First, a bit about Jersey City and Paulus Hook
Originally the site of a revolutionary war fort surrounded by marsh land, Paulus Hook was developed in the early 1800s by Alexander Hamilton, among others. The neighborhood was largely tenement-based, though over time numerous famous figures (aside from 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.
Originally, the brownstones were single family homes, but by the 1930s most had been converted to tenements.
Skip ahead to the industrial age
Paulus Hook had a number of industries present in the neighborhood.
Older residents remember that when it rained, the gutters filled with soap suds and on any given day the air held the smell and taste of soap.
In the mid '70's Colgate Corp wanted to expand their holdings in JC west from Greene to Washington St & from Grand to Dudley St. There were also a few lots in the blocks east of Greene that Colgate did not yet own - including a Ukrainian Orthodox Catholic Church & several 5 story walkups - which they bought. After purchase of any building it was immediately demolished within 24 hours of the closing of sale.
HPHA is born
Several local residents met to plan resistance to the creeping demolition of their neighborhood and The Historic Preservation movement in JC began in a brownstone kitchen at 102 Grand St. The Locals turned to a colorful local politician named Owen Grundy for guidance & assistance in their struggle.
Under the guidance of Grundy, [who was the Official City of Jersey City Historian & head of the Friends of the J C Library and a retired reporter for a NYC newspaper] Joe Duffy, Stella Hojnacki and several 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; Transportation Help Resurgence
By 1980 the Brownstone movement had resulted in the arrival of a new wave of artists and young professionals who moved in among the largely blue collar & retiree community then living in Paulus Hook. By the mid '80s Colgate, Onyx Mfg, McConnell Oil Co & others had shifted manufacturing operations to other locations and begun the demolition of more than 37 waterfront acres of obsolete structures in anticipation of redevelopment (Colgate) as a high rise office center or (Portside) high rise housing; then the bottom fell out of the real estate market in the Northeast US. For most of the next 10 years the land lay fallow, park like, along the Hudson, used as parking for the newly installed NY Waterways Ferry or as weed-covered blocks.
The next wave of development arrived with the completion of the Light Rail Tram, simultaneous with the construction of several office towers and a huge wave of redevelopment activity in Paulus Hook. Hundreds of units of rental housing, several dozen new restaurants and a few new condo's grew in, and on the periphery of, Paulus Hook during the fading years of the 20th Century.
Preserving History and Quality of Life
Despite a brief slowdown after the attack on the World Trade Center 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 of 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.