One of the most special things about Hoboken is its eclectic mix of old and new, especially when it comes to architecture and design. At an upcoming meeting, the Hoboken Historic Preservation Commission (HPC)’s single agenda item is to hear an application for a project located at 212-214 Hudson Street, which faces Court Street. The City of Hoboken is currently in the midst of a multi-year effort to preserve and upgrade Court Street. Read more to learn about the proposed project and why it could impact the City’s work on the preservation of Court Street.
About Court Street
Seven-block-long Court Street is one of the oldest documented parts of Hoboken, with records dating back to 1804 confirming its existence as part of Colonel John Stevens’ initial survey of Hoboken. Court Street is located within the New Jersey and the National Register-eligible Hoboken Historic District. The New Jersey Historic Preservation Office (NJHPO) issued an opinion of eligibility for the district, including the street as a contributing resource in 2016.
The charming cobblestoned street has been a favorite spot for engagement photos and family portraits, as the street has a decidedly European vibe. And we can’t forget its tie to one of Hoboken’s biggest claims to fame as the filming location of the 1954 cinematic classic On the Waterfront. The mews facing Court Street portrayed the housing of the shipyard staff and dockhands in the movie. According to the Hoboken Historical Museum, many of the stones used to pave the street had a previous task as ship ballast, another callback to Hoboken’s origins as a maritime town.
Read more: The Discovery of Hoboken: A Brief History
The Court Street Rehabilitation Project is an effort by the City of Hoboken to upgrade the street while maintaining its character. Initial efforts began in 2018, but the current push exists mostly independently from the 2018 effort. The current project is meant to incorporate public feedback and bring the roadway more in line with its current use as a service alley for the businesses that face Washington Street. Lighting, sanitation, drainage, ADA accessibility, and other modern concerns will be addressed while keeping the goal of maintaining the roadway’s historical charm in mind.
The project contemplates the work being completed in two phases. Phase one spans Court Street from Newark Street to 4th Street and Phase two runs from 4th Street to 7th Street. As of summer 2023, the City has released two preliminary proposals and is soliciting public feedback.
At the Hoboken Historic Preservation Board meeting next week on Monday, June 26th, there is a proposal for a project at 212-214 Hudson Street. According to application materials submitted to the HPC, applicants want to make alterations to the properties at 212-214 Hudson Street and 213 Court Street. The outcome would be three, multifamily buildings, two that are four stories tall.
The property at 212-214 Hudson Street has been extensively documented as a historically significant piece of Hoboken’s history. According to a 2018 Architectural Survey of Hoboken, “The building at 212-214 Hudson Street is a three-story, two-bay dwelling constructed ca. 1850. 212-214 Hudson Street retains integrity as a dwelling and maintains significant features that contribute to the historic character of the greater Hoboken Historic District. Character-defining features include the original openings; front porch; front and side gardens; and stone sills and lintels. Therefore, it is recommended that 212-214 Hudson Street be classified as a contributing resource to the Hoboken Historic District.”
Terry Pranses, a Hoboken resident and activist for historical preservation, described the property as both a breath of architectural fresh air and a one-of-a-kind call back to Hoboken’s past. “When you’re walking, biking, driving, or even riding a bus down Husdon Street, you see all these commercial buildings, and then all of a sudden there’s this little house with wisteria and hedges out front. The setback from the street and a side garden and the way it looks – punctuates the urban street front, creating a real moment. It makes you want to take a deep breath and enjoy it,” he said. “It’s rare to see a house like this with the garden and the carriage house and stables intact that’s not part of an institution. I can think of maybe a handful,” he said. “It is a connection to what Hoboken must have been like way back when,”
The adjoining property 213 Court Street, a three-story brick stable with five bays, was also built in the 1880s. In terms of the developer’s plans to incorporate this building into the plans, ” the building itself looks solid and looks imposing, obviously, the developer looked at it and thought there was some value in preserving it, even though they have different ideas than some historians about how many doors and windows they should add or enlarge.”
The HPC meeting is not the final stamp of approval for the applicant. The applicant will also have to present materials to the Zoning Board and the Planning Board, a process that could take several more months. At the same time, the City’s Court Street project is moving forward. The City has engaged a consultant, completed an initial round of public meetings, shared two initial designs, and has shared the designs and is in the process of seeking more public feedback.
Seven-block-long Court Street is in the middle of all of this, literally and figuratively. At the same time that the City is spending a significant amount of time and taxpayer money on upgrading it, the applicant is proposing a material alteration to the property facing Court Street. While the applicant hasn’t specifically said that Court Street would be damaged in the process, anyone who has seen any construction project in Hoboken knows that neighboring properties and roadways are also disrupted, sometimes significantly, by the work.
“A building like 214 Hudson Street is part of what makes Hoboken special,” Terry said. “It doesn’t take a deep study to see that that is a part of Hoboken’s past. As much of that as we can maintain, the better,”