Horses, once essential for transportation and hauling, began to disappear from Hoboken at the turn of the last century, radically altering the look, sound, and smell of Washington Street. Although stables could still be found on the Avenue after that period—Castle Point Stables remained at 617-623 until 1911, likely to house riding horses—this once common urban space was rapidly disappearing, as new technologies made the worker horse obsolete.
In the 20th century, trolleys gave way to buses, and parking of private automobiles became a contest of wills and patience. But Washington Street has always been walkable, an expanse to explore and to meet neighbors. New technologies in the twenty-first century brought the Avenue greater pedestrian amenities and added features, with an eye toward sustainability, including the installation of LED traffic signals with pedestrian countdown timers, high visibility crosswalks, and rain gardens to capture storm water, one of many undertakings by the City to mitigate flooding after the devastating effects of Storm Sandy in 2012.
The advent of electric power—electricity arrived in Hoboken in 1886, when the city’s chief engineer turned a switch at the local electric plant—along with the introduction of the combustion engine, brought speed and mechanical locomotion to Washington Street. The transformation in public transportation on the city’s main street made headlines in 1896, when a reporter noted that the horsecar track of the North Hudson County Railway Company was being removed to make way for heavy trolley rails. The work was being conducted by “about one hundred Italians,” the report stated, a reference to the hard labor consigned to the newest city arrivals.