A Changing Landscape

Visitors to Hoboken today can see evidence of Colonel Stevens’ original 1804 design in its division into orderly lots, laid out along a grid pattern. But in the early 1800s, Hoboken still had the feeling of a sleepy country town. The main street only extended north to Eighth Street, where it continued as a separate road to Albany.

Hoboken was slow to develop at first. Although Stevens and his descendants actively promoted lots for sale for many years, luring New Yorkers to visit via ferry for a stroll along the wooded River Walk, to sample the spring water of Sybil’s Cave and watch sporting events such as baseball matches at the Elysian Fields at the far north end of Washington Street, the area remained little more than a small resort town into the 1830s and 1840s.

One visitor during this period described Hoboken as “built chiefly on one street [with] about one hundred dwellings,” and numbered its inhabitants at “between six and seven hundred.” Three years prior to the City of Hoboken’s 1855 incorporation, sketches by New York-based landscape painter and lithographer John Bornet depict a tranquil, barely developed Washington Street, dotted with large trees and small clusters of new buildings.

By the late 1850s and early 1860s, Hoboken was drawing more residents, and Washington Street acquired additional dwellings, some with now-familiar ground-level storefronts, alongside coal and lumber yards and some light industry, such as a soap factory above Sixth Street.

Washington Street

Hoboken, NJ, USA