History Corner: Hoboken Historic District
By: Rebecca Reilly
Sparked by the demolition of the Old Penn Station in New York City, The New York Landmarks Law was enacted on April 19, 1965. The city realized the importance of preserving historic places. The law created the Landmarks Preservation Commission, whose goals were to stabilize and improve property values, foster civic pride, protect and enhance tourist attractions, strengthen the economy, and, to promote the use of historic districts, landmarks, interior landmarks, and scenic landmarks for the education, pleasure and welfare of the people. Following this legislation adopted by New York City, Hoboken established one of New Jersey’s first historic preservation commissions in 1978.
One of the first Dutch settlements, acquired in 1626, Hoboken is a small town located on the Hudson River across from lower Manhattan. In the early 19th century, the waterfront was developed into a resort so that the residents of Manhattan could escape the city. Travelers would take a steam locomotive across the Hudson River. The city’s master plan was developed by the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company, which created the city’s grid system. Hoboken’s location on the Hudson River made the city a prime location for trade and industry in the mid-19th century. Major manufacturers including Lipton Tea, Maxwell House and the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation called Hoboken home. Many of these former industrial sites on the water have since been re-zoned for the construction of luxury condominiums.
There are multiple historic districts in Hoboken, which is quite impressive considering the entire town is just over one square mile. The historic districts include Central Hoboken Historic District, Southern Hoboken Historic District, South Hoboken Historic District Extension, Stevens Historic District,1200-1206 Washington Historic District, W&A Fletcher Shipyard Historic District, and Old Main Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad Historic District. The Historic Preservation Commission reviews the designs of proposed construction in the historic districts using the standards for the National Park Service’s National Register Criteria for Evaluation. The first historic site established in Hoboken was Elysian Park. Elysian Park is the last undeveloped portion of Elysian Fields, where the first recorded baseball game was played.
Hoboken has developed over time from a center for industry to a convenient location for commuters and families to live. The shipping water-front has been converted to a park. The factories have been torn down or converted into housing. The goal of the Historic Preservation Commission is to maintain buildings so that the heritage of Hoboken is preserved. The repurposing of many of the buildings has allowed this, while still making good use of the buildings.
For more information about historic preservation, click here.