It’s been a long haul getting from dream to reality, and we are finally on our last round of fundraising. We’ve raised close to $700k of the $1m needed to build the park. Funders love to see community support, so we are asking you to donate whatever you can, so they can see how much the community wants a neighborhood park, one where their children of all ages will have a safe place to play, where performing arts and films can be shown on warm summer nights, where the history of Paulus Hook will be understood, and where Paulus Hook Park will once again be the heart of the first historic district of downtown Jersey City.
Like many neighborhood associations in Jersey City do with their local parks, the HPHA has helped the city maintain Paulus Hook Park since its inception in 1976, cleaning, planting and alerting the city of maintenance needs, and has had redesigning the park on it’s radar for several decades.
In 2006 the City issued a Parks Master Plan, and Paulus Hook Park, while on the schedule, was one of the last parks on the list, and wouldn’t be renovated (not redesigned) anytime soon, so the HPHA decided to take matters into our own hands. Our then Ward E Councilman, Steven Fulop, himself a member and former president of the HPHA, became proactive in helping the newly formed Parks Committee in it’s goal to redesign all four corners of the park. That same year, It took four years of negotiations, but in 2010, the Board of Education removed the aging trailers from the southwest corner. (link to Epps letter) Later that year, through a city Resolution, (link) the HPHA was given the right to fundraise, hire designers, and redesign Paulus Hook Park. The committee issued an RFP and ultimately hired designers Clarke Caton Hintz and Thomas Bosley and Associates who teamed up to design the park.
Now, after six years of fundraising and public meetings to allow the public to weigh in on park programming and design, Paulus Hook Park is on the verge of being redesigned. The HPHA is grateful to have forged a relationship with Rob Caulfield of Fields Construction, who is serving as the park’s construction manager, and we are looking at October 1st for shovels in the ground.
Paulus Hook Park consists of four pocket parks located at the intersection of Grand and Washington Streets, and was once the vibrant cultural and social hub of Jersey Citys oldest historic district, Paulus Hook. The park was drawn into the original 1804 Mangin planning map of Powles Hook.
The parks rich history began with early Dutch settlements in the 1600s, but with the development of Paulus Hook in1804, the area was covered by landfill, since what is now a street grid mapped with historic brownstones was once a swamp on three sides, and the Hudson river flanking it to the west at Hudson Street. But in 1779 the intersection of Grand and Washington Streets was a geographic high point, and as such was home to a British-held Revolutionary War fort. On August 19, Major Henry Light Horse Harry Lee lead a group of patriots to the fort, and in the early morning hours overtook its occupants in the name of the patriots, in what is now known as the Battle of Paulus Hook.
The Dutch settlements turned into planned neighborhoods like Hamilton Park, Van Vorst Park. Land was filled for Paulus Hook and Harsimus Cove to become habitable, and as Jersey City ushered in the industrial age, train tracks were laid across the city to allow steam engines to deposit American goods from all over the United States on barges docked at the Hudson River. Paulus Hooks population grew, working the docks, and factories like Colgate on Hudson Street, expanded along the Morris Canal. People who lived here during the time of the Colgate Factory tell stories of soap bubbles oozing up out of the sewers when it rained, the taste Palmolive in the air.
In 1904, to commemorate the Battle of Paulus Hook, the Daughters of the American Revolution installed an obelisk at the center of the Grand-Washington intersection. After the emergence of the gas engine, however the obelisk was knocked over a few too many times, and was removed, never to be seen again. In the 1970s, Joe Duffy, HPHA founder and community activist, who was instrumental in making Paulus Hook a historic district, pressured the city into returning a replacement obelisk to the southeast corner of the park.
With social upheaval of the 70s came race riots in cities across the country. Families who could, fled Jersey City for the suburbs, and by the mid 80s Paulus Hook was no longer the booming neighborhood it had once been. By this time vagrants were sleeping in the park, and there was more than the occasional drug deal transacted. In 1986, the City fenced and gated Paulus Hook Park for the safety of residents.