My summer internship at the Hoboken Historic Preservation Commission required me to do primary research on buildings for a potential new historic district on both sides of First Street. The road was once a chief commercial thoroughfare in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, second only to Washington Street. However, the area fell into decline after disinvestment in the 1950s and riots in the 1960s, and remained a relatively unsafe neighborhood through the early 1990s. In the past twenty years, although First Street experienced economic revitalization, this was accompanied by teardowns of character-defining properties and the construction of out of scale condominiums. The implementation of a First Street Historic District would seek to maintain the corridor’s scale and architectural significance while stabilizing property values by limiting further massive housing projects.
The first step to creating such a district is completing building-specific survey forms with items such as a structure’s physical properties (height, width, material), stylistic attributes, time of construction, and subsequent alterations. My supervisors, Paul Somerville, Dennis English, and Joan Anastasio introduced me to various resources that I could use to acquire this information. They included the Hoboken Public Library, Hoboken Historical Museum (a special exhibit of historic New Jersey maps was being held during my time there), Jersey City Public Library, New Jersey Historical Society in Newark, and the Hudson County Register in Jersey City, which was particularly helpful for looking through historic deeds and mortgages. Unlike New York, which has extensive collections of building permits and tax assessment records, this information was either not kept or simply did not exist at Hoboken’s City Hall. This forced me to explore and improvise other ways to assess each building’s provenance, which in itself was quite exciting. I ended up surveying a total of 68 buildings. Even outside my specific tasks, the internship was also a wonderful way to learn more about northern New Jersey and its relation to New York, both by walking around three different cities and using the PATH system.
Max Yeston, HP/UP ’14