From there, railroads began to cross and float bridges were built. There is only one float bridge operating there now, but the mile-square area still hums with activity.
The public is not entirely familiar with the Yards, as it takes a bit of travel to visit this locale. That's where photographers Thomas Flagg, Andrzej Lech, Anna Lukasiak, Frank Machinski, and Colin Yost enter the picture - so to speak.
All five are exhibiting photos of Greenville Yards throughout the month of December and January in the John Meagher Rotunda Gallery located on the second floor of City Hall. They had their opening reception on Tuesday. The exhibit is called "Greenville Yards, a Photo Documentary."
"When [workers at Greenville Yards] saw me photographing them, they were cool about it, and were glad that someone was capturing an area that many people had either forgotten or weren't aware existed," said Leon Yost, talking about his first time photographing the yards in 2000.
The exhibit was the result of an article written earlier this year by founder of the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, John Gomez, which was accompanied by Yost's photos. The Conservancy, which helped organize the current exhibit, received past praise and felt that photos of the yards should be shown to the public.Greenville Yards comes to life
The photos are as recent as March of this year and date as far back as the 1960s. But they all have a common thread - capturing the activity and the people of the Greenville Yards.
There are the black-and-white snapshots taken by Machinski, a former Greenville Yards crane operator, capturing his fellow workers in action operating cranes that would lift boxcars with massive cargo.
Flagg's color photos cover the 1970s through 1990s. They freeze in time locomotives pushing railroad flatcars onto the float bridges. The float bridges allowed heavy trains to transport material from New Jersey to Brooklyn, as the bridges were flexible enough to conform to the shifting weight of the railroad cars.
The sepia tone prints by Lech, the hand-printed silver prints by Lukasiak and the numerous photo negatives by Yost paint a canvas of a place where time, in many ways, has stood still.
"It felt like everything was so mechanical," said Lukasiak, who is studying at the International Center for Photography in New York, "like I was transported back to another time.
You had the feeling one would get looking at a little grandfather clock."
For Flagg, who describes himself as an "industrial archeologist" who is interested in the industrial economic history of the New York Harbor, the photos allow for those who either worked there or knew people who worked there to reminiscence one more time.
"The exhibit is a fine display of Greenville Yards images. I regret that we couldn't have 10,000 to 100,000 photos," said Flagg. "But it is especially touching was the photos of the workers, as a number of people who came to the opening reception were attracted by seeing those people they once knew. If this show brings such people, then it is fulfilling to me."
Yost has lived in Jersey City since 1974 and has photographed many a historic landmarks in Jersey City and Hudson County. His photos grace the calendars published each year by the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, of which he is a member.
In 2000, he made the trip to Greenville Yards, which he'd heard about for years.
What Yost saw was men doing a difficult job, making sure that freight being transported from the Yards across to Brooklyn and other places.
"I like history, and I like that there's a thrill of discovery," he said. "I heard about the place and made a trip one Sunday morning and fell in love with it. It is like looking a prehistoric remnant, like seeing a ribcage of a whale." Big and private
Yost also pointed out that the yards are nearly the size of Hoboken, with land stretching from the Bayonne border all the way to Liberty State Park. Yet it is pretty much hidden from the public and is still private property, currently owned by Conrail.
"The first time I went, I figured out how to get there.
Usually it is traveling all the way down Linden Avenue until you reach near the end and there is Greenville Yards," said Yost. "Now it closed off by barricades from that entrance but there are ways to get there."
Police Officer David Sanchez, who worked at the Yards for two years during the late 1970s, looked back with fondness as he viewed the photos on display. He is currently an officer stationed at City Hall.
"Those were two of the best years of my life," he said. "If I was still working there, I would have qualified for pension already. But the people were great, a group of old-timers who did some tough work but knew what they were doing. Unfortunately, the work became scarce and I had to find steady work, so I left." Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org