Why Jersey City?

About ten years ago, I moved to Jersey City, following a girl (now my smart, sophisticated, and stylish wife) and needing cheap rent. The second reason likely sounds familiar to many of the newer residents discovering and building their households in Jersey City since its “rebirth” in the 1990s. I immediately fell in love with my new home and found myself choosing to spend more and more of my free time and my weekends here instead of braving the commute into Manhattan or its much hipper and more interesting sister borough Brooklyn.

Jersey City was—and remains—less imposing and more parochial than the large, looming metropolis across the Hudson River. All the bounties, offerings, and sins of city life could be found and enjoyed in Jersey City, just in smaller quantities.

(Rutgers Special Collection and Archives)
Map of Jersey City, circa 1911.                        (Courtesy of Rutgers Special Collection and Archives)

Although first settled by Dutch colonists in 1630, Jersey City seems to lack a strong sense of history. When walking through certain neighborhoods of other older American cities, such as Philadelphia or Baltimore, one can literally hear the footfalls of the past. This historic echo is much more difficult to detect in Jersey City. However, if you focus and listen carefully and use just a little imagination, you can hear sounds of the past: a Dutch patroon barking orders at workers, the brogue of a scheming Irish politician, or the whistle of a train piercing into the heartland. Jersey City is a place with a rich, layered, yet often neglected history. Stories abound within its streets, buildings, and people.

This blog aims to uncover and explore these tales and prove that Jersey City stands as a place worth chronicling and a place that matters. Such places are becoming harder and harder to find in the American landscape. This blog hopes to guide you, dear reader, in your own quest to find the past of Jersey City. If you live in this peculiar city, I hope that I can deepen your appreciation of your native or adopted hometown. If you’re a visitor passing through, I hope that my writings may make your stay all the more memorable.

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