Weekend Walks: A Photographic Tour Around Jersey City’s West Side

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Weekend Walks is our weekend column where we explore the photographic beauty of various neighborhoods through the lenses of history, architecture, and commerce.

West Side Weekend Walk West Side Avenue Jersey City
Red buildings, blue skies over West Side Avenue. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

The neighborhood near the West Side light rail station in Jersey City, a few blocks from the city’s western border with the Hackensack River, is undiscovered enough that one can still find art on every corner, ivy creeping up the walls, neighbors chatting in cafés, and rose gardens twisting in front of row homes. But work is underway on a few larger developments, individual condo buildings, niche businesses, and a lot of small-time renovations.


West Side Weekend Walk Firehouse On Boyd Jersey City
This firehouse on Boyd Avenue is listed in a 1923 trolley guide to Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, and West Hoboken, so it’s clearly quite old. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.
West Side Weekend Walk Firehouse Jersey City
The sign on this ivy-covered Yale Avenue house, built in 1911 according to Zillow, refers to “Engine 16.” Was it a firehouse too? Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

“There was a big influx of people in 2016 and 2017 from all parts of Jersey City and New York,” said Frank Young, who last month opened Treehouse Coffee Shop on West Side and Ege avenues with his wife. “They were in search of a place to raise their family without it costing an arm and a leg. I like the proximity to Lincoln Park and the small-town feel. And if you want to go downtown, you can. But I don’t really have a reason to leave. I can get my hair cut [at David’s Barber Shop] next door. I can get out of bed and come make a latte.”

West Side Weekend Walk Frank Young Treehouse Coffe Shop Jersey City
Frank Young serves a customer at Treehouse Coffee. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.
West Side Weekend Walk Treehouse Coffe Shop Jersey City
The skylight at Treehouse Coffee on Ege and West Side Avenue. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

Families are evident all around the neighborhood — being walked to PS 38 by crossing guards like Grace Bird, 71, who works at the corner of Culver Avenue and West Side, three blocks from the light rail station, or heading to Snyder High School. Across from Grace’s corner, workers are putting the finishing touches on a block-long residential project.


“I’ve been here fifteen years,” she said, before reaching for a young girl’s hand. “I keep myself on the go.”

West Side Weekend Walk Crossing Guard Jersey City
Grace Bird takes a student’s hand at Culver and West Side avenues on a Friday morning, across from new construction. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

Not only are there several daycares and elementary schools in the neighborhood, residents say they hear that there’s a new doggie daycare coming soon.

West Side Weekend Walk Wise Owls Jersey City
The West Side Avenue area is home to several daycares and elementary schools, including School 24 on Virginia Avenue, whose mascot is the Wise Owls. Also nearby are NJCU and Snyder High School. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

The area also contains NJCU, the Board of Education offices, and other government buildings.

West Side Weekend Walk Weathered Sign Jersey City
A weathered sign. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

The neighborhood was once called West Bergen, part of what was Bergen Township, a name going back to the area’s Dutch settlers. Neighborhoods like Bergen-Lafayette (nearby) and towns like North Bergen also get their names from those origins.

On streets like Yale, Ege, and Clarke are innumerable beautiful homes, some with gambrel roofs, rosebushes, and cozy porches. One family has decorated their Clarke Avenue home to the hilt for Halloween and has a sign advertising “Horrors on Clarke.” They’ve even got their own Facebook page and encourage trick-or-treaters each year.

West Side Weekend Walk Pastels Ege Avenue Jersey City
Easter colors on Ege. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.
West Side Weekend Walk Clarke House Jersey City
The “Horrors on Clarke” house. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.
West Side Weekend Walk Houses Jersey City
Houses off West Side Avenue. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

Even with new construction, signs of yesteryear abound, including fading “ghost signs” and a camera store boasting of all the film it’s developed over the years.

West Side Weekend Walk Ghost Sign Jersey City
Ghost signs on West Side Avenue tell of businesses past. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.
West Side Weekend Walk Photo Shop Jersey City
A shop on West Side Avenue reminds us of life before digital photography. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

There are some block-long condo projects, such as the Lofts at West Side Station at 55 Mallory Avenue. That complex includes a new business on its corner, Jersey and Co. gelato.

West Side Weekend Walk The Lofts At West Side Station 55 Mallory Avenue Jersey City
The Lofts at West Side Station at 55 Mallory Avenue, with Jersey & Co. Gelato on the corner. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

Other quirky businesses have cropped up nearby, including Whos Gluten Free Bakery at 80 Mallory. Further down at Clarke and Mallory, a sneaker shop, Sole Fresh, cleans and restores sneakers so they look like new. The “before and after” photos, as shown on their website, are striking.

West Side Weekend Walk Main Drag Jersey City
The main drag: West Side Avenue. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.
West Side Weekend Walk Dog Poster Jersey City
Artists on the West Side: A poster in a store window on West Side Avenue. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

Condo complexes are rising around the expansive park-and-ride near the light rail, as well as near Route 440. The light rail station, built there in 2000, can only help bring new residents — especially since the line is set to be extended to the massive Bayfront redevelopment area across Route 440.

West Side Weekend Walk New Construction Jersey City
Smaller construction projects abound around the West Side. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.
West Side Weekend Walk Route 440 Jersey City
Massive construction is planned between the West Side Avenue residential neighborhood and Route 440. Pictured: The view from a fence at the end of a residential street, looking toward the Route 440 mall. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

And those new residents can only help the small business owners. David Rios, of David’s Barber Shop, came to Jersey City from Puerto Rico 12 years ago. He has a child in the local schools, like Frank Young.

West Side Weekend Walk Barbershop Jersey City
David Rios in his shop, David’s Barber Shop, on West Side Avenue. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.
West Side Weekend Walk The Claremont Jersey City
The Claremont consists of 10 luxury townhouses, a block from the light rail station. Photo by Caren Lissner.

Nearby, Elio’s Deli serves up deli sandwiches and baked goods, including bread and enormous muffins. Founded in 1980, they’re celebrating nearly 40 years. At the Daily Grind Express grocery store near the light rail station, Doreen Shannon, who has been there for 22 years, said of the street paving and other changes, “I like it. They’re cleaning things up a little bit.”

The neighborhood has the potential for more art and enterprise. Frank Young noted that local artist Distort is working on a mural around the corner from his cafe, featuring birds that represent the diverse cultures of the neighborhood.

West Side Weekend Walk Distort Mural Jersey City
The beginning of the new Distort mural on the West Side. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

And he said his customers are trend-setters. “The West Side is becoming a cortado neighborhood,” he said. Cortado is a steamed espresso beverage with less foam than a latte, so it retains a little more of a coffee taste.

I enjoyed one in the café’s back yard on a chilly day, marveling at the ivy and the mix of old and new.

West Side Weekend Walk Miss America Diner Jersey City
Next year, the Miss America diner, blocks from the West Side light rail station, will be 80 years old. It’s at 322 West Side Avenue. Photo by Caren Lissner/Jersey Digs.

Note: Trains to the West Side light rail station are suspended through March 2020 while the station gets repaired, but buses are available between the station and the Liberty State Park station.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Union street on the corner of west side avenue I had the Happening unisex hair salon
    From October 1967 till I sold it in 1984 17 years
    I would go back if I could still spend winters in Florida.
    My family started in Jersey City in the late 1800’s
    Lafrato/ Terrace/Terraciano

  2. Great article. However,you only showcased one small portion of West Side Ave!! There’s a whole other wonderful side that you omitted. Maybe you will include that side next time!

  3. Love this article. My seven siblings and I Grew up on Ege, just three houses off West Side. Get there a few times a year. Next time I’ll definitely have my coffee at Treehouse. Still buy my stuffed breads at Elio’s, the latest incarnation of another bakery in that location when I was a boy, Strull’s. And 55 Mallory, the current location of The Lofts, formerly had been the site of Colford Brothers Saloon, co-owned by my grandfather and his brother James for several years before my grandfather went into politics.

    • Grew up on Ege Avenue right down the street from the Colfords. Great place to grow up! Many good memories. Often wonder what became of all those childhood friends.

  4. Linda You are 1 of the reasons I became a hairstylist you cut my hair and my friends hair you all head such a good time working well at lest it look that way and I love what i do and I live in FL to now Palm Bay
    Chris Boasci Mendez

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