Originally the site of a revolutionary war fort surrounded by a salt water marsh, Paulus Hook was first developed in the early 1800s by the Dutch.
The Battle of Paulus Hook was fought on August 19, 1779 between Continental Army and British forces in the American Revolutionary War. The Patriots were led by Major Light Horse Harry Lee, and launched a nighttime raid on the British-controlled fort. This battle is commemorated each year by the Historic Paulus Hook Association on August 19th.
Over time, numerous famous figures including George Washington and Alexander Hamilton made their homes in the neighborhood. Robert Fulton, inventor of the steam boat ferry, lived on Grand Street between Washington and Greene Streets.
The brownstones that populate the neighborhood were developed as single family homes, but by the 1930s, most had been converted to tenements.
Industry in Paulus Hook
- Colgate Corporation (Yes, the famous toothpaste maker we are all familiar with!) operated a number of factories throughout the neighborhood. Older residents remember that when it rained, soap suds would fill the gutters; and on any given day, the air held the smell and taste of soap. The Colgate clock is now located across from Goldman Sachs, on a piece of land that old-timers call the "DOD Site."
- Onyx Chemical occupied a two-block site between Dudley and Morris/Warren and Washington Streets. Until the site was developed in the late 1990s, one could hear the song of frogs from blocks away in the evening.
- Hart operated a chemical mixing and storage business that closed in 2003. Remediation of the site has taken place, and in fall 2013 the building was torn down for development as condos.
- Belfuse once produced only fuses, but now manufactures lighting systems for automobiles. The business still thrives.
- A paint factory was located at the site of Amelia's Bistro at Warren and Morris Streets.
- Flintkote made roofing products with asbestos at Marin Boulevard and Sussex Street (if Sussex extended west).
- Chromium was refined along the west side of Jersey City. Ore byproducts were used as landfill all along Jersey City's shoreline, including Paulus Hook.
Development Threatens Historic Brownstones
In the mid 1970s, Colgate Corporation sought to expand its holdings in Jersey City, west of Greene Street to Washington Street, and from Grand Street to Dudley Street. There were also a few lots east of Greene Street, including a Ukrainian Orthodox Catholic Church and several five-story walk-ups, that Colgate acquired. After purchasing a property, any existing structures were immediately demolished within 24 hours of the closing of sale.
The HPHA is Born
Several local residents met in resistance to the creeping demolition of Paulus Hook. The historic preservation movement in Jersey City was born in the brownstone kitchen of 102 Grand Street. These neighbors turned to colorful, local politician, Owen Grundy, for guidance and assistance in their struggle. Grundy was the Official City of Jersey City Historian and Head of the Friends of the Jersey City Library, as well as a retired reporter for a New York City newspaper. Under his direction, Joe Duffy, Stella Hojnacki, and other neighbors formed the Historic Paulus Hook Association. They publicized Colgate's land-grab, and pushed the City Council to create the first Historic Districts. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Colgate stopped its buying spree.
Artists and Transportation Help Resurgence
By 1980, a new wave of artists and young professionals had moved in among the largely blue collar and retiree community of Paulus Hook. By the mid 1980s, Colgate, Onyx Chemical, McConnell Oil Company, and others had shifted manufacturing operations to other locations, and had begun to demolish more than 37 waterfront acres in anticipation of redevelopment to include Colgate's high-rise office center and high-rise housing projects like Portside. Then the bottom fell out of the real estate market, and for most of the next ten years, the land lay fallow and park-like along the Hudson River; some lots remained weed-covered, while other were used as commuter parking lots for the newly installed New York Waterways Ferry.
The next wave of development arrived with the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Tram and construction of several office towers. A huge wave of redevelopment activity in Paulus Hook was underway. Hundreds of units of rental housing, several dozen new restaurants, and a few new condominiums grew in and around Paulus Hook during the fading years of the 20th Century.
Preserving History and Quality of Life
Despite a brief slowdown following the World Trade Center attack in Sept 2001, new construction, new arrivals, and increasing conflicts between the non-stop building activity, and the needs and desires of the ever-growing number of residents in Paulus Hook, have been the prime focus of the HPHA in the new millennium. While still interested in maintaining the structural and architectural integrity of the Historic District's housing, ever more time and effort are devoted to maintaining the quality of life of the residents of the Paulus Hook neighborhood.