The Dutch rowed across the Hudson River from New Amsterdam and established the first community here in 1642. It is remembered for America’s first brewery that was set up in those last days before English rule but not much else. It was mostly just tidal marshes and swampland.
It was the estate of an Englishman named William Bayard who originally was with the revolutionary cause but reverted back to the Loyalists after New York fell in 1776. His property was seized by the new Americans after the Revolutionary War and put up for auction. Bidding was not spirited but it cost Colonel John Stevens 18,360 pounds sterling for 564 acres. Stevens set about developing the waterfront for what he saw as a resort for New Yorkers. The rich and famous did make their way here and eventually America’s first yacht club was founded in Hoboken.
But real estate was not his main game. Stevens would shortly be developing one of the world’s first steamboats and the first to sail on the open ocean and serve as a ferry on the Hudson River. In 1825 he built an early steam locomotive. Before his death in 1838, Stevens founded The Hoboken Land Improvement Company, which during the mid- and late-19th century was managed by his heirs and laid out a regular system of streets, blocks and lots, and constructed housing.
Soon Hoboken morphed from a community of beer gardens and nature walks to a manufacturing center and a busy port. The dock workers gave Hoboken a legacy of grit and toughness, immortalized in the Hollywood classic, On the Waterfront, that spent a month filming on location here. It was said that some blocks contained 50 saloons.
But Hoboken’s identity was about to make another 180-degree turn. Ferry service stopped in 1966. The big manufacturers of tea and coffee and slide rulers all left. Everyone of them. Developers moved in with deep pockets and discovered Hoboken’s wealth of old buildings, none too high, four-and five-stories at the tallest. There were brownstones and Victorian public buildings and old piers and factories waiting to be torn down or re-developed. Hoboken was at the forefront of gentrification.
The result is that our walking tour of the town, only a dense one mile square, will be mostly a residential walk, although for the most part it didn’t start out that way...
Church Square Park
between Fourth and Fifth streets and Garden Street and Willow Avenue
This patch of greenspace was a gift from Colonel John Stevens in 1804 but it didn’t take the shape of a formal park until 1873. Today the park, dominated by playgrounds, features a hodgepodge of memorials including a firefighters’ memorial; a tribute to the inventor of the wireless, Guglielmo Marconi; and the Four Chaplains Monument honoring four clergy of differing faiths who died while attending to the crew of the torpedoed USS Dorchester in World War II.
WALK OVER TO THE NORTH SIDE OF THE PARK, IN THE MIDDLE AT THE CORNER OF FIFTH STREET AND PARK AVENUE.
Hoboken Public Library
500 Park Avenue
The Hoboken Public Library was the third library in New Jersey to be established under the General Library Act of 1894, trailing Paterson and Newark. After lending books from the basement of the Second National Bank a design competition was held and local architect Albert Beyer won the commission. He delivered a classical Italian Renaissance building of Indiana limestone on the ground floor and yellow brick and terra-cotta on the top stories. When the library opened onApril 5, 1897 the corner dome was sheathed in copper. This has been the library’s only home and inside the original decorative ceilings, woodwork, and metal stairs remain.
FACING THE LIBRARY, TURN LEFT AND WALK OVER TO THE WEST SIDE OF THE PARK.
Our Lady of Grace Church
400 Willow Avenue
Our Lady of Grace was founded in 1851 as one of the first Catholic parishes in the United States. Francis George Himpler, noted as a designer of large cathedrals and churches around the country provided the plans for this German Gothic sanctuary, once the largest Roman Catholic Church in New Jersey. On the Waterfront, the 1954 tale of corruption, extortion and racketeering on the Hudson River docks that is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all American films, was filmed over 36 days on location in Hoboken. While the piers and warehouses and crowded workers’ housing have been relegated to the history books a few movie locations remain. Our Lady of Grace Church was used for the interior shots of Karl Malden’s church in the movie.
FACING THE CHURCH, TURN RIGHT TO LEAVE THE PARK ALONG WILLOW AVENUE.
Church of the Holy Innocents
Willow Avenue at Sixth Street
The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents was begun in the 1870s as a congregation for Irish and German immigrants to Hoboken. Three of America’s noted ecclesiastical architects had a hand in the creation of the High Victorian Gothic church, built in 1874 by the Stevens family as a monument to their young daughter Julia who died of typhoid.. New York architect Edward Tuckerman Potter, nephew of one Episcopal bishop and son of another, designed the original polychromatic structure in 1874 of brownstone with bands of white and red sandstone. In the 1880s William Halsey Wood contributed to the parish house and rectory and in 1895 Henry Vaughan expanded the building and added the central tower.
TURN RIGHT ON SIXTH STREET.
601 Park Avenue
In the 1860s there was no bi-lingual education for the thousands of new German immigrants to Hoboken, considered the “most German country in America.” Edwin A. Stevens donated land and money to provide such an education. The Martha Institute was named for his wife. The town’s oldest school stood on this site from 1866 to 1999, doing duty as the Manual Trade School, Hoboken’s first public high school, the Stevens Academy, and the Normal School, a teacher training institute. As the Hudson School, the building was crumbling at its foundation so the present building was designed as a faithful re-creation, including the graceful Federal-style double staircase.
Stephen Collins Foster House
601 Bloomfield Street
Stephen Foster was the creator of popular music in America, composing such 19th century standards as “Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races,” “Old Folks at Home” (Swanee River), “My Old Kentucky Home,” and “Beautiful Dreamer.” Born in Pittsburgh on July 4, 1826, the same day that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died, Foster lived in many places in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York but this is considered the only house still standing in which he was known to have lived. It was while living here that “Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair” was published June 5, 1854. “Hoboken” is penned on the original manuscript. Foster attempted to make a living as a professional songwriter in the days before copyright and composer royalties and died impoverished in lower Manhattan at the age of 37.
CONTINUE TO WASHINGTON STREET AND TURN LEFT.
Lawton-Turso Funeral Home
633 Washington Street
Dating back to 1855, this is the oldest active funeral home in Hoboken. The eye-catching 800-piece, leaded and beveled glass window was imported from Europe and dates from 1913.
All Saints Episcopal Church
701 Washington Street
This fine stone church was consecrated in 1856 as Trinity Episcopal, designed by America’s leading cheerleader for the ecclesiastical Gothic style, Richard Upjohn. Today All Saints represents the consolidation of all the town’s Episcopal congregations that date back to 1832 with St. Paul’s.
1005 Washington Street
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is an American fraternal order and social club founded in 1868. It claims nearly one million members, including five 20th century Presidents. Hoboken Lodge #74 was founded in 1888 as New Jersey’s first chapter. This lodge is now more than 100 years old, designed in 1906 by G. B. McIntyre. Bowling lanes, which still remain, were constructed in the basement.
TURN LEFT ON ELEVENTH STREET AND WALK ONE BLOCK TO BLOOMFIELD STREET.
The Columbia Club
northeast corner of Bloomfield and Eleventh Streets
Henry Hobson Richardson, America’s most famous architect of the post Civil War period, made a contribution to the Hoboken streetscape with this corner showpiece in 1891. It features many of Richardson’s Romanesque-inspired trademarks - a conical tower, rounded archways and bands of multi-colored rough-cut stone. The Columbia Club,a private gentleman’s society, was richly appointed with sitting rooms, a library and recreation areas. After enduring a multitude of uses throughout the 1900s it has been restored as luxury apartments. Look on the Eleventh Street elevation for a terra cotta facsimile of Columbia, the symbol of progress.
WALK BACK TO WASHINGTON STREET AND TURN LEFT, CONTINUING TO TRAVEL NORTH.
1200 block of Washington Street; east (river) side
In 1998, American Heritage Magazine compiled a list of the 40 richest Americans in history, based on 1998 dollars. There were 39 men and one woman on the list. The richest American woman who ever lived was Hetty Green, whose fortune when she died in 1916 was estimated at more than $100 million (over $17 billion in adjusted dollars). Hetty Green was famous in her day, not as much for her great wealth as for her great parsimony. Hetty Green made her money the old-fashioned way - she inherited it. Born into a prosperous whaling family in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1834, Hetty Howland Robinson began a life-long love affair with numbers and money at the age of 6 when she tagged along with her father reading him financial newspapers. When she turned 13 she began working as a bookkeeper in the family business. She invested her earnings in the bonds market and established a pattern of conservative investing which was to serve her the rest of her days. Upon her father’s death, Hetty inherited one million dollars and a four million dollar trust fund. Always suspicious that prospective suitors were only interested in her money, Hetty Robinson did not marry until 33 when she wed businessman Edward Henry Green. Hetty was the superior money manager and when she was forced to pay one of his debts, she rid herself both of the debt and of Ted. After her ex-husband died in 1902, she moved from his hometown of Bellows Falls, Vermont to Hoboken to be closer to her money in the Chemical National Bank on lower Broadway. Taking to wearing black, she traveled to her bankers’ offices every day. The combination of her attire and eccentricities earned her the nickname “The Witch of Wall Street.” Why Hoboken and not Manhattan? She was able to find lodging in these apartments, known at various times as the Elysian Apartments and El Dorado Apartments, for $19 a month. Under various names she lived out her days here moving from flat to flat. She got by on living expenses of $5 a week. These frequent appearances only served to heighten the legend of Hetty Green. She would walk out of her way to buy broken cookies in bulk. She wore the same dress day after day until it was in tatters. When she absolutely had to wash the garment, she often instructed that it be laundered only on the bottom where it was dirty. Lunch would be a serving of oatmeal warmed on an office radiator. Her one extravagance seemed to be her dog, who ate better than Hetty. When Hetty Green died in 1916 at the age of 81, her entire fortune was left to her son and daughter. They apparently did not learn their mother’s lessons well. Both spent the money freely and generously.
Hoboken Fire Department Engine Company No. 2
1313 Washington Street
The Hoboken Village Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1847 after lightning strike fires destroyed many homes and businesses. On July 18, 1889, the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company donated the land for a firehouse on the east side of Washington Street between Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets. Two years later the paid fire department was started. This compact one-bay Romanesque firehouse is one of six in the city listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
1400 Washington Street
Founded in 1983, the Hudson Reporter publishes nine weekly newspapers around Hudson County. The publishing concern has reworked the splendidly decorated Beaux Arts vault that was once home to the Up-Town Bank. Look closely at the clock above the corner entrance - it admonishes passersby, no doubt tens of thousands of waterfront workers back n the day, to “Deposit Your Money.”
Lipton Tea Building
1500 Washington Street
Many of the fortunes made in the 19th century were by European immigrants who applied Old World skills in their adopted land of America. Thomas Lipton was different. He came to America, looked around for awhile, and took what he learned in the New World back to Scotland to make one of the greatest fortunes of all. Lipton began work at the age of ten in 1860 to help his family. He toiled as a stationer’s apprentice, a hosier’s helper,, and a cabin boy before scraping together $18 for steerage to New York city in the spring of 1865. Upon arrival he struck a deal at dockside to round up a dozen lodgers in exchange for a free room for himself. The post-Civil War South needed labor to rebuild and Lipton showed up in the South Carolina rice fields, on the New Orleans streets as a carman, in Charleston fighting fires and keeping books on a plantation. He finally returned to New York City to work as a grocery clerk, saved $500 and returned to Glasgow and apply the American techniques of merchandising and advertising to his own store. Soon he was operating twenty shops - the forerunner of today’s food chains. His specialty was opening new stores with monster cheeses inserted with gold sovereigns awaiting lucky purchasers. Thomas Lipton was 40 years old before he sold an ounce of tea. The British had been drinking tea for 200 years, but it was expensive, sold from ornate chests and carefully weighed out. Lipton reasoned that he could attract business by packaging tea in tiny packets and creating a single brand, rather than a commodity. In 1893, he established the Thomas J Lipton Co., a tea packing company with its headquarters and factory on these docks. Within five years he was one of the world’s richest men and knighted by Queen Victoria. Sir Thomas Lipton became a member of the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce in 1919 and today his processing plant, where ships delivering cargoes of tea anchored alongside the building to unload directly on to its dock, has been redeveloped as luxury residences.
RETURN TO FOURTEENTH STREET AND TURN LEFT, WALKING TOWARDS THE HUDSON RIVER. TURN RIGHT ON HUDSON STREET.
Hoboken Historical Museum
1301 Hudson Street
The museum is housed in an 1891 machine shop constructed by W & A Fletcher Company, a manufacturer of marine boilers and steam engines for Hudson River steamboats. It was later acquired by Bethlehem Steel Corporation and during World War II the shop was humming 24 hours a day employing 11,000 workers. The shop closed in 1984 but today the two-and-a-half story, thirty-six bay brick structure is the oldest building on the Hoboken waterfront.
Maxwell House Plant
Hudson Street between Tenth and Twelfth streets
On June 19, 1846, the first officially recorded, organized baseball match was played on this spot where a large open park known as Elysian Fields was located. It was the first game contested under rules devised by Alexander Joy Cartwright, now considered the inventor of modern baseball. The New York Base Ball Club dusted off the Knickerbockers 23-1. Not that it was significant at the time or for a hundred years thereafter. It was always assumed that the national pastime evolved until the 1930s when the upstate New York town of Cooperstown claimed that it was the birthplace of baseball. By the time Hoboken got around to staking its claim to baseball immortality all vestiges were buried under the world’s largest coffee processing plant, built by Maxwell House in 1938-39. A huge rooftop neon sign, 75 feet wide by 182 feet long, with coffee drops falling from the rim of a cup was a Hoboken icon until the plant closed in 1992. The sign trumpeted the company slogan - “Good to the Last Drop,” said to have been coined by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1907 on a visit to Nashville, Tennessee, the birthplace of the coffee. The last structure to survive from the original plant was a small brick employee entrance and security checkpoint.
Frank Sinatra Drive
Eleventh Street at Hudson Street
Frank Sinatra was born on the west side of town in 1915 at 415 Monroe Street in a house that stands no more. His father, a local boxer, served as a captain with the Hoboken Fire Department. Sinatra began singing professionally in his teens, eventually joining a vocal group known as the Hoboken Four. But after his career took off the “Chairman of the Board” rarely returned to his hometown, despite oft times desperate measures to lure him back, including a long-time welcoming sign to the city proclaiming Hoboken as the birthplace of Frank Sinatra. Other honors include the renaming of the post office and this waterfront drive and the park to which it leads.
Hudson Street at Tenth Street
Elysian Park is the last small remnant of Elysian Fields, built in 1831 and considered New York’s “first Central Park.” It hosted thousands looking for relaxation from the grit of the developing cities for a little open space and recreation. It rapidly lost its allure with the opening of the real Central Park on Manhattan in the 1850s and was rapidly consumed by development. The statue group in the park remembers General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing from World War I. After Hoboken was designated as a major port of embarkment for the war more than three million soldiers went through the city’s terminal on their way to the battlefields of Europe with their fate summed up by the phrase “Heaven, Hell or Hoboken... by Christmas.”
St. Matthew Lutheran Church
57 Eighth Street at southwest corner of Hudson Street
Services were first conducted on the corner of Washington & Third streets until the congregation moved to this location in 1877. The integrity of that brick church remains although much of the ornamentation has been stripped away. Each of the square stone projections seen on the roofline once sported a sky-piercing pinnacle.
TURN LEFT ON SIXTH STREET AND WALK UP THE HILL TO ITS CONCLUSION AT THE ENTRANCE TO STEVENS INSTITUTE.
Stevens Castle Gates
end of Sixth Street at River Road
Castle Point that juts into the Hudson River at this point was not not named for Stevens Castle but for its resemblance to the Castillian coast off Spain. For that matter, Stevens Castle that Colonel John Stevens erected in 1784 wasn’t really a castle at all. It was more of a mansion. When it was replaced by his son John Cox Stevens in the middle of the 19th century; it still was not a castle but an imposing Italian villa. The younger Stevens ran the company which had the first steam ferry between Hoboken and New York City. He also was the first commodore of the New York Yacht Club and winner of the first America’s Cup trophy in 1851. When his villa was demolished in 1959 all that remained were the entrance gates to the estate, made of native greenish serpentine stone. And they, in fact, do look like a castle.
WALK BACK TO RIVER ROAD AND TURN LEFT. WALK ONE BLOCK TO ITS END AT STEVENS PARK.
Edwin A. Stevens Hall
Fifth Street between Hudson Street and River Road
Another son of Hoboken founder Colonel John Stevens, Edwin, converted the grounds of the family estate into the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1870 with a stipend of $650,000. Richard Upjohn designed the this building, the first on campus, to house classrooms, offices and a lecture hall. The first class attracted 21 students and the only degree offered - after a rigorous curriculum - was in Mechanical Engineering, a policy heeded for many years.
TURN LEFT ON FIFTH STREET.
Hoboken Little League
east side of Stevens Park at Fifth Street
The Hoboken Little League began play in 1951 and garnered national attention in 1972 when Maria Pepe became the first girl to play in organized Little League. Her participation ignited a controversy and a flurry of lawsuits that wound up in the Supreme Court. When ESPN Magazine ranked the ten most important moments in the history of women’s sports, Pepe’s play in the Hoboken Little League was slotted #5. The view from the stadium stands may be unrivaled in Little League.
TURN RIGHT AND WALK THROUGH STEVENS PARK AND DOWN TO SINATRA DRIVE. FOLLOW ALONG THE WATERFRONT WITH UNOBSTRUCTED VIEWS OF THE MANHATTAN SKYLINE TO ITS END ON NEWARK STREET.
Erie Lackawanna Railroad and Ferry Terminal
Hudson River at foot of Hudson Place
Until the opening of the North River Tunnels and the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad tubes in the early 1900s, the only way to travel west of New York City was to cross the Hudson River on ferry boats. The Jersey side of the Hudson was studded with ferry slips to handle this necessary traffic. The Hoboken site had been used since Colonial times. In 1907 the town received one of the most imaginatively designed terminals in the country, combining rail, ferry, streetcar and pedestrian facilities. Kenneth Murchison delivered a magnificent Beaux Arts design and Lincoln Bush, an engineer for the Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad that built the terminal, introduced innovative roofed train shed arches that quickly became standard around America. The entire structure, built over water on a steel and concrete foundation, accommodated six ferry slips and fourteen rail lines. Hoboken Terminal is the only train station with ferry slips still in operation and is undergoing restoration. The 225-foot clock tower is a reproduction of the original that was dismantled in the 1950s; the replacement was erected for the terminal’s centennial year in 2007.
TURN RIGHT ON NEWARK STREET.
Hoboken Land & Improvement Company
1 Newark Street
The Hoboken Land & Improvement Company was the real estate arm of the Stevens family’s financial empire. Constructed in 1889, the building sports fancy brickwork with recessed panels and contrasting color mortars. On the south facade, a terra-cotta clock is surrounded by sea motifs and the company’s monogram.
The Clam Broth House
38-42 Newark Street at Hudson Street
For more than a century after it opened in 1899 the Clam Broth House was Hoboken’s most famous eatery, a sprawling facility with several lounges and dining rooms. Its two giant hand-shaped signs, one pointing downward towards the entrance and another on an adjoining rooftop, were legendary Hoboken icons. The building, however, was condemned in 2003 when cracks and bulges in its brick facade were discovered. It was demolished but the restaurant operation was revived in 2010.
TURN RIGHT ON WASHINGTON STREET.
Hoboken City Hall
94 Washington Street
This square block was donated to the City by Colonel John Stevens who saw it as the home of a public marketplace. Instead it became home to City Hall. The original building was executed in 1883 by Francis George Himpler, who also drew plans for Our Lady of Grace Church, St. Mary’s Hospital and the Sacred Heart Academy. Himpler’s Second Empire design was classically modified in 1911 when City Hall picked up two projecting bays out front, an enlargement to the third floor and a jail to the rear.
Carlo’s Bake Shop
95 Washington Street
In the century since Carlo Guasaffero opened his bakery it has become a Hoboken institution. It has since become known across the country as the home of The Learning Channel’s Cake Boss featuring Bartolo Valastro, Jr., whose father purchased the family bakery in 1964.
TURN LEFT ON SECOND STREET. TURN RIGHT ON BLOOMFIELD STREET.
Assembly of Exempt Firemen
213 Bloomfield Street
The firemen became exempt from public duty after seven years of volunteer service. This firehouse has done its service as well and has been excused to act as a firefighter’s union hall and museum of Hoboken firefighters’ memorabilia. It is an early example of local architect Francis George Himpler’s work, put into use in 1864.
CONTINUE ON BLOOMFIELD STREET TO FOURTH STREET AND TURN LEFT TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT IN CHURCH SQUARE PARK.