According to John Beekman of the Jersey City Free Public Library's New Jersey Room, the structure was built sometime between 1887 and 1908. There have been times in its more-than-hundred-year history when the sign on the façade was completely painted over. But now, thanks to new owners, the sign is clearly visible: "Alexander Thomson & Sons, Inc., Pattern Makers." The Thomsons moved in sometime between 1910 and 1915.
In this case, we're not talking about sewing patterns but rather wooden facsimiles from which molds are made. Molten metal is then poured into the molds to make products such as propellers, valves, and pipefittings.
Owners Eyal and Tal Shuster live in the building with their three-year-old son, Ben. Eyal, a developer, did a complete renovation, striking a delicate balance between modern design and historic accuracy.
"Though we were living in Hoboken, I'd been working in Jersey City since 2000," Shuster says. "I passed by the house a few times, and that's how it started. I've always been attracted to old structures. The siding was deteriorating and the sign wasn't there, but inside you could really see what the building had been used for with all the machinery. It took us about five minutes to buy it."
That was back in 2005. Now the sign has been painstakingly restored and the inside is sleekly modern with the industrial remnants still visible in the ceiling.
The original doors open onto a spacious foyer, with paintings and furniture salvaged from the old Plaza Hotel in New York City. A central, freestanding fireplace with a chimney jutting through the ceiling is the focal point of the main living area, which also features concrete floors with radiant heat. "Tal was upset in the beginning," Shuster says. "She had to digest the openness and high ceilings."
The building now has four bedrooms and four bathrooms and a mezzanine to give the space the complexity of a second level. Tal, a good cook, also wanted a functional kitchen. "We totally gutted the kitchen, " Shuster says. "It's modern and contemporary, contrasting with the old features."
The master bathroom, which is large enough to live in, also "keeps the historic line of history," as Shuster puts it. It has a modern bidet and a huge original soapstone sink.
Though Shuster often renovates structures that he turns around and sells, that won't be happening to this historic building. "We see this as our home to live in," he says. "It has good karma. We fell in love."