Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Henderson St at Railroad Ave (aka Marin Blvd at Columbus Ave)


When I bought the old photo, all I knew was that it was taken in Jersey City. But I had no clue as to where - whether it taken downtown or in the heights. There is an elevated railway running between the buildings in the old picture, which hinted at downtown; there were several railways that cut through the city. One of them ran along Columbus Ave; that street was at the time called Railroad Ave. But the elevated tracks in the old photo could also have been the elevated trolley that ran from Hoboken up to the Heights, to the Jersey City court house.

But the angel at which the streets in the photo intersect is not straight - this is rather uncommon downtown Jersey City - it's essentially only Newark Avenue that runs through the city on an angel. So I started looking at old maps trying to figure out where it was by following Newark Avenue, both in downtown and uptown.

The old Jersey City maps that Rutgers University have made available online were essential, or even crucial in the quest. In the old maps, wooden buildings are yellow and the brick structures are red. I looked for the pattern of yellow and red buildings in the map that matched the old photo for a very long time. Finally, after a thorough search, I found the pattern in the map, and the streets at a 'strange' angel. But it was not where I expected - rather it was on Henderson St (now known as Marin Blvd) where it met Railroad Ave (now Columbus).

But even though the map and picture was a perfect match, I still was not 100% sure. But then I saw a photo of the same area from around 1999-2000, before Grove Point was built. That photo included the first building on the right from the old photo.

At that point, after many weeks of searching, I finally knew that the photo was of Henderson St (now Marin Blvd), from Morgan St to Railroad Avenue (now Columbus).

If you like challenges like this, check the 'Unsolved Mysteries Tab' where I will upload photos and postcards that I do not know where they were taken. Please use the comments functionality if you can help out or have more information about what Jersey City used to be like!

Center of old image magnified, showing intersection of Henderson St (Marin Blvd) and Newark Ave and Railroad Ave (Columbus).

View Larger Map


  1. Terrific job.

    Love the link to the Rutgers Maps.

    I remember there is a guy on Flickr that has tons of old JC images and links to very early JC maps. you might try: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wavz13/sets/72157622579761251/with/7111079611/ this is his name: wavz13's photostream

  2. Here is the other map site I was trying to locate for you:

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  4. Thanks for sharing!

    While I have seen the map (from wavz13's interesting flickr stream) the map is the most interesting historic representations that I know of Jersey City. It can not be shared too much!

    The level of detail that the artist put into it: you can clearly see the house on 579 Jersey Avenue as well as the 'keyhole bar' on Erie - both of which are still standing, but have most of their historic character covered by vinyl siding. And in the images around the map you can see a Hudson Tunnel Works - I wonder if that is what became the Hudson and Manhattan Tunnels (i.e. the Path), or if it was one of the earlier abandoned attempts.

    I am planning to do (at least) one post dedicated to this map.

    Do you or anyone else have links to other aerial surveys of Jersey City that are available online?

    Thanks again for posting!

  5. Hi there and lifelong Jersey City Heights resident who ever-appreciates vintage/historical images such as this one above. And also appreciate the research that went into trying to determine where the vintage photo was taken from, where it compares with today's street-scape.

    Mentioned among that research was the extremely informative and excellent mapmaker.rutgers.edu website which contains numerous incredible New Jersey/County/local maps from a wide-range of eras/timeframes and styles.

    What is also notable in "placing" the location of the vintage image is that in the far background of that vintage image. There is a "triangular" roofline/rooftop element. When examining this image initially, was going to suggest that that triangular roofline might be Dickinson High School, which if it was Dickinson H.S., would call into question the conclusion of this location being Henderson Street/Marin Blvd.

    But lo and behold, that triangular roofline does in fact line up in the vintage image as being the "north-facing" facade of Jersey City's City Hall, located a few blocks beyond Railroad Ave.

    In addition, in the vintage photo, there is a fire-plug located on the right-side sidewalk. Fire-plugs are excellent "landmarks" when comparing/researching vintage photos/images with contemporary places...Sure enough, though it is snow-covered, notice indeed a fire-plug in the contemporary image, located just where it would be expected.

    In addition to roof-lines/rooftops, chimneys are excellent, "landmarks," as are window- and door-patterns, especially windows - how many and their placement on buildings. When comparing vintage streetscapes or individual buildings that are in both "then" and "now" images, though there might be minor modifications to window/door trimmings. Most often the placement and pattern on windows remains identical down through a building/structure's lifespan. Thanks for considering, DickSheppard-JCNJ (Jan. 2014)

  6. Also in this vintage image, the relationship of the fire-plug on the right sidewalk to the opposite (left edge) of the image. At that left edge of the vintage image, just visible just above the left-most "w" in the "www" of the web-address identifier. Just above that left-most "w" you can notice that the curb for that left sidewalk is ending, "curving" as it would at an intersection. And in the above vintage intersection, that intersection would be Henderson/Marin with Stueben Street, which even presently intersects with Henderson/Marin right across from that right sidewalk vintage and present day fire-plug.

    One of the trickier/confusing aspects of the vintage image is that triangular roofline in the background. As mentioned in a previous post from here, it's purported that roofline would be the north-facing facade of City Hall. However, in looking at present day google earth/map images, obviously the two very large present buildings, the Grove Pointe residential building and the Pershing Plaza building. Don't from the present vantage grant City Hall visibility to precisely confirm that vintage triangular building as City Hall.

    One might have to just chalk up that kind of imprecision as a result of being unable to closely approximate from where the vintage image was taken. Combined with the image being taken with a telephoto lens, and the somewhat "tricky/confusing" location of City Hall in the vintage image is one of those sometimes, "maddening" aspects of comparing vintage and contemporary images....DickSheppard-JCNJ

  7. Dick - thanks for sharing and the tips. Window placements are really useful - as you say they often they don't change - even after adding layers of asphalt shingles and vinyl siding.

    The photo that helped me identify the location was this one from about 2000, of the corner of Henderson and Morgan St. The white building in the foreground is the the first building on the right in the old photo (of which two columns of windows can barley been seen):

    I have myself wondered what the triangular roof line might be. So today I magnified the picture using a scanner (uploaded above). Based on the magnified image and the maps from Rutgers it seems as if it may be the roof line of the Imperial Theater that is aligned with Gregory St. What do you think?

  8. Correction : Capital Theater (not Imperial)

  9. Hi there again, and as mentioned in my previous comments, had suggested that the triangular roofline might be a City Hall facade...but there did seem to be some viewpoint issues which didn't encourage more definitive conclusion.

    But in considering the angles in the "old" photo, and then the "overview," from this section of a 1928 Jersey City map at http://mapmaker.rutgers.edu/JCplat_book/Plate9/index.htm.

    Has to be the theater...DickShep-JCNJ

  10. Thank you for your post/time/research/link
    On the 1880 USA Census my GreatGrandfather Nicholas Kelleher lived at 226 Railroad Ave.
    and I could not find that address on the current map.