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A Guide To Its Present And Past
Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of New Jersey
American Guide Series

Originally published in 1939
Some of this information may no longer be current and in that case is presented for historical interest only.

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

Jersey City
Part 2

Its site at the upper end of New York Bay has made Jersey City the terminal for nine trunk line railroads and steamship lines. Leading industrial products are soaps, pencils, cans, mouth wash, cigarettes, macaroni, meats, and steel. Other factories among the hundreds in the city produce a variety of goods ranging from electric elevators to pinless diapers.

The city's area, originally limited to Paulus Hook and Van Vorst Township, is partly the result of consolidations with neighboring communities Bergen, Communipaw, Greenville, Claremont, Hudson City, Pamrapo, and Marion. Within living memory, parts of the city were swamps. Several sections still display characteristics of various stages in its spasmodic commercial and political growth. The downtown district, site of the original Paulus Hook settlement, is a rail and ship terminal with a large share of the city's factories. Many of the industrial plants consist of the first red brick structure surrounded by additions, some of them converted from old dwellings, stables or hotels.

Thoroughfares leading to the water front meet with a chaos of side streets that cross and interlace, forming odd-shaped islands upon which squat equally odd-shaped structures. Skeletons of abandoned buildings stand crumbling in the shadow of newer factories, humming with the roar of machinery. The residential streets are lined with tightly packed rows of two- and three-story brownstone or brick houses. Some are old and unoccupied, seemingly held erect only by the support of the neighboring strucures.

The Newark Avenue shopping district, most important of half a dozen scattered business centers, consists of numerous small shops of variegated architecture and color. Nearness of the Manhattan retail section has deprived Jersey City of department stores commensurate with its size.

Hudson Boulevard, the principal north and south traffic artery of the county, cuts through the center of Jersey City at Journal Square, a broad plaza constructed in 1925. The square serves as a terminal for hundreds of busses of local and interurban lines. By night its three large motion picture houses and its brightly lit restaurants are crowded with patrons from up and down the peninsula.

South of the square, Hudson Boulevard penetrates the apartment house district, where tall and elaborate buildings are squeezing out the remaining private homes of wealthier citizens. Homes of undistinguished architecture lie farther south to the point where Jersey City imperceptibly merges with its neighbor, Bayonne. North of Journal Square the boulevard climbs the shoulder of the Palisades, with continuous urbanization into Union City.

The city has a foreign-born population of 70,313 (22 percent), including 16,097 Italians and 12,432 Poles. Germans are third in number, with 9,631; next in order are the Irish, 8,741; Russians, 4,415; and English, 2,807. There are 12,575 Negroes. The Polish residents have preserved to a notable degree many of their native customs, such as the large family gathering on Christmas Eve at which sacred wafers are eaten.


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