Not So Hidden Gems: A Look at The Heights’ Historic Homes

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This is part two of a special series in collaboration with Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy highlighting Jersey City’s most historic and storied properties. 

According to Jersey City Landmark Conservancy historian, Dennis Doran, The “Heights” was a German enclave from the middle of the 19th century until World War I. “Many of the churches held services in German and there were German butchers, ice cream parlors, grocers, social halls, musical societies, taverns and even a brewery.”

Prosperous citizens, often of German descent, such as bankers, business owners and doctors, built the biggest and best houses around Summit Avenue and Sherman Place, “the finest street in the Heights,” according to Doran.

The homes at 74 Sherman Place, 912 Summit Avenue, and 918 Summit Avenue, are three of the best Victorian homes in the city, all built between 1875 and 1885. They are in a remarkably good state of preservation, and the Van Vorst House, on Palisade Ave, is an architectural treasure known for its stone construction. Read on for more highlights…

Van Vorst House

531 palisade ave oldest house in jersey city
Van Vorst House, 531 Palisade Avenue

Jersey City could boast of having several different “Van Vorst” homes that once belonged to members of the prosperous Van Vorst farming family. This is one structure that has survived into the present. West of the Palisade cliffs, early residents most likely had panoramic views of Upper New York Bay, Manhattan Island, and the Hudson River, and the small farms among the tidal marshlands below.

Built: 1740
Style: Stone

Notable:

  • This two-story bluestone house has a wood-shingled pitched roof, and inside stone chimneys with exterior brick tops.
  • One of several properties once owned by prominent local landholder, Cornelius “Faddy” Van Vorst (1728-1818) who operated the profitable Paulus Hook ferry. After Cornelius’ death in 1818, it was passed to his son, John Van Vorst (1761-1832). In 1842, following the subdivision of his father’s estate, the house and farm were bequeathed to his son, John Van Vorst (1823-1895), an alderman of Jersey City and a member of the NJ General Assembly.

74 Sherman Place

74 sherman place jersey city
74 Sherman Place

Built: Circa 1875
Style: Victorian Carriage

Notable:

  • This green, 3-story restored Victorian Carriage House with landscaping detail, was owned by Phillip Pattberg, one of three brothers who operated Louis Pattberg & Brothers, toy manufacturers on Franklin Street.
  • Features original beamed 15-foot high cathedral ceilings plus multiple skylights.
  • Hardwood flooring
  • Juliette Balcony
  • Italianate; popular style in the 1870’s in Jersey City.
  • “Best original Victorian interior in the city.” (Dennis Doran)
  • Kept intact by long time owner, Pauline Ward Mount, a well-known local artist.
  • Original carriage house in the rear
  • Property boundaries on Sherman Place run deeper than the usual 100-foot long city lots, allowing for grand mansions, a rarity in Jersey City.

912 Summit Avenue

912 summit ave jerseys city victorian
912 Summit Ave

Built: 1880
Style: Queen Anne Victorian

Notable:

  • This Queen Anne Victorian was owned by the Mehl family until 1925 when it was sold to the parents of the current owner.
  • 2-story, hardwood flooring
  • The exterior was just restored this past summer and was re-painted with high-style Victorian colors.
  • Typical of Queen Anne style houses with multiple roofs, steep gables, turrets, balconies and rambling porch.
  • An excellent example of the new energetic style of the late 19th century replaced the more formal styles of earlier decades

918 Summit Avenue

918 summit ave jersey city history
918 Summit Ave

Built: 1880
Style: Second Empire French Mansard

Notable:

  • Square, formal, symmetrical style
  • Originally owned by William Frankenback, director of Yorkville Bank who retired in Jersey City, where he was on the Finance Board, and who died in 1911.
  • Currently beautifully refurbished and modernly designed interiors. It has been referred to as “a diamond in the middle of rocks.”
  • Renovation in 1999 kept original floor-ceiling windows in the parlor.
  • Original moldings, hardwood floors, 5 fireplaces
  • Measures approximately 4,000 square feet and has four bedrooms/ 3.5 baths. The master suite covers the entire second level of the home.
  • Featured in the Wall Street Journal

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