New Jersey’s second-leading city is Jersey City, and it was the site for the state’s first permanent European settlers. The foundation of this well-known city began in the 1630s, when farmers, fur trappers and Dutch investors’ agents left New Amsterdam for new lands west of the Hudson River.
Early settlements never got a stronghold due to disputes with the native Lenapes tribe. However, in 1660, New Netherland Governor-General Peter Stuyvesant came upon Palisade Hill to a town called Bergen. Here, he helped to foster the growth of farms, school, church and self-government.
Although the area was undergoing construction of a key stagecoach road and both the American Revolution and British armies were moving through, Bergen was a rural town. It would remain this way through all the 18th century but changed in the early 19th century. In 1804, some investors, with the help of three New Yorkers, bought land in the area near the Hudson. They called this development the Town of Jersey.
Entrepreneur and investor Robert Fulton purchased land in Jersey to build a dry dock, allowing him to run his steamboats to and from Manhattan. The ferries were vital to the future of Jersey City as a key transportation hub, as they were a mainland connection for both people and freight going to and coming from New York.
In the mid-1830s, Jersey City’s fate as a regional economy was solid, especially with the arrival of the Morris Canal and railroad. Thanks to the excellent access to fuel and transportation, the area brought in industries that led to population growth. Due to this growth, it was able to become an independent city, breaking away from Bergen.
The 1880s saw a rise in the number of German and Irish immigrants, who were coming from their homelands’ famine crisis and revolution. This boosted the city even more and created a pattern that still happens to this day. Jersey City is often the first home for many American newcomers.
The waterfront saw a growth in railroads, which helped with industrializing the area. People would come to work the factories, using the trains throughout the time of the Civil War. Jersey City had grown significantly in population and economy that it eclipsed its neighbors who voted to become one big city such as Bergen and Hudson City. It wasn’t long afterward Jersey City acquired Greenville, which currently makes up its boundaries.
Jersey City was home to multiple rail terminals – the Pennsylvania, the Erie, the Jersey Central and the Lehigh Valley. Numerous ferries, barges and lighters crossed the river and New York Bay, bringing all kinds of goods to the New York region.
The region resulted in many factories of products still known today, such as Colgate soaps, Lorillard tobaccos, Emerson Radio, American Can, etc.
Although the area was a mixture of nationalities, it still did not temper the ethnic tensions as Americanization was hoping for. Throughout the 20th century, Frank Hague ruled the Jersey City’s political landscape for more than 30 years. Hague was well-loved (though some did compare him to a consummate machine boss), cleaning up the city and helping to set up one of the best medical centers in the world – The Medical Center.
Hague was the first Democratic city mayor to send a woman, Mary Norton, to run for the House of Representatives – a goal he had hoped to achieve. Jersey City residents agreed with his assessment of Norton, sending her to Congress for 13 terms.
World War II saw changes for the area, mainly due to interest in suburbs and partly due to the decline of railroads and factories closing. It would appear in the 1960s and 1970s, the damage was done to Jersey City, but many residents who left came back and the city boomed once more.
The Hudson River’s west bank was once again filled with railroad yards, new stores and restaurants. With all these, it also meant new jobs that needed new developments. Today’s Jersey City economy is focused more on finance and commerce with offices of the key shipping lanes that were once based in the city.
One of the biggest landmarks in Jersey City is the Liberty Science Center located at 222 Jersey City Blvd. From the Liberty Science Center with a 4 minute drive is the Liberty National Golf Course at 100 Caven Point Rd. Don’t forget to check out the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial at 1 Audrey Zapp Dr.
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