Intrigued by an article about Paulus Hook that appeared in Palisade Magazine a year ago,
on a recent Sunday my wife and I—who reside in Hoboken—made a day trip to see if this “urban paradise” measured up to all the ballyhoo.
Our journey on the Light Rail was itself a sublime experience, as we zig-zagged through the shimmering modern Stonehenge of Jersey City’s Gold Coast. Curving west into the Essex Street Station, we caught a breathtaking glimpse of the Colgate Clock, crisply silhouetted against a rippling, bluish-looking Hudson—dappled in late-morning light—and the vaunted Manhattan skyline. Ahh, the enchantment we felt before even stepping foot in Paulus Hook! And it only increased as we explored this hidden jewel of urban bliss.
The neighborhood has a lovely nautical feel to it, as if it were Hudson County’s version of Cape Cod. Not long ago, in fact, tug boat captains filled the local bars. One senses a bracing, churning closeness to the water here. It’s as if you could almost reach out and touch the frothy white wake of a New York bound ferry. The feeling of sea-lore is punctuated by public displays of cleats and anchors, and a monster-size dock chain that adorns a civic square celebrating Paulus Hook’s history.
Did you know that a major Revolutionary War battle was fought here? Then there’s the Morris Canal. An engineering marvel of its time—linking the Hudson and Delaware rivers—not only was it a major conduit of U.S. trade in the 19th century, it also served as an escape route for slaves on the Underground Railroad. The theme of freedom, in fact, seems to weave itself through the very fabric of Paulus Hook, most notably due to its jaw-dropping views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Another aspect of freedom I experienced in Paulus Hook, from walking the streets and engaging strangers in conversation, is a freedom from snobbery. I found the residents here to be super-friendly. Maybe they’re just so happy to be living in place that’s suddenly become the place to be in Jersey City, an urban oasis with just the right balance of modern development and classic brownstone stock, dotted with tiny green parks, plus an assortment of fine dining and hip cafes. From a stranger, for example, I learned that Paulus Hook actually has a Museum of Contemporary Russian Art. And I learned about local craftswoman Camille Cesari, a socially-engaged local shop owner who describes Paulus Hook as “the new Beverly Hills.”
As if by magic, my very first visit to Paulus Hook presaged a flurry of Paulus Hook activity in my life. My friend the choreographer Sandra Laredo, having just returned from three months in Paris, invited me for lunch at her new Paulus Hook condo in Hudson Point. Sandra, who is French but grew up in Morocco, put her worldly, cosmopolitan imprimatur on Paulus Hook for me; as we strolled the aesthetic streets sipping our espresso from a local coffee shop called Two Aprons, and she raved about the neighborhood’s charm and beauty.
One week later, again I was happily back in Paulus Hook. This time it was for a real estate party held at the vibrant and beautiful Light Horse Tavern. The party was sponsored by Halliburton Homes, where I work as a freshly minted sales agent. Now, do you want my free professional opinion about the best neighborhood in Jersey City to live right now? After reading this essay, do you even need to ask? – John Bredin