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Jersey City And Its Historic Sites

By Harriet Phillips Eaton
Published 1899

This Web version, edited by GET NJ


Jersey City is lamentably deficient in parks. Before the city was first established, some say that there was a small park in front of Lyons Hotel, others assert that there was only one willow tree there.

After the city came into existence there was for many years, on the site now occupied by the brick-yard, south of Essex street, between Essex and the Canal, a pleasure resort called the Thatched Cottage Gardens, with trees, flowers and vines, where there was music, balloon ascensions and games, and ice cream served in the summer houses and arbors. A place very popular, not only with Jersey City people, but also with, many New Yorkers. It was the scene of many interesting events, among others it is said that Jenny Lind sang there. An interesting illustration of the growth of local expressions had its origin in a little incident connected with a visit of Bergen boys to the Thatched Cottage Gardens to see a celebrated aeronaut of the day, named Gilley. After their return home the boys arranged a balloon ascension of their own in the barn belonging to the father of the chief actor, who by means of ropes fastened about him and thrown over the beams above, holding an open umbrella, was drawn up by the other boys to what he considered a proper height, then bidding them let go, he expected to sail off by means of his umbrella, but instead, came suddenly to the barn floor, with a broken leg as the result, amid the derisive jeers of his mates, "You're a Gilley!" To this day the term is used among Bergen children when an over smart scheme of a mate proves a failure.

In Bergen the old orchard on the Merselis farm, near Orchard street, called the Merselis Grove, was for years a resort for picnic parties. To-day there is the Caledonia Park; the Blakely Wilson Homestead, on Baldwin avenue, belonging to a private corporation and hired out to associations for picnic and games. The only city parks are Van Vorst Square and Hamilton Park, which were originally given to the town of Van Vorst, the first by the Van Vorst family and the other by John B. Coles, the founder of the town, and the four park corners at the intersection of Washington and Grand streets. A few years ago, when there were still acres of woodland between Jersey City and Bergen Point, where people could go for a day's outing, there seemed less need for city parks, but with the growth of the city and the vast increase of the manufacturing population, there is necessity for the establishment at different points of small parks and play grounds as breathing places for the crowded portions of the city. At present the Boulevard or County road is the great resort on Sundays and holidays, when it is crowded with people in vehicles of all characters, on bicycles and afoot.

Table of Contents

Jersey City History
Your Ancestors' Story
Asbury Park
Bruce Springsteen's Jersey Shore Rock Haven!

The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and The Central Railroad Terminal
Visit Liberty State Park!

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