Hoboken Highlights

Erie-Lackawanna Terminal, 1907

Kenneth Murchison, architect, Lincoln Bush, engineer, Beaux Arts

Erie-Lackawanna Terminal is probably Hoboken’s most visible landmark. One of the greatest terminals ever built, it was designed with the panache and theatrical grandeur of the Beaux-Arts architectural style. Constructed in the days when a train station was meant to be a grand entrance to a city, the Erie-Lackawanna Terminal still fits that role.

The site of the terminal has been used as a transportation hub since colonial times. It was here that the first steam-powered ferries arrived in Hoboken – a service started by Hoboken’s founder John Stevens in 1811. After the ferries came railroads. In 1815 Stevens obtained the first railroad charter in America, and in 1825 he constructed the first American locomotive. In an effort to create more enthusiasm for railroads, he built a circular railroad track on this site to demonstrate his locomotive, which moved in circles to the delight and amusement of the awestruck public.

The Lackawanna Terminal was the fifth to be built in the same spot from 1862 to 1905. Since the first four went up in flames, the current terminal, built in 1907, was constructed to be fireproof, with ornamental copper plating over concrete. Combining elegance and practicality, it recreates Renaissance ideas in 20th-century materials.

In terms of engineering, it’s a wonder. The double-decker ferry terminal brought passengers on top while horses and carriages arrived at the bottom. The entire structure was built over water on a steel and concrete foundation.

The striking main waiting room, with its Tiffany stained-glass skylight and its bronze chandeliers, was designed to accommodate as many as 100,000 people that came through to get to the boat.

These days the terminal incorporates several modes of transportation into one structure: six ferry slips and fourteen commuter rail lines that sit atop the underground PATH train. On a typical weekday, 60,000 commuters use the terminal.

The station has been used for film shoots, including Funny Girl, Three Days of the Condor, Once Upon a Time in America, The Station Agent, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Julie & Julia, Rod Stewart’s Downtown Train video (1990) and Eric Clapton’s video for his 1996 single “Change the World.”

Edwin A. Stevens Hall (Stevens Institute of Technology), 1870

Richard M Upjohn, architect, High Victorian Gothic

When inventor Edwin A. Stevens died in 1868, his will provided for the establishment of the university that now bears his name. Two years later, in 1870, Stevens Institute of Technology opened, offering a curriculum leading to a degree in Mechanical engineering. In fact, Stevens is America’s first college devoted to mechanical engineering.

When Stevens Institute of Technology opened its doors in 1870, it only had one academic building, Edwin A. Stevens Hall, named after its founder. The “A” Building was the first on campus and housed classrooms, offices, and a lecture hall for its 21 students and eight faculty members.

The striking building was designed by architect Richard M. Upjohn and his father Richard Upjohn, well known for his beautiful Gothic Revival churches, most famously the Trinity Church on Wall Street. Like many other Univerity structures, the Edwin A. Stevens Hall was designed in a High Victorian Gothic style characterized by the use of polychrome decoration, varying textures, and Gothic details.

Stevens’s family is known as “America’s First Family of Inventors.” They changed the face of American engineering forever, designing steamboats, locomotives, railroad tracks, and a host of other technical innovations that powered a new nation.

Stevens Institute of Technology produced two Nobel Prize winners and countless new technologies.

  • Stevens alumni invented IMAP – the modern form of email
  •  Bubble wrap was invented in Stevens
  •  Stevens graduate Alexander Calder invented the hanging art form known as the mobile
  •  A Stevens graduate, Frederick Reines, discovered the neutrino, validating the “Big Bang” theory of the universe’s creation. He was awarded a Nobel Prize.

The Castle and the Castle Point Observation Terrace

At 100 feet, Castle Point Observation Terrace is the highest elevation in Hoboken, offering a magnificent vista from the Verrazano Narrows to the George Washington Bridge, with sweeping views of Manhattan.

The Stevens family has lived atop this serpentine rock promontory since 1814. In 1854, Edwyn and Robert Stevens built here a grand 64-room mansion dubbed Stevens Castle. The mansion was designed in Italianate Villa style by Alexander Jackson Davis — a sought-after architect of many grand villas and best known as a co-architect of the Federal Hall on Wall Street. The building stood until 1959, when it was razed (sadly) to make room for the present administration building.

The bluff was first noticed back in 1609 by Henry Hudson’s people when they first saw the Island of Manhattan. A cannon located at the Castle Point Observation Terrace was said to have been brought over from France during the American Revolution. It was found on the grounds of the Colonnade Hotel when it was demolished in 1888 and brought over to act as a symbol of protection for Stevens’s home. One remaining detail of the Stevens Castle is Gatehouse — the Grand entrance to the Castle was built in 1845 from serpentine rock.

The Columbia Club, 1891

Richardson Romanesque

The Columbia Club was built in 1891 for the use of gentlemen’s society composed of one hundred wealthiest residents from Hoboken and New York City. A defunct social club has an exterior that is remarkably unchanged from when it was built. Its function, however, changed from a businessmen’s club to an upscale condominium.

The club’s interior used to feature spacious, mahogany-paneled rooms that included a library, a card room, and spaces used for receptions and lectures. These days it has four apartments with common spaces: the 22-foot-high vaulted entertainment hall, the beamed-ceiling billiard room, the banquet room, and the parlor with double fireplaces.

The club was designed in the Richardson Romanesque style – a romantic style that became popular in the 19th century. The style bears the name of architect Henry Hobson Richardson who brought the ideas of 11th and 12th-century Romanesque architecture into the 19th century. It is characterized by heavy rustication, rounded arches, contrasting color bands, and cylindrical towers.

The name of the club reflects the 19th-century personification of the United States: a goddess-like female figure named Columbia. Comparable to the British Britannia and the French Marianne, America was represented by “Miss Columbia,” whose image still adorns the building’s walls.

Dorothea Lange House, 1892

1041 Bloomfield Street

This impressive four-story 19th-century brownstone is the childhood home of photographer Dorothea Lange (1895 – 1965). Dorothea Lange, whose career started as a portrait photographer, created her most important work as a photojournalist, bringing to light the faces of rural America during the Great Depression. Along with other photographers, she traveled the country and recorded the lives of people in order to promote Roosevelt’s New Deal program. She created some of the most recognizable photo images in the world.

It remains a single-family house (6 beds 4 baths 3,750 sqft) currently priced over $3 million.

Yellow Flats, circa 1890

Built by the Hoboken Land & Improvement Company, these apartments were once home to one of the wealthiest women of her day, Hetty Green. Known as the Witch of Wall Street, she was worth $3.8 billion and was considered the world’s richest woman. Despite this, she chose a cold water/no heat apartment at Yellow Flats for her residence. She made her enormous fortune in Wall street investments but gained notoriety for her legendary misery. The Guinness Book of World Records awarded her the title of the world’s greatest miser.

The composer and performer “Blind Tom” Wiggins also lived here in the last years of his life until 1908.

Lipton Tea Building, 1905

Located at the end of Washington Street, this massive pair of buildings was once the epicenter of Sir Thomas Lipton’s (1850 – 1931) vast tea empire. Ships delivering cargoes of tea anchored alongside the building in North Hoboken Harbor to unload directly onto its dock.

The Lipton Tea Company was started by Sir Thomas Lipton when he could not find a tea that satisfied his standards. To produce quality tea, he purchased tea fields in Sri Lanka. Sir Lipton’s empire, which started with one store in Glasgow, grew to over 200 stores across the U.K. Later, his ambition went beyond Europe, expanding his reach across the ocean. Hoboken offered exactly what Sir Lipton was looking for: excellent port and easy access to New York City. The Hoboken hub made it easy for shipments to come in from Sri Lankan tea plantations to be packaged and distributed across the U.S.

The Hoboken Lipton Tea manufacturing plant (1919), followed by Maxwell Coffee, Bethlehem Steel, and Hostess, brought a booming industry to the town. The Lipton Plant closed in 1963. The Tea Buildings, now known as the Hudson Tea Buildings, were converted to residential “loft” apartments at the turn of the 21st century.

Elysian Park, 1893

Elysian Park was created in 1893 from land donated by the Hoboken Land & Improvement Company, founded by Colonel John Stevens. Initially, most of the Hoboken land belonged to the Stevens family, but by the end of the 19th century, the Stevenses divested themselves holding only a small plot between the seventh and tenth streets east of Washington Street. Part of this land became an Elysian Park.

The park takes its name from the popular 19th-century pleasure grounds located along the Hoboken waterfront. In its turn, the pleasure grounds were named after the Elysian Fields, which, according to Classical mythology, were the part of the underworld reserved for heroes.

Elysian Park and its vicinity claim a few famous events. It’s here, just south of the park, that the first recorded baseball game was played in 1846. East of the park was the first home of the first yacht club in the US  – the New York Yacht Club. A bronze monument in the middle of the park dedicated to World War I soldiers was designed by C. H. Niehaus, a prominent American sculptor.

In the 20th century, Elysian Park once again got into the national spotlight. Film director Elia Kazan shot his masterpiece “On the Waterfront” — the first American film shot entirely on the location — in Hoboken. The 1954 movie received twelve Academy Award nominations and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director for Kazan. Some of the most critical movie scenes of the film took place in Elysian Park.

Pier C Park, 2010

A modern kidney-shaped park built on the site of the old Pier C boasts some of the most breathtaking views of New York City. Not only the new park is charming, but it is also a historical footnote: it’s a tribute to the Hoboken floating clubhouses.

In the 19th century, the Hoboken waterfront was lined with floating clubhouses of rowing and sailing clubs. Most of them were crowded out in the late 1800s by the massive piers serving the trans-Atlantic shipping lines of Holland America, North German Lloyd, and Hamburg American. One small floating clubhouse survived into the 1950s and made it to Hollywood, appearing in the film “On the Waterfront.”

Pier A Park and World War I Memorial, 1925

Pier A, located next to Hoboken Terminal, jets into the Hudson River, providing stunning views of Manhattan and fresh breezes from the water. Since 1999, the area previously used as a landing space for major trans-Atlantic shipping lines has been reshaped into a lovely park.

It’s hard to imagine now, but American troops headed to the front to fight in World War I left from the site of Pier A. Hoboken was the official port of embarkation, and in 1917 some two million American troops boarded the vessels to go to war. General Pershing, in his speech to the troops, famously declared: “Haven, Hell or Hoboken by Christmas .” In 1918 President Woodrow Wilson sailed from Pier A to attend the Paris Peace Conference, where he proposed the formation of the League of Nations.

The World War I Memorial, 1925, honors the memory of American soldiers who fought in the war. 

Elks, 1906 

The Hoboken Elks Lodge building, regarded as one of the nation’s finest lodge buildings, was completed in 1906. The Hoboken Elks is the only chapter in New Jersey that still occupies its original building, and the property is still used for everything from film shoots to private events.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was formally organized in 1868 in New York City. Within twenty years, Elks lodges were found in most major cities in the United States. Despite trying times, like the Great Depression or the economic decline of the 1969s, the Hoboken Elks have been able to maintain their original address.

901 Bloomfield Street, 1891

This striking building stared its life as a First Baptist Church. It was designed by the New York architectural firm French, Dixon & DeSaldern in a popular at the time Romanesque Revival style.

The building was restored and repurposed into a luxury condominium, known as The Raphael, in 2017 with just six residences.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Barbara Zimmerman says:

    fascinating!! and then there’s Frank Sinatra. but I guess he’s not a building.



    1. Thank you! About Sinatra: another post is coming about places (and buildings) in Hoboken connected with the Ol’ Blue eyes.


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