After years of hard work, planning, and fundraising, over $700,000 will be spent overhauling a historic but underutilized landmark in the heart of Downtown Jersey City, as the group spearheading the renovations has everything they need to move forward with the project.
Paulus Hook Park, at the intersection of Washington and Grand Streets, consists of four segments of green space, statues and small walking paths at different corners of the road. The site is steeped in history; during the Revolutionary War, George Washington’s “Flying Camp” built an American fort on the land, but it quickly ended up under British occupation. The Continental Army later launched a nighttime raid at the property in 1779, taking 158 prisoners in what became known as the Battle of Paulus Hook.
Jersey City eventually built a monument at the site in the 1970s to commemorate the clash, but the park probably hasn’t reached its potential in terms of drawing a crowd. That’s why the Historic Paulus Hook Association (or HPHA) initially organized the effort to get the park renovated all the way back in 2006, but achieving that goal has been a lengthy process.
HPHA’s first step towards getting Paulus Hook Park modernized was to form a Parks Committee. The city then gave the HPHA the right to fundraise and hire designers to work on the park, after which they brought on Trenton-based Clarke Caton Hintz and New York firm SWA/Bosley, who teamed up to redesign the space.
The plans include upgrades to almost everything, but with an effort to preserve the site’s history. The Washington Monument-inspired obelisk the city erected will be kept and the historic paving circle will be restored under the plans. But new playground equipment will complement the restorations and parts of the park will be reconfigured, including a section that will add a wave “seatwall” feature.
Fixed tables, rotating chairs, a fountain, and additional trees will be planted as part of the renovation, which will also restore a portion of the park that is currently blacktop right next to Public School No. 16. HPHA’s Stephanie Daniels, who is leading the park’s revamp, says that the group worked in conjunction with the school’s Principal, Terry Watkins-Williams, to assure that their needs were addressed in the redesign, specifically designating the corner near their property as an older-than-toddler play area.
When exactly the park’s transformation will be complete hasn’t been nailed down yet, but an important milestone is coming up. Daniels told Jersey Digs that all of the documents associated with the project are in and they are aiming to have shovels in the ground by June. She will be meeting with Robert Caulfield of Fields Development later this week to pick the materials that will be used in the renovation.
Caulfield is serving as the park’s construction manager during the renovations. His company also donated $150,000 towards the restoration. China Overseas, who are constructing New Jersey’s future tallest building at 99 Hudson Street, also chipped in $350,000.
Both the Garden State Historic Preservation Trust and Green Acres funds are contributing to the renovation as well, but the HPHA is still looking for additional contributions and hopes to reach their initial fundraising goal of $1 million. They will continue to accept donations at their website through the park’s construction.