History on Sussex Street: From Estate to Boarding House and Back Again


Like all great art, architecture relays secrets of centuries past and offers a window into the culture and history of those who came before us. Renowned for its rich history, Jersey City’s most iconic buildings, and the people who dwelled within, provide a unique insight into how the city we’ve come to know and love has evolved over the years. Dixon Leasing understands that every historic property contributes to Jersey City’s story. That’s why we make every effort to restore or recreate the architectural elements that make each home unique. Join us as we take a trip through history and look behind the facades of some of Jersey City’s beautiful buildings in an ongoing collaboration with Jersey Digs.

109 sussex jersey city 7On a quiet block of Sussex Street in the heart of the Paulus Hook Historic District, you’ll find a lively mix of handsome buildings from multiple eras. At one end, the grand Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, built in 1870, harkens back to the area’s early past while at the other, views of the modern glass high-rises of the Jersey City waterfront look toward the future. In between, you’ll find a row of attractive Greek Revival brownstones, which includes our subject property, No. 109.

The exact year 109 Sussex and its four related row houses were erected is unclear, but the National Register of Historic Places report for Paulus Hook pegs it in the early 1850s. The homes were built in the Greek Revival style that pervaded the area, however, over time, 109 Sussex was reconfigured and changed out of synch with its neighboring buildings and architectural origins. By 1919 the building had been expanded toward the rear of the property, and the 1937 tax photo shows the original entry doors and cornice were removed. Inside, the home had been subdivided to allow for multi-family and boarding use.

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Augustus Marsh obituary

Some of the earliest inhabitants of the home at 109 Sussex were grocers and merchants, including Augustus Marsh who appears to have purchased the home from his in-laws in 1852. Augustus ran his wholesale grocers out of a West Street location in what would’ve then been waterfront Manhattan, but is now sandwiched between Battery Park City and Tribeca. A later resident, Samuel Taylor, owned the home in the 1880s, and his Golden Eagle Tea Warehouse was located just a few blocks north on Montgomery Street.

109 sussex jersey city 3By the 1900 Census, after the property had changed hands at a loss several times, the home was occupied by several sets of boarders, indicating it had likely been subdivided into multiple dwellings by that time. Indicative of the economic and demographic shifts in early 20th-century New York, 109 Sussex was home to immigrants from Ireland, Poland, and Germany who worked as laborers and machinists in soap making, locomotive and shipping industries, to name a few.

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Sussex Street circa the 1970s

When Dixon acquired the building in 2013, restoration was sorely needed both inside and out. The earlier expansion of the home was poorly executed and had caused a significant slope over time, and exterior elements were damaged and missing. Inside, the subdivided home yearned to return to its grand single-family roots. The handsome front of the home was lovingly restored — from the gorgeous wooden dentilled roofline cornice, to the missing entry cornice and the impeccably executed new doors — all of which harken back to the home’s original state.

109 sussex jersey city 1Inside, the Dixon Projects team has crafted a thoroughly contemporary four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom home that takes best possible advantage of the historic bones and details. Welcoming public rooms, including a bright living and dining areas, are situated on the parlor floor where white walls and custom and recessed lighting are balanced by an original Greek Revival mantel and the artfully restored staircase.

109 sussex jersey city 11Chefs who like to stretch out will love the completely modern kitchen that features a huge center island, tons of sleek cabinetry and two floor-to-ceiling pantry closets along with state-of-the-art appliances by Bosch. Smart double doors allow the kitchen to be closed off from the dining room, while at the rear, a large deck provides backyard access and lush views.

109 sussex jersey city 19One floor up, two large bedroom suites flank a large media room. Each bedroom includes large custom closets and chic black-and-white bathrooms, while the relaxing media room is topped by a backlit coved ceiling that calls to mind a large skylight. The top level of the home has been reimagined as a spectacular full-floor master suite where NanaWall glass doors peel back to unveil a huge private deck. The enormous walk-in closet will accommodate the largest of wardrobes, and a 70-inch freestanding tub beckons in the serene en suite bathroom.

109 sussex jersey city 17109 sussex jersey city 8At the cellar level— accessible by stair or by the large elevator that travels from basement to roof — another luxurious bedroom suite enjoys ample privacy, and a huge rec room space with a fully stocked wet bar opens out to the leafy backyard. Lastly, to crown the home, the Dixon team has orchestrated a gorgeous roof deck with tons of Ipe decking surrounding a relaxing hot tub. It’s the perfect spot to relax and unwind while breathtaking views of Jersey City’s past and future dance in the background.

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