The Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Powerhouse is the architectural icon that gave rise to JC Landmarks. In 1999, a small group of advocates protested Port Authority and City of Jersey City plans to demolish the former subway power station, calling instead for its complete preservation and adaptive reuse. In 2001, through the concerted efforts of JC Landmarks, the Powerhouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is currently undergoing the first phase of stabilization. Threats still remain, however, as the Romanesque Revival industrial colossus needs a new roof, repointing, and a redevelopment plan that will retain its sublime architectural features and allow public access. – JC Landmarks
From past JC Landmarks President Joshua Parkhurst:
The inspiration for JC Landmarks and its flagship campaign, the Hudson and Manhattan Powerhouse is an industrial age masterpiece. Built between 1906 and 1908, the nine story Romanesque Revival structure powered the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, now known as the PATH train.
The Powerhouse’s Architect was John Oakman of Carrere and Hastings, who graduated from the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. James J. Ferris, for whom one of Jersey City’s high schools is named, laid the foundation. One of the engineers in the project was L.B. Stillwell, whose firm designed the first Niagara Falls power plant. John Van Vleck designed the structure’s steel frame, Hugh Hazleton of Englewood, New Jersey, the electrical machinery, and the boilers by Babcock & Wilcox in Bayonne.
With the construction of the Powerhouse, for the first time people could travel between New York and New Jersey directly by rail on the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad. President Theodore Roosevelt himself gave the order for the engineers to flip the switch to activate the building.
Despite the monumental achievements in architecture and engineering, the Powerhouse only remained in use until 1929. After that it was largely used for storage space for the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad and, later, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Even after decades of neglect, the Powerhouse remained remarkably intact due to its sturdy construction. In the late 1990s, the Port Authority and Jersey City considered either demolishing the Powerhouse or constructing an office tower in the middle of a hollowed out Powerhouse, with the landmark structure relegated to use as a parking deck. The potential loss of the Powerhouse galvanized the preservation community and led to the creation of JC Landmarks.
In 2001, JC Landmarks achieved perhaps its most significant victory to date, when the Powerhouse was, over the vigorous objections of the Port Authority, placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The landmarking of the property, based on a nomination prepared by JC Landmarksfounder John Gomez, immediately brought attention to the endangered landmark.
The City has since agreed that the Powerhouse should be preserved as the centerpiece of the redevelopment of the “Powerhouse Arts District.” The City of Jersey City has designated the Powerhouse a developer with experience in restoring similar properties.
Action is still necessary to ensure that the Powerhouse is in fact preserved and used in a way that benefits the community. Development collaboration with the Jersey City preservation community is essential.
JC Landmarks will continue to advocate on behalf of the Powerhouse and demand that the redevelopment process be transparent and allow community input.