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A Historical Tour of Hamilton Park

by Erica Commisso
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Today, the 5.4-acre area of Jersey City known as Hamilton Park is one of the most desirable places to live. The beautiful brownstones, family-friendly parks, and excellent restaurants make it a great place to live, and the proximity to New York City by the PATH and NJ Transit certainly doesn’t hurt. Many of the buildings have rich, centuries-old histories giving them ornate details and intricacies that draw visitors and locals alike. Much of the area’s original appearance can be seen through restorations and between modern buildings, which also makes the area a desirable place to live and explore. History buffs can explore several landmarks, too, some of which are listed here. Read on for a historical tour of Jersey City’s Hamilton Park.  

The Name of Hamilton Park 

alexander hamilton weehawken

^ Alexander Hamilton statute in Weehawken

As you can probably guess, the neighborhood and park itself are named after Alexander Hamilton, who famously lost a duel against Aaron Burr on the Palisades in Weehawken on July 11, 1804, which cost him his life. In memory of Hamilton, John B. Coles, a Federalist and flour merchant who served in the New York Senate from 1799 to 1802, but the plan in motion to name a public park in Jersey City after the fallen Revolutionary War aide, who was also his fellow Federalist. 

Read More: A Historical Walking Tour of Jersey City Heights

The Park’s Opening

hamilton park

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Snap Fitness JC

Coles bought much of the land and began to put his vision into action, but died in 1827. The plans were therefore halted and much of the area was left unattended. 

But, in 1848, the economy in the area began to see growth again, and John Coles’ heirs applied to claim the property for personal use since the city had no deed or no way of proving that they owned the space that now holds the park. In an attempt to prove ownership, the city planted four trees and built a fence, and eventually found witnesses to prove that Coles intended to use the land as a park

Golden Door Dispensary

Saint Francis Hospital 

Saint Francis Hospital 

(Photo credit: Google Maps)

The Sisters of Saint Francis purchased a house on East Hamilton Square in 1864, beginning a long history in Hamilton Park. The Sisters began construction on the hospital building in 1870 and eventually grew it into a substantial hospital complex on the park’s east side. In January of 2005, St. Francis Hospital’s property was sold by the Bon Secours Health System, who gave it to developers who revitalized some of the buildings and turned them into condominiums. 

The Brownstones 

hamilton park

Throughout the 1800s, the beautiful brownstones that are now synonymous with Hamilton Park were built, and residents quickly came and filled up the area. 

One of the most famous residents was John V. Kenny, who rose to prominence as the 32nd Mayor of Jersey City. He had a falling out with Jersey City icon Frank Hague and then ran against Hague’s nephew in what many consider to be the dirtiest political campaign in Jersey City history. He was a strict ruler until 1953, and some recountings suggest that he used his power even after he lost the mayoral title. He lived at 22 West Hamilton Place until he was indicted for tax evasion in 1972, and the home was auctioned off for $8,000.

hamilton park

In 1979, The Hamilton Park Historic District was established to protect both the homes and the park itself. 

Historical Landmarks

The Centenary | 306 Pavonia Avenue

This 130-year-old building was the former home of Centenary M.E. Church, which is also known as Centennial Methodist Church. In 2012, it was converted into condos after being thoroughly examined by the Jersey City Historic District Commission, which ensured that the original details were restored and preserved to keep the dignity of the building alive. 

Wells Fargo Building | 299 Pavonia Avenue

Today we know Wells Fargo primarily as a bank, but one of the pillars of the business, historically, was package delivery via horse and carriage (hence the logo). The building was constructed in 1890 and was used as a stable and storage facility for the Wells Fargo & Company Overland Express horses and delivery carts. Of course, as times changed, Wells Fargo adopted, and the horse and carriage business became outdated. So, the building sat vacant in the 1960s and 1970s, until it was eventually revitalized and turned into apartments, with much of its original details being preserved and maintained. 

Holy Rosary Church | 344 Sixth Street

The first Italian-American parish in the state of New Jersey was brought together in 1885 on Sixth Street, where Holy Rosary Church originally occupied a small building. In this location, the larger, ornate building that currently houses the church was completed in 1904. 

The Restoration 

hamilton park

See More: Historical Walking Tour: A Guide to Paulus Hook

In 2010, Hamilton Park underwent a huge restoration, which saw the public park receive a basketball court, gazebo, children’s playground, and two tennis courts.

hamilton park

The modern borders of the Hamilton Park Historic District are Sixth Street, Bay Street, Manila Avenue (formerly Grove Street), and Coles Street. This restoration helped Hamilton Park become the trendy, family-friendly, and history-rich area we know it to be today. 

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