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Preserving History: The Fight to Save St. Peter’s Prep Historic Buildings

Preserving History: The Fight to Save St. Peter’s Prep Historic Buildings

The future of two iconic historic buildings in Jersey City’s Paulus Hook district hangs in the balance, as the St. Peter’s Prep hearing approaches on Thursday, August 24th, 2023, at 10 AM. The hearing will take place in Judge Turula’s Chamber at the County Courthouse, located at 583 Newark Avenue, Second Floor.

The St. Peter’s Prep hearing marks a crucial juncture in the ongoing battle to prevent the demolition of these historic structures. The Historic Paulus Hook Association (HPHA) is calling on concerned citizens to rally behind their cause, emphasizing the importance of community support in preserving these treasured pieces of local history.

The buildings in question, St. Peter’s Hall & Parochial School and the original Parish Grammar School at 137-155 York Street, are not merely structures of brick and mortar; they stand as testament to the Romanesque Revival architecture of a bygone era. Completed in 1898 and 1861 respectively, these buildings hold the stories of generations past and provide a window into Paulus Hook’s rich history.

Paulus Hook, designated as a historic district four decades ago, was established to safeguard its invaluable historical assets. The St. Peter’s Prep buildings are exemplary and rare representatives of Romanesque Revival architecture within this district, connecting the present with the past and ensuring the cultural continuity of the community.

St. Peter’s Preparatory School, the current owner of these buildings, has held them for two decades, leaving them largely unoccupied. The Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy (JCLC) advocates for alternative solutions that respect the buildings’ historical significance while accommodating the institution’s needs. A balanced approach entails preserving the external façade and structure, harmonizing the site’s development with the surrounding environment, and honoring the collective memory of the residents.

The HPHA has already invested substantial resources in their fight to protect these buildings. They spent $17,000 in the first round of legal fees and an additional $7,000 in an attempt to join the Zoning Board of Adjustments in their defense. Despite their persistence, the judge did not grant permission for their involvement. Now, they are once again urging the community to come together and support the cause, emphasizing that the consequences of losing these landmarks could extend far beyond Paulus Hook.

The St. Peter’s Prep hearing represents a pivotal moment in the preservation of history and community identity. Residents, history enthusiasts, and preservation advocates are called upon to attend the hearing, voice their concerns, and stand united against the potential demolition of these historic structures. As the saying goes, “If they win and demolish Ward E’s last remaining Civil War-era buildings in a historic district, it can happen in your neighborhood too.”

Let us remember that these buildings are not just relics of the past, but living links that connect us to the roots of our community. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that they continue to stand as a testament to our shared history and heritage.

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