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City Hall of the City of Jersey City
280 Grove Street
Between Montgomery and Mercer Streets and back to Henderson Street

Photograph of City Hall circa 1900
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

City Hall, Detail of Main Entrance on Grove Street
Photo: A. Selvaggio, 2002

Illustration above showing the New City Hall on Grove Street.
Source: Eaton. Jersey City and Its Historic Sites (1899)

Detail from the Atlas of Hudson County, GM Hopkins 1873.
The first City Hall building was located on Newark Avenue and Cooper Place (lower left)
while the 1896 structure occupied the entire city block bounded by Montgomery, Grove, Mercer, and Henderson Streets (upper left). The map reveals the many homes and businesses that once stood on that block prior to the construction of the new City Hall.

Credits: New York Society of Model Engineer's Library, Rich Taylor Collection and
Historical Maps of New Jersey site of Rutgers University

Detail from the Plat Map of Jersey City and Bayonne, 1919 showing the plan view of the new City Hall as well as the location of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

Credits: New York Society of Model Engineer's Library, Rich Taylor Collection and
Historical Maps of New Jersey site of Rutgers University


The City Hall of Jersey City is an elaborate granite and marble structure of mixed Victorian and Classical architecture. It was designed by the architect Lewis H. Broome (1849-1927) and completed in 1896. A park-like setting and landscaping around the building, similar to that of the City Hall of New York, was planned for the city's second seat of government. An entire city block containing commercial structures and residences was leveled to make room for the new building.

Jersey City's first city hall was at the southwest corner of Newark Avenue and Cooper Place. After receiving approval from New Jersey Governor Robert S. Green on April 5, 1887, Mayor Orestes Cleveland (1886-1892) appointed three commissioners to oversee the construction of the new Grove Street municipal building. The commission chose the site and then in 1892 conducted a competition among architects for the design. Broome's plans were selected.

Portrait of Lewis H. Broome (1849-1927)

Born in Philadelphia, PA, Broome studied architecture in New York City, and, after serving in the Civil War with the 77th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, set up his architectural firm on Washington Street in Jersey City. Broome became the city architect, appointed by the board of public works in 1880. He gained prominence as a local architect from his work on the New Jersey State House. After an 1885 fire severely damaged the building, Broome worked on the rehabilitation of the state's extant Second Empire-style capitol building since 1792. He is responsible for its expansion with a three-story wing on State Street, redesigning the Assembly wing, and the addition of the iconic rotunda and dome of copper and gold leaf.

Broome's City Hall design, on the other hand, was not met with critical acclaim. "Vile," reacted the Architectural Record (September 1895), commenting that a "resulting edifice fairly reeks of vulgarity as reeks the new City Hall of Jersey City" (quoted in "City Council Chambers Renovations." Jersey City Web Site).

Postcard detail showing the Soldiers & Sailors Monument
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

Soldiers & Sailors Monument in front of City Hall,
Photo: A. Selvaggio, 2002

For the placement of a sculpture in front of City Hall, another competition was held to select the design. It was organized by Leonard J. Gordon who helped found the Jersey City Free Public Library. The New York sculptor Philip Martiny (1858-1927), who was born in France and a student of Augustus Saint Gaudens, was awarded the commission from among 39 applicants. He was chosen by a panel of notable artists, Saint Gaudens among them, that had been named by the National Sculpture Society. Martiny's sculpture The Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1899, to the Civil War veterans from Hudson County. Rather than a soldier or sailor for the war memorial, Martiny chose a female figure to honor those who served their country. The "goddess of peace" with a laurel wreath in her right hand sits atop a grand engraved granite pedestal of eleven feet. The inscription on the front of the memorial reads: "Erected by the people of Hudson County to commemorate the soldiers and sailors who fought in the War of the Rebellion."

A prolific artist, Martiny is known for several sculptures that include Garret Augustus Hobart at the entrance of Paterson's City Hall, Mc Kinley's Monument in Springfield, MA, and the whimsical Winged Life (1893) above the doorway of the Herald Square Hotel on West 31st Street.

Postcard circa 1900 of City Hall.
Courtesy, R.F. Smith

Mid-twentieth century postcard of City Hall.
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

City Hall, Grove Street Facade
Photo: P. Shalhoub, 2001

City Hall, Grove Street Facade
Photo: A. Selvaggio, 2002

Restoration to the City Hall building has been at the cost of some its exterior architectural features. The large brass cupolas at the square corners and central towers were removed in 1955 in the interest of safety. In 1978, a contemporary design for the grounds replaced the lawn and shrubs at the front of the building. And a fire in 1979 destroyed three of the five copper friezes. The two remaining pediments were restored in 1995.

Renovations also compromised the building's interior. Design features were painted over and lost their authoritative style. The 1979 fire compounded the deteriorating appearance of the council chambers. In the 1980s, Anna Cucci, the wife of Mayor Anthony Cucci (1985-1988), began a rehabilitation of the council chambers. A photographer, she started with the restoration and updating of the mayors' portrait gallery. Her accidental death in 1988 while touring in Peru halted the project. Twenty years later her vision to restore the chambers was partially funded by a $300,000 grant from the Hudson County Open Space & Historic Preservation Trust Fund. The total repairs, amounting to $1.9 million, included rehabilitation to the plaster friezes, woodwork, stained glass windows and dome, and oak and mahogany furniture. Modern amenities, such as an HVAC, sound and audio/visual systems and electrical wiring for the original chandeliers that hang from the wood coffered ceiling, were installed. Work on the project was by architects Holt Morgan Russell of Princeton and the Jersey City Division of Architecture.

When completed in November 2008, the chambers were renamed the Anna Cucci Memorial Council Chambers and recognized with the 2009 Preservation Award by the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office.

References:

Albright, Joseph. "Broome, A Great Architect, Died 85 Years Ago Tomorrow." Jersey Journal 11 October 2012.
Department of Administration, Jersey City Web Site. 2007. "City Council Chambers Renovations." http://www.jerseycitynj.gov/administration.aspx?id=2546
Gomez, John. "Truth Be Told, Statue Was a Labor of Love." Jersey Journal 13 October 2004.
Grundy, J. Owen. "Old City Hall Towers Brightened Skyline." Jersey City Journal 24 February 1972. New Jersey Room, Jersey City Free Public Library.
Wrigley, Glenn Alvin. 2013. "City Hall - Restoration of the Council Chambers." http://www.aia.org/practicing/groups/kc/AIAB079797

By: Carmela Karnoutsos
Project Administrator: Patrick Shalhoub