While we love Hoboken’s charm and the mix of old and new in town, it’s hard to resist thinking about what Hoboken was like in the past – especially for those of us who are transplants. Beyond the waterfront and new condos and businesses that are going up in town, Hoboken has a wealth of history that is worth sharing and reflecting on — that we don’t want to lose. We’ll be featuring tidbits about Hoboken’s past and history going forward, and so we thought what better way to kick that off than with the Hoboken Historical Museum. Located uptown at 1301 Hudson Street, the Hoboken Historical Museum is located in the former Bethlehem Steel machine shop, known to Hoboken residents today as the Shipyard, and is run by Museum Director Bob Foster. Read on to learn all about the Hoboken Historical Museum.
A Little History
The museum was established in 1986, and it features various exhibits on the history of Hoboken. They frequently provide lectures, tours, and films to further educate the community. In the past, exhibits have covered Hoboken’s relationship to the Hudson river as well as the city’s influence on music and shipping. The Museum’s focus includes exploring and sharing the historical, cultural, and architectural gems that Hoboken holds by collecting and interpreting artifacts, and documents relevant to physical and cultural heritage, as well as collaborating with organizations with similar goals. It sounds kind of dry when you think of it as a mission statement, but it’s really a neat place that houses a lot of relics from the past.
The organization is a registered 501(c) 3 nonprofit and has a number of ways that make it easy to support its mission. For more info on this, click here.
Visiting the Museum
The HHM is open six days a week when exhibits are open. See the daily hours here. Admission is $5 and free for children and members. An annual membership is $50, while a Dual/Family Membership is $75. So if you support the HHM’s cause and get a membership, you can roll up at ANY point when they’re open sans cash.
The museum offers a ton of really interesting learning opportunities if you’re ever looking to learn something new about the History of Hoboken. One of the coolest features is the self-guided walking tours. If you’re interested, head to the website, which has a map set up with a drawn-out path to follow, and voila! Along the way, the map shows points of interest to stop and see while the pin for each location gives you a slide of information about where you are, or what you’re looking at.
What sets the HHM apart from other museums is how connected it is to the community and how dedicated it is to preserving its history first-hand. In 2000, the Oral History Project was created to capture, through the recollections of longtime residents, “Vanishing Hoboken” — the working-class identity and tradition of multi-ethnic living that has been disappearing as the city has gentrified over the past twenty years. Interviewees told stories about mom-and-pop shops, the city’s many movie palaces, vaudeville performances, political campaigns, ethnic traditions, and factory jobs. Each story is made into a chapbook that is available for $3. Some of the chapbooks available at the museum are “The Firehouse: Recollections of Bill Bergin,” “Always Helping People, Recollections of Evelyn Smith,” and “Schackenbergs Luncheonette, Betty Silvani.”
For die-hard Sinatra fans, this one’s for you! The museum has a dedicated space for everything-Ol’ Blue Eyes called The Sinatra Lounge. Visitors can sit back on the couch and watch his movies, as well as documentaries about Hoboken, listen to his records on a circa 1920 vinyl player, flip through books about his life, and marvel at two paintings done by Sinatra himself that were donated to the museum.
See More: Must-Visit Art Galleries in Hoboken
Main Gallery + Upper Gallery
The museum is also a great place to check out local art that focuses on the history of Hoboken and the community. The Main Gallery, which resides downstairs is what changes every few months, showcasing innovative exhibits like the anniversary of the movie “On the Waterfront,” the city’s contributions to the world of music, Hoboken’s struggle and revival through the 1970s, and a postcard history of Hudson County.
The Gift Shop
If you’re ever looking for cool Hoboken merch, look no further. The museum gift shop has tons of unique and interesting items for purchase from graphic t-shirts, to mugs, to vintage photos of Hoboken, to books, to stickers, to postcards, and more. Most impressively, there is an array of books by historians and authors who’ve spoken at the museum at one point or another. You can also shop for some of their items online here.