Jersey City West Historical Driving Tour
A drive past ten historical buildings, from The Heights south through Bergen to Lafayette neighborhoods of Jersey City. Buildings from the 1700s to 1920s are highlighted.
The three-story building at 154 Ogden Avenue was constructed as a social hall/ beer garden/ hotel from 1874 to 1875 for Diedrich Pohlmann. Before then, the site was on the Roemmelt & Leicht Brewery property. The structure became known as Pohlmann's Hotel by 1875, with a wooden platform attached to the back of the building for dancing by 1880. By the mid-1890s, the structure was known as Pohlmann's Concert Hall. The building became the site of the L.O. Koven Boiler Company's headquarters in 1918, and some interior modifications were made. In 1963, Pohlmann's Hall was purchased by J.L. Kessler Company, a casket manufacturer, for offices and a factory. The new owners in 1984 turned the building into condominium residences. Pohlmann's Hall was listed in the National and New Jersey Registers of Historic Places in 1985.
The brick building at 218 Central Avenue, on the corner of Ferry Street, was built in 1896 as a fire station for the surrounding neighborhood, Jersey City Heights, and served until 2005. It was one of 23 fire houses in the city by 1897. The Hook and Ladder No. 3 building replaced a smaller, dilapidated fire house on Webster Avenue. The Beaux Arts/Renaissance Revival style structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, for its architecture and its place in the city's history. The City of Jersey City sold the property in 2010 to Medici Associates; AGC Holdings/Anthony Carrino became the new owner in 2018, paying $650,000. The property has been restored by and is now headquarters for a preservation-oriented company, Brunelleschi Construction, and part residential, containing a rear apartment unit. The firm was featured in shows filmed for HGTV on historic preservation in 2011.
It took four years to build the massive courthouse at 583 Newark Avenue for Hudson County, from 1906 to 1910. The Beaux Arts building is notable for its architectural style and interior murals and decorative marble. The Hudson County Courthouse was abandoned in 1966 and slated to be demolished to be replaced by a parking garage to serve the county Hall of Records building built next door in 1953. The courthouse was listed in the National Register in 1970. Local historic preservation efforts prevailed, and the courthouse was renovated in the 1970s and early 1980s; it reopened in 1985 to be used for trying civil cases and for county governmental offices.
Built in the late 1600s by Dutch settlers, Newkirk House is Jersey City’s oldest building. It was built in the old Dutch village of Bergen, which was founded in 1660 by Tilman Van Vleck and designed by Jacques Cortelyou. Despite some alterations during its long history, the building remains relatively unchanged from its original 17th century appearance. The two-story sandstone, brick, and wood timber building offers a fine example of early Dutch colonial architecture. In 1979, the building was sold and has been home to a popular local restaurant ever since. The building is included on New Jersey’s State Register of Historic Places.
Listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in 1985, the Loew's Jersey Theater was built in 1929 and was considered one of the largest theaters of its kind; it was one of five Lowe's theaters in the New Jersey/New York area. It was built at the cost of $2 million and had 3,021 seats. Films and traveling vaudeville acts were the venue's primary shows as was common around the country before the Great Depression. The building was designed by the firm Rapp and Rapp in the Baroque/Rococo style with the facade featuring ornate carvings as well as an animated clock depicting St. George and the Dragon. The theater also featured a large Robert Morgan pipe organ (this was removed but a sister organ was later installed). The venue has been restored, and various shows and performances take place throughout the year (older films are shown as well).
The original part of the stone house at 298 Academy Street was built circa 1750 on a lot in the town of Bergen; later additions date to the 1840s and 1860s. The Van Wagenen House property was owned by a Dutch family, the Gerritsen/ Van Wagenen family, from 1688 to 1947. The property has ties to George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, apples, and funerals. The City of Jersey City bought the endangered building in 1998 and renovated the interior while making the building more accessible. The building reopened to the public in November 2017 and houses the offices of the Jersey City Division of Cultural Affairs and Jersey City Economic Development Corporation. The Van Wagenen House was listed in the National Register in 2006 and is one of the oldest houses standing in Jersey City.
Old Bergen Church is the home of the oldest religious congregation in New Jersey. It was founded in 1660 when the Dutch colony of New Netherland was established directly across from what is now lower Manhattan. The church was built in 1841, replacing a sandstone church constructed in 1773 (there were two churches before this one). Today, the Church is home to the Reformed Church of America and the Presbyterian Church.
The Fairmount Apartments is an example of early twentieth century Arts and Crafts style architecture. There are two connected 4-1/2 story brick and concrete L-shaped buildings, finished in 1909 (the east building) and 1912 (west). The structure was also known as the Fairmount Hotel but people resided in the apartments. The Fairmount Apartments was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and in the New Jersey Register the prior year. The renovated Fairmount now houses residents 62 years and up in the "Birchwood at Fairmount Hotel." Its 60 apartment units, from studio to two bedrooms, rent with income limits. Read on to hear about the 1912 lawsuit about beer, babies, and ragtime piano music at the hotel.
The brick and stone building at 654 Bergen Avenue was built in 1923 - 1924 to house the Jersey City Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). The architect of the six-story, Classical Revival style building was John F. Jackson. The Jersey City YMCA building was listed in the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places in 1999, four years after it last served as the YMCA. Now containing 131 units of affordable housing, the building is known as Bergenview and was owned until recently by New Hope Housing. The Bergenview Head Start program shares the space, as well as meeting space for community groups. Plans are underway for the rehabilitation of the apartments by the firm Bergenview Urban Renewal, the new owners, into 111 studio units of affordable housing plus one manager's unit.
The building at 750 Grand Street (formerly 411 Arlington Ave.) was built in 1910 for John H. Ficken, a German immigrant who became a successful local businessman. The skylighted building was designed to serve as an extra warehouse for Ficken on the third floor, above offices on the second floor and a post office for the growing community on the ground level. Ficken needed room to expand his warehouse storage business, on the opposite (north) side of Harmon St.; and the Post Office had outgrown its building across the street. The five-sided, Second Renaissance/Neoclassical style structure is wedged into the block formed by the intersections of Harmon and Grand Streets with Arlington Avenue (Rt. 613), with the postal entrance on the short side of the building facing Arlington. After serving as the Bergen Station Post Office for five decades, the abandoned building was converted into residential units and is now the Arlington Arms Apartments. Ficken's Warehouse was added to the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places in 1984.