Paulus Hook Park
Paulus Hook Park consists of four pocket parks at the intersection of Grand and Washington Streets. It was once the vibrant social hub Jersey City’s oldest neighborhood. The park was part of the original plot plans for the neighborhood laid out by Washington Associates. The park appears in the 1804 Mangin Map of Paulus Hook, where it was depicted as a large public square.
What we know today as Paulus Hook was a tidal swamp; the geographical high point was, and still is, the park. During the Revolutionary War the British held the fort that was located near the park. The Battle of Paulus Hook, in which an American force, led by Major Henry Lee overtook the fort occurred at the fort. In the 19th century, the Paulus Hook neighborhood developed as a result of the robust trade associated with the waterfront, the growth of railroad and canal networks, and the establishment of major factories in the area. The park appeared in maps throughout this period when it was known as Washington Square Park.
To commemorate the Battle of Paulus Hook the Daughters of the American Revolution erected an obelisk in 1903 at the center of the intersection of Grand and Washington Streets. As early as 1919 maps indicate a playground at the southwest quadrant of the park, and PS 16 was built adjacent to it in the 1920s.
Auto traffic made the obelisk difficult to maintain; it was removed in 1936. Photos from the mid-20th century show boxing matches and other activities in the park. The general configuration of the park as it exists today was established from 1975-78 when Jersey City renovated the park. Additionally, the Paulus Hook Historic District, established in 1982, incorporated the park within its boundaries. Interest in bringing the obelisk back to the Park grew in the 1970s and under leadership of Joe Duffy, HPHA founder and community activist, a new obelisk was erected in 1985 in the southeast corner of the park. In 1974 the Historic Paulus Hook Association (HPHA) was formed, incorporating within its mission promoting and advocating for open space. However, the 1970 and 1980s were a difficult period for the neighborhood and as a result the park was fenced and gated. Since its formation, and like many neighborhood associations in Jersey City, the HPHA has helped maintain its neighborhood park, Paulus Hook Park, by cleaning, planting and alerting the City to maintenance needs.
In 2006 Jersey City issued a Parks Master Plan. Paulus Hook Park was not deemed a priority. The HPHA therefore formed a Parks Committee whose goal was to redesign and execute a project to renovate the Park. Educational trailers that had been in the southwest quadrant were removed in 2010. That year Jersey City granted HPHA the right to fundraise and design a new park. Since that time the Committee has developed a design, conducted meetings with the community, raised over $500,000 in cash and forged relationships that will lead to management of construction, in-kind services and other benefits for a park renovation project. A Conservancy, whose role will be ongoing care of the park, has been formed, and approvals are being sought with the State Historic Preservation Office and various branches of Jersey City government having jurisdiction over the site.