The Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy is registering our concern about St. Peter’s Preparatory School’s decision to demolish two historic buildings downtown: St. Peter’s Original Parish School, 155 York St., and St. Peter’s Hall and Parochial School, 145-151 York St.
These buildings are of significance for several reasons. One, the school has served, and continues to serve, generations of young people from the city and surrounding areas. Two, these buildings connect us to a Jesuit heritage of Jersey City and its inhabitants. Three, the buildings represent a style of architecture, Romanesque Revival, that is no longer produced and is therefore a direct, vestigial, link to our city’s past.
Moreover, the surviving Romanesque Revival buildings exemplify a notable period in American architectural history and therefore serve as irreplaceable resources in our ever-changing urban fabric. These increasingly rare Civil War-era edifices are some of the very few remaining in Jersey City and the nation. They are indicative of the vanishing antebellum style and thus, we consider them essential to the history and people of Jersey City, as well as to the United States.
Saving these buildings is essential not only because it is the right thing to do for historic preservation but it is the right thing to do from a Jesuit point of view, as stated by the Order itself: their mission is the “promotion of justice.” It is justice that a piece of our history remains and belongs to the people and community.
The Order also states that they seek “environmental justice,” and we fail to see how destroying two beautiful, representative historic buildings promotes environmental or social responsibility; the cost of demolishing and removing and discarding wreckage would add to massive environmental waste that the earth can ill afford. Moreover, because the Order claims it works in service to its community, we urge the school to remember that the community desires the buildings remain as a link to our past and the people who made us great.
We are confident that the school can find a way to use the buildings in an ethical and environmentally-conscious manner. We are, however, unaware as to the exact agenda and intentions of the school and we wish to make it clear that financial gain does not necessarily preclude working with the community toward preserving our values. Finding a way to retain the building also helps to retain the integrity of the institutions and respects the people who live there. It is possible to save the building’s essential and historic integrity with the preservation of the external shell and façade while still using the site for development internally.
Therefore, we request an independent review and evaluation of the structural integrity of the building and a consideration of how the façade and structure can be maintained in accordance with the style and existing structures in Jersey City.
Sanjay Chauhan, President
Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy