Home Culture This Local Artist Captures Hoboken + Jersey City Throughout the Years

This Local Artist Captures Hoboken + Jersey City Throughout the Years

by Sarah Griesbach
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Hoboken and Jersey City are packed full of artistic inspiration — and one local artist took notice. For decades, artist Richard La Rovere has documented the buildings and streets of past and present Jersey City, Hoboken, and the surrounding region in his charming pen and ink drawings. Richard built a career forming an enchanting archive of architectural renderings that celebrate what Hudson County neighborhoods and business districts looked like a century ago and how they appear today. Read on to learn all about Richard La Rovere, the local Hudson County artist working to capture and preserve various spots around Hoboken + Jersey City.

(Photo Credits: Richard La Rovere)

Jersey City Through and Through

Here, amongst one of the world’s most transient populations, Richard La Rovere is a rare and special thing — a third generation Jersey City resident. Not only has he lived in Jersey City (aka Chilltown, America’s Golden Door, Wall Street West, + the Sixth Borough) since before any of those nicknames had been coined, but he’s actually lived in the same Ogden Avenue, Jersey Heights building since his birth. This has given Richard a unique vantage for documenting the rapid change that has transformed this region.

Richard’s effort to draw what he saw in his neighborhood and beyond began in his teen years. In his youth, his landlord’s passion for the houses in their neighborhood ignited the same in him. That landlord, Theodore Conrad, happened to be America’s leading architectural model maker, and his studio of Plexiglas and aluminum miniature buildings served as an inspiration to the boy whose parents recalled him always on the floor with pencil and paper.

richard la rovere elysian cafe

Elysian Cafe

(Photo Credits: Richard La Rovere)

The iconic Beaux Arts Lackawanna train station, old Victorian mansions with their meandering porches, elegant Art Deco apartment buildings, the ornate Baroque/Rococo revivalist style of Loew’s Jersey Theatre — these number amongst the splendid variety of architectural wonders Richard delights to have been born into. A dedicated draftsman, Richard has honed his craft through study and practice. In his adolescence, he studied under dedicated teaching artist Marge Colavito, who ran the Upstairs Art Gallery at 896 Bergen Avenue in Journal Square for many decades. Later, he went on to earn a BFA in commercial art at New Jersey City University. 

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Richard refers to his career path as in keeping with the tradition of the journeyman. In his youth, he began to accrue contracts by going door-to-door with a flier made to promote his burgeoning practice to neighbors who might not have thought of the walls they lived in as worthy of illustration. The bars, cafes, restaurants, and other small business owners Richard introduced himself to also recognized the value of adding their establishments to his ever-growing portfolio. 

(Photo Credits: Richard La Rovere)

Visual History to Build Recognition, Pride, and Pleasure

Reception to Richard’s artworks has flourished throughout the years. During the past few months, he has taken a selection of his historic renderings with him to display at the open house events for the new Jersey City Historical Museum at the Apple Tree House. Richard’s complete historical portfolio is currently archived in the Jersey City Main Public Library’s New Jersey Room as part of their Picture Collection. Moreover, 25 of Richard’s artworks were purchased by the JCPL for permanent public display in its Main Branch General Reference Room and are currently on view. 

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A selection of Richard’s renderings come from scraps of images — old postcards and newspaper illustrations. Through his practiced imagination, Richard’s depictions of those partial pictures restore a visual history of the region. Blurry photographs become detailed watercolor-edged drawings of romantic bygone city streets with horse drawn carriages or now-antique vehicles calling up the time period. 

(Photo Credits: Richard La Rovere)

Where to Find Your La Rovere Rendering

Whether as home decor, a gift, or a souvenir, prints of Richard’s local landmarks are popular for their speciality to this special place. Unjumbold, the eclectic home goods store at 257 First Street in Hoboken, has a lovely selection of Richard’s artworks ever in stock for finding a special Richard La Rovere scene to keep or to gift. 

edwards hotel richard la rovere

(Photo Credits: Richard La Rovere)

Many of the individual houses and businesses that Richard draws are commissions. He enjoys capturing the magic of a home for the occupant of that space who may want to see it as it once was or to have the window treatments, paint colors, and flowerpots shown exactly as they exist right now. His practice includes pet and people portraits as well. 

A number of restaurants and bars have commissioned murals from Richard throughout the years. He continues to take on these projects with the knowledge that he is not only documenting the elegance of the buildings and the life of the community, but he is also adding to the rich and colorful urban landscape himself as he paints lively scenes in local businesses. 

richard la rovere nags head pub

(Photo Credits: Richard La Rovere)

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