Hoboken is the home of the first recorded game of baseball (check out the bases at the four corners between 10th and 11th and Washington Streets where Elysian Fields used to be), the very first Blimpie sandwich shop (which was located on 7th and Washington Street and opened in 1964 by three friends) and of course Ol’ Blue Eyes, the Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra. Beyond that, many childhood favorite candies and after-school treats all started right here, too.
Before the Cake Boss became a tourist attraction, many well-known companies developed a major presence in Hoboken including Maxwell House, Lipton Tea, and Hostess. Residents who live anywhere uptown near the Shipyard, the Hudson Tea building (Lipton Tea Warehouse), or Maxwell Place (Maxwell House Coffee Plant), this is the epicenter of the sweet history of the Mile Square. Keep reading to discover the sweet + savory history of Hoboken.
Factories in Hoboken
Since the late 19th-century, many national commercial bakers and candy manufacturers moved their factory operations to Hoboken as an economical alternative to New York City due to its transportation hub and large immigrant labor pool. Major food factories that made Hoboken their home included the R.B. Davis Company, which made Davis Baking powder, My-T-Fine puddings, Swel frosting mixes, and Cocomalt chocolate beverages (a chocolate-flavored + enriched powdered malted food drink).
According to the Hoboken Historical Museum’s archive, in the late 1800s the Davis Company’s manufacturing and distribution facility in Hoboken was on a block at Ferry (what is today known as Observer Highway) and Jackson to Harrison Streets (the building is still standing today) and operated until sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, with another location at Park Avenue and 14th Street. The Franklin Baker Company, maker of Baker’s Coconut and Log Cabin products, relocated to Hoboken in 1924 near 15th and Bloomfield Streets until 1964, when the U.S. processing facility was moved from Hoboken to Dover, Delaware.
Hostess in Hoboken
The Continental Baking Corporation, one of the first bakeries to introduce fortified bread, was founded in New York City by Robert Boyd Ward in 1849 as the Ward Baking Company. In 1921, William Ward, the grandson of Robert, took over the company, renaming it the Continental Baking Company in 1925 and acquiring Wonder Bread, which they made, along with the Schmaltz Bakery, at 8th and Clinton Streets. Readers might recognize this building as the newly renovated condo building, called Wonder Lofts.
The company also opened the Hostess Cake Kitchen, also known as the Hostess Bakery, in a two-story building at the northeast corner of 14th Street and Park Avenue, where they made their chocolate cream-filled Hostess CupCake. The building still stands today, and now instead of factory workers making cupcakes, people are working off cupcakes at the New York Sports Club.
Then around 1930, a company vice president, James Dewar, invented a simple sponge cake with a sugary cream filling named for a billboard advertising Twinkle-Toe Shoes. The Twinkie was born in the Mile Square and lunchbox memories were made.
Tootsie Rolls in Hoboken
Just a few blocks up from the Hostess factory, The Sweets Company of America was churning out chocolate Tootsie Rolls in a modern factory. The candies were first made in 1896 and are reputedly the first individually wrapped penny candy. The factory was located in buildings that occupied the entire block from 15th to 16th Streets, Willow to Park Avenue at 1515 Willow Avenue, starting in March of 1938.
Kids in Hoboken recall catching candy tossed to them by workers out of the windows of the factory after school. By 1965, the company had opened another plant near Chicago and changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc., closing the Hoboken location.
In the late 1960s, the building at the northeast corner of Willow Avenue and 15th Streets at 1505 Willow Avenue was leased by Macy’s and the 40,000-square-foot space was converted into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Studio, where it stayed until 2011.
The studio moved all operations out of Hoboken in the summer of 2011 to Moonachie, N.J. and the building was demolished in 2013. Plans are in the works for the next big thing at the site.
Read More: 5 Famous Inventions Created in Hoboken
Oreos in Hoboken
The “Oreo Biscuit” was first developed and produced by the National Biscuit Company, known today as Nabisco, in 1912 at its Chelsea, Manhattan factory in the present-day Chelsea Market complex.
Although Oreos weren’t manufactured here (we can’t make everything), Hobokenites were the first to enjoy them. The earliest recorded wholesale order of a can of the iconic chocolate-flavored wafer and the creme-filled sandwich cookie was made by Hoboken shop owner S.C. Theusen, who owned a grocery store at 10th and Washington Street, on March 6th, 1912.
The Ice Cream Cone In Hoboken
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The first edible ice cream cone (or ice cup biscuits, as they were known) was created by an Italian immigrant named Italo Marchiony, who in 1903 patented the first mold to produce ice cream cups and opened his plant at Second and Grand Streets. Legend has it that when he was exhibiting at the St. Louis World’s Fair the next year, he ran out of the “Hoboken Ice Cups” and asked the waffle-maker at the next booth to roll the waffle into a cone…and the rest is history.
Next time readers order an almond milk latte at Hudson Coffee on Maxwell Lane, are standing at the corner of 15th Street and Willow Avenue on the way to Orale, savor a croissant at the uptown Cho-o-Pain in the Tea Building, are working out at NYSC, devour a Cherry Garcia ice cream cone at Ben + Jerry’s, or indulge in a deep-fried Oreo or Twinkie at the next street fair, take a moment to remember back to where it all began in Hoboken’s sweet history.