Home Best of Guides Historical Walking Tour: A Guide to Paulus Hook

Historical Walking Tour: A Guide to Paulus Hook

by Nicole Gittleman
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When you stop and enjoy the view from Pier A Park or pass through the Grove Street Path, something you may wonder from time to time, given the history of our area, is what happened where you’re standing 20, 50, 100 years ago. It may not occur to you daily, but there’s plenty of history in Hudson County to discover just outside your door. We invite you to take a walk back-in-time and follow along with our curated self-guided walking tours that highlight local “treasures” and history to help you truly discover different neighborhoods throughout Hoboken and Jersey City. 

Consider taking a historic walk through a few other neighborhoods we’ve curated lists for thus far, like the Jersey City Heights and Journal Square. Or, if you’re open to a journey beyond Hudson County, you’ll want to read our review of 17 Historical Places to Visit in North Jersey

In this article, learn more about historic Paulus Hook, an especially notable neighborhood in Jersey City’s rich history.

paulus hook jersey city history tour

Getting There

Paulus Hook is a waterfront neighborhood at the tip of Jersey City that faces Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Liberty State Park. It is accessible by a short walk from the Grove Street or Exchange Place Path Stations. The Marin Boulevard stop on the Light Rail will also bring you to the heart of Paulus Hook. 

The History Behind The Neighborhood

In 1633, the Dutch West India Company named Michael Paulusen the agent {or, overseer} of the land. Michael’s last name, partnered with the Dutch term “hoeck” which means hook or point, is what gave the neighborhood its name. The area we call Paulus Hook is notable for a few historic reasons. Starting in the 1760s, the neighborhood was known for its ferry and stagecoach service, thanks partially to a local businessman named Cornelius Van Vorst.

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The area is also notable due to its strategic location during the battle between Britain and the American colonies. Before the war had even begun, General George Washington ordered a fort to be constructed at Paulus Hook to defend from British attack across the Hudson River. The district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and New Jersey Register of Historic Places.

Eye spy opportunity: When walking around the neighborhood, keep an eye out for Cold War-era nuclear fallout shelter signs. 

Zap Fitness

Paulus Hook Today 

Paulus Hook is a popular neighborhood for families and couples looking for a cozy, quiet place to call home. The streets are lined with beautiful brownstones, peppered with quaint restaurants {like White Star Bar and Satis Bistro} and cafes {sam a.m.}, and full of friendly neighbors. Paulus Hook is nestled in a waterfront area near Liberty Marina, which makes for a gorgeous walking path on a nice day. The core neighborhood {also home to St. Peter’s Preparatory High School} is tucked behind bustling Grand Street.

Stop #1: Exchange Place Terminal 

Location: 2932 Kennedy Boulevard

exchange place

As long as people have inhabited Jersey City, the Exchange Place area has been a hot commodity for a variety of reasons – transport, commerce, residence. Between the 1890s and 1920s, Exchange Place was considered the central hub of Jersey City. Before the PATH Train and Light Rail existed in Exchange Place, the New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company {NJRR} had bought the land to build a rail terminal on the Jersey City waterfront in 1839.

20 years later in 1858, the Pennsylvania Railroad company bought Exchange Place, re-built a stronger rail terminal, and in 1891, were responsible for introducing the ferry to the Paulus Hook neighborhood. Today, Exchange Place is home to the PATH Train, ferry {the next stop}, and towering corporate buildings, making the Jersey City skyline quite the sight from across the way.

Read More: How Hoboken Got Its Name

Stop #2: The Paulus Hook Ferry Terminal

Location: Hudson Street

Paulus Hook Ferry

Robert Fulton, an engineer and steamboat developer, saw Paulus Hook as an advantageous location for transport and thus, commerce. In 1812, he launched a ferry service between Paulus Hook and New York on the Hudson River, which took approximately ten to fifteen minutes to cross. Today, the Paulus Hook ferry remains a hub for commuters and runs daily. The terminal has been updated over the years, but the prime location has stayed the same. Check out the schedule here.

Stop #3: Colgate Clock 

Location: Lot south of the Goldman Sachs Towers, at the foot of Essex Street 

colgate clock jersey city

The Colgate’s Soap and Perfumery Works was founded in 1806 in New York City. In 1820, founder William Colgate decided to move their operations across the Hudson River to the Paulus Hook region of Jersey City. By 1847, Colgate had a large property in Jersey City in which they produced starch, soaps, perfumes, and other goods. Over the years, the owners and names of the Colgate brand changed, but when it became “The Colgate Company” in 1906, engineer and Colgate employee Warren Day was instructed to design and build a Colgate Clock in honor of the company.

The Colgate Company left Jersey City in 1985, but the clock still lives in Paulus Hook. It’s gotten facelifts and changed its position over the years, but hasn’t moved since the early 1990s. Read more about our research on the history behind the Colgate Clock.

Stop #4: Sugar House Lofts Condominiums 

Location: 174 Washington Street

The Sugar House Lofts on Washington Street in Jersey City didn’t get its name from nothing – the building that was completed in 1907 used to be a factory owned by the American Sugar Refining Company. Interestingly enough, in 1924 the company experienced a devastating fire that burnt nearly all of the extensive complex of sugar warehouses and refineries, except the Sugar House Lofts which still stand today. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the building was sold and transitioned into condominiums. 

Stop #5: Morris Canal Park

Location: Enter from Washington Street 

Morris Canal Park

Morris Canal Parks is a stop on this historic walking tour as the actual Morris Canal itself is incredibly historic. In 1836, the Morris Canal (which transported coal) was expanded through Jersey City. According to the Canal Society of NJ, “as New Jersey’s first industrial transportation system, the canal promoted commerce and shaped the economic development of the northern part of the state.” The Canal hasn’t been in use since the 1900s.

Stop #6: Light Horse Tavern

Location: 199 Washington Street

Light Horse Tavern 

In 1779, 23-year-old Major Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, led over 300 soldiers through the launch of a surprise attack in the early hours of the morning upon the British Fort at Paulus Hook. When marshy conditions and a delay threw them off, Lee and his troops were met with water damage to ammunition and some British force. Regardless, he and his sneaky move were celebrated by many. The Battle of Paulus Hook and  Major “Light Horse Harry” are commemorated at Light Horse Tavern, a local gastropub {also the owners of Lobster Garage} and a battle monument, which happens to be the next stop.

Stop #7: Bromirski Funeral Home

Location: 221 Warren Street  

Bromirski Funeral Home

This 3,600 square foot funeral home was built over 15 years ago, making it a piece of history merely for its long service to the Paulus Hook community. You can still see some of the original paint and printing of the Bromsirski logo on the side of the old brick building. According to Jersey Digs, the building in which the funeral home stood was up for sale back in 2017. 

See More: A Brief History of Jersey City’s Colgate Clock

Stop #8: Our Lady of Czestochowa Church 

Location: 120 Sussex Street

Our Lady of Czestochowa Church

This church has property ownership paperwork that dates back to as early as 1804. OLC was an episcopal church from 1830 until it was destroyed by a fire in 1869. By the early 1900s, downtown and waterfront Jersey City had become more industrialized and populated by immigrants, and interest in the religion declined rapidly. 

Stop #9: Battle of Paulus Hook Monument

Location: Southeast corner of Washington and Grand Streets

Paulus Hook Monument 

At the intersection of Grand and Washington streets, there is a 25-foot statue made of granite that was erected in 1903 to celebrate the efforts of the Daughters of the American Revolution fought on the Paulus Hook Fort. The Battle of Paulus Hook was fought by patriots against the British in August of 1779. 

Stop #10: Provident “Old Beehive” Bank 

Location: 239 Washington Street

Old Beehive Bank

181 years ago, Provident Bank, originally called “Old Beehive Bank” was the first bank to open in Jersey City and now the oldest mutual savings bank in New Jersey. 

Stop #11: Jersey City Post Office 

Location: 69 Montgomery Street 

The beautiful, grand post office on the corner of Montgomery and York was completed in 1911. It is made primarily of granite and designed in the Italian Renaissance style. While large, impressive, and historic, this wasn’t the first post office in Jersey City. 

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