New Jersey May 26, 2018
A Trip To The Oldest City In New Jersey Will Overwhelm You With Incredible History
One of New Jersey’s most modern cities is also its oldest. Today, Jersey City is home to towering buildings, beautiful museums, the largest planetarium in America, and a mix of incredible eateries that would make any foodie swoon. However, the city also has a very rich history. It lies on the land first founded by the Dutch in 1660.
In 1609, Henry Hudson anchored his ship at Harsimus Cove.
By 1621, the Dutch West India Company was organized to manage this new territory and in June 1623, New Netherland became a Dutch province, with headquarters in New Amsterdam. Michael Reyniersz Pauw 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 North River (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 for Jan Evertsen Bout, superintendent of the colony, which had been named Pavonia (the Latinized form of Pauw's name. Shortly after, another house was built at Harsimus Cove and became the home of Cornelius Van Vorst, who succeeded Bout as superintendent, and whose family would become influential in the development of the city.
The area was predominately populated by Native Americans.
Relations with the Lenape deteriorated, in part because of the colonialist's mismanagement and misunderstanding of the indigenous people, and led to a 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. Following the massacre, the area was temporarily evacuated. There was a second war a decade later. In August 1655, with the support of some 600 soldiers, he left New Amsterdam to secure the colony of New Sweden along the Delaware River for the Dutch. During his absence, on September 15, 1655, a young Indian girl entered the orchard of Henry Van Dyck on Manhattan Island. She climbed a tree to pick a peach she had spied. Van Dyck took offense at her indulgence and took the extreme reaction of killing her with his rifle. Seizing what they believed to be an opportune time to retaliate, five hundred Indians attacked Hoboken, Pavonia and Staten Island for three days. It caused the death of 100 Dutch, the capture of 150, the wounding of Van Dyck, and the devastation of many homes.
At this time, European settlements were limited to a few farmsteads.
However, a village was established in 1660 after governor Peter Stuyvesant negotiated a treaty with the Lenape. Considered the first city in New Jersey, the enclosed village was located on what is now Bergen Square. Among the oldest surviving houses in Jersey City are the Newkirk House (1690), the Van Vorst Farmhouse (1740), and the Van Wagenen House (1742). During the American Revolutionary War, the area was in the hands of the British who controlled New York. In the Battle of Paulus Hook Major Light Horse Harry Lee attacked a British fortification on August 19, 1779. After this war, Alexander Hamilton and other prominent New Yorkers and New Jerseyans attempted to develop the area that would become historic downtown Jersey City
Many of these buildings are privately owned, but the Barrow Mansion is open to the public.
Built between 1835–1837, it now serves as a community center and is a popular wedding venue. Nearly 1,500 meetings and events take place each year, including a wide range of theater and musical performances.
The railroad also played a major part in Jersey City's past.
During the 19th century, former slaves reached Jersey City on one of the four routes of the Underground Railroad that led to the city. However, I'm referring to a different kind of railroad. In the late 1880s, three passenger railroad terminals opened in Jersey City next to the Hudson River (Pavonia Terminal, Exchange Place, and Communipaw). Tens of millions of immigrants passed through these stations as they made their way westward from Ellis Island into the United States. The railroads transformed the geography of the city by building the Erie Cut as well as several large freight rail yards. The railroads became and would remain the largest employers in Jersey City into and during the early 20th century.
Should you visit Jersey City, consider taking a self guided walking tour.
It's a great way to enjoy the architecture and history of the Van Vorst neighborhood.
For details on a Jersey City walking tour,
click here. To discover another incredible historic spot in Jersey City, click here. It’s a cemetery, but it’s also a very fascinating community gathering spot. To learn more about New Jersey’s other oldest cities and towns, click here.