Warehouse Historic District
By Rick James, 2003
That section of lower Jersey City commonly known as the Warehouse District is a remarkably intact vestige of the railroad-centered freight distribution network that once dominated the city’s Hudson River shoreline. The rubric is somewhat aspirational, reflecting the grander real estate dreams that arose from the encounter between Progressive Era reformism, boosterism and Jersey City reality. The name loosely describes a mix of factories, distribution centers and purpose-built warehouses lying just upland of the Hudson’s shore, directly opposite lower Manhattan Island. Largely consisting of a landfilled portion of the southern shore of what had been Harsimus Cove (Illustration 1), the district assumed its characteristic form during the first two decades of the 20th century: ranges of stolid, functional common red brick and reinforced concrete buildings occupying, singly or in groups, six full city blocks and portions of six more. The fabric of the district was largely dictated by pragmatic calculation. Fear of fire, coupled with the quest for lower insurance premiums, pushed owners towards a panoply of fire suppression strategies. The scarcity of track-side locations, the high cost of pile driving and foundation work in “made land” and improvements in the elevator all worked to make buildings taller and stronger. Cost considerations coupled with the risk cargo posed to projecting ornament made external surfaces relatively planar. The resultant buildings melded into a functionally and visually distinct entity, the lesser components infused with and reinforcing the power of the obvious and recognized landmarks.
Five full warehouse blocks, and portions of five, remain. The Baker Brothers castor oil (and camphor) manufactory was imploded in the mid-1980s; the Lorillard cigar factory burned several years later. Although initially the repository for water-borne bulk commodities, such as lumber and bricks, the fully “built-out” district was very much a product of the railway age. Indeed, the district would eventually be firmly girdled on three sides by various operations of the Pennsylvania Railroad (P.R.R.). With the landfilling of the remainder of Harsimus Cove in the early 1870s, and its conversion to the Harsimus Yards, the district’s northern boundary was fixed at Second St. The completion of the P.R.R.’s passenger track elevation down Railroad Ave. in the early 1890s, including the construction of an embankment and massive train shed at Exchange Place, set a slightly wider but impermeable southern district barrier along Railroad Ave. A combination of land purchase and landfill to the bulkhead line established a railyard eastern district barrier, separating industrial and storage use from the Hudson. Except for horse-drawn cart (and, later, motortruck), the Warehouse District sent and received its raw materials and products by rail spurs extending from the Harsimus Yards to all of the major buildings of the district. Most of the reinforced concrete loading platforms that served these spurs remain; two of the spurs, set in Belgian block, remain on Provost St. Despite the virtual elimination of the railways and the decline of the port of New York, the district has largely survived. This is probably attributable to the size and solidity of the buildings (making demolition expensive) and their retention of residual economic value for trucking warehouses or light industrial use. These uses have resulted in the filling-in of many windows with brick or block, as well as the painting of some buildings. Much of this is reversible. Several have been “stuccoed,” which is clearly deleterious to the “material” aspect of integrity. However, these buildings’ siting, volume, profile, retained corbelled cornices (unstuccoed) and fenestration contribute to the district’s integrity, making them worthy of inclusion. Recently, several buildings within the district have found new economic life as artists studios–especially the Lorillard main block (111 First St.). This use does not appear to have had any negative impact upon their integrity. Included within the district is the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Headquarters building (National Historic Landmark) and the Powerhouse of the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad (State and National Registers). The Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer issued an opinion of eligibility for the Warehouse District, Jersey City, on February 28, 1991.
Experientially, one encounters the Warehouse District first and foremost as a cluster of impressions difficult to reduce to the design of any component building. In part, this is the result of the imposition of fairly tall buildings (sited at their lot lines without front or side setbacks) upon the grid of the mid-19th century city. The rights-of-way are generally narrow (most sixty feet, less loading docks). It is also the result of full-block buildings, some (Butler Brothers, Lorillard main block) four hundred feet long. From within the district, the sort of vistas providing the easy comprehensibility often obtained within the inland 19th century historic districts of lower Jersey City are often lacking. This confusion of scale is exacerbated by the confusion of shadow cast upon most south walls and, depending upon the time of day, east and west walls. The exception here, an accident of demolition, is the perspective obtainable from the parking lot marking the former site of the Lorillard lumber yard and box factory.
It should be noted that the very existence of a segregated-use district, however commonplace to those accustomed to the minimally planned city, is highly atypical of Jersey City as it developed historically. The “walking city” mingled industry and residence. In Jersey City, this was sometimes done ad absurdum, such as the saltpeter works abutting a cluster of frame tenements in Paulus Hook, or a fat-rendering plant just east of the relatively flush Hamilton Park area. Such amorphism was noted by Ford and Goodrich in their pioneering 1912 planning study (see below), and again by Lynch in 1960. To wander into the district is to enter a uniformly rectilinear, hard-edged zone, nearly devoid of street trees, of lawns, of any of the softening efforts of domesticity. In their place are the less familiar motifs of the century-old industrial zone, which impose their own coherence of design, materials, texture and color.
In short, these motifs “read” first as an ensemble, and not a collection of residual industrial buildings. Initially, they provoke a strong “feeling” of a suddenly and recently abandoned industrial zone at least a century old-a sort of ville morte. The absence of modern visual intrusions within the district (if one choses to ignore the automobiles and trucks) strongly associates the district with a time clearly past, but utterly without patinated quaintness. With practice, the subjective qualities of feeling and association are supplemented by a more analytic understanding of the district’s constituent parts.
This is a district of common red brick and reinforced concrete, variously combined and juxtaposed. In earlier buildings, such as those of the Lorillard complex, the Ribon Machine shop or the Riegel Sack Company, the bearing walls are brick. In the later reinforced concrete buildings, most of which are associated with the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, the brick is non-structural fill, set within the articulated concrete structural skeleton. The Eckerson building conceals most of its reinforced concrete structure beneath a red brick veneer, while featuring a bit of concrete as decorative detail. The reinforced concrete building of the Dairymen’s Manufacturing Company makes do without any brick detailing. The Butler Brothers warehouse, covering almost an entire city block, presents entirely brick bearing walls. While the flooring and roof of the Hudson & Manhattan ( H. & M.) Powerhouse is reinforced concrete, the bearing walls are brick.
The paradigmatic Warehouse District streetscape is a full block rectangular building, or set of buildings, fronted by a reinforced concrete loading dock. The ground floor is pierced by a series of relatively wide openings, allowing goods to enter and exit easily. By approximately 1900, streets had been paved with either traprock sets or Belgian blocks; stub-end rail spurs were set in the block. With the exception of two blocks of Provost St., which retain Belgian blocks in good condition and two spurs, the original material has been covered with a layer of asphalt. In places, such as Morgan St. near Washington St. and in front of the Ribon shop, the original material is clearly visible. The typical loading dock is covered with a corrugated, galvanized iron awning and frame, usually supported from rods or cables dropped from the façade. Sometimes the awning is cantilevered on substantial I-beams projecting from the façade. Most of the loading docks remain; some have had triangular extension added to them to accommodate truck traffic. Many awnings remain, retaining their original profile. Some have been partially removed, such as those of the A. & P. Headquarters building, and others are clearly replacements, such as modern tubular framing on the south façade of the Butler Brothers warehouse. While lamented at the time as clear and present fire dangers, the above-ground utility poles and wires are still a feature of the district–though the number of wooden cross-pieces on the poles has been radically reduced. A 1905 street level photograph of the district (Illustration 2) shows no street lighting. That street lighting was minimal or non-existent is supported by an appeal from the management of Butler Brothers published in The Evening Journal (Jan. 29, 1907: 1) for “street lighting” to protect its female employees from “hoodlums and loafers.” Producing enough current to power the entire Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, as well as much of the needs of lower Manhattan’s Hudson Terminal, apparently the district did not merit its own municipal illumination.
While it is probably pointless to ascribe traditional architectural styles to buildings that were largely utilitarian in nature, structural concerns seem to have suggested two basic design strategies in the articulation of required building elements. Brick bearing walls were topped with corbelled brick cornices, parapets above. This obviated the use of flammable wooden cornices, extended a fireproof barrier above the roof line and allowed for the placement of a concealed gutter on the nearly flat roofed building. In most cases, however, the cornice articulation is far from utilitarian. The early Lorillard complex is unified by a dyglyph and metope cornice band. The cornice itself is rather modestly proportioned. The corbelled cornices of the Merchant’s Refrigeration warehouse or the Butler Brothers warehouse are anything but modest. They suggest the machicolations of the medieval fortress, as does the H. & M. Powerhouse, and, through the use of vertical bands in the cornice, even hint at the existence of merlons and embrasures. The incorporation of brick elevator bulkheads into the parapets of the Merchants’ and Butler Brothers’ buildings reinforces the impact of the parapets; in the case of Butler Brothers the stepped back, multi-level bulkheads are one of the more impressive design features of the building. The Merchants’, Butler and Powerhouse were constructed within a few years of one another (ca. 1902-1908), and all feature common red brick exteriors. One assumes a degree of borrowing.
The reinforced concrete buildings of the district, in comparison, smack of the classical. This is most obvious in the use of the large-block modillion cornice of the A. & P. Headquarters building, and its replication at a smaller scale in the company’s two auxiliary buildings, as well as the cornice and prominent attic of the bakery. The pronounced grid of this structural system is highly suggestive of classic post and lintel construction, and seems to call forth a simplified articulation of classic detail. While the concrete piers of the Eckerson building are sheathed in brick, the piers are transformed into a classical, multistoried columns with the addition of a decorative concrete “cap,” in what might be the district’s most ambitious attempt at classical allusion. We might speak of the tension within the district between the trabeated, (once) grey-white reinforced concrete of the western section, and the arcuated red brick construction of the Powerhouse at the eastern limit, echoing the contest between the neo-classical and the Romanesque Revival. But we must note that the Lorillard buildings, as befit their neo-classical aspirations, and Jarvis Hunt’s Butler Brothers red brick warehouse are decidedly rectilinear.
The district’s brick and concrete buildings are decidedly regular in fenestration, both horizontally and vertically. This regularity is underscored in the main Lorillard building by brick stringcourses running under the second and fourth floor windows, and by a continuous masonry course, apparently bluestone (currently painted), connecting the second floor window sills. The bulk of the Butler Brothers warehouse is relieved by brick banding runs across each floor, the upper and lower bands continuous, the middle three broken by each opening. Within the piers of the reinforced concrete buildings, windows are arranged symmetrically, generally in groups of two or three separated by substantial concrete mullions, with brick infill below. The windows of the Lorillard complex appear to have been traditional double-hung wood: the oldest extant sashes show two vertical panes over two panes. As a fire prevention measure, sometime after construction, metal or metal clad shutters were attached to the exterior of all Lorillard windows by metal pins, two or three per window side. The shutters have since been removed, as have some of the hinges. These were apparently knocked out and the gap filled with mortar. Otherwise, metal framed and sashed windows predominate in the district, some of the tilt or pivot type, some, such as those in the A. & P. Headquarters, of the more traditional vertical two-over-two or three-over-three double hung type. The glass in the metal framed windows is wired. Some has been broken out in the vacant Powerhouse, Eckerson and Dairymen’s buildings. With the exception of the aforementioned wooden windows and a small wooden cornice on one façade of the Riegel Sack building, the district exhibits a strongly “mineral,” non-organic quality.
One explanation for this “minerality” lies in another recurrent motif of the district: the chimney, and the combustion contained within. The three extant black plate steel chimneys of the Hudson & Manhattan R.R. loom over the eastern edge of the district; since demolition of the Lorillard cigar building the brick rectangular chimney that served it and the adjacent storehouse is visible, projecting from the eastern wall of the storehouse. The prominent circular chimney of the main Lorillard block rises from within its courtyard complex–the name “Old Gold” fixed in light colored brick. At the southwest corner of Morgan St. and Washington St., a combination brick and metal chimney rises from the single story boiler room annex of the Butler Brothers warehouse. Originally, the A. & P. Headquarters building was constructed with a boiler room annex, a metal chimney rising above it, on the south side of Bay St. This power plant was connected to the original section of the Headquarters building by a reinforced concrete tunnel running under Bay St. In all of these instances, as well as in those of buildings with less prominent metal chimneys (such as the Merchants Refrigeration warehouse), the pressing need was to safely contain perpetual coal fires. In the Lorillard complex, coal-fired steam was the motive force in the production process. In most of the post-1900 buildings, coal-fired boilers drove individual dynamos, furnishing the self-generated electricity that provided lighting, moved elevators and ran refrigeration systems (and, in the winter, heated portions of the buildings). In addition, many of the district’s production processes, such as the roasting of coffee, the baking of bread and the drying of tobacco involved heat and flame. The 1906 Sanborn (1906 Map) demonstrates the segregation of the boiler rooms from the dynamo, and of both from the main space of the buildings. The Sanborn also demonstrates the presence of elaborate fire suppression systems: automatic sprinklers, pumps, fire extinguishers and water tanks. Clearly, fire safety was a prime concern of building designers. Hence, the near absence of exterior wood.
Viewed from afar, another fire suppression (and water pressure enhancing) device of the district contributes markedly to its overall character: the large, roof-mounted water tank. The two wooden tanks of the A. & P. Headquarters building and the metal tank of the Bay St. annex appear intact. The undercarriages that once supported two water tanks on the Lorillard main block and one on its annex continue to figure prominently at their rooflines. These tanks and supports mingle with monitors (H. & M. Powerhouse, Lorillard main block), elevator bulkheads, skylights (Butler Brothers, A. & P. Headquarters, Lorillard main block), and the vestiges of a reinforced concrete “cooling tower” (Eckerson). Hardly noticeable from within most streets of the district, these roof fixtures provide the district with considerable visual complexity and identity when viewed from without.
The question of the relationship between the Warehouse District perceived from “within” and “without” leads to the most difficult question of its integrity of location and setting. Clearly, the buildings and the street grid are where they have always been since their creation. A few have been lost to fire or demolition. Given the intense pressure generated by adjacent redevelopment, it is remarkable that the cluster remains as intact as it is. The texture of what remains conveys the distinct impression of a special precinct. What has utterly changed is the surrounding rail context. With the triumph of containerization and trucking, the rail yards to the north and east of the district have been converted to modern commercial and residential use. Perhaps not totally inappropriately, a striated concrete supermarket truck loading shed and dock line the north side of Second St. Beyond lie “big box” stores and an enormous parking lot. Mid- and high-rise residential buildings stand northeast of the district, closer to the waterfront. These are separated from the district by the recently constructed Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, which skirts the Lorillard Warehouse and H. & M. Powerhouse. The latter is still directly visible from the Hudson. To the south, the Pennsylvania’s entire passenger complex has been razed. Exchange Place has become the nexus of a recent round of commercial development, some of which intervenes between the district and the Pennsylvania’s later (ca. 1930) Harborside complex–itself the subject of adaptive reuse within the last fifteen years. Those blocks immediately south and west of the district retain the “fringe” feel that they have long held–a mix of low-rise residential, commercial and vacant lots.
A 1930 aerial photo (Illustration 3) shows the Warehouse District as a pinnacle jutting east into the enveloping railroad flatscape. Within the last two decades this flatscape has been entirely transformed into a rather loosely textured mix of commercial and residential buildings, some of which tower above the district. Paradoxically, this radical shift in external context has underscored the special identity of the district: compact, dense, and tied to the city’s historic street grid. Its welter of frankly utilitarian roof structures signals the remainder of the city’s last coherent working waterfront complex.
Following is a description of the individual resources that comprise the district, evaluated as to their pivotal, contributing or non-contributing status.
Building: Lorillard Warehouse, ca. 1883 (Contributing)
Street Address: 110 First St. (Block 109, lot West A.)
A seven-story, regularly fenestrated rectangular slab of common red brick, common bond construction, twenty-five-bay wide on the Warren St. exposure, eighteen-bay wide on the First and Second St. exposures. All lintels are flat-headed and flush with the façade; the sills project slightly. Lintels and sills are bluestone, though painted brick red. Sills along the more “public” north façade are incorporated into an apparently bluestone flush stringcourse at the second story. A minimally projecting brick parapet-cornice with dyglyph and metope motif top the north, south and west façades (similar to the motif of the Lorillard main block). This building was originally linked to a similar, but courtyarded, seven-story brick cigar factory by a frame, corruguted iron-roofed boiler room. The once screened eastern façade of the warehouse is today visible, as is the once shared projecting rectangular brick chimney. The opening for an early fourth story bridge between the two buildings is still evident on the east wall of the storehouse.
Approximately every other window of this building has been filled with red brick. This fill is relatively neat and might suggest that the treatment is original or quite old; however, the presence of either fire- shutter hardware or, where this has been removed, mortar establishes that the brick infill is of recent vintage. The older-appearing of the remaining windows are of the wooden double-hung two-light over two-light sort. Loading docks covered with awnings hanging from the façade are present along First and Warren St. Neither of these docks was served by rail spurs. The older rail loading platform along Second St. has been removed; the windows that had been widened to form loading doors are still apparent there; they have been blocked in. With the removal of the platform the original basement windows running along Second St. are again visible, though filled with brick or block. The building has been partially repointed with a light colored mortar; other sections are partially covered with a chalking paint. Between the second and third floors of the First St. façade a painted “Lorillard” bleeds through efforts to cover it. The undercarriage of the building’s removed water tank is a prominent feature at the western edge of
the flat roofline.
The building shows signs of current use by a moving and storage company and small textile companies.
Building: Merchants’ Refrigeration Company, ca.1902 (Contributing)
Street Address: 124-142 First St. (Block 142, lot A.)
The Jersey City Phase 1 Survey attributes the design of this refrigerated warehouse to George Horn, company engineer. No source is given for this information. The construction date given is “ca. 1912.” According to written and pictorial evidence (Muirheid, 1910; the Hopkins 1908-9 Atlas; The Jersey Journal, 1904), this date is too late. Merchants’ Refrigeration was “organized” in 1901 and “began business the following year” (Muirheid, 1910).
This seven-story warehouse, constructed of “steel, brick and concrete” (Sanborn, 1906 Map) occupies an entire city block. As built, the exterior fabric of the entire building, including a corbelled cornice and parapet, was common red brick. At least twenty years ago the four façades below the cornice line were either parged or painted with a cementitious material, which has more recently been painted grey. This coating is thin enough that the original company name is still faintly visible along the sixth floor of the Second St. façade. Internally, the building is divided into four horizontal sections separated by fire walls. This partition was underscored by the prominent painting of “A,” “B,” “C,” and “D” across the building between the second and third floors–this marking is also faintly visible through the new coating.
Fenestration is vertically regular, but horizontal spacing is dictated by internal arrangement. The Second St. façade incorporates twelve bays of windows; the First St. façade eleven. These openings consist of flush, segmentally arched heads and slightly projecting sills. The arched heads of the top story windows are cut into the lower portion of the cornice. There are few windows on either the Warren or Provost St. façades. The original windows are depicted as six panes over six, apparently double-hung. Those pairs of windows on all floors below the prominent red brick elevator bulkheads have been closed off and painted grey. The still-open windows are today equipped with vertical three-over-three light sashes. On both the Second and First St. façades the brickwork of the cornice is pierced with gutter outlets connecting to four prominent metal downspouts. This was an original feature of the building. (The divisions created on the façade corresponding roughly to the lettered sections.) Both of the original concrete loading docks remain, still covered with metal awnings hanging from the building.
The Merchants’ warehouse is today used for the storage of commercial records. Except for the covering of the exterior brick, it is quite intact.
Building: Juan Ribon Machine Shop (Contributing)
South section built prior to 1873, north section prior to 1887.
Continued as Ribon and March Machinery & Copper Works until 1894 (last listing in Gopsill’s Directory).
Street Address: 144 First St. (Block 173, lot 129.)
This remainder from the district’s metal bashing early days was built in two nearly identical ten-bay sections fronting on Provost St. It is of “pier and panel” design; windows and doors are set into relatively thin brick panels, which are buttressed by adjacent thicker brick piers. The two-story machine shop is covered by a gently peaked roof, with gables facing First and Second St. These five-bay end exposures contain carriage door openings; the First St. entrance is surmounted by a cargo door, the masonry opening for a cargo beam clearly evident above. Both floors of window openings on the three street exposures are segmentally arched with slightly projecting sills. Those windows on the second floor are considerably shorter than those on the first. All windows on the ground floor have been blocked, most on the upper floor have been covered with wood or plastic or filled with modern replacements.
The red commonly bonded common brick has long been covered with one or more coats of stucco, portions of which have detached. Prior to the application of the stucco, it appears that a network of star bracketed tie rods were installed throughout the building. The aluminum panning covering much of the continuous corbelled brick cornice has also begun to detach, revealing a “sawtooth” dentil course at the base of the cornice and an attempt to treat the corner piers of the building as classical elements. A seeming anomaly in the district, the Ribon shop is related stylistically to a larger buiding of the demolished Baker castor oil block that presented its gable end to Washington St. Both seem vernacular echoes of the Rundbogen or American Round Arch Style that suited many American “production sheds” of the mid- and late-19th century (Bradley, Curran).
The former machine shop is vacant and for sale. It should be noted that the shop is attached at its western exposure to a building of modern design that mimics the machine shop.
Structure: Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Powerhouse, 1906-08 (Pivotal)
Individually listed, State and National Registers.
John Oakman and W. Powell Robins, architects; L. B. Stillwell, engineer;
Hugh Hazelton, electrical engineer.
Street Address: 80 Bay St. (Block 76, Lot 160 and 161.)
The structure is described in the 2001 State and National Register Nomination (John Gomez). The foundation is concrete, the floors and roof reinforced concrete, the latter topped with terra-cotta block. From the east (Hudson River) the functional division of the structure is evident; the southern boiler section is slightly stepped out from the northern generating room. A wall separates the two internally. The boiler section was topped by four brick-lined steel chimneys, which were supported within the powerhouse by steel sub-structures, allowing more interior floor area. A coal-hoisting tower, supplied by rail, projects east from the boiler room. The generating room was opened on eastern and western exposures by very large, multipaned windows. It was ringed with a mezzanine-level observation deck, and finished in glazed white tile. An electric powered gantry spanning sixty feet ran overhead. The powerhouse received and discharged condensing water from cast iron, concrete-lined tunnels running approximately eighteen hundred feet to the Hudson.
In addition to the two huge windows opening the generating room, the four sides of the structure are pierced by rows of tall, round-headed windows set in deep reveals. Above and below these are corresponding smaller windows, set singly or in pairs. All sashes are metal, the small panes filled with wire-glass. The two eastern corners of the structure are chamfered, their lower portions slightly battered. The exterior course of the common red brick bearing walls is laid in stretcher bond. The shallow, corbelled cornice approximates machicolation. Three roof monitors run the full length of both boiler and generating room; they are visible from the ground. A metal fence runs around the entire roof line.
One of the chimneys has been removed; its supporting bracket is still apparent.The roof top monitors have lost their glass, as have many of the other windows. Boiler and generating machinery have been removed. The powerhouse has not generated electricity since 1929. The shell appears very much as built.
Building: P. Lorillard Company, ca. 1865, 1875 (Pivotal)
Earlier (eastern portion) Continental Screw Company, American Screw Company.
Street Address: 343-53 Washington St. (Block 108, lot C.)
The rectangular Lorillard main building encloses an entire block. The interior is traversed by a lower section running its full length, creating two narrow courtyards. The southern courtyard is bisected by a short wing. As depicted in an 1883 photo-engraving (Illustration 4), the block was highly symmetrical. All exterior façades were regularly fenestrated and four-story high. Pediments rose above central sections of each block. The Washington St. pediment incorporated a small pitched roof, the Warren St. pediment was just a parapet. The remaining two are ambiguously shown. All buildings are shown as four-story high (plus short cellar windows).
This photo-engraving might be interpreted as incorporating a bit of artistic license, except that it is in some ways disturbingly accurate. Today’s First and Washington St. exposures are both composed of five sections, the six-bay pedimented central section and both end units projecting slightly beyond connecting units. On First St. the connectors are seventeen-bay wide, on the shorter Washington block the recessed connecting units are only six-bay wide. The First St. pediment is still intact. Its peak contains a blind roundel, below which a large opening has been blocked in. The Washington St. pediment has been cut off at the roof line, only the bottom of the roundel remaining, but the set of triple round-headed window openings below it has been preserved. The entire block is topped by a corbelled parapet incorporating a dyglyph and metope motif (clearly the basis for the same on the later Lorillard warehouse), except where the pediment has been amputated on Washington St. Here, the motif’s “return” still shows at the current roof line. Highly puzzling, most of the row on Bay St., and much of Warren St., is today five-story tall.
That a story was added to part of the block would hardly be surprising, but the plot is thicker. That section that is today five-story tall is shown in the 1883 photo-engraving as having windows that line up with the rest of the complex, of not possessing the same decorative brick stringcourses below the second and fourth floors as the rest, and of not exhibiting the subtle recession-projection of sections that the rest of the block does. Today’s five story sections’ windows do not line up with the rest of the block, but otherwise conform to the 1883 depiction. Further complicating matters, a blind roundel is still present above the fourth floor windows of the Warren St. elevation. Did the engraver get some details right and some wrong? Was part of the complex torn down and rebuilt, or simply raised? In any event, we do know, through an examination of a 1905 published photo (Sturgis, AR, June, 1905: 513) that the higher portions of the block had reached today’s height by 1905.
The entire block is built of common red brick, laid in common bond. Sections have been repointed, sections are covered with chalking paint. The walls are studded with tie rod brackets, some stars, some florets, some modern-utilitarian. Except for the aforementioned roundels and round headed window complexes (and pairs flanking them) the window and door openings are flat-headed, with flush-set lintels. (Today painted, but apparently bluestone.) The sills are slightly projecting bluestone. The four-story sections are also united by a stringcourse of slightly projecting bluestone set between the second story sills, producing a continuous band of bluestone. In places, the foundation is visible. It is constructed of semicoursed ashlar, discolored but appearing to be bluestone.
Two large corrugated sheet-metal enclosures run diagonally across the Washington St. façade. Of fairly recent origin, they seem to have housed some sort of conveyor system. A substantial fire escape graces the Warren St. façade. The stoop and cast iron columns and pilasters of a classically inspired First St. entryway appear to be early, if not original; the small roof above is more recent. Existing windows are a mélange; many do not fit the openings. The oldest extant are wooden double-hung two lights over two; early illustrations show six-over-six. From a distance, the supports for two water towers are visible, as are various skylights and bulkheads. A faded “P. Lorillard Company” sign has been recently repainted on the First St. elevation.
Current use is an admixture of artists’ studios and galleries.
Building: A. & P. Bakery, 1915 (Contributing)
Ballinger & Perrot, architects, Philadelphia and New York.
Street Address: 124-134 Bay St. (Block 141, lot A2 East and A2 West)
The “L” shaped bakery, of reinforced concrete pier and girder construction with red brick infill, extends along an entire block of Warren St. (ten bays) and approximately half of First St. (thirteen bays). A shallow (four-bay) attic sits atop the three-story base, from which it is clearly demarcated by a concrete molded cornice of classical inspiration. The third floor window openings are considerably longer than the lower two stories (which formed one interior story). The (horizontal) concrete girders are recessed to the plane of the panels, accentuating the verticality of the piers running to the cornice. The effect is that of classical construction. The entire building, except the rear sections, has been stuccoed and painted a uniform yellow, reducing the “gridded” effect evident in an early illustration (Tattle Tale) of the building (Illustration 5). Ground-floor windows have been filled in on Warren St., as have second floor windows on First St. Sashes are multipaned metal, with sections that tilt for ventilation. The bakery retains its concrete loading dock, protected by hanging metal awning. A row of low brick chimneys shows above the parapet of the attic along Warren St. Originally, this parapet was topped with a large (more than one-story high) block-long sign: “The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company.” A single bay, two-story unit of the bakery extends west along Bay St., connecting it to the A. & P. auxiliary building.
The bakery currently houses a scenery production company, and appears well maintained.
Building: A. & P. Auxiliary Building, 1914–Sanborn (Contributing)
Brooks’ N.J. Inventory identifies Ballinger and Perrot as the architects, citing the New York
Real Estate Record, n. d. Ballinger & Perrot’s internal publications neither mention nor illustrate the building.
Street Address: 124-134 Bay St. ( Together with Block 141, lot A2 East.)
A six-story, three-bay wide loft of reinforced concrete pier and girder construction. Above the ground floor, the western section of which was open to allow a “six-horse run” (Sanborn “paste-on,” n.d.;(post-) 1906 Map), triple windows, separated by wide mullions, fill the bays horizontally. Red brick panels fill the space below the windows. Sashes are metal, three light over three light double-hung. The third floor infill panel is curiously higher that that of the other stories. The top floor is separated from those below by a molded concrete band; it is topped by a deeply projecting large scale block modillion cornice (Bay St. exposure only). Visible sections of the rear exposure have retained many windows similar to those on Bay St. Here, the infill panel material is terra-cotta block. Some rear window openings have been blocked off. The south and east ground floor bays have been infilled. The central bay is open, covered with a modern security gate. The concrete “skeleton” of the building’s Bay St. side has been painted grey, the infill panels have been painted red.
The building appears tenanted and in fairly good condition.
Building: Eckerson Company, 1913–Sanborn. Later, J. Leo Cooke Warehouse (Contributing)
Northern two bays slightly later; single story brick addition is modern.
Street Address: 140 Bay St.; 18-30 Provost St. (Block 141, lot B3.)
As built in 1913, the Eckerson building was six-story high; it extended six bays along Bay St. and four along Provost St. The construction is of reinforced concrete, but most has been covered with a decorative red brick veneer. The girders are slightly recessed from the piers, and are entirely concealed behind brick infill panels set below bays of multiple windows. Projecting bands of molded concrete run above the second and sixth floors of the Bay St. and Provost St. exposures; where the bands cross piers, medallions drop below the banding. Slightly after initial construction, a seven-story, two-bay addition was added to the northern end of the Provost St. exposure. Concrete banding is present here at the top of the second and seventh stories. A single story brick addition was built north of this seven-story section more recently. It was demolished in the summer of 2003. A brick parapet rises above the concrete banding at the roofline.
The piers on the Bay St. side are curiously irregular in width; the eastern two are considerably wider, and the western somewhat wider than the two central piers. The northern bays contain twin windows, separated by narrow brick piers; the other bays contain either triple windows, separated by what appear to be painted metal mullions, or single windows set in wide brick panels. Two bays are entirely blind. The brickwork of the blind and semi-blind windows is neat and consistent with the original brickwork of the façade. All windows are metal, with tilt sections. On the Provost St. side, the southern bay is filled with entirely blind windows, the four central bays are largely filled with windows divided into four horizontal sections by painted metal mullions; the northern bay is, like those of Bay St., filled with triple windows.
The ground floor bays of the building were clearly open originally; today, they are closed off. The loading docks remain on both exposures, as do the hanging awnings. On the visible parts of the seven-story addition’s northern (side) wall, the grid pattern of the piers and girders is still apparent beneath the stucco. Here, most window openings have been blocked. In places, the terra-cotta block used as panel infill can be seen through the spalling stucco. A “Lady Luck” cab company sign remains on the stuccoed wall, as does a “J. Leo Cooke Warehouse Corporation” sign on the Bay St. side. The vestiges of a “cooler,” part of the building’s “ice making” system (so described in Sanborn; (post-) 1906 Map), is visible on the roof.
The entire building is vacant. Work on residential conversion commenced in the summer of 2003.
Building: The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Headquarters (Warehouse) Building (Pivotal)
National Historic Landmark.
Howard Chapman, architect; 1st section 1907-8; 2nd section, 1914; 3rd section, 1915.
Street Address: 144-164 Bay St. (Block 172, lot F2.)
The nine-story Headquarters building was built in three stages between 1907 and 1915. The initial building fronted on an entire block of Provost St.; it was nine-bay wide and eight-bay deep. The latter two stages increased the depth on both Bay St. (1914) and First St. (1915) exposures to fifteen bays. In essence, the building was augmented with a copy of itself to the west, though the new west façade was left less finished than the other three. The construction was of reinforced concrete piers and girders; this modular construction facilitated the building’s extensions.
The design of the three primary façades is highly symmetrical. On Provost St., the two end bays are partially filled with two paired windows, separated by a red brick pier mullion. The window surrounds are also brick. The rest of the panel is finished with an application of concrete. The interior seven bays reverse these materials: the infill aprons beneath the windows are red brick, the mullions and surrounds are concrete. The interior bay windows are all triple, the central window widest. All windows and sashes are metal; the central are three vertical lights over three, the flanking windows are two lights over two. The top floor openings, separated by a projecting concrete band, are all tripartite, and all are surrounded by red brick. On Bay and First St., the eastern, central and western bays are largely covered with concrete, but pierced with single windows, surrounded with red brick. The two sets of six bays between these single windows are likewise identically treated: double windows set above red brick panels; windows separated by concrete mullions and surrounded with concrete. Once again, a projecting concrete sub-cornice isolates the bays of the top floors. All top bays contain twin windows, separated by brick piers and surrounded by red brick. All windows are double-hung, two vertical lights over two. The overall effect is to present solid masonry building corners and a grided, lighter street wall. Piers have been incised with lines marking the point of intersection with girders. The top is crowned with an oversized, steeply projecting block modillion cornice.
The western façade is somewhat less regular, perhaps in anticipation of more expansion. The 1914 section follows the pattern established on Provost St. in 1907. The 1915 section is more varied, with many bays containing single windows. There is no giant cornice overhanging the west façade, nor is there a lesser eighth floor cornice.
The loading docks remain on the building’s three street exposures. The entire hanging metal awning remains on First St., only sections remain on Provost and Bay Streets. Most of the wide cargo openings remain on First and Provost Streets, some have been closed on Bay. The entire ground level has been painted white with a large blue horizontal stripe. Otherwise the original concrete and brick are remarkably intact, as are most window sashes. Water tanks and skylights are still prominent roof features, but the large American and the company flags no longer fly from the building’s corners. An enormous “Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company” roof sign has been removed from the Provost St. roofline.
The building functions today as a “self-storage facility.” A sign also advertises artists’ studios for rent.
Building: Riegel Sack Company, ca. 1900 (Contributing)
Phase 1 Inventory attributed to “Deans and Main” (Boston), citing an unspecified “Atlas.”
Street Address: 321 Washington Blvd. (Block 107, lot A.)
A four-story common red brick, common bond, former cloth bag factory; ten bays on the Washington Blvd. exposure, twelve on the Morgan St. side. Fenestration is regular except for a central vertical row on the southern exposure. A wooden cornice tops the Washington St. side, a stepped parapet the Morgan St. side–the latter appears to have replaced a long missing cornice. All windows and doors show segmentally arched opening; the windows show slightly projecting stone sills.
The building has recently undergone rehabilitation. Multipane (twelve light over twelve light) replacement windows with infill sections at the tops have been installed. Corner windows and doors have been removed on the lower two stories to create an interior entryway. Large bulkheads are visible on the roof. (A 1905 illustration shows a large water tank on the roof); a metal railing runs above the Washington St. cornice.
The building is currently for rent as “first class office space.”
Building: Butler Brothers Warehouse, 1904-05 (Pivotal)
Jarvis Hunt, architect.
Street Address: 335-341 Washington St. (Block 107, lot B.)
This imposing warehouse, covering an entire block, less the small Riegel Sack building, encloses thirteen acres of floor space under one roof. The primary nine-story common brick building, of brick bearing wall “mill” construction, is “E” shaped in plan. The bearing walls are up to twenty-eight inches thick. The long façade fronts on Morgan St., the wings of the “E” reach to Bay St. The Morgan St. exposure is an expanse of regularly spaced windows thirty-four-bay long; the Warren St. exposure runs twenty-seven bays. The wings were connected by one-story, metal roofed sheds that sheltered cargo unloaded from the loading dock still present on Bay St. The entire building is topped by a corbelled cornice suggesting medieval machicolation. The warehouse’s near rectangular windows are intersected by five decorative brick bands that run across each floor. The lower band incorporates the thin, slightly projecting sills; the upper band covers the concealed lintels. The three intermediate brick bands are interrupted by each window; they show only on the intervening piers. Almost all windows appear to be the original metal, three vertical light single-tilt sashes.
Two prominent roof bulkhead structures step back, ziggurat-like, from the Morgan St. roofline parapet. These bulkheads are also “banded;” the highest structure is topped with a corbelled cornice that matches the main building cornice. Evidently responding to criticism of warehouses that failed to express their solidity, Hunt has left the building’s corners windowless brick. It should be noted that the pier widths of the Morgan St. façade are not identical. The two piers beneath each bulkhead are considerably wider, and those exterior to the wider piers are somewhat wider than the interior piers. It is not known if this is for structural reasons, perceptual reasons or both.
The power plant for the warehouse was located in a twenty-foot high section at the corner of Washington and Bay St. (Sanborn, 1906 Map). The brick and metal chimney still exists. Conversely, an artist’s view of the warehouse (Muirheid, 1910) shows smoke pouring forth from a chimney set in the roofline bulkhead. Double bronze doors on Warren St., near the intersection of Morgan St., are surrounded by courses of projecting brick. Presumably this was the office and showroom entry.
Disturbance to the Butler Brothers’ warehouse is minimal. The awnings above the Bay and Warren St. loading docks have been removed; the severed supports can still be seen in the brick. The entire parapet appears to have been parged or waterproofed, as has the upper section of the cornice, except on the main (Morgan St.) façade. The ground floor has been painted red on Morgan St. and Warren St. Generally, the building is very well preserved.
The warehouse currently functions as an “industrial center,” with an admixture of art galleries & studios.
Building: Dairymen’s Manufacturing Building, 1904 (Non-Contributing)
Street Address: 136-142 Morgan St. (Block 140, Lot A1.)
Originally a five-story, common red brick loft of mill construction, the Dairymen’s milk can factory has been radically altered. The upper three floors have been removed, except for the northern wall which apparently remains attached to the adjacent reinforced concrete building. The upper three floors of the Warren St. exposure contained central cargo doors; both street exposures incorporated projecting oriel windows at the second floor. Today the segmentally arched windows and doors have been bricked in; the projecting bluestone sills are still visible, as is the hardware for the building’s fire shutters. The Morgan St. ground floor contains a series of non-original loading doors atop modern truck loading docks. The “Milk Cans” roof sign, perched atop the Morgan St. corbelled brick cornice and parapet, is long gone.
The building appears to be currently used for storage.
Building: Dairymen’s Manufacturing Company, pre-1919 (Contributing)
Street Address: 126-134 Morgan St. (Block 140, lot B1.)
This five-story reinforced concrete building extends eight bays along Warren St. and five bays along Bay St. Both the pier and girder grid and infill panels are of concrete, making this the only fully exposed-concrete building within the district. In the right light, the horizontal imprints of the concrete forms are visible. A shallow concrete cornice extends around both street exposures. The end bays of the Warren St. façade contain single window openings, the interior six bays contain twin windows, separated by concrete mullions. On Bay St., the triple windowed central bay is flanked by two double windowed bays, which are in turn flanked by single windowed bays surrounded by concrete panels. Sashes are multipaned metal with sections tilting. The concealed line of the girders is inscribed across the piers and upon the exterior bays, articulating the building’s structure. A concrete bulkhead rises above the Warren St. cornice; it is topped by a skylight. The building’s rear façade, visible from the vacant lot behind, is structured by a series of projecting concrete piers. Faulty downspouts seem to have led to the deterioriation of sections of concrete. Overall, the concrete shows signs of spalling, with some reinforcing bar exposed. A single story reinforced concrete shed is attached to the rear of the building along the southern six bays. Its openings are bricked in. A modern block single story shed extends north to Bay St.
The building is currently vacant.
Building: The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Annex (Contributing)
Original Powerhouse, 1907-8; expanded, 1915. Howard Chapman, architect.
Street Address: 135-141 Morgan St. (Block 171, lot Y1.)
The original eighty-seven foot by sixty-three foot powerhouse was constructed in 1907-8 with the understanding that it would be expanded to a larger, six-story building. The roof was temporarily built of wood to allow for easy expansion (Perry: 401). This expansion occurred in 1915; the building’s external design very much reflects that of the A. & P. Headquarters building across Bay St. The auxiliary building is “L” shaped in plan. It extends for eight bays on Provost St., five on Bay St. and three near Morgan St. Like the rest of the A. & P. compound, construction is of reinforced concrete pier and girder design. Red brick is employed as infill panel and decorative trim. The building has been painted beige, making the brick portions difficult to detect except where paint is peeling.
On the “long” Provost St. exposure, twin windows separated by a brick mullion and surrounded by brick, are set in a concrete-covered curtain wall. The six interior bays contain triple windows, separated by concrete mullions. The Bay St. façade follows the pattern established on Provost St., except that the westernmost bay also contains a triple set of windows. This might indicate that further expansion to the west was anticipated. On both street exposures, molded concrete sub-cornices run above the ground and fifth floors. A large modillion block cornice extends over the Bay St. side, but the Provost St. side is flush at the roofline. Duct work runs from two fifth floor windows to the roof; this might have been the cause of the cornice removal. The upper floor windows of both exposures are all triple, separated by concrete mullions and surrounded by brick. This mirrors the Headquarters building across the street. Some upper floor windows are identical to those in the Headquarters building: metal, double hung, three vertical lights over three. Some are multipaned metal. Most lower floor windows are modern replacements.
Most bays facing Morgan St. are blind. A modern, single story industrial building runs along the entire northern front of Morgan St. It is attached to and, with a corrugated metal bulkhead above, blocks the lower two stories of the southern face of the A. & P. building. Those upper portions of the rear of the building, when viewed from the west, show triple sets of windows set into articulated, panelled bays. A largely blind service core projects west from the building; it is slightly recessed from the Bay St. frontage, allowing a column of single windows to show to the west.
A metal awning still hangs over the Provost St. rail loading area. The spur ran so close to the building that there never was a loading dock here. The cargo openings are still obvious. The narrow loading dock on Bay St. still exists; the awning has been removed, though metal brackets from which it hung are visible. Although closed off, the cargo openings are still apparent. A large metal-sheathed water tank is a prominent roof feature, as are several bulkheads. One of these is recent, constructed of cement block.
The building is currently part of a matzo baking establishment.
Building: Edward V. Hartford Building, ca. 1910 (Contributing)
Brooks’ N.J. Inventory states that Howard Chapman is the architect, citing the New York Real Estate Record (no date).
Street Address: 135-141 Morgan St. ( Block139, lots E, D2.)
This was built as an eight-story, four-bay wide industrial and storage building for the Hartfords’ “middle son” Edward’s automobile parts business. After Hartford’s early death in 1922 (a convert to “Christian Science,” he died of blood poisoning) the building housed the Cameo Record Corporation. Like the rest of the Hartford cluster, it is of reinforced concrete pier and girder construction. Much of the side and rear exposures are closed with terra-cotta block. The main (Morgan St.) façade grid is emphasized by double incised lines run across vertical and horizontal structural members. A molded concrete sub-cornice runs above the seventh floor, a larger molded concrete cornice runs across the original roof line. The triple windows at the top floor are separated by concrete mullions. Three bays of concrete mullioned triple windows pierce the eastern façade.The water tank and multiple bulkheads originally visible on the roof have been removed, as has the roof sign. The narrow loading dock at Morgan St. remains.
In the late 1980s the building was converted to residential use. Projecting metal balconies were added to the front and rear of the building. Replacement windows were installed in original openings; some new openings replaced the terra-cotta blocking on the side and rear walls. The remaining infill block was parged to match the color and texture of the main façade. The loading dock was fenced; a one-story service area was created west of the building on an extension of the loading dock. In the mid-1990s two additional stories were added to the roof of the building, covering almost all of the roof. The cornice was retained. The fenestration, color and texture of the extension match that of the main façade.
Current use is entirely residential.
The Jersey City Warehouse District was a significant component of the regional and national industrial and commercial economy from the post-Civil War period until the Great Depression. Lorillard Tobacco, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company and the Butler Brothers were icons of an expansive late 19th and early 20th century American capitalism. The land-filled extension of an earlier proto-industrial zone north of the New Jersey Railroad tracks, the Warehouse District was tied to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Harsimus Yards by a network of rail spurs and loading docks. As such, the district was an important node in the predominant rail landscape of the Hudson River’s west bank, a transportation system vital to the growth of the Port of New York. With the erection of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad’s Powerhouse, the district literally became the motive force for the subway tying together Northern New Jersey and Manhattan Island. The district was the product of an internal redistribution of land use within the port. Lower Manhattan firms, squeezed for space and suffering an early freight transportation gridlock, sought cheaper land near the New Jersey railhead. Finding land in lower Jersey City, they indulged in expansive and impressive building, making the district something of a sampler of later 19th and early 20th century industrial architecture. Opting for what was the exciting, new material of reinforced concrete, the Hartford family in its 1907 Headquarters Building initiated a series of gridded concrete monoliths that would, by 1915, form an A. & P. complex of considerable engineering significance. As the district evolved into a discrete and distinctive industrial zone in a rather amorphous city, both its reality and its ideal became an important referent in a Progressive Era crusade to reorder the city and the entire port of New York. Efforts of the nascent city planning movement to expand, improve or transfer the district would place it, and the entire topic of rail freight, at the center of a debate over the community planning and development of the port of New York.
The nascent City of Jersey City occupied a low-lying protrusion of land on the west bank of the Hudson River; to its south lay Communipaw Cove, to its north Harsimus Cove. Both coves were tidal “mud flats,” navigable only by shallow draft vessels. Following the laborious excavation of Bergen Hill (an extension of the Palisades that separate lowland from upland Hudson County) the New Jersey Railroad established a depot on the Hudson in the late 1830s. In its west to east trajectory across the city, the railroad isolated those rather soggy and flood-prone blocks (Douglass Topographical, 1841 Map) lying between the tracks and the south shore of Harsimus Cove from the rest of the city. Following the lead of Robert Fulton, who earlier in the century had assembled experimental steamboats in his yard near today’s Morgan St. between Washington and Green St., fledgling industrialists gravitated towards that land north of the tracks. (Similarly, another group of proto-industrialists gravitated around the edge of Communipaw Cove and the Morris Canal at the city’s southern limits.)
The “north of the tracks” zone appears to have been, ab initio, the place for the noisy, the dirty and the dangerous. The Dripps map (1850 Map) shows the existence of five “foundries,” among them the Atlas Foundry of John D. Ward, a key figure in the introduction of a comprehensive water supply system to the growing city. Indicative of the hazardous nature of foundry work, an early directory notes that the “North Point Foundry and Machine Works” was established in 1848, burned in 1849 and was re-established later that year” (Ryerson). Adjacent to the tracks, we note the presence of a “Car Manufactory” and a “Railroad Factory.” It seems not unduly speculative to assume that the latter were machining and assembling some of the parts cast nearby. Fink & Prentice’s Saw Mill was supplied by water from a narrow pier extending approximately one hundred feet into Harsimus Cove at the point where it met the Hudson. This lumber would have been in great demand in a small city growing exponentially. Less obviously, shaped wooden patterns were a necessary component in the casting of metal. By the mid-1850s, members of the Edge family, today remembered largely for the wind-driven gristmill they operated near present day Exchange Place prior to the advent of the railroad, had established their New United States Laboratory producing “Superior Premium Fire Works.” An advertisement (Illustration 6) shows not only the understandably isolated laboratory, but seems to provide us with a rare view, across an as yet unfilled Harsimus Cove, towards today’s midtown Manhattan–note the crudely drawn Crystal Palace and Latting Tower. Also advertised in the 1855-6 Directory (Gopsill’s) is the New York Locomotive Works, said to stand at Steuben, Warren and Morgan St. This location is significant in that, according to the shoreline given by Dripps (1850 Map) the Locomotive Works would be either at the water’s edge or submerged. In the advertisement (Illustration 7), it seems very much on terra firma. This is an early indication of the incremental filling of the Harsimus Cove shore.
It is clear from Culver (1866 Map; revised, 1868) that the area that would become the Warehouse District had been filled to its current Second St. northern boundary by the time that this map was drawn. While is was hardly uncommon for surveyors and map makers to depict non-existent, “paper” streets reflecting grand civic ambition, the Culver was intended for fire insurance purposes and depicts in some detail actual footprints of buildings, number of floors, specialized land uses, and the location of industrial boilers and stills. It seems implausible that merely intended blocks could be depicted in such detail. We are informed by Shaw (p. 1242) that a Captain Winants, who had achieved a certain success in the Hudson and coastal hauling of cargo, and who had outfitted steamboats for the Union blocade during the Civil War, had soon after the war secured a contract with the city of New York for the sweeping of the streets and the disposal of the debris. These sweepings, according to Shaw, were deposited over a ten- year period in “some thirty acres” of “Harsimus Bay.” Winants is said to have “engaged in filling this land, building docks, grading, paving and sewering the streets rendered necessary by the improvement, which added largely to the revenue of Jersey City by way of taxes, etc.” We are further informed that upon this created property lie “the tocacco-factory of P. Lorillard & Co., one of the largest in the United States, the immense railroad terminal facilities, besides other large factories and buildings…” (ibid.). All of this is problematic in that, if the “immense railroad terminal facilities” referred to are the Harsimus Yards, it should be noted that they were considerably larger, in themselves, than the thirty-acre total, were never paved and sewered, and yielded notoriously little to the city in revenue. Owing to an extended dispute concerning riparian rights, we know that the Pennsylvania R.R. could not commence landfilling operations until the early 1870s. It is likely that Winants dumped some of his New York street sweeping into Harsimus Cove for the P.R.R.; what is clear is that the “graded, paved and sewered streets” were a separate venture undertaken by himself, not the P.R.R. It was quite common for the original Jersey Associates, or their heirs, to sell off partially or fully submerged land at relatively low price to those willing to undertake the filling. Until the establishment of the State Riparian Commission this was a rather simple legal procedure (Van Winkle: chapter XX). The Hopkins Combined Atlas (1873 Map), which lists property by owner, and only occasionally by use, shows G. E. Winants retaining ownership of two full blocks within the district and significant portions of four more. Railroad ownership is restricted to the rail yard north of Second St.
We know, from Culver (1866-8 Map) and from Gopsill’s Directories, that several years before the Pennsylvania Railroad “leased” the United Railroad & Canal Company and began its Harsimus Yards project (ca.1871) that the newly landfilled blocks to the south were largely occupied. Much of the new activity involved the storage and sale of water-borne bulk commodities needed in the physical construction of the rapidly growing city. Keeney & Muirhead sold “coal, lime, brick and lumber” from much of the block between First and Second St., Green to Washington St. (Culver, 1866-8 Map). By 1871 a Robert Muirhead would be selling “North River Blue Stone, flagging, curbs, copings, sills, lintels, hearths, water tables and cistern necks” (Gopsill’s, 1870-71) from an office at the corner of First and Provost St. The block between First and Second St., Warren to Provost St., was covered by “Verplank’s Oil Refinery.” The block immediately south of Verplank’s was covered with “Heinrich & Sommer Oil” (Culver, 1866-8 Map). Local directories give no indication of what sort of oil was refined here. Whale oil had been refined nearby for “sperm candles” since at least 1841. Castor oil was being refined at the Baker Brothers’ Manufactory on Washington St. since 1859, and a “Paint Works,” probably requiring linseed oil, appears near Washington St. in the Hopkins Combined Atlas (1873 Map). Slightly later, Charles Woolsey’s “Jersey City White Lead and Color Works” is described as located at the corner of Warren and Morgan St. The oil matter awaits clarification.
Just east of the emerging district, two large lumber yards maintained active docks on the Hudson. Since “about 1860,” Dodge & Meigs maintained a “Steam Saw and Planing Mill” producing millwork and packing boxes. Morrell & Vanderbeek had purchased the Fulton property in 1846 and established a lumber mill, box factory and brick and lime yard. Both firms appear to have supplied the booming local market and to have carried out an extensive export business. Doubly dependent upon Hudson River access were two major suppliers to Jersey City of “Hudson Ice.” Both the Hudson River Ice Company and the New Jersey Ice Company maintained large storehouses “up the Hudson” to store ice cut in winter. This ice was shipped down the Hudson to the dock at the foot of Morgan St. In the case of the New Jersey Ice Company, the ice was hauled to an interim storehouse at 149 Provost St., then subdivided and sent to hotels, shippers and private residences. The “bright yellow wagons” of what is called “the largest business in this section” were said to be a distinctive feature of the Jersey City street (Industries of N.J.: 855).
Entirely distinct from the bulk goods processing and trading that transpired on most of Winant’s made-land, the erection of the Continental Screw Company’s factory was a quantum leap forward in both design and commercial scope. As represented in Culver, this three-story building fronted on an entire block of Washington St. and at least two hundred feet of First. St.; it included a single story interior wing with boilers and chimneys. As presented, the building’s footprint is congruent with a section of today’s main (four-story) Lorillard block. It is possible that the shorter top story of today’s building, above a stringcourse of brick, was considered an attic, equally possible that today’s top story was raised or added. The Screw Company was advertised as early as the 1866-7 Gopsill’s. By 1873 (Hopkins, 1873 Map), the business had been absorbed by the American Screw Company. Rybczynski (p. 78) explains how a technological breakthrough in the tooling of the screw led to the creation of one of America’s first national conglomerates: the American Screw Company. This is the earliest instance of a franchise of regional or national import locating in the district. Within two years the company would depart, replaced by another “first”–the arrival of an expanding New York concern to the district.
Finding the room for expansion in Jersey City that it lacked in its densely built lower Manhattan location (the Gold St. building would stand until the 1960s, as shown in Huxtable, 1964: 122), P. Lorillard’s Tobacco and Snuff Manufactory occupied the entire Screw Company block by 1875. A “fold-out” map from a rare 1875 promotional pamphlet (Sackett, 1875) clearly shows an entire shaded-in block as the “tobacco factory.” It likewise shows a block south-west of the main factory as a Lorillard facility. Hamilton Wicks (p.17), in his well known Scientific American series, “American Industries,” states that the Lorillard factory–“the largest institution of this kind in the world”–was “erected in 1875.” Wicks also states that the “factories” of the Tobacco Works occupied “nearly the whole of another block in addition.” This might be the aforementioned half-block, or it might be the block directly north of the former Screw Company. In any event, by 1883, the complex–“the largest in extent of the manufacturing institutions in this country” (Industries of N.J.: 886)–is described as consisting of “three immense brick buildings.” In addition to the main block, this included two seven-story roughly cubic red brick buildings and a lower-rise “box factory” adjacent to a lumber yard. A photo-engraving accompanying the 1883 publication shows the main (111 First. St.) building. At least nine-horse drawn “trucks” carry rectangular boxes to or from the factory. The Harsimus Yards are visible in the horizon, but no rail track approaches the factory. Nor are the near twin seven-story buildings apparent over the north roof of the depicted works, though they would have been clearly visible. Either the photo-engraving was out of date, or the text anticipated that which had not yet been built. Both the Bird’s Eye View (1883 Map) and the Fowler Atlas (1887 Map) confirm the existence of the “cigar factory.” The Bird’s Eye shows only the cigar factory. A ca. 1910 line drawing illustrates the extent of the Lorillard buildings (Muirheid, 1910: 102).
Apart from the Tobacco Works, the district retained much of its mid-19th century character until the turn of the 20th century. Lumber yards, box, molding and “oil barrel” factories were intermingled with small “chainworks,” “spike works,” foundries and machine shops. Typical of the latter is the extant Ribon Machine Shop, a partially pre-1873 (per Hopkins, 1873 Map) two-story “pier and panel” common brick production shed. It was listed as the Ribon & March “Machinery & Copper Works” in Gopsill’s until 1894. Presaging the advent of newer technologies was the shop of C. R. James and Co., “Engineers, Machinists and Millwrights,” who specialized in the “manufacture of ice-refrigerating machinery–compressors, pumps, pulleys and shaftings” (Industries of N.J.:850).
By approximately 1902, the Merchants’ Refrigeration Company had cleared an entire block of the district between First and Second St. between Provost and Warren St. and constructed a seven-story steel, concrete and brick refrigerated warehouse (Sanborn, 1906 Map). The New Jersey company was an affiliate of the New York Merchants’ Refrigeration Company, which maintained cold storage warehouses on Chambers St. and North Moore St. on the lower west side of Manhattan (in what is today known as Tribeca). The New Jersey Affiliate, providing 3,500,000 cubic feet of cold storage space, much of it sub-zero, contained an ice plant capable of producing one hundred tons per day of ice produced from filtered water. Butter, cheese, eggs, meat and fruit arrived by rail siding from the adjacent railyard, were unloaded into small “trucks” and distributed throughout the warehouse by eleven freight elevators. By 1910, as many as twenty-eight freight cars per day were being unloaded into the warehouse (Muirheid, 1910). The freight elevators, evidently driven by electric power produced by the warehouse’s dynamo (shown in Sanborn, 1906 Map), were critical to the intensification of land use in the district, signalled by this eight-story building. The use of electrical power in the refrigerated warehouse illustrates David Nye’s thesis (1990) that electrification was central to the creation of modern, post-1900 industry. It also created new structural demands. Earlier “store” type buildings, dependent upon stairs or hoists, had restricted heavy material to the lower floors. With the increase in upper floor loading brought about by the modern elevator, stronger structural systems were required.
By 1905, the Butler Brothers Corporation had acquired all but one corner of the block between Bay and Morgan St., Washington to Warren St. and had constructed an eight-story warehouse containing more than 500,000 square feet of display, office and storage space. The Butler Brothers (originally three, who pioneered “five & ten cent” counters and stores in New England) had evolved into a national network of wholesalers advising and supplying independent variety stores across much of America. Outgrowing their cramped New York headquarters on Broadway in lower Manhattan (at 495 Broadway, in what is today called SoHo) the company sought a location served by rail in which showroom, open stock, surplus and packaging could be carried out under one roof. Prior to construction, the Jersey City Street and Water Board had granted the company permission to run a rail spur down Washington St. to its site. It is from the record of this request (JJ, Feb. 24, 1904: 1) which cites the precedent of the Merchants’ Refrigeration spur, that we are able to assign priority to the refrigerated warehouse.
Within the decade following the construction of the Butler Brothers warehouse, the Warehouse District achieved its mature expression. Almost simultaneously, the Powerhouse of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad (1906-8) and the Headquarters Building of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (1907-8) arose at the district’s eastern and western limits. The powerhouse, essentially an enclosed boiler and dynamo, was absolutely dependent upon rail service for coal supply and ash removal. It replaced a collection of “oil barrel” shops and sheds, presummably related to the castor oil works filling most of the block due east. As the powerhouse was rising, the connecting tubes of the “uptown” and “downtown” lines of the H. & M. Railroad were run under the district beneath Washington St. The opening of the Exchange Place and Grove-Henderson St. H. & M. stations provided the district, a growing center of employment, with very convenient public transit stops.
The establishment of the A. & P. Headquarters building in the district, fronting on Provost St. between Bay and First St., was yet another instance of the arrival of a growing New York-centered business needing more and cheaper space than that available in lower Manhattan. Curiously, George Huntington Hartford, the founder, had started his commercial career in New York on Gold St., not far from the old Lorillard building. Subsequent to its installation in Jersey City, the company experienced a growth spurt that necessitated rapid expansion of its plant. This was partially achieved by the doubling of the size of the original building in two (1914 and 1915) expansions west into the jumble of residual low-rise businesses, “pipe yards” and stables. The A. & P. also built a six-story building on Bay St. (1914) and an adjacent bakery fronting on Warren St. (1915). Its detached powerhouse on Bay St. was also expanded, as intended, into another six-story auxiliary building fronting on an entire block of Provost St. (1915). One of Hartford’s sons, Edward V., an early Stevens Institute graduate who invented and manufactured components for the emerging automobile industry, also built an eight-story loft building on Morgan St. The reinforced concrete construction and classically inspired design of this “Hartford compound” gave the western section of the district a distinct identity. Rail spurs and loading docks permitted direct rail supply and delivery from these buildings.
Built in 1913, just prior to the A. & P. bakery and adjacent annex, the Eckerson Company’s brick veneered six-story building intervened between the bakery and the original A. & P. Headquarters. Paste-on additions to the Sanborn base map (1906 Map) indicate that these two parts of the A. & P. empire were connected by a tunnel running under Bay St., as were the Headquarters building and its 1907 powerhouse. The Eckerson Company appears to have specialized in the production of “butterine” (Buyer’s Guide, 1919). By 1922, following a legal campaign spearheaded by the dairy industry, the product is advertised as “oleomargarine” (Buyer’s Guide, 1921-22). The block due south of the margarine producer was itself vital to the dairy industry; the Dairymen’s Manufacturing Company began manufacturing milk cans for bulk shipping in 1900. In 1904, a five-story red brick loft of mill construction was built at the corner of Warren and Morgan Streets. Later (prior to 1919), the two small buildings fronting on Warren St. were demolished and a five-story reinforced concrete building constructed. The additions to the Sanborn (1906 Map) indicate that the two-story building now at the corner of Morgan and Warren St. was constructed in 1961. The bricked-in windows conform to those of the 1904 loft. In all probability the upper stories of the loft were torn down and the remaining lower stories were roofed over in 1961. The full northern wall of this brick building has been left in place against the concrete wall of the adjacent building, revealing its interior pier construction. It appears that the southern wall of the reinforced concrete building was poured and tamped directly against the earlier brick wall, so that today the two form one unit.
The Hopkins Atlas (1919 Map) depicts a district that has achieved a sort of stasis. Although the A. & P. Headquarters building is left without a western cornice, and with a less “finished” western façade, the building has not been extended west, except for a larger truck garage. The two blocks south of Butler Brothers, one appearing largely vacant and the other covered by a lumber yard, have not been the sites of major construction. The Lorillard Company has begun its move out of the district to a new “fireproof” plant in the Marion section on Jersey City’s west side. Butler Brothers now occupies the Lorillard warehouse (110 First. St.) Otherwise, established uses have been maintained.
The Hopkins Plat book (1928 Map) shows a district physically intact but with a greatly changed group of owners and users. The entire A. & P. group has changed ownership, the company having moved its headquarters to the Greybar Building over the Grand Central tracks in mid-town Manhattan by 1924. All of its food processing and storage functions have also been moved. The Headquarters building, largely vacant for two years, was sold in 1926 to a Chicago furniture manufacturer for storage. (JJ, Dec.15, 1916: 1) In the year prior to its relocation, the A. & P. published in its internal newsletter, The Tattle Tale, an overview of its soon to be abandoned Jersey City empire (64th Anniversary Issue, in Walsh, photosection). Lorillard retained only its original cigar factory, its main block having passed to “J. R. Reynolds” (sic). The Dairymen’s has become the Package Manufacturing Company, the bakery transformed into Hudson Wholesale Grocery Co., Butler Brothers remained, as did Eckerson and the Merchants’ Refrigeration Company. The onset of the Great Depression, the competition from the Pennsylvania’s Harborside Terminal (ca. 1930) and the rise of trucking at the expense of the railroad would all contribute to the economic marginalization of the district. These factors would also insure
The installation of Lorillard’s Tobacco and Snuff Manufactory on First St., in the early 1870s, was something of an anomaly in the early history of either the district or Jersey City’s industrial take-off. Founded in lower Manhattan in 1760 by a Huguenot refugee, the eponymous Pierre, this was a large, mature enterprise prior to its migration across the Hudson. As such, it differed markedly from such growing nearby industries as the Dixon Crucible Company or Colgate’s Soap Works, which were growing incrementally with the city. We know that in 1868 a former mayor of Jersey City, George Siedler, was admitted as a Lorillard partner; it seems not unreasonable to conclude that Siedler had alerted his partners to the availability of newly created land near railyards and docks in lower Jersey City. Siedler would also have been able to assure the Lorillards that a ready pool of labor, largely of Irish and German origin, awaited them in the burgeoning “Immigrant City.” The existence of a piped municipal water supply system, for both industrial use and fire suppression, must also have contributed to the appeal of the city and the district. We also know that, by 1873 (Hopkins, 1873 Map), the Jarvis Tobacco warehouse had been built adjacent to the Erie yards on Provost St. between Twelfth and Thirteenth St. McLean (p. 454) described this isolated cluster of five and six-story brick buildings as the “largest of its kind in this country.” It is unclear why the Lorillards chose a site ten blocks from the Tobacco stores, other than the obvious fact that land around them was given over to railyard use.
From his Chatham St. days, Lorillard’s had been a business of necessity based upon international trade. While the basic raw material was domestic in origin, his product’s special appeal was imparted by its treatment with largely exotic scents and flavors. Hence the necessity of locating in a major port, from which vanilla and tonka beans, chamomile flowers, gentian root, licorice, and lavender oil could be obtained. Even the rum in which his “Paris rappee snuff” was soaked was of Caribean origin. His sons’ removal of the works to the Bronx in 1792 was partially undertaken to exploit Bronx River power, partially to grow fields of roses used in the “scenting” process. The Bronx climate, it appears, was not as productive of a bumper crop of rose petals as had been hoped, although the family’s “acre of roses” would ultimately be incorporated into the New York Botanical Gardens. At an unspecified date in the 19th century, the Lorillards were importing 3,000 ounces per year of “otto of roses” (presumably a rose essence or distilate) from Smyrna and Turkey at $12 per ounce. It took 10,000 roses to make one ounce of “otto” (Weisses: 64).
Not content with simply producing a flavorful (if toxic) product, the Lorillards pioneered techniques of “branding” and advertising that made their products among the first to be nationally recognized and consumed. Their first advertisement (New York Daily Advertiser, May 27, 1789) featured a woodcut of a clay pipe smoking Amerindian in feathers and tobacco-leaf skirt resting against a barrel of “Best Virginia.” Beneath were listed a variety of snuff brands. This recurrent image is credited with helping start the American tradition of “cigar store Indians” (Groner: 66). In the 1830s, the Lorillards enlisted a network of United States Postmasters to stock and sell their products by mail. Later, farmers were paid for permitting large “Beech-Nut” chewing tobacco signs to grace their barns. Lorillard packaging often included engraved or multicolored enameled board trade cards; premiums were offered, such as silk stockings. Perhaps most memorably, the company’s 100th anniversary was celebrated with the random placement of $100 bills in commemorative tobacco packages.
Such was the nature of the industrial and commercial behemoth that must have towered above the surrounding lumber yards, rail yards and modest production sheds of the nascent district (Illustration 4). Its presence inspired Hamilton S. Wicks (p. 17) to commence his Scientific American inventory (and puffery) of American Industries with a visit to Jersey City–“a workshop of the metropolis of no little importance.” While Wicks’ visit to the recently constructed “factory”–“the largest institution of the kind in the world” (ibid.) failed to produce a comprehensive account of how snuff, chewing or smoking tobacco was processed, it does offer detailed illustrations of isolated moments of the process (Illustration 8). Work, as depicted in Scientific American (Wicks, 1879) was a curious combination of the artisanal and the mechanized, and seems to have been ordered by gender. “Rolling the lump” involved long rows of “girls” standing before a trough. They sort and manipulate flavored and dried tobacco that is fed into a geared, cast iron machine that cuts and presses the individual plugs. Women working individually at benches wrap the pressed plug by hand with tobacco leaf. Men operate banks of “pots”–finishing presses that complete the plug’s compression. Males also impress the Lorillard “tin tag” upon the finished product. Elsewhere, men hand dip the leaf into solutions of “licorice and sugar, etc.,” shovel cured snuff tobacco into banks of “grinding mills” and feed the “endless chain” that conveys aromatic leaf to a “powerful knife, which makes 1,200 revolutions per minute.” A final vignette shows a solitary male, mallet in hand, driving snuf into a cured animal bladder. This was a common method of packaging snuff. According to the Weisses (p. 65), the Lorillards had found that American butchers were loath to save bladders. This necessitated the widespread importation of bladders from Europe. The siting of the new Jersey City factory next to the Harsimus Yards, which contained stockyards and a slaughterhouse, might be partially explained by the availability of this singular resource. Without giving the location, the Weisses (ibid.) mention a “storeroom,” a Lorillard factory that contained 50,000 bladders, each packed with ten pounds of snuff. Wicks informs us that, in 1878, the Jersey City factory produced for sale 10,000,000 pounds of plug tobacco and 14,000,000 pounds of tobacco (presumably the smoking variety) and snuff.
This huge volume of production and sales was hardly a matter of indifference to the federal government. Since 1862, largely as a result of Civil War costs, tobacco sales had been federally taxed. Wicks (ibid.) states that, in 1878, tobacco manufacturers had paid into the National Treasury 34% of the “internal revenue.” The Lorillard concern alone paid $3,500,000, this sum being greater than the aggregate for any other State, except Virginia. Wicks (ibid.) describes the Lorillard labor force as “2,500 men, boys, women and girls” commanding “about $14,000” in weekly wages. By 1883, this firm–“without an equal in size, or in the magnitude of its transactions on the globe”–is said to have employed “thirty-five hundred hands” with a weekly payroll of thirty-five thousand dollars per week. Aggregate tobacco production is said to be 25,000,000 pounds (Industries of N.J.: 886). While the American economy had doubtless rebounded from the doldrums following the panic of 1873, the sharp rise in payroll (even taking into account the added labor force) is remarkable, especially when stated productivity is taken into account, and probably tells us more about the approach to business statistics assumed by the promotional press than reality. In the absence of other information on the subject, it is to be noted that Industries informs us that the Lorillard factories were powered by four steam engines totaling 800 horsepower, that the head offices of the Lorillard Company occupied five large rooms in their “chief building,” employing “about sixty clerks” and that the “ten million dollars” of annual sales extended “throughout the United States and various parts of the world.”
Shaw (p. 1158), one year after the Industries account, increases the Lorillard labor force to 4,000, and relates that the plug factory alone was capable of turning out two-hundred pounds of plug tobacco per minute. Giving us some comprehension of the Jersey City factory’s market share, we are informed that, out of 125 million pounds of tocacco consumed annually in America, Lorillard produced twenty-two million pounds. Shaw also raises the matter of New Jersey child labor legislation, requiring at least minimal day or night schooling for those under sixteen, and the problem this posed to employers in a city that did not provide free night-school. To legally maintain their labor force of “boys and girls” the Lorillards organized their own night-school, which opened in the library of Booraem Hall on Newark Ave., several blocks from their factory. The school, along with a free library for adult employees, was opened under the direction of Lorillard’s chief chemist, Leonard Gordon, in 1884. Gordon would later play an instrumental role in the establishment of the Jersey City Public Library. The Lorillards’ facilities in Booraem Hall would receive national publicity the following year with the publication of an illustration of both library and school in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Stressing the enlightened self-interest of the Lorillards, Shaw also informs us of the existence of an elaborate fire prevention and suppression system at their factory. At this point, “every room” in the works has been equipped with water pipes containing plugs “of metal fusible at a low temperature.” This is an early instance of the use of the automatic sprinkler head, only perfected in 1874 (Bradley: 115). Supplementing this early sprinkler system was a “well drilled fire brigade” as well as a “night corps of thirteen watchmen.”
McLean (p. 441) describes the Lorillard factory as the largest tobacco manufacturer in the United States. He mentions that, since the implementation of the internal revenue tax on tobacco, the company had paid more than $50,000,000 tax, and refers to both the national distribution of its products and to “no mean trade with South America, Australia and some European countries…” Muirheid (1910: 102) describes Lorillard as “probably the leading industry in Jersey City” observing that it “has done more to advertise Jersey City in the markets of the world than any other manufacturing industry that was ever located here.” Within the first decade of the 20th century, the firm would become part of the American Tobacco Company trust, while retaining “semi-autonomous operations” (American Tobacco Co.: 39). By 1911, Lorillard (which retained its name) planned and constructed a new “fireproof” steel and brick factory and headquarters in Jersey City’s Marion section. The new quarters were designed for a work force of four to five thousand. In 1912, a young staff member of Whittier House, a Downtown settlement house, recorded that the withdrawal of Lorillard from the First Ward “took away the largest single industry from the ward” (Fruh: 12). He took some comfort that “about 600 workers remained in the old establishment”–“nearly all girls.” Fruh observed that both Lorillard and the nearby Colgate Company employed large numbers of “women, girls and young boys.” The starting salary at both establishment being about $4.50 per week. A small line drawing gives us some idea of the “old” Lorillard complex just prior to the opening of the new Marion plant (Illustration 9).
In 1905, the Jersey City Board of Trade Review (Dec., 1905) and in 1907, the Evening Journal (Mar. 14, 1907: 15) carry stories reporting the sale of the original Lorillard factory blocks to the Pennsylvania Railroad. Both publications predicted the demolition of the factory buildings, and the erection of railroad warehouses. There is no record of the sale having ever transpired. In 1911, the United States Supreme Court held that the American Tobacco Company was a combination “in restraint of trade.” Lorillard was returned to independent status, along with competitor companies. Lorillard would retain its “plug factory” at 111 First St. until at least 1919 (Hopkins Atlas, 1919 Map) and its adjacent “cigar factory” until at least 1928. With the post World War I popularity of cigarettes, Lorillard, known for its cigars and chewing tobacco, would suffer the competition of such new brands as “Lucky Strike,” “Chesterfield” and “Camel.” Lorillard’s competitors would employ many of the advertising techniques pioneered by the former to promote their brands. By 1928, R. J. Reynolds, makers of “Camels” would occupy the original Lorillard headquarters.
Almost simultaneous with the (premature)1905 announcement of the Lorillard’s departure from the district was the arrival of Butler Brothers and their “million dollar warehouse” (EJ, Feb.24, 1904:1). Unlike Lorillard, the Butler Brothers fabricated nothing. Instead, they assembled the manufactured “notions” of others, which they distributed to a network of independent variety store proprietors. The three Butler Brothers (Edward, George and Charles, all raised in Northern New England) had opened an experimental “5 cent” counter in a small general store in Boston in 1877. The venture prospered. They chose not to replicate this success in a chain of retail stores, but instead to become the suppliers (“jobbers”) of independent storeowners. (Edward survived his two brothers.) Butler Brothers was incorporated in 1887. At the time of its arrival in Jersey City, it was distributing 42,000 kinds of articles to 66,000 merchants from regional distribution warehouses in New York, Chicago and St. Louis. While maintaining a showroom on lower Broadway in Manhattan, Jersey City was to become the New York Regional Headquarters. The corporation would expand to Minneapolis in 1907, and to Dallas in 1911.
Appearing before the Jersey City Street and Water Board on Feb. 23, 1904, the Butler Corporation was careful to secure, before starting construction, Board permission to run a rail spur from “the Pennsylvania Railroad yards at Second St.” to “facilitate the immense traffic which Butler Brothers expects to handle” (EJ, Feb., 23, 1904:1). Their local attorney cited the precedent of the “Merchants’ Refrigerating Company” (Illustration 10). By 1910, the Butler warehouse (Illustration 11) would be served by six hundred feet of car frontage connecting, via the adjacent yards, with “half a dozen other great railways and the wharves of the New York Central Railroad.” All incoming cargo, and three quarters of all outgoing, is said to have arrived by rail, greatly reducing the cartage fees that had formerly been paid to traverse the streets of Manhattan (Muirheid, 1910: 87).
The Butler Brothers not only supplied variety stores, they advocated them–“the best retail business on earth in proportion to capital required” (Butler Way System: 9-10). Its tone was populist and moralistic: “to keep the store and its people bright and clean, inside and out…to mark all prices in plain figures…to have but one price for all…to sell a few things at no profit that many things may be sold at a good profit…and to ever crowd the selling to the upmost…”The Butler Way” (p. 8). The company did not maintain an external sales force. Instead, it published a monthly catalog, Our Drummer, which illustrated available stock and “named our only price.” (Today, the catalogs are prized as a means of dating “collectables.” Some have been republished in offset editions.) Rival jobbers who employed travelling salesmen to negotiate special prices for chain-stores were excoriated as little better than rebate-offering railroads. Instead, interested “variety men” were invited to visit the regional centers, such as the one in Jersey City, and to inspect the merchandise. It appears that the “warehouses” also functioned as wholesale department stores, with goods arranged in showrooms for inspection. Fruh (p.12), observing from Whittier House in 1912, noted that approximately six hundred people were employed at Butler Brothers, about two-thirds of them males.
Converts to “The Butler Way” (p. 34) were actively sought and supported. The company maintained a Location Bureau, which collected “full and accurate information regarding practically every town and city in the United States” to assist those seeking to open new stores. Aspiring owners were assured that there still existed “thousands upon thousands” of small towns that were capable of supporting variety stores. Another strategy was to locate close to the “big syndicate five and ten cents stores” (p. 37). The secret of the successful variety store was to sell “the specialties of many lines and the staples of none” (p. 9). Food was never to be sold, nor was any staple commodity that larger stores had to sell as a “loss leader.” Once convinced of opening a store, the beginner was strongly urged to visit the closest Butler “sample room” and talk with a “salesman.” If asked, the latter would select an initial offering of goods. Once in business, the retailer was offered a panoply of pamphlets and books offering advice to “variety men” on all aspects of the business from catchy names (“Peoples Palace,” “Palace of Bargains”) to the correct color to paint the storefront–“rich maroon or red” (p. 44). One piece of advice: “Primarily, your store is for women.” Much of what we today simply assume is part of retailing was didactically expounded by the Butler Brothers in their publications: window display, banners, circulars, cleanliness, the clearance sale. The 1920 The Butler Way System Book contains a trove of photographs and illustrations of early 20th century storefronts and interiors.
The half-million square foot New York Headquarters Building in Jersey City was very much a product of the company’s profession of the economic value of display and design. This building, along with the slightly earlier twin Butler Brothers warehouses fronting on the Chicago River, reflect the company’s claim that “we are easily first among America’s jobbing houses” (p.164). The company’s “aggregate business” in 1909 was $10,000,000 (National Cyclopedia., Vol. 10: 52), providing a certain perspective on the ability of the company to finance a “million dollar warehouse.” Sited, of necessity, in industrial districts, and built largely of common brick, with little ornament, both the Jersey City and Chicago buildings transcended the utilitarian.
Edward Butler settled in Chicago towards the end of the 19th century, and immersed himself in civic affairs. He became a trustee of Hull House and amassed one of the finest private art galleries in the city. He withdrew from the daily affairs of the Butler Company for two years to help plan and manage the Columbian Exposition of 1893 (the “Chicago World’s Fair”), chairing the Ways and Means Committee (ibid.). In 1898, Butler relinquished control of the company’s daily operations, but retained final control until 1928. We also know that Jarvis Hunt, Vermont born architect and nephew of Richard Morris Hunt, travelled to Chicago at the time of the Fair to supervise the construction of the Vermont State Building (Witheys: 308-9). Presumably, Butler was familiar with the elder Hunt, a major figure in the Fair’s architecture. By the very early years of the 20th century, Jarvis Hunt was designing three major warehouses in Chicago; two identical buildings separated by a narrow street for Butler Brothers, and a third adjacent to them for Kelley, Maus & Company.
A discussion of the three Hunt warehouses terminates a major, two-part article published by Russell Sturgis in The Architectural Record (AR, Jan.-Feb., 1904) on the subject of warehouses and factories. The series contains two photographs of the three warehouses, which are not dated, though of very recent construction. The great similarity of the Chicago works and the Jersey City headquarters building is immediately apparent. Indeed the following year, Sturgis observed (as “R. S.,” AR, June, 1905) that “This retention of a style of design once fairly accepted is an excellent thing, which speaks well for the strength of purpose and consecutiveness of mind of the architect and owner.” Hunt seems to have synthesized in Jersey City his Butler and Kelley, Maus warehouses. The exclusive use of common red brick construction, of small, nearly square windows and of a cornice incorporating corbelled piers derive from the earlier Chicago Butler buildings. Hunt’s use of a diaper pattern in the upper story brick in Chicago has been dropped in Jersey City. The lower (seven-story) Kelley, Maus warehouse is remembered for its mosaic-like use of several colors of brick arranged in horizontal bands (Condit, 1964: 189-90). Hunt retained the uniform banding across the windows in Jersey City, but in projecting monochromatic red brick, so that the effect is achieved with shadow alone. In discussing the Chicago Hunt warehouses, Sturgis toyed with a notion that might just as well have sprung from the Jersey City warehouse: “That the designers should be restrained to square masses and sharp corners and plain windows for twenty years to come–with sculpture denied them and all the bad architectural forms tabu” (AR, Feb., 1904: 133). We might speculate that the constraints of the site and parti had in these cases brought forth a striking modernity from Hunt–generally dismissed as “a highly successful Chicago eclecticist” (Condit, 1964: 189). Sturgis would soon write, on the subjects of Factories and Warehouses, “They must be, therefore, separated from any and all of the recognized historical styles of architecture” (AR, March, 1906: 369).
The Butler Jersey City warehouse opened in 1905. Within two years, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company announced plans to construct a “new $270,000 warehouse” one block to the west (EJ, Mar. 21, 1907: 13). While not nearly as costly as the Butler building, the warehouse (Illustration 12) was projected to be the “tallest in Jersey City.” (The “Sugar House” at Dudley and Washington St. is, however, often described as eleven-story high.) Within less than a decade, the warehouse, twice expanded, would become the center of a cluster of A. & P. reinforced concrete buildings that would radically alter the physical character of the district. Headquarters of the A. & P. Corporation since its occupancy in 1908, the “Warehouse” was the base from which the already successful tea, coffee and grocery chain would achieve national dominance in food distribution. Both Edward Butler and George Huntington Hartford were products of northern New England. Both found great success in retailing. Butler was aggressively anti-chain store. Hartford cofounded the first nationwide chain of stores. Their major New York regional edifices were close neighbors in the Jersey City warehouse district.
Hartford, along with George Gilman, the son of a New York leather merchant and ship owner, had begun the purchase of clipper ship cargoes entering the port of New York in the 1850s. Much of this cargo consisted of tea from China. In order to achieve quick “turn over” of their purchase, Gilman and Hartford resold much of this tea to retail customers at what were then deeply discounted “cargo prices.” In part, this was achieved by eliminating the wholesaler’s profit; in part this was the result of their overturning of the accepted policy of grocers, who placed high profit margins on tea prices in order to subsidize the low prices then prevailing on highly competitive staples, such as flour, salt and sugar (Walsh: 17). Established grocers spread rumors that they were selling damaged or adulterated tea; some suggested that discount tea was collected from hotel kitchens after a first steeping. To counter such rumors, they developed any number of special marketing techniques: buyers’ clubs, money-back guarantees, glass and china premiums and distinctive packaging (Groner: 244). Their first store, at the corner of Vesey and Chuch St. (facing the future site of the Hudson Terminal, and later the World Trade Center) was decorated in a lacquered red and gilt faux-Chinoiserie style. This was intended to convey to the customers the (entirely fictive) impression that the store was an outpost of a vast oriental trading network. By 1865, the Great American Tea Company operated the world’s largest tea store at the corner of Broadway and Bleeker St. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad, “Atlantic & Pacific” was incorporated in the name. By the time of Gilman’s retirement in 1878, the “A. & P.” was a “$1,000,000-a-year enterprise” (Groner: 245).
Hartford had moved his family to the railroad suburb of Orange, New Jersey in 1867 (Hoyt: 69). Among his neighbors were the Colgates, whose soapworks in lower Jersey City were flourishing. Hartford served from 1878 to 1890 as (uncompensated) Mayor of Orange. As Mayor, he oversaw the electrification of the street lights and the establishment of a modern municipal water supply system. An early experiment in electrification of the trolley lines was less successful. Hartford, soon joined by his two sons, George Jr. and John, was a daily rail and ferry commuter to and from lower Manhattan. Most accounts place them on the Morris and Essex Railroad (later, the Lackawanna), one (Fortune: 55) on the pre-Bergen Cut “smoky Erie.” Whether deposited at the Hoboken or Pavonia station, the Hartfords were doubtless well acquainted with the industrial landscape of lower Jersey City. As informed businessmen, they were doubtless aware of the progress of William G. McAdoo’s Hudson and Manhattan Railroad under the Hudson, and of the advantages of locating close to projected public transportation. During visits to the prospective Jersey City site, work on the H. & M. Powerhouse must have been conspicuous. (As must have been the Refrigerated Warehouse and the just completed Butler Warehouse.)
Legally, the A. & P. had moved to the State of New Jersey even before its physical relocation to Jersey City in 1908. Hartford’s partner, John Gilman, died intestate in 1901. Apparently loath to sign anything, Gilman had also failed to leave any record of his business arrangement with Hartford. Following a year’s litigation with potential heirs, Hartford organized the corporation under New Jersey law, which, with no limit on capital or bonded debt, encouraged the formation of holding companies. The State’s incorpo- ration laws had been framed with the intention of encouraging the establishment (or relocation) of businesses in the Garden State (Hoyt: 92). While Gilman’s heirs acquired most of the accumulated worth of the company in prefered stock, the Hartford family, owning almost all of the common stock, was assured of future earnings, should there be any. In a sense, the Jersey City venture was an effort of the Hartford family to recreate the company as its own.
From their sixth floor offices in the new Headquarters Building, the Hartfords pondered their options. John Hartford was troubled by the high cost of maintaining the A. & P.’s traditional retail features: home delivery required the company to maintain a fleet of wagons and stables of horses, easy credit terms kept substantial sums of cash tied up in accounts. By 1900, the expense of premiums was triple that of the company’s net profits (Groner, 245). The A. & P. operated a highly successful store several blocks from the Headquarters–the 1911 Boyd’s Directory indicates that the only Downtown Jersey City A. & P. location was at 116 Newark Ave., at the corner of Grove St. (The building stands today; years earlier, it had been the site of the Lorillard’s library and night-school.) John Hartford, with the assent of his father and brother, in 1912 proposed an experiment. This would enter company lore as The Jersey City Headquarters Experiment. He rented a storefront either “next to” or “around the corner from” the official store, and outfitted it with minimal fixtures. The store offered goods “cash and carry”–no delivery, no premiums, no credit, and lowest prices. Within six months it put the nearby traditional A. & P. branch out of business (Groner: 101). This was the prototypical Economy Store.
Economy Stores were to be located on low-rent side streets. Leases were for one year, but with nine one-year renewal options. Following a fixed floor plan, a trained maintenance crew would prepare a store for opening within one week of leasing. A Store Manual would regulate daily operations, stressing courtesy, honest weights and measures and product quality. A five-day work week was introduced; stores closed at 6 p.m. to eliminate night work. If a store was not profitable after a year, it was closed. With the death of George H. Hartford in 1917, the sons continued and intensified the opening of the Economy Stores, sometimes opening two or three hundred stores a week (Groner: 245). Describing the impact of the Jersey City Headquarters Experiment, Walsh (p. 28) writes:
From an established, successful 53-year old chain with 480 stores and annual volume of
$24 million, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company was literally to explode over the next 15 years into
a retailing Goliath with more than 15,000 stores and annual volume exceeding a billion dollars. Nothing in
the recorded history of retailing had come close to that achievement. A. & P. would become the
nonpareil of the retail world.
The growth of the Jersey City A. & P. complex, from which the “explosion” was both directed and supplied, was equally sudden and impressive. In the years 1914-15, the Headquarters building was doubled in size. Across Bay St., the powerhouse was expanded into a six-story auxiliary building. The Eckerson Company had recently (1913) constructed its building facing the Headquarters building on Provost St., but the A. & P. was able to acquire the rest of this block form the Merchant’s Refrigeration Company. Here the company built its bakery and a second six-story auxiliary building. Another Hartford son, Edward V., added an eight-story building for his auto parts business on Morgan St. The additions closely followed, in construction and style, the pioneering 1907-8 reinforced concrete Headquarters.
This rapid expansion within the district put a strain upon the presumed efficiency of the network of rail spurs connecting the loading docks to the Harsimus rail yards. The A. & P. proposed a new spur to connect their new building at Bay and Provost St.; the Dairymen objected, arguing that this would require them to lay a new spur to maintain rail connection. The Dairymen demanded $1,800 compensation for the new spur. Ultimately, the newly minted City Commission was forced to hold a hearing on the matter, Mayor Fagan opining: “I do not like the idea of street rights being bartered in this fashion” (JJ., Nov. 16, 1914:1). The A. & P.’s agent concurred, but liked even less the delay non-payment might provoke.
The Commission’s effort to mediate the dispute tells us much about attitudes towards public rights-of-way in the district. Rail spurs were clearly the financial responsibility of the industries served, not the railroads or the municipality. In return, the individual companies possessed a quasi-proprietary interest in them, which they fiercely defended from competitors. Municipal approval was required for the use of public space, but appears to have been granted routinely in the absence of objection from another commercial user. It should be noted that the tight street grid of the Warehouse District probably precluded the “loop” type spurs that would have permitted through traffic. Instead, “stub-ended” spurs served the loading docks, necessitating the backing in and out of trains of cars. Detached freight cars blocking Second St. were to become a steady source of complaint. In Newark, a warehouse built for the Central Railroad of New Jersey next to an embankment allowed second floor tracks to run through the second floor; the first floor was opened to “trucks” (Engineering Record, Aug. 10, 1907: 152-5).
In part, we might assume that the Hartfords’ choice of a then “cutting edge” material and method of construction was suggested by the nature of some of the processes to be contained within the buildings: roasting coffee and cocoa, baking bread and drying “macaroni.” (All of which must have made the district rather aromatic; at the very least the prevailing foul odors must have been masked.) We also know that in early 1907 the Colgates had commenced “tearing down the old sheds at the corner of York and Hudson St. to make way for another modern building” (EJ, Feb. 2, 1907: 15). This would be Colgate’s first reinforced concrete building. That an established lower Jersey City industrialist (and former neighbor) would build nearby in reinforced concrete must have both challenged and reassured the Hartfords. What perhaps excapes contemporary awareness is the great fear of fire that permeated the early 20th century American industrial city. This fear (and reality) was partially the product of combustion in industrial processes themselves, partially that of the tight packing of factories, stables and tenements on expensive city land. Locally, the danger was compounded by omnipresent coal-fired steam locomotives (exploding boilers seem to have been a recurrent problem) and a waterfront fringed with piers resting on wooden piling and bracing, and often covered with wooden planking. (An excellent description of the fire prone, transitory nature of the Hudson waterfront “horizontal city” on the New York side is contained in Bone (1997). Also pushing the Hartfords towards reinforced concrete was the expanding differential in fire insurance premiums; by 1907 the premium for a reinforced concrete “general storehouse” was about one- third of that for a brick “mill construction” storehouse (Atlas Portland Cement, 1907). Suitable large timber for “slow burn” mill construction was also becoming increasingly difficult to find (Bradley: 134).
The great conflagrations in Baltimore (1904) and San Francisco (1906) and the more than 600 deaths in the Chicago Iroquois Theater fire (1907) only intensified the fear of fire. The burning of the industrial section of Chelsea, Mass. (1908) instructed owners that even efforts to segregate industrial uses were of limited value if the buildings themselves were combustable. On the Hudson County waterfront, conditions were equally alarming. In 1900, on the Hoboken waterfront, four blazing ocean liners, along with burning barges, railroad cars, piers and warehouses produced the greatest fire loss in the United States for that year. At one point, burning liners adrift threatened a general conflagration as they approached the New York piers (Gordon). The Annual Reports of the New Jersey Bureau of Labor Statistics (or Dept. of Labor, the name varied) to the Legislature included a chronology of salient industrial fires and other disasters of the year. In November of 1904 one-third of the New Jersey Stockyard (located within the Pennsylvania’s Harsimus Yards) was destroyed by fire, killing two thousand sheep and cattle. In October, 1906, the Standard Oil Company’s crude oil dock in Bayonne burst into flame; the same month The Columbia Brewery in Jersey City burned down. A 1907 fire totally destroyed the Hoboken scientific instrument maker Keuffel and Esser (Wolf: 71).
Closer to the projected site of the A. & P. Headquarters, the situation was equally alarming. The Jan. 8, 1906 front page of The Evening Journal proclaimed “Tenants Pinned in by the Flames.” The article describes the death of one and the burning of three in a tenement fire on the Henderson and Bay St. corner of the very block where the Headquarters building would arise. Another front page story, March 5, 1907, reads “Looting Burned Candle Factory.” It describes the continual theft of scrap metal from the remains of the “burned candle factory,” despite the presence of a night watchman. The site is that of the future A. & P. Bakery. On April 20, 1907, ten days before excavation would commence on the Headquarters building, fire broke out in the Day Manufacturing Company (fabricators of laundry utensils) located at the corner of Warren St. and Railroad Ave. “$30,000 Fire Threatens Down Town Block” read The Evening Journal’s front page headline. The block in question would become the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad’s Car Yards, located just south of the district. The Journal account praised the “heroic firefighting,” but noted that Engine 3 broke down on its way to the fire and was delayed, and regrets that “the firemen were impeded somewhat by imperfect hose” (April 20, 1907: 1). In the choice of inherently fireproof reinforced concrete, the risks of an experimental method of construction appear to have been outweighed by the risks of business-as-usual. As Condit (2001: 12) observes, early reinforced concrete construction was as driven by a series of contemporary disastrous fires, as was cast iron construction by the fires of the 1830s and ’40s.
Reinforced concrete, of course, was hardly unknown in the 19th century. Isolated precursors, ranging from Lambot’s boats and Monier’s flower pots to William Ward’s Port Chester home illustrate many of the standard histories of construction. Much of the southern Manhattan riverwall, a post-Civil War project, is constructed of seventy-two ton precast blocks, held together by “tension chains” (Bone: 108). Theoretical understanding of the basic structural issues involved in the combined use of cement and iron seems to have been available with the publication of Thaddeus Hyatt ‘s Account (1877). Hyatt is a classic example of the impossibility of separating technological and social history. He began manufacturing glass and metal “vault covers” for undersidewalk storage space in New York in the 1840s, but experienced difficulties with the unequal expansion and contraction of glass and iron. A well-established businessman in the 1850s, he became active in support of abolitionists in Kansas. Following John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, Hyatt was incarcerated in Washington for his refusal to testify before a Congressional Investigation of the affair. A newly elected Lincoln appointed him American Consul in La Rochelle, where, it is thought (Elliott: 171) he learned of French experiments in béton armé. It led to a series of laboratory tests of the combined strength of iron and cement in London, in the hope that he might be able to produce a better vault-light. The result was his theoretical work, in which he articulated the basic principles of reinforced concrete construction: that it combines the strength in tension of iron with the strength in compression of concrete, and that concrete-surrounded iron resists fire.
In Europe, Monier’s basic ideas were developed commercially by the German firm of Wayss and Freytag and the French contractor, Hennebique. By the end of the 19th century, Hennebique had established an international network of licenses for his rather complex system of metal reinforcing bars and clips. After many court challenges, he lost his patent rights. In the United States another system of iron and cement construction was devised by Ernest Ransome. Ransome, the son of the British inventor of the cement rotary kiln, had moved to California to promote the family’s cement business. In a series of small projects in the San Francisco Bay area, Ransome moved from the relatively traditional combination of iron I-beam and concrete-vault floor construction to that of “ribbed” floor construction, in which the vaulted underside of the floor was replaced by T-beams. Central to this transformation was Ransome’s adoption of the cold-twisted reinforcing rod. This was simply a bar of metal that was twisted at room temperature. The twist assured that the cement would adhere to the bar without slipping. It was cheap and simple, and required far less meticulous assembly than the Hennebique system. Later, Ransome attributed the spiral twist idea to the behavior of a rubber band he held in his hand while trying to figure out a simple solution to the adhesion problem (Ransome & Saurbrey: 3). In 1902, Ransome patented a system combining T-beam floors and columns, the result being a concrete frame of girders and columns that would come to dominate factory and warehouse design: the “Ransome System.”
As Ada Louise Huxtable (1957: 139) observed in a pioneering article on the import of Ransome in the elaboration of a modernist aesthetic “The moment was ripe, near the turn of the century, for the adoption of a practical, versatile, economic material that was to prove to be the workhorse of the new industrial architecture: reinforced concrete.” The Ransome System, coupled with the availabilty of uniform quality, low-priced Portland Cement, would satisfy the seemingly infinite demand of American manufacturers for production and storage space. The result, the product of both theorerical investigation and economic exigency, would ultimately return to America from Europe as the International Style.
In California, Ransome had done work for the Pacific Coast Borax Company. In 1897, he answered the Company’s call to design a factory in Bayonne, New Jersey. Of reinforced concrete design, it was very much a transitional work. Exterior walls were scored to resemble stone, and the relatively small windows were “pseudo-soldier arch” headed. In 1902, a “burst oil main” (Ransome & Saurbrey: 185) in the building’s basement caught fire spectacularly. The cast iron machinery and copper in the plant’s dynamos were fused, but the building’s fabric was scarcely damaged. News of the conflagration, melted machines and still standing walls was published widely, adding to the reputation of reinforced concrete. (A collection of photographs taken after the fire is contained in Reinforced Concrete in Factory Construction (Atlas Portland Cement, 1907). Ransome returned to Bayonne soon after the fire and commenced a second, attached phase for Pacific Borax. Here, he achieved the “canonic” exterior: concrete-gridded, large-windowed with infill panel underneath. The second (and third) phases of the building were intact when “rediscovered” by Reyner Banham in 1982 (Banham, 1983). A second local Ransome project that doubtless impacted upon the Hartford decision to build in reinforced concrete was his 1901 Varley Duplex Magnet Company, 136 Seventh St., Jersey City. Built just west of the Harsimus Yards, this relatively small building presented major problems. The poor bearing quality of the soil demanded wide footings, but this would have undermined an adjacent building. The solution was to recess the foundation wall and cantilever the building to the property line (ER, Mar 22, 1902: 270-1). Curiously, the architect of record for this Ransome designed building was Louis Broome, who had achieved a certain notoriety for his recently completed, hypereclectic City Hall in Jersey City.
By 1900, Ransome had established a New York office. Among his investors was the Brooklyn Pratt family, heirs of Standard Oil’s Charles Pratt. The Pratt family, who controlled much property in Brooklyn, was interested in innovative construction methods. It appears that the Pratts introduced Ransome to one of their neighbors, the Swarthmore civil engineering graduate Henry Chandlee Turner (Wolf: 29). Turner worked for Ransome for two years, acquiring the latter’s enthusiasm for reinforced concrete construction. In 1902, Turner entered into an agreement with Ransome. He acquired the patent rights to the Ransome System in New York and surrounding counties in return for the payment of future royalties of five percent of the value of the Ransome System construction he would perform (p. 37). Armed with that agreement, Turner invited partners to join him in the formation of Turner Construction Company. In exchange for his patent rights, Turner was named president. The certificate of incorporation authorized the company not only to manage construction projects, but to design and engineer buildings.
Beginning with small projects, such as a reinforced concrete vault for the Pratt family’s Thrift Bank, Turner Construction secured contracts to build reinforced concrete stairways and platforms for the IRT Subway. The firm also began long associations with Robert Gair and Irving T. Bush. Gair, who had apprenticed in Edinburgh in a paper mill, and commanded a Highlanders militia regiment in the Civil War at age 26, specialized in the mechanical production of corrugated containers. With industry producing more and more consumer goods to be sold in individual packages, Gair’s business boomed. Moving from lower Manhattan to the Brooklyn waterfront, Gair contemplated the construction of a complex. Fearing fire, his original Brooklyn building was one of the first in the country to include automatic sprinklers (p. 46). Sending an agent to locate the increasingly scarce large timbers used in “slow burn” mill construction, Gair learned about the use of reinforced concrete in the reconstruction of downtown Jacksonville, Florida, which had recently burned. Convinced that this was the material for his complex, Gair sought out Henry Turner. Eventually, Turner would build seventeen buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront in what would be called Gairville. (Most still exist, comprising much of today’s DUMBO.) Irving T. Bush, the son of a Brooklyn oil refiner, “bought out” by John D. Rockefeller, envisioned the development of a system of factories, warehouses and piers on a stretch of the Brooklyn waterfront used by his father to dump refinery refuse. By 1918, Turner built twenty-one buildings at the Bush Terminal with an aggregate floor area of more than five square miles. The reinforced concrete mini-empires arising on the Brooklyn side of New York harbor would soon be echoed on the New Jersey side.
In 1907, Turner began construction of what would become the A. & P. complex. The architect of record was Howard Chapman. He was Turner’s brother-in-law (p. 51), and briefly shared the Turner offices at 11 Broadway (Ward). A graduate of Columbia College ’99, who had attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Chapman’s obituary describes him as an “industrial architect” (NYT). Only his later work in Connecticut is listed. Given Turner’s involvement in design, it is impossible to separate Chapman’s from Turner’s contribution. We are reminded of Condit’s and Landau’s (1996: xiii) observation that, by the end of the 19th century, “the engineer’s contribution was generally understood to be essential, the architect’s superficial.” It is clear from Chapman’s one published piece, “The Design of Industrial Buildings” (1915) that he advocated the obvious: “structural safety, durability and protection of fire.” Concerning warehouses, he observes that “the economical cube-shaped building is the best, as daylight is not a priority.” He advises calculating the sprinkler plan before calculating the beam spacing, as underwriters imposed rigid standards. Given such priorities, it seems unlikely that Chapman was a wellspring of architectural creativity within the firm. (It should be noted that the Industrial Architecture special issue in which his article appears is an excellent source of photographs of early modern industrial architecture, many supplied by Turner.)
A published account (Perry, 1908) of the A. & P. Headquarters building emphasized the speed and economy of its construction. After a difficult beginning, due to much pile driving and “North (Hudson) River water infiltration,” work was described as having proceeded quickly. Only one set of forms was used for all of the columns, and “one and a half” for the floors. The cornice, “of solid concrete with four ft. six inches of overhang” was said to only have cost half as much as a copper cornice of the same design, as the requisite formwork was repeatedly swung into position from two roof mounted derricks. Much attention was paid to the details of fireproofing: Turner designed interior fire doors, rolling steel cargo doors, pressure and gravity tanks on the roof, and wire glass windows set in hollow metal frames. Apparently satisfied with the Turner product, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company would, by 1942, sign twenty-eight contracts with Turner Construction. The A. & P. was second only to the Pennsylvania Railroad, which signed twenty-nine (Turner, 1942: 21).
In the design of its bakery, the A. & P. had recourse to Ballinger and Perrot, an architectural firm specializing in both reinforced concrete and bakeries. Philadelphia-based, but maintaining an office in New York, the firm was responsible for such projects as the ten-story, reinforced concrete Boyertown Casket Company building in Philadelphia (1907) and the Victor Talking Machine Complex in Camden (later the RCA complex). They also designed many lofts and factories in the Long Island City section of Queens, New York, such as the American Chicle Company and the National Casket Company. A pioneer in reinforced concrete construction, Perrot joined the firm in 1900; in 1920 he separated and the firm became simply Ballinger. Perrot published and lectured widely in the early 20th century on reinforced concrete construction, occasionally offering a post-mortem analysis of competitors’ building failures. He is associated with the “professionalization” of the field, as urged by such publications as Scientific American (“The Advantages and Limitations of Reinforced Concrete,” May 12, 1906: 383-7. For a critique of this domination of the field by university trained engineers using “tests” of questionable value, see Slaton.) In one apt figure of speech, Perrot likened a reinforced concrete frame to petrified wood. Ballinger and Perrot’s announced specialty was “process design.” In essence, they purported to first study an industry’s production process, then design a building that helped that process. This well illustrates Lindy Bigg’s (1986) thesis that, in the early 20th century, industrial buildings had ceased to act as passive shells, and were treated as “master machines” in the organization and control of work. By 1923, Ballinger had designed fourteen industrial bakeries (Ballinger Co.: 89). They seem to have been especially proud of their work in Jersey City; an undated (post 1916) firm “office book” of recent work contains many more illustrations of the interior of the A. & P. bakery than any other of their creations. Their 1924 office book credits them with not only the Bakery, but also the Jersey City “A. & P. Macaroni and Noodle Manufactory” and the “Cocoa and Chocolate Manufactory.” They illustrate only the bakery. It is unclear if the reference is to separate buildings, or processing operations located in the bakery. Ballinger and Perrot are known to have worked with Turner Construction.
In 1910, Henry Turner commissioned an artist to paint an imaginary “Turner City” (Illustration 13) composed of company constructions through that year under the rubric “Turner for Concrete.” This would become an annual company tradition. In the early 1920s, Ballinger would follow suit with a “Ballinger City” (Illustration 14). Reproductions of both “cities” were widely distributed as company advertisements. Both depict pier and girder gridded industrial buildings, their slab and cubic volumes arranged on tightly gridded urban streets. Note the original A. & P. Headquarters near the center of Turner City, its loading dock and shed apparent behind a row of rail freight cars, and the ship docked in a basin being loaded. Early Bush Terminal buildings appear in the background. While intended to promote Turner’s business, these imaginary cities also offer a contemporary vision of the self-contained, fireproof and rationally ordered urban industrial zone. They reflected both the aspirations of the nascent urban planning movement for the segregation of industrial uses and emerging business practice. In Chicago, “industrial districts” were being created to take advantage of both rail and Chicago River access (Meyer and Wade: 234-36). Also in Chicago, merchandising giants Sears, Roebuck (1905-6) and Montgomery Ward (1906-8) both constructed office, freight and distribution centers that were themselves self-contained industrial zones. Ward’s riverfront warehouse was, until at least the 1960s, Chicago’s largest reinforced concrete project (Condit, 1964: 193).
Landscape historian John Stilgoe (1982) has attempted to trace the fifty year (1880-1929) evolution of an “industrial zone aesthetic.” In his analysis, a key element in this growing American fascination with what has elsewhere (Perry Miller; David Nye, 1990) been called the “industrial sublime” is its physical removal to the urban outskirt. A product of the quest for cheap land and fire safety, this retreat from the older factory locations of the walking city helped an almost voyeuristic public appreciate the new zone as a distinct artifact of pure engineering. In Jersey City, given the rail and port configuration, no such retreat was a practical possibility. Instead, a relatively dense, higher-rise industrial zone arose over and upon its antecedents. Reinforced concrete furnished both its physical safety and a distinct aesthetic.
From the perspective of the early 21st century, when the near ubiquity of concrete is often lamented, it it difficult to recapture the sense of daring involved in the frank expression of its use. The early 20th century monthly Cement Age provides a look into a movement that was commercial, aesthetic and, at times, messianic. (And, as befits all self-conscious movements, it had a sworn enemy, the editors of The Iron Age.) The editors of Cement Age seemingly published anything that promoted the coming cement age, from articles on concrete potato peelers to Grosvenor Atterbury’s experiments in prefabricated construction that would culminate in Forest Hills Gardens. Emile Perrot was a frequent contributor, dealing with problems of structure, fire control and concrete finish. Work associated with the “Hudson Tubes” (The Hudson & Manhattan Railroad) provoked several articles. “A Stupendous Application of Concrete” (Mueller, Ap., 1908) rhapsodized over the monolithic concrete dam that held back the waters of the Hudson from the Hudson Terminal Building. “Decorative Concrete Work, Hudson Tubes Station” (Dec., 1910) described the widespread use of reinforced concrete in the 33rd St., New York and Grove St., Jersey City, kiosks and stations. A. D. Mellor (ibid.) thought it “significant” that reinforced concrete was being used in Chicago and New York to solve their vexing rail freight problems. In Chicago, a narrow gage Freight Subway was being dug in that city’s soft soil; in New York the Turner Construction Company was at work at the Bush Terminal. The burning issue at the Bush Terminal project was the use of “plain” concrete, less a brick veneer. Mellor (p. 340) acknowledged that “The human being sets up ideals of beauty based upon what the eye has become accustomed to through long use.” The A. & P. Warehouse in Jersey City was cited as an example of “good work which has been done in this country.” In 1912, Hudson County Park (now Lincoln Park), Jersey City, became home to “probably the largest concrete monument ever attempted in this country” (Collins: 257). Viewed from the low-rise red brick and frame residential city, the newly built A. & P. complex must have projected a striking modernity. With the brightly lit windows of the H. & M. Powerhouse, the fireproof “McAdoo cars” running in the tubes beneath Washington St., the still marble-like Grove St. station and the illuminated Hudson Terminal on the Manhattan skyline, the warehouse district must have shone as the future that was happening.
The division of the city into segregated functional components, such as the industrial zone, was but one aspect of Progressive Era strategy towards the “rational” exploitation of natural resources. That attitude is well expressed in the title of Samuel Hays classic 1959 study: Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency: the Progressive Conservation Movement, 1890-1920. Rejecting the then common interpretation that the Progressive Era was simply a crusade against great concentrations of wealth, Hays attributed much of the apparent reformism to a larger mission: the centralized and planned, long-term exploitation of natural wealth. Central to this mission was the dispassionate, scientific “expert,” who devised and applied universal principles to local situations. As Gifford Pinchot managed the nation’s forests to guarantee the highest long-term yield of board-feet of timber, so urban reformers imagined they could effect, after the establishment of the correct principles and the taking of the right measurements, urban efficiency. This approach was to strongly color the early 20th century reform and planning movements in Jersey City. The handling and storage of freight was to become a preoccupation of the reformers; the expansion, consolidation or relocation of a warehouse and terminal district, an obsession.
Geography was to dictate this preoccupation. The port of New York had developed first along the East, then along the Hudson riverfronts. Storehouses and early industries had located near the piers. With the arrival of rail trunk lines on the west bank of the Hudson, the port was bifurcated. The great majority of people and industry lay east of the Hudson, the railhead to the west. Jersey City’s waterfront was largely given over to elaborate systems of piers, lighters and car floats maintained by competing, arguably redundant, trunk railroads. As was observed in a comprehensive study of the port, “There is no counterpart of New York’s port problem in this country or in the world” (The N.Y, N.J. Port: 6).
While the rail yards provided Jersey City with relatively steady employment, their occupation of much of the Hudson waterfront was increasingly seen as pre-emption of the city’s right to higher value-added industrial development, and of the growth of a deep water commerce. The latter concern was heightened by the publicity surounding the completion of the Panama Canal, which was predicted to usher in a new era of steamship trade. In contemporary terms, in spite and because of its location, Jersey City felt itself precluded from the coming globalization. Lacking the revenue needed for a host of municipal improvements demanded by its rapidly expanding population, “progressives” deeply resented the low property assessments and taxes paid by the railroads for their yards. Under the reformist administration of Mayor Mark Fagan, the antirailroad fight was led by Corporation Council George Record, who was strongly influenced by Henry George’s “Single Tax” theory. In many locations, municipal reformers would have been content to simply encourage and expand the sort of warehouse district that was emerging in lower Jersey City. Given the exigencies of geography, the district’s growth was tied to a radical reconfiguration of the waterfront and the entire port of New York.
A key figure in the “reform” movement in Jersey City in the early 20th century was Walter Muirheid. Little remembered today, except for the 1910 Jersey City To-day which he edited (a source of several warehouse illustrations in this Nomination), Muirheid worked at the point of intersection of several trends that met in the effort to revamp the port of New York according to the Gospel of Efficiency. The son of a prominent local attorney, Muirheid began his career as a journalist in 1892 with a self-published Jersey City “society paper.” (That Jersey City ca. 1892 contained a “society” to be reported on is itself worthy of note.) When that venture failed, he began writing for The Evening Journal, covering the bicycle craze in a “Wheels and Riders” column. In 1895, Muirheid was appointed Clerk to the (Jersey City) Board of Tax Commissioners; soon after he undertook a revamping of the City’s assessment records. Whether his appointment was caused by or caused his interest in real estate is unknown. Soon after, Muirheid began writing a Real Estate column in the Journal, and was appointed Real Estate Editor in 1905. His columns and annual real estate Supplements remain an excellent source of information on early 20th century buildings in the City. In 1905, he also became Secretary of the Jersey City Board of Trade, responsible for much of the Board’s Review. Secretary to the Hudson County Park Commission, Muirheid was named Secretary-Treasurer of the City Plan Committee at its creation in 1911.
In short, Muirheid functioned as the pen of real estate-backed municipal reform in Jersey City. The modern reader, accustomed to laissez faire objections to comprehensive planning from the real estate industry, is at times startled to realize that much of the impetus for early planning emanated from Muirheid’s Board of Trade. Convinced that Jersey City was “on the eve of the greatest real estate move in history” (Muirheid, 1910: 7) and that its population would reach one million by 1936 (p. 3), Muirheid’s Real Estate column alternated real estate news and practical advice to investors with background information relating to city planning and urban design. For many local readers, his accounts were probably their first exposure to the movement for urban efficiency and planning. He marshalled support for a new, more stringent building code (EJ, June 22, 1907: 13), informing his readers that “the opinion of builders generally is that the present Building Inspector’s Department is more or less a joke” (Feb.12, 1907: 11). His topics ranged from a favorable discussion of a report of the Newark Board of Trade calling for comprehensive development plans for the Port of New York (Jan. 17, 1907: 14) to a series of articles on the advantages of reinforced concrete construction. The latter series (April 29, 1907 is typical) was clearly inspired by the ground-breaking for the A. & P. Headquarters. Another favorite topic of Muirheid’s was the Jersey City Board of Trade’s proposal for the preparation of a plan to widen and “beautify” Montgomery St. from City Hall to Exchange Place (Jan. 29, 1907: 13).
Muirheid was under few illusions as to the cause of Jersey City’s early 20th century real estate boom; the City’s advantage was locational, not governmental. In a page one article on the “McAdoo Tunnel and the World’s Biggest Office Building” (EJ, Nov. 21, 1906: 1, unsigned, but clearly a real estate matter) there is an exhilaration that “all the tunnel property in New York will be dependent upon the power house in this city.” This enthusiasm is coupled with the frank admission that “the big powerhouse can be erected much cheaper here than in New York, and for that reason the city has been selected.” Muirheid assumed that a wave of Manhattan real estate capital was about to break upon Jersey City. His concern was that cycle of spending “money beyond computation” in the endless cycle of “building, tearing down and constructing again” be broken through rational planning (JJ, May 15, 1911). Convinced that the forces of development were inexorable, Muirheid worried that the “efficiency and beauty of the metropolis for many years to come” (EJ, Jan. 17, 1907: 14) depended upon the foresight of the present generation to provide a sufficient development plan.
A Warehouse District project that never came to fruition illustrates Muirheid’s vision of the incorporation of lower Jersey City into the Manhattan economy. “Machinery Trade Center To Be Here” proclaimed the Dec. 6, 1906 Evening Journal (p. 3). Demolition for the Hudson Terminal “wiped out” what had been the center of the nation’s machinery trade, resulting in the scattering of showrooms about Manhattan Island. Muirheid reported that the McAdoo Tunnel Co. had another surprise in store for Jersey City: the erection of a “mamouth warehouse” over its tunnels to centralize the machinery showrooms. Operated from executive offices in the Terminal Building, clients (and machinery) would have been whisked under the Hudson and emerge in the Jersey City warehouse. This would have been a very early instance of electric rail freight. In 1906, Muirheid assumed that the necessary location would have been over the Railroad Avenue “tube,” requiring an extension of the “factory district” (as the Warehouse District was often called) south to the P.R.R. passenger embankment. By March of 1907, Muirheid was taking into account the “tube” under Washington St. connecting the uptown and downtown H. & M. lines. Declaring that the anticipated machinery warehouse “would have to take up at least two city blocks” (EJ, Mar. 13, 1907: 15), he set his sights on the Lorillard buildings on First and Second St. After a “thorough reconstruction” and the provision of a subterranean spur he thought the soon to be abandoned complex ideal for the projected trade center. He permitted himself to envision the subsequent relocation of other exhibition spaces nearby, as executives in the Terminal Building realized the advantages of the new underwater connection.
In Jersey City of To-day (p. 22), Muirheid writes that he and Hugh Roberts, chair of the Board of Trade (and architect of the Hudson County Court House) were appointed in 1909 by Mayor Wittpenn to prepare a display for the New York Society of Congestion of Population Exposition.. (He identifies this as the First Exhibit, which was held in 1908. This appears to have been the Second, held in 1909.) The two prepared a study of Jersey City land use, ownership and population density, which they presented first in New York, then in Washington. We know that George Marsh, the organizer of the Congestion Exhibitions, called the first National Conference on City Planning in Washington in May of 1909. Muirheid and Roberts attended, as did many of the founders of the American Planning movement, such as the younger Olmstead, Jane Adams, John Nolen and George Ford (H. Kantor, in Krueckeberg, ed., Methuen, 1983: 69). In Muirheid’s post-1909 writings one detects an increasing awareness that future physical development of Jersey City was capable of both prediction and conscious manipulation. Describing the Merchants’ Refrigeration Company warehouse, he observes that “It is only a question of a few years when much of the lower portion of the city north of the Pennsylvania Railroad will be given up to plants of this character” (Muirheid, 1910: 103). Discussing his and Robert’s Congestion Exhibit, he observes: “An interesting feature of the exhibit was a map showing that the principal factory sectors in Jersey City are located adjacent to railroads and do not depend, to any great extent, upon water connections. Jersey City has not yet developed any pronounced warehouse district, although there is an excellent opportunity to do so on a gigantic scale in the large undeveloped tracts of land under water in New York Bay, where land is cheap and the opportunity for ideal development unlimited” (pp. 19-20). Clearly, Muirheid saw the “warehouse district” as an emergent prototype of something to be either vastly expanded or transposed to a waterfront setting. Either alternative would require greatly increased government intervention, as well as a municipal government capable of efficient intervention.
A first prong of attack of Muirheid’s Board of Trade was the Fire Department. The City’s annual fire toll was, to reformers, glaring evidence of the failure of its ward-based political structure to provide for either public safety or industrial growth. The National Board of Fire Underwriters inspected the city in December, 1904. Soon after, the New York Fire Insurance Exchange imposed a 30% penalty on existing fire insurance rates. The Board of Trade chose to deal directly with the Insurance Exchange. Admitting that the “conditions of the fire fighting appliances of the city were deplorable” (Jersey City Board of Trade, 1911: 8), the Board empowered a Committee on Insurance to establish a schedule of local improvements that would result in the removal of the insurance penalty. The Committee then commenced to prod local officials to complete the requisite improvements, including the “tying in” of new water mains, the installation of adequate hydrants, the adoption and enforcement of a new building code and construction of additional fire houses. The Board of Trade published a collection of the Committee’s pointed letters, with replies, in 1911, under the title Fire Waste in Jersey City. The urban fabric was to be as carefully conserved and efficiently managed as the forest or the free flowing river. All of this must be read in the context of such widely publicized disasters as the 1910 Newark factory fire, in which twenty-five women died, and the even more deadly New York Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911.
One product of the Board’s campaign for fire safety and lower insurance rates was a new firehouse on Morgan St., sited adjacent to the “warehouse district.” Intended to replace an earlier firehouse nearby on Warren St., the “new firehouse” would become a great irritant to the Board. Work commenced on the building some time prior to 1907, but it stood unused for lack of a sewer line. If listing in the Boyd’s Directory indicates completion, the firehouse was operational in 1909. The decision of the Hartfords to build in reinforced concrete, with a complete system of automatic sprinklers, metal windows and fire doors appears eminently practical in light of the quality of fire fighting available. The 1911 observations of the Hudson Inspection Bureau only underscore the alarming state of affairs: “The fire department is badly demoralized and practically devoid of discipline, due to political influence exerted throughout the department” (Hudson Inspection: 9); “No records are kept of methods used in extinguishing fires” (p. 10); “Night watch is not maintained, and watch during the day is poorly performed” (p. 12); “The present fire alarm system is definitely bad” (p. 15). Perhaps most disturbingly for the “warehouse district,” the Bureau’s Report indicates that the new firehouse, to which were assigned “eight members and two horses” (p. 5), was equiped with a “twenty foot extension ladder” and “poor hose” (p. 5). The roof and underground water tanks, fire shutters, double fire doors and metal windows that characterize the Warehouse District gain significance when read in the context of 1911 fire efficiency.
In 1911, Hudson County’s two leading dailies, the Journal and the Hudson Observer, opened a second prong of attack in a series of articles proselytizing for comprehensive municipal planning. Their publica- tion coincided with the passage of State enabling legislation allowing New Jersey’s First Class cities to establish volunteer City Plan Commissions. Although the articles are not signed (Muirheid’s daily writing generally was not) his imprint seems clear. One piece begins “Jersey City has problems: big ones. Jersey City has a railroad problem: composed of a dozen probable subordinate problems, street congestion problems, and so on” (JJ, June 26, 1911). Another quotes Toledo’s famed reformist Mayor Whitlock: “We are beginning to learn that a city is something more than a mere industrial accident…” (Obs., May 15, 1911). Finally, echoing Jersey City of To-day: “To-morrow, Jersey City an half a million population: Is it not wise to make any changes that should be made before it is too late?” (JJ, May 8, 1911).
Some of these proposed changes were of classic “city beautiful” inspiration, as demonstrated by the frontispiece of one of the City Plan Commission’s 1911 publications (Illustration 15, note the absence of motor vehicles on the projected streets of 1931). Many more connected traditional Jersey City rancor towards the railroads with a mounting movement within the greater New York planning movement towards the reconfiguration of the “industrial accident” that was the port of New York. Calvin Tompkins (1905) was a building supply merchant (Newark Plaster Co., The Bonner Brick Company) whose experience with “congestion” and “inefficiency” had led to propose as early as 1905 a “comprehensive plan” for the New York region. Tompkins chaired the New York Municipal Art Society in 1906-7, and served as New York City Commissioner of Docks and Ferries (1910-13). In the latter capacity, he addressed the Second National Conference on City Planning (1910), observing that, “With rare exceptions, American seaports are unprovided with adequate waterfront terminals such as exist at European ports of the first order” (Proceedings of the Second National Conference: 136-7). Lamenting the absence of warehouses with harbor and rail connections, except the “Bush Stores,” Tompkins argued that the waterfront had been “crystalized into small, separate operating units on a small fraction of the navigable waterfront” (ibid.). His solution was the expansion of multimodal terminals outside of congested lower Manhattan, especially into Northern New Jersey. Addressing the same conference, George Wadsworth, consulting engineer to the Boston Metropolitan Improvements Commission, told participants that their various civic concerns were secondary to the fundamental question of “lines of transportation, the railroads” (p. 141). Later, Wadsworth (Nolen, ed.: 273) predicted the “complete unification of terminal properties into a terminal district, probably under state or federal ownership.”
With the retention of George B. Ford and Ernest P. Goodrich as consultants to the newly created Jersey City Plan Commission in the fall of 1912, Jersey City became a laboratory for the development of the professinal planning field survey. Ford and Goodrich, also working in Newark at this time, have been described as America’s first private planning consulting firm (Blueprints, Spring, 1992). Their Technical Advisory Corporation, founded just after their Jersey City experience, would prepare initial comprehensive plans for any number of northeastern cities. Ford, a graduate of Harvard and MIT, had spent four years at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Upon graduation, he took employ with George B. Post & Sons, but was increasingly active in the emerging planning movement. At one point, he shared quarters in the Greenwich Settlement House in New York with Benjamin Marsh. Columbia University lecturer, founder of City Planning magazine and advisor to the U.S., French and Phillipines governments, Ford is credited with developing the “zoning envelope” contained within New York’s pioneering 1916 Zoning Ordinance. He was named General Director of the New York Regional Plan just prior to his sudden death in 1930. E. P. Goodrich was trained as a civil engineer at Michigan University. He specialized in rail and water transportation planning, acting as a consultant to the Bush Terminal. An expert in reinforced concrete construction, he translated in 1910, one of the key theoretical expositions of its structural principles, Der Eisenbetonbau (Morsch) into English. Engaged by the Jersey City City Plan Commission to draft a plan of how the Commission ought to proceed, the two undertook a series of twelve “tramps” around the city, a stenographer accompanying them to take down their observations–the method is described in “Efficiency in City Planning” (Ford, Feb., 1913).
Ford and Goodrich saw themselves as applying the “Taylorist” methods then popular in industrial engineering to the new “scientific” planning. In the Spring, at another National City Planning Conference, Ford (May, 1913) would present a classic statement of their method in “The City Scientific.” Several days prior to this address, the two presented their Report of Suggested Plan to the Jersey City Committee. While urging the body to immediately address such pressing matters as possible drinking water contamination, persistent sewage back-up and a primitive garbage collection system, their approach is very much that of Tomkins and Wadsworth: existing rail installations are the crux of Jersey City’s problem, new factories, warehouses and ocean terminals the solution.
Starting from the observation that “The waterfront of Jersey City on the Hudson River side is practically all in the hands of the large railways,” Ford and Goodrich (p. 26) spin alternative solutions. One is the creation of a public body with powers to control the type and physical design of waterfront structures. Another is the European model: outright municipal acquisition of waterfront land. Given the legal and practical difficulties of either of these, they considered engineering alternatives involving land already owned by the city. With sufficient dredging, the already city-owned, Newark Bay or Hackensack River frontage, might be developed into industrial districts served by steamship terminals. The Morris Canal Basin and adjacent South Cove might be developed as a rail-steamer nexus. In either of these cases, a ship canal cut through the natural ravine containing the moribund Morris Canal was contemplated, allowing the passage of lighters or even ships from Newark Bay to the Hudson River.
Noting that high population density and real estate values made Manhattan an uneconomic location for factories and warehouses, Ford and Goodrich (p. 31) observed that Jersey City “will doubtless tend to increase rapidly along these lines.” Indeed, they suggest that “Jersey City is likely to become the warehouse feeding Manhattan…” (ibid.). This was seen as a pronounced trend in the Old City (Downtown). Unfortunately, industrial uses were “spreading at random through the residential districts” (p. 32). An exception to this tendency was a “considerable industrial development close to the water- front between the Pennsylvania freight and passenger yards which extends to other rail yards and back to about Grove St.” (ibid.). This is, of course, the Warehouse District and its fringe. It should be remembered that while the Lorillard, Butler, Merchants’ Refrigeration and A. & P. buildings already stood, and the Eckerson building was under construction, the rest of the A. & P. complex was yet to be built as the two planners tramped. The existing “factories” of the district are described as “in general, low, poorly built and poorly lighted and ventilated and quite unscientific in their design” (ibid.). It might be supposed that Goodrich, consultant to the Bush Terminal then being built by Turner Construction, exempted the Turner A. & P. Headquarters from the condemnation. Realizing the (pre-Ambler v. Euclid) difficulty of excluding industrial buildings from residential areas, the consultants instead suggested that industrialists be induced to come to “specially set apart districts by offering advantages in the way of good rail and waterfront connections, wide, well paved streets, and block and lot units designed especially for manufacturing use” (ibid.). Perhaps inspired by the food storage and preparation already occurring in the district, Ford and Goodrich raise the possibility of lower Jersey City becoming a wholesale food market for Manhattan (p. 34). With the completion of the A. & P. complex within the next two years, the district identified by Ford and Goodrich must have appeared to be fast achieving its railroad-imposed limits.
As preachers of the Gospel of Efficiency, Ford and Goodrich assumed that “hard-headed businessmen” would grasp the logic of their analysis and act accordingly, recognizing that to do so was in their own long term self-interest. The owners of the competing trunk railroads appear to have been far more interested in maintaining or increasing individual market share than participating in a reordering of the port of New York. In an effort to force the issue, four New Jersey waterfront municipalities in 1916 filed a formal complaint with the Interstate Commerce Commission, which at that time set rail freight rates. The I.C.C. maintained one rate for freight shipped to either side of the Hudson. The New Jersey municipalities, in what came to be known as the New York Harbor Case, argued that rate parity was inherently discriminatory against New Jersey, as the cost of the competing networks of floats, bridges and lighters was an expense incurred only by those who shipped to New York. The case was argued by George Record, the Jersey City “single-taxer” and former Corporation Counsel. While the New Jersey Municipalities did not prevail, the I.C.C. recognized considerable merit in their statement of gross port inefficiency. Co-operation between forces in New York and New Jersey led to the formation of the New York, New Jersey Port and Harbor Development Corporation, which would retain George Goethals as consulting engineer. In 1920, the Corporation produced a synoptic, five hundred page report that recognized the centrality of the rail freight problem. This 1920 Joint Report, replete with photos and graphs, remains an invaluable source on the early 20th century port. Its central recommendation, the creation of a subterranean “electric beltway” that would convey freight to and from Manhattan to New Jersey, was never implemented. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the Machinery Trade Center described by Muirheid in 1906. The contemporary Jersey City Development Plan (1920), also a valuable source of photographs of the pier-float-lighter system, blamed the “congestion in the harbor and what is in effect the railroad confiscation of the New Jersey shore” on the “determination of New York City to concen- trate within itself and mainly upon Manhattan Island the enormous commerce of the Port of New York.”
With the completion of the A. & P. complex, and the slightly later addition of the Dairymen’s reinforced concrete building, the Warehouse District achieved its final “build out.” Limited space for expansion remained on the fringe to the south and west of the district, but investment in new construction ceased. The huge machinery warehouses anticipated by Muirheid were never built. The inefficiencies inherent in the region’s haphazard rail freight distribution system, coupled with the stresses imposed by World War I, resulted in McAdoo’s federal appointment as virtual “czar” of the rail distribution system in the latter stage of the war and aftermath. The rail paralysis, coupled with bi-State discussions spurred by the 1916 Harbor Case, would lead to the creation of the Port of New York Authority. Although created to implement the report of the Goethal’s Commission, the Authority lacked precisely what its name implied, the authority to coerce the competing railroads to co-operate and rationalize the rail system. Instead, the Authority would prove vastly successful in exercising its power to bond, resulting in the creation of a competing network of roadway bridges and tunnels that would eventually help push the recalcitrant railroads into bankruptcy.
Within Jersey City, the great pouring and tamping of concrete (in the Warehouse District and at the nearby Colgate property) coincided with the implementation of the Commission form of government in 1913. Another chapter of the Progressive Era Gospel of Efficiency, the direct election of “business-like” City Department Directors was widely seen as a way of “getting the politics out of local government.” (It should be noted that in Jersey City one of its products was Mayor Hague, elected Commissioner in 1913.) The published Minutes of the Board of Commissioners first year (June, 1913-June, 1914) bore an arresting frontispiece (Illustration 16). A classically robed female (doubtless “Civic Virtue”), bearing a “Commission Government” scepter, stands before a just unlocked portal. In her hand is a key; on the ground, an opened padlock labelled “Politics.” Behind the opened gate, Civic Virtue is revealing a vision of the city efficient: the multimodal terminal. Dockside factories and warehouses, one at least eight-story high, disgorge or load cargo to a freight train and ocean freighter. A loaded wagon alludes to local commerce. Smoke (signifying prosperity, not pollution) rises from chimneys’, locomotives’ and ships’ funnels. The Manhattan skyline lies on the horizon. It is indeed tempting to think that the depicted buildings are of reinforced concrete.
Virtue’s vision of 1914 would remain largely unrealized. In the decade following World War I, the smoke hanging over the Jersey City waterfront was often the product of catastrophic fire, not industrial prosperity. The tale of the 1916 Black Tom munitions explosion has often been told. Less well known are a series of succeeding waterfront conflagrations that vindicated much of the Progressive Era critique of Jersey City’s land use and fire fighting efficiency. In March, 1918 the Jarvis Stores (under military control) were wracked by a series of explosions. The resultant fire, caused by a cigarette tossed into a pile of “loose potash” (JJ, March 18, 1918: 1) destroyed not only the warehouse but much of the Erie Machine Shop and a number of locomotives and freight cars. In November of 1924, the industrial area near the Morris Canal basin suffered what was generally considered the City’s worst fire. A burning saltpeter factory ignited a row of nearby wooden tenements; soon the flames jumped to the old “Sugar House” in which sulphuric acid was stored. “Fumes Spread Terror as Fire Sweeps Downtown” screamed the extra edition of The Jersey Journal (Nov. 14: 1). As local authorities prepared to dynamite rows of buildings to create a fire break, two fireboats dispatched from New York maneuvered close enough to the burning Sugar House to contain the fire. In all, thirty-seven tenements were destroyed. In March of 1927 disaster was to strike even closer to the Warehouse District. The Harsimus Yards’ pier K, at the foot of Second St., burst into flames. The temperature was near zero, the wind near gale force. The fire jumped to freight cars and barges, then to the adjacent Morgan St. pier. A lumber yard and box factory caught fire, raising the spectre that “the whole section would be gutted” (JJ, March 27: 2). At this point, firefighters gained control of the fire. City officials later complained that fire apparatus was delayed for half an hour because rail cars left on spurs blocked access to Second St. A flotilla of fifty fire boats, many owned by railroads, assisted in fighting the fire.
That the Warehouse District did not burn is testimony to its relative segregation, construction and fire vigilance. That the 1927 fire did not lead to the achievement of direct Hudson access for the district through a public ocean terminal at Morgan St. suggests a reordering of public and private priorities. This reordering is curiously entwined with Jersey City’s burned-over places. The area at the mouth of the derelict Morris Canal had long been an alternative location for a municipal ocean terminal. The great fire of 1924 had served to clear some of this land. In the later 1920s, Jersey City and the Port Authority had agreed to develop a modern steamship terminal here: South Cove. The Authority was to acquire and construct four “double decked steel and concrete piers” with rail access on each pier and vehicular access to each deck.” The City would lease the piers, with the understanding that they would revert to the City when the property was amortized (the story is told in Bard). Meanwhile, the Holland Tunnel had entered Jersey City near the site of the Jarvis Stores. Henderson St. was envisioned as a vehicular connector between the tunnel and the South Cove. Henderson St. was also the obvious vehicular link to the Warehouse District, from which cargo could be trucked north to the tunnel or south to the cove. A widened Henderson St. would become the Motor Truck Belt Line; an expanded Warehouse District would replace the Washington St. produce market in lower Manhattan. In short, the Warehouse District was to be functionally detached from the Harsimus Yards. The decision of the Pennsylvania Railroad to construct its own “rail to keel” terminal adjacent to its passenger terminal (Harborside, ca. 1930) only hastened this detachment.
The Great Depression effectively ended any hope of the realization of the South Cove project; the Warehouse District became something of an appendix to the Henderson St. route to the Holland Tunnel. Even the widening of Henderson St., a municipal priority since the 1920 Development Plan, was blocked by the existing rail bridges. The decline and virtual elimination of any vestige of the once dominant railroad landscape from lower Jersey City has rendered a once obvious connection to associated warehouses and industry one in need of articulation. In one act of partial recontextualization, the cars of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail now skirt the district. The equally precipitate decline and fall of the working Hudson River waterfront, and the ironic relocation of the containerized port to Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey, hide the once public ballet between water, rail and warehouse.
As the preceeding discussion suggests, that ballet was always one fraught with contradictions. In classic European harbor cities, and pre-industrial American ports such as lower Manhattan, city and sea might have existed in what Josef Konvitz (1985: 87) calls “equipoise.” Some port cities, such as London, were able to adapt to the introduction of the railroad by displacing their docklands to the periphery. Jersey City was created and deformed by railroads; the rail yards that fed its Warehouse District were also slowly encircling it, and threatening a fiery destruction. If there was any equipoise in Jersey City, it was at the brief moment illustrated by the Edges’ fireworks “laboratory”: the cargo on the loading dock, the horse drawn truck on its way to the pier, the sloops in Harsimus Cove. (The cargo, we might assume, was highly explosive.) True industrialism was inherently and constantly disruptive, destructive of those very qualities the Secretary of the Interior rightly employs to define “integrity.” Through a combination of luck, sound design and the collective tragedy of economic decline and deindustrialization, the Warehouse District has retained, save its surrounds, considerable integrity. Had the surrounds not vanished, the district might well have. Perhaps postmodern conditions have allowed the Jersey City warehouse façade to assume what Peter Quartermaine (p. 25) has recently termed its historic function: “that point where port finally meets city street.”
Unless otherwise noted, the Jersey City material cited above is located in the Jersey City Public Library, Main Branch, 472 Jersey Ave, Jersey City. The Evening (later Jersey) Journal can be read on microfilm in the Reference Room. The remainder of local material is kept in the New Jersey Room. The Jersey City City Plan Commission published a collection of articles from the Jersey Journal and Hudson Observer in 1911 under the title Know City Planning–original pagination is not given. Otherwise, the local press is largely unindexed for the period discussed. The New Jersey Room’s Collection of the Board of Trade Review is, unfortunately, less than complete. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and successor organizations presented Annual Reports to the New Jersey Legislature. They can be read in the annual Legislative Reports. The New York Public Library (Research Libraries), Humanities and Social Sciences Library, 42nd St, New York, N.Y., possesses collections of pamphlets, reports, etc. dealing with the early 20th century Planning Movement in the New York region. Much relevant material can be found under the names George B. Ford and Ernest Goodrich. The NYPL’s Art and Architecture Division (42nd St.) yielded most of the Achitecture Journals cited; the Newark Public Library the rest. The Science, Industry and Business branch of the New York Public Library, 188 Madison Ave. at 34th St., N.Y., has been invaluable in this study. Its holdings include publications by the Butler Brothers, Turner Construction, Ballinger and Perrot, Thaddeus Hyatt and Ernest Ransome. Its holdings include Cement Age, as well as a complete (if battered) Engineering Index. A fortuitous discovery of Betsy Hunter Bradley’s The Works made initial bibliographic work considerably easier.
“A Jersey City Concrete Factory Building.” Engineering Record Vol. XLV, No.12 (March 22, 1902): 270-71.
“The Advantages and Limitations of Reinforced Concrete.” Scientific American, May 12, 1906, pp. 383-7
The American Tobacco Company. Sold American: The First Fifty Years. By the Company, 1954.
Atlas Portland Cement Company. Reinforced Concrete in Factory Construction. New York: By the Company, 1907.
The Ballinger Company. Buildings for Commerce and Industry. Philadelphia and New York: By the Company, 1924.
Ballinger & Perrot. Commercial Buildings and Industrial Plants. Philadelphia and New York: By the Authors, n.d., [post-1916].
Banham, Reyner. “Ransome at Bayonne.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians Vol. XLII, No. 4 (Dec., 1983): 383-87.
_____. A Concrete Atlantis: U. S. Industrial Buildings and European Modern Architecture. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1986.
Bard, Erwin. The Port of New York Authority. New York: Columbia U. Press, 1942.
“Biggest Family Business.” Fortune, Vol. VII, No. 3, pp. 52-55.
Biggs, Lindy. The Rational Factory: Architecture, Technology and Work in America’s Age of Mass Production. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1986.
Blueprints, Vol. X, No. 2 (Spring, 1992). National Building Museum, Washington, D.C.
Bone, Kevin, ed. The New York Waterfront. New York: The Monacelli Press, 1997.
Boyd’s Jersey City-Hoboken Directory. Jersey City: Howell & Co., 1893-94 to 1910-11.
Bradley, Betsy Hunter. The Works: The Industrial Architecture of the United States. New York: Oxford U. Press, 1999.
Brooks, Joseph. New Jersey Historic Sites Inventory, # 0906.
Butler Brothers. The Butler Way System Book. By the Company, 1920.
_____. Success in Retailing. By the Company, 1914.
Chapman, Howard. “Design of Industrial Buildings.” The American Architect; Special Issue: “Industrial Architecture,” Vol. 107, Pt. 1, No. 2044, Feb. 24, 1915, pp. 113-134.
City Plan Commission, City of Jersey City. Know City Planning. Jersey City, 1911.
Collins, A. B. “An Artistic Concrete Fountain.” Cement Age, May, 1912, p. 257.
Condit, Carl. The Chicago School of Architecture, 1875-1925. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1964.
_____. “The First Reinforced Concrete Skyscraper: The Inglis Building in Cincinnati and Its Place in Structural History.” In Early Reinforced Concrete. Edited by Frank Newby. Burlington, Vt.: Aldershot, 2001.
Condit, Carl and Landau, Sarah B. Rise of the New York Skyscraper, 1865-1913. New Haven: Yale U. Press, 1996.
Curran, Kathleen. “The German Rundbogenstil and Reflections on the American Round-Arched Style.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians Vol. 47, No. 4 (Dec., 1988): 351-373.
“Decorative Concrete Work: Hudson Tubes Stations.” Cement Age, Dec. 1910, pp.343-347.
Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Scribners. S.v.
“Lorillard, Pierre.” Vol. 6, Pt. 1.: 411.
“Hartford, George H.,” “Hartford, George L.,” “Hartford, John A.” Supplement 5: 276.
“Ford, George B.” Supplement 1: 311.
“Ford, George B.” Supplement 1: 311, [Signed “C. Meeks”].
Doig, Jameson. Empire on the Hudson. New York: Columbia U. Press, 2001.
Elliott, Cecil D. Technics and Architecture: The Development of Materials and Systems for Building. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1994.
Elzner, A. O.”The First Concrete Skyscraper.” Architectural Record Vol. 15 (June, 1904): 531-544.
_____. “The Evolution of the Modern Warehouse.” Architectural Record Vol. 21 (May, 1907): 379-384.
Ford, George B. “Efficiency in City Planning.” The American City (Feb., 1913); pamphlet reprint.
_____. “The City Scientific.” Engineering Record (May 17, 1913): 551-552.
_____. “Digging Deeper Into City Planning,” Address, Seventh Annual Convention, American Civic Association, n.d.; pamphlet reprint.
Ford, George B. and Goodrich, Ernest P. Report of Suggested Plan of Procedure for City Plan Commission, City of Jersey City (As of November, 1912).
Fruh, Michael A. A Study of the First Ward, Jersey City. Whittier House, Jersey City, 1912.
Gilmartin, Gregory. Shaping the City: New York and the Municipal Art Society. New York: Clarkson Potter, 1994.
Goodrich, Ernest P. “Safety and Economy of Concrete as a Fireproof Material.” Cement Age, July, 1908, pp. 580-81.
Gopsill’s Directory of Jersey City. Jersey City, 1855-1892-93.
Gordon, Robert. “The Great Harbor Fire. The North German Lloyd Disaster of 1900.” New Jersey History (Fall-Winter, 1982): 1-13.
Groner, Alexander and the Editors. American Heritage and Business Week. The American Heritage History of American Business and Industry. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1972.
Hays, Samuel P. Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency: The Progressive Conservation Movement, 1890-1920. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U. Press, 1969.
_____. The Response to Industrialism, 1885-1914. 2nd ed. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1995.
“Howard Chapman, Darien, Ct.,” The New York Times, April 9, 1957, obituary, p. 37.
Hoyt, Edwin. That Wonderful A. & P. New York: Hawthorne Books, 1969.
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1804–Mangin, Joseph F. A Map of that Part of the Town of Jersey Commonly Called Powles Hook, April, 15, 1804.
1841–Douglass. F. L. Topographical Map of Jersey City, Hoboken and Adjacent Country, 1841; redrawn, 1876.
1850–Map of Jersey City and Van Vorst Township, New Jersey. New York: M. Dripps, 1850.
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1882–Map of Jersey City and Hoboken Showing Lands Occupied by Railroad Corporations: n.p.
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1998–Realty Atlas, Hudson County, New Jersey, Vols. I and II. 30th ed. Esperian.
#1–Map Showing the Waterfront and the Marsh Lands of Jersey City and Environs, E. Harrison, Civil Engineer and Surveyor. Hudson County, 1879.
#2–“The Warehouse of Butler Brothers.” Architectural Record Vol. 17 (June, 1905): 513.
#3–“Pennsylvania Railroad Sector of Jersey City Terminal Area.” In “Jersey City as A Port,” p. 9. By James G. Smith. Journal of Industry and Finance Vol. 4, No. 3 (Feb., 1930).
#4–“P. Lorillard & Co.’s Tobacco Manufactory.” In Industries of New Jersey, Hudson, Passaic and Bergen Counties, Part 6, p.886. Philadelphia and New York: Historical Publishing Co., 1883.
#5–“Headquarters, Jersey City.” In The Rise and Decline of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, n. p. By William Walsh. Secaucus, New Jersey: Lyle Stuart, 1986; reprint of sixty-fourth anniversary issue of The Tattle Tale.
#6–“Superior Premium Fire-Works.” Gopsill’s Directory of Jersey City for 1855-56: n.p.
#7–“New York Locomotive Works.” Gopsill’s Directory of Jersey City for 1855-56: n.p.
#8–“Lorillard’s Tobacco Factory.” Scientific American, Vol. XL, No. 2, Jan. 11, 1879, cover.
#9–“Old Jersey City Plant.” In Jersey City of To-Day, p.102. Edited by W. Muirhead; 1910 facsimile, Englewood, N. J.: Bergen Historic Books, 1996.
#10–“Merchants’ Refrigerating Company, N. J.” In Jersey City of To-Day, p.103. Edited by W. Muirhead; 1910 facsimile, Englewood, N. J.: Bergen Historic Books, 1996.
#11–“Butler Brothers’ Warehouse.” In Jersey City of To-Day, p.87. Edited by W. Muirhead; 1910 facsimile, Englewood, N. J.: Bergen Historic Books, 1996.
#12–“The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Headquarters.” In Jersey City of To-Day, p.105. Edited by W. Muirhead; 1910 facsimile, Englewood, N. J.: Bergen Historic Books, 1996.
#13–“Turner City, 1902-10.” In Fifty Years of Building by Turner, n.p. By Turner Construction Co., 1952.
#14–“Ballinger City, U.S.A.” In Buildings for Commerce and Industry, p. 85. By The Ballinger Co., Philadelphia and New York, 1924.
#15–“Know City Planning.” In Know City Planning. By the Jersey City City Plan Commission, 1911, frontispiece.
#16–“Jersey City: Gateway of Municipal Opportunity.” In Minutes of The Board of Commissioners, Jersey City, N. J., June 1913 – June, 1914, frontispiece.