Jersey City is a city in Hudson County, New Jersey.
Jersey City lies on the west bank of the Hudson River across from Lower Manhattan in New York City, and is part of the New York metropolitan area. A commercial and industrial center, it is a port of entry and a manufacturing center. With 11 miles (17.7 km) of waterfront and significant rail connections, Jersey City is an important transportation terminus and distribution center. It has railroad shops, oil refineries, warehouses, and plants that manufacture a diverse assortment of products, including chemicals, petroleum, electronics, textiles, and cosmetics. Jersey City has benefited from its location near the island of Manhattan, as many of its companies are extensions of businesses whose headquarters are there. Recent developments have included increased housing and shopping areas; some parts of the city, however, remain run-down after years of commercial inactivity.
The Lenape and New Netherland
The land comprising what is now Jersey City was wilderness inhabited by the Lenape, a collection of tribes (later called Delaware Indian). In 1609, Henry Hudson, seeking an alternate route to East Asia, anchored his small vessel The Half Moon at Sandy Hook, Harsimus and Weehawken Cove, and elsewhere along what was later named the North River. After spending nine days surveying the area and meeting its inhabitants, he returned to The Netherlands. The Dutch organized the United New Netherlands Company to manage this new territory and in June 1623, The New Netherlands became a Dutch province, with headquarters in New Amsterdam. Michael Reyniersz Pauw, Lord of Achttienhoven, a burgermeester of Amsterdam and a director of the West India Company, received a land grant as patroon on the condition that he would establish a settlement of not fewer than fifty persons within four years. He chose the west bank of the Hudson River and purchased the land from the Lenape. This grant is dated November 22, 1630 and is the earliest known conveyance for what are now Hoboken and Jersey City. Pauw, however was an absentee landlord who neglected to populate the area and was obliged to sell his holdings back to the Company in 1633. That year, a house was built at Communipaw, an area adjacent to present-day Liberty State Park. for Jan Evertsen Bout, superintendent of the colony, which had been named Pavonia (the Latinized form of Pauw’s name, which means peacock).
Shortly after, another house was built at Harsimus Cove (near the present-day corner of Fourth Street and MarÃƒÂn Boulevard) and became the home of Cornelius Van Vorst, who had succeeded Bout as superintendent, and whose family would become influential in the development of the city. Relations with the Lenape deteriorated, in part because of the colonialist’s mismanagement and misunderstanding of the indigenous people, and led to series of raids and reprisals and the virtual destruction of the settlement on the west bank. During Kieft’s War, approximately eighty Lenapes were killed by the Dutch in a massacre at Pavonia on the night of February 25, 1643.
Scattered communities of farmsteads characterized the Dutch settlements at Pavonia: Communipaw, Harsimus, Paulus Hook, Hoebuck, Awiehaken, and other lands “behind Kil van Kull”. The first village (located inside a palisaded garrison) established on what is now Bergen Square in 1660, and is considered to be the oldest town in what would become the state of New Jersey.
Early America Jersey City
Among the oldest surviving houses in Jersey City is the stone Van Vorst house of 1742. During the American Revolutionary War the area was in the hands of the British who controlled New York. Paulus Hook was attacked by Major Light Horse Harry Lee on August 19, 1779. After the war Alexander Hamilton and other prominent New Yorkers and New Jerseyeans attempted to develop the area that would become historic downtown Jersey City and laid out the city squares and streets that still characterize the neighborhood, giving them names also seen in Lower Manhattan or after war heroes (Grove, Varick, Mercer, Wayne, Monmouth, and Montgomery among them). During the 19th century, Jersey City played an integral role in the Underground Railroad. Four routes through New Jersey converged in the city.
Turn of the Century Jersey City
Jersey City at the end of the 19th century.Jersey City was a dock and manufacturing town for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Much like New York City, Jersey City has always been a landing pad for new immigrants to the United States. In its heyday before World War II, German, Irish, and Italian immigrants found work at Colgate, Chloro, or Dixon Ticonderoga. However, the largest employers at the time were the railroads, whose national networks dead-ended on the Hudson River. The most significant railroad for Jersey City was the Pennsylvania Railroad Company whose eastern terminus was in the Downtown area until 1911, when the company built the first tunnel under the river to Penn Station, New York. Before that time, Pennsy rail passengers transferred in Jersey City to ferries headed to Manhattan or to trolleys that fanned out through Hudson County and beyond. The Black Tom explosion occurred on July 30, 1916 as an act of sabotage on American ammunition supplies by German agents to prevent the materials from being used by the Allies in World War I.
Frank Hague Era
From 1917 to 1947, Jersey City was ruled by Mayor Frank Hague. Originally elected as a reform candidate, the Jersey City History Web Site says his name is “synonymous with the early twentieth century urban American blend of political favoritism and social welfare known as bossism.” Hague ran the city with an iron fist while, at the same time, molding governors, United States senators, and judges to his whims. Boss Hague was known to be loud and vulgar, but dressed in a stylish manner earning him the nickname “King Hanky-Panky”. In his later years in office, Hague would often dismiss his enemies as “reds” or “commies”. Hague lived like a millionaire, despite having an annual salary that never exceeded $8,500. He was able to maintain a fourteen-room duplex apartment in Jersey City, a suite at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, and a palatial summer home in Deal, New Jersey, and he traveled to Europe yearly in the royal suites of the best liners.
After Hague’s retirement from politics, a series of mayors including John V. Kenny, Thomas J. Whelan, and Thomas F.X. Smith attempted to take control of Hague’s organization, usually under the mantle of political reform. None was able to duplicate the level of power held by Hague.