Mile-long Washington Street makes a terrific parade route—short enough to make a grand display, and long enough to allow crowds to see the sights and spread out along the route. And with so many apartments on top of the Avenue’s storefronts, residents can take the elevated view, leaning out of windows or perching on second-story ledges to watch the visual stories unfold.
A darker commemorative event unfolded on Washington Street at the close of the First World War. Hoboken had been the port of embarkation and debarkation for three million doughboys during the years of United States involvement. After the Versailles Peace Treaty ended the war, President Woodrow Wilson returned from France on the George Washington, docking at the Third Street Pier in Hoboken on July 8, 1919. After greeting thousands of flag-waving residents, a motorcade with the president and Mrs. Wilson, followed by a fleet of other dignitaries, travelled the length of Washington Street.
Sometimes there are days of spectacle. In 1909, the City of Hoboken joined Hudson River communities from Canada to the New York Harbor for two-week-long Hudson-Fulton Celebration commemorating 300 years of Hudson River-based commerce and transportation. City Hall, ablaze with thousands of electric lights, was festooned with bunting and flags by the United Decorating Company, which also decorated parade carriages, including one for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, for a massive parade that followed days of festivities. On October 7, 1909, 8,000 marchers—many in high hats and frock coats—were cheered by onlookers, who hailed a replica of Colonel John Stevens’s Phoenix with clanging bells and armloads of confetti and cheered floats representing “practically every industry of Hoboken.” The end of the parade launched a fancy dress ball at the Odd Fellows Hall, where the festivities continued until four o’clock the following morning.
But the stories that unfurl on the Avenue are of mostly local triumphs and joys: A photographer recorded A.J. Demarest High School cheerleaders at Sixth and Washington Streets as they marched and twirled after a 1950 win; twelve years later, costumed children and adults waited to join the city’s first Halloween Ragamuffin Parade. And sometimes, a parade brings bliss and pride and a deep sense of belonging, all at once, as the photograph of a couple salsa dancing in Washington Street during the 1975 Puerto Rican Day Parade shows us, so many years later.