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Bowling Alley From 1870s Uncovered During Construction in Hoboken

by Diana Cooper
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While renovating a new location for Hoboken eyeglass store Wise Vision, Hoboken contractor Anton David came across an unusual step that lead to a bowling alley underneath the floor. Based on the dates confirmed by sources, David told Hoboken Girl, “This was a speakeasy of sorts during prohibition.”

David and his team found “a bunch of pins,” duckpins {shorter pins}, and “a couple of bowling balls.”

“After some research and speaking with the Hoboken Historical Museum, we were able to find out that it is indeed an old bowling alley that was used by the Republicans in the 20s,” David added. “It was registered as a bowling alley with the city of Hoboken and with the Democrats in the 30s and one of my sources dates it back to being built in 1873.”

While this was discovered a few months back, we took a deep dive into the findings to learn more.

bowling alley hoboken uncovered wise vision

{Photo credit: Wise Vision}

Wise Vision, now located at 334 Washington Street, will be moving across the street to 327 Washington Street. The eyeglass shop has been locally owned and operated since 1978. David, who owns Hoboken Custom Craft and is the owner of Avid Handyman, says the renovation of Vision’s new location should be completed by the end of the year.

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“The main part is we’re going to be doing our best to preserve the old history of Hoboken and we’re going to be doing that by the way of incorporating that into the décor and the furniture that we’re building [at Wise Vision],” David added. “The downstairs is going to be used for storage for now, but there is an area of the bowling alley that we’re restoring. It’ll just be in its original state – not operational though – and then the other parts of the lanes, like some of that wood, we’re going to use to build furniture for the eyeglass shop.”

Some parts from the bowling alley that were restored will be donated to the Hoboken Historical Museum. As far as when you can expect to see them on display at the museum, Director Robert Foster told Hoboken Girl they are planning an exhibit in 2021 {the date is TBD}, which will feature the history of Washington Street.

bowling alley and pins hoboken uncovered

{Photo credit: Wise Vision}

Collections Manager Rand Hoppe of Hoboken Historical Museum shared his enthusiasm with HG. “The bowling lanes were an exciting discovery. I personally loved the fact that there were some duckpins and duckpin balls found, and we’ve casually discussed an interactive gaming feature for the Washington Street exhibit that we’re developing,” Hoppe said. “There used to be many lanes such as this around town. There were lanes in the Elks Club until [maybe] 20 years ago. I believe I found evidence of there being lanes in The Columbia Club at 11th & Bloomfield, too, which used to be a Masonic lodge. So, lanes in a political party club don’t seem that unusual in that context.”

Per the museum’s online collection database, bowling alleys were found throughout Hoboken decades ago. The former Continental Hotel {which used to be located at 101 Hudson Street} used to have a bowling alley as one of its amenities in the 1940s, as well as the Union Club Building Restaurant {located at 600 Hudson Street – now known as The Union Club condo}, which offered “Bowling and Bridge Parties” in 1935.

Hoppe noted that the “second-floor location where Empire Fitness is now used to be a commercial bowling establishment,” and also, “rumor has it that St. Francis Church still has a couple of bowling lanes…not operating, of course.”

bowling alley hoboken wise vision

{Photo credit: Wise Vision}

Hoppe added. “Bowling really was a great way for people to socialize before TV and the Internet changed our habits.”

Make sure to follow Hoboken Girl for the latest updates on the exhibit and the relocation of Wise Vision!

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