|Photograph of City Hall circa 1900
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library
City Hall, Detail
of Main Entrance on Grove Street
| 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.
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.
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 and completed in 1896. An entire city block containing commercial structures and residences was leveled to make room for the new building. 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.
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 a new municipal building.
The commission chose the site and then in 1892 conducted a competition among
architects for the design of the new city hall. Broome was selected. Born
in Philadelphia, PA, he studied architecture in New York City, and, after
serving in the Civil War, set up his architectural firm on Washington Street
in Jersey City. He became the city architect, appointed by the board of
public works, in 1880.
The cornerstone of the building was installed at a ceremony on May 26, 1894. When the building opened in January 1896, Republican Mayor Peter F. Wanser (1892-1897) had the honor of being the first occupant of the mayor's office on the second floor at the corner of Grove and Montgomery. The total cost, with purchase of the land, was $736,267.56.
Another competition was held to select the design of a sculpture to be placed in the front of City Hall. 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.
Over the years the
City Hall building has been restored, but it has lost some its 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.
Two remaining pediments were restored in 1995.
Gomez, John. "Truth
Be Told, Statue Was a Labor of Love." Jersey Journal 13 October
| By: Carmela Karnoutsos
Project Administrator: Patrick Shalhoub