History

The first settlement west of Manhattan Island, named by the Dutch as New Netherland, was made shortly after 1629 when Michael Pauw bought an expansive tract from the Lenni Lennape Indians. The first tract, called "Hobocan Hackingh" by the Lennape, covered roughly the current boundaries of Hoboken. The second tract consisted of two parts, "Harsimus" and "Aressick," extending south from the present day Jersey City/Hoboken border through the Bayonne peninsula.

When the Dutch arrived, Harsimus Cove was a marshy shallow mudflat with a rise of land. Under the colonization plan of the Dutch West India Company, Pauw was required to settle fifty persons on the land. Cornelius Van Vorst, sent by Pauw to establish a plantation, arranged to settle the farmers and built his family home on Harsimus Cove. The house that he built in 1633 had been located at the present corner of Fourth and Marin (formerly Henderson) up until the 1960's.

Dissatisfied with the feudal patroon system, the company bought out Pauw in 1634. Unscrupulous trade practices, demand for tribute and a massacre of Indians resulted in bloody reprisal on both sides. When a peace was declared in 1645 only the Van Vorst manor had escaped destruction. Ten years later the Lennape raided the settlement again after being provoked. Governor Peter Stuyvesant refused to permit permanent settlement until 1660, when he granted a petition on condition that the colonists live in a fortified community, which is known today as Bergen Square, on the outskirts of Journal Square.

John B. Coles, a New York flour merchant, purchased land in 1804 and laid out city blocks in the Bergen area (Jersey City). In 1834, a treaty setting the line between New York and New Jersey in the middle of the Hudson River gave the city access to its own water line. Development had been limited due to New York having claim to the Hudson River right up to the low tide line on the New Jersey shore. Piers and wharves were now built and the city became the terminus for what became known as the Erie and Pennsylvania Railroads.

Three years after Jersey City became independent from Bergen Township in 1838, the settlement of Harsimus became Van Vorst Township in 1841.

Most of the structures in Harsimus Cove were built between 1850 and 1890, though there are some rows of structures remaining from the 1830's. Row houses provide the defining characteristic of the Harsimus Cove streetscape. Mostly constructed from brick with stone or iron exterior details and wood cornices, blocks of attached row houses were built following the Civil War.

The Railroads, which dominated Jersey City, have left their imprint on Harsimus Cove. The Pennsylvania Railroad Harsimus Branch Embankment is a historical landmark that defines the northern boarder of the Harsimus Cove neighborhood. This beautiful sandstone structure replaced an earlier iron trestle constructed in the 1870's.

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