newsreel and selections played on the &lsquoMighty&rsquo Wurlitzer organ (Opus 1836, type SP-3M, 3 manual, 27 ranks). Actress Norma Talmadge appeared &lsquoin person&rsquo on opening night.

Passing under the enormous copper marquee, and the polished brass doors topped with intricate stained glass windows, one enters a spacious three-story lobby with Corinthian columns, a grand central staircase with tromp l'oeil alabaster handrails, elaborate railings, medallions, and stained glass windows overlooking the outer foyer. The lobby is topped with an Atmospheric style ceiling, from which hang two enormous chandeliers, the larger one (13 feet tall, 10 feet wide) originally hung in the original 1893-built, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York.

The auditorium is literally an acre of seats set in a Venice courtyard, with an 85-foot high Atmospheric style &lsquosky&rsquo ceiling and a proscenuim arch based on the Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy. Marble for the columns came from Italy, Texas and Vermont. Ones eyes will feast on a wealth of ornate arches, columns, balusters, urns, terra cotta, decorative plasterwork, marble columns in green, orange and cream, topped with pediments tastefully decked out in gold leaf. The proscenium is an imposing white stone arch with a beautiful frieze in beige and white. Above is an enormous expanse of smooth plaster arching 85 feet over the auditorium providing the Atmospheric style ceiling, complete with twinkling stars and clouds slowly drifting across, courtesy of the Bronkfort Brenograph projector.

Most of the seats are in the orchestra, with the remainder in a relatively shallow balcony. This coupled with the relatively low ceiling gives a wide and open feel to the space, adding to the serene, outdoor setting in a most convincing way.

For some years, the Stanley Theatre had stage shows to accompany the film presentations, and many of the greatest stars of their day, from Tony Bennett to The Three Stooges made appearances. The Stanley-Fabian chain was acquired by Warner Brothers in late-1928, and the Stanley Theatre remained a Warner Bros. operated theatre until the anti-trust decree of the late-1940&rsquos forced studios to divest themselves of their theatres. The chain was spun off as Stanley-Warner, later becoming acquired by RKO.

The Stanley Theatre continued as a premier movie venue for decades - even in the early-1960&rsquos it was still a place to get &lsquodressed up for&rsquo. The engagement of &ldquoWhatever Happened to Baby Jane?&rdquo, starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford broke all attendance records. Through the 1960&rsquos, the Stanley Theatre struggled (as did all movie palaces) with the rush to the suburbs and the growth of television. It became a fairly popular spot for major concerts (including the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Tony Bennett etc.) but movie attendance dropped drastically, and the building became quite deteriorated, suffering from water damage, peeling plaster, ill-advised &lsquorefreshing&rsquo (i.e. painting all the metal grillework glossy blue, selling the organ and most of the lobby furniture). It became dark and dingy, with the balcony and the front of the orchesta seats closed off. Finally, it could hold on no longer and was closed on April 20, 1978.

As mentioned above, the &lsquoMighty&rsquo Wurlitzer organ was sold off in the early-1970&rsquos, and is currently very active entertaining school groups and concertgoers at the Van Andel City Museum in Grand Rapids, MI.

For several years, the fate of the Stanley Theatre looked quite grim - downtonwn had seriously declined as a shopping destination, there was no future seen for these beloved movie palaces (several prominent ones were torn down at that time, including the Metropolitan Theatre, Baltimore, the Alhambra Theatre, Cleveland, Keith&rsquos Theatre, Washington and the Rialto Theatre, Chicago. For a time it looked as if the Stanley Theatre would meet the same fate.

However, in one of the most significant movie palace restorations ever, it was purchased by the Watchtower Bible and Tract society in 1983 to be restored as a regional Jehovah&rsquos Witnesses Assembly Hall. The Witnesses then set about on a massive and sensitive restoration project, entirely undertaken by thousands of volunteers, to completely clean, repair and restore the building to its original appearance. Fortunately, despite the years of neglect, the Stanley Theatre was virtually intact, having never been multiplexed or converted into other uses.

Plaster was repaired and rebuilt to original appearance and colors, as were the chandeliers, marble columns, stained glass, railings and the Atmospheric style ceiling. The massive marquee was restored and polished to its original brilliant copper hue so were the original ticket booths and heavy brass doors the metal is polished on a regular basis. The courtyard setting of the auditorium is simply breathtaking, in its original colors unlike many movie palaces which are bright and flashy, this space is restrained and elegant, with a sophisticated color palette that doesn&rsquot jump out at you until you are close and can see the many colors and shades that combine to create the beautiful esthetics.

There were only minimal changes necessary for the building to accomodate the religious needs of the new owners. Because of the readings done during services, the ceiling was painted white and lighted with brilliant halogen lighting, to good effect. The allegorical murals which were originally painted by Hungarian artist Willy Pogany, and were located on the walls of the lobby area, were said to have deteriorated beyond repair, and they were replaced by beautiful painted scenes more appropriate for a house of worship. The orchestra pit was converted into a baptismal pool. A slightly darker patch in the ceiling near the proscenium arch hides the sound system. After nine months of restoration provided by over 5,000 church members, the new Assembly Hall opened in August 1985, and has been the site for their religious conventions ever since. In more recent years, the Assembly purchased the space next door to the theatre and built an addition, to provide for more meeting rooms and offices.

The Assembly Hall/Stanley Theatre is open for free tours throughout the weekdays, conducted by courteous and knowledgeable volunteer tour-guides (these must be pre-booked via e-mail or telephone at least a couple of days in advance tour times are between 8am-noon and 1pm-4:15pm). The tours are extensive and include a DVD presentation of the building&rsquos history and the Assembly&rsquos mission, and includes a complementary pack of postcards of the building. They will also lower the lights and turn on the stars and clouds during the slide presentation. Everyone is welcome to attend the weekend services, although they wont be able to give formal tours or demonstate the stars and clouds at that time.

The staff are very interested in further documenting the history of the Stanley Theatre&rsquos early years, and encourage anyone with historical information or personal memories to contact them via e-mail: or on the telephone number above.

Watch the video: JERSEY CITY TOUR: its history + waterfront (January 2022).