Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hoboken in AM New York

Great piece in AM New York a few days ago - I've reproduced it below. Click here to read the full story, with 7 additional pages of recommendations on eating, drinking, playing, sleeping, relaxing, indulging, buying, selling, etc:

By Miranda Siegel | Special to amNewYork

October 25, 2007

Long-time Hoboken residents relish the opportunity to rattle off a list of their hometown's firsts: the city's lore includes the first baseball game, the first ice cream cone, the first zipper, the country's first brewery and the world's first ferry service.

As if that weren't enough, Hoboken was the shooting locale for "On the Waterfront" and the boyhood home of Frank Sinatra -- there's even a street named for ol' blue eyes himself.

New Jersey's "Mile Square City" was purchased by the Dutch and Flemish settlers from the Lenape for a few wampum, blankets and guns in 1630. After changing hands several times, it was bought by Colonel John Stevens in 1784, who developed it into a waterfront vacation spot for wealthy Manhattanites. Stevens also founded the Hoboken Land Improvement Company, which laid out the street grid that still exists today.

In the latter part of the 19th century, Hoboken found itself in the center of a number of shipping routes, which allowed it to sprout into a thriving industrial center. In its heyday, the city was home to Maxwell House, Lipton Tea, Hostess, Bethlehem Steel and Todd Shipyards.

Things became difficult for Hoboken after the war, when it became more common to build factories outside of congested urban areas. A number of Hoboken residents packed up for the suburbs and the city fell into decline. It was until the 1970s and 1980s that the area began to revive itself, as artists, musicians and young professionals -- recognizing the charm and good quality of the existing structures -- began relocating there.

Today, Hoboken is largely home to professionals, recent college graduates and families.

"There are college kids all over the place," explained resident Andrew Lang. "You can tell because everyone walks around still wearing their college sweatshirts." Resident Brian Vermeulen observed, "I'm seeing a lot more strollers out on the sidewalks these days."

Though the population has changed, much of Hoboken's history is present in the architecture that has been proudly preserved by the Hoboken District Commission, which must approve any changes made to an historic building. The city's main artery, Washington Street, is a toybox cute commercial strip decked out in wrought-iron street signs and characterized by a series of carefully updated and preserved historic storefronts.

Aside from that, "It's all nail salons, dry cleaners and sushi," mused Vermeulen. According to Lang, "it's all Irish pubs, real estate agents, and restaurants."

But the old population hasn't been completely replaced-yet. "Things are changing, but there are still a few long-time residents around," said Lang. "A lot of older Italian women who sit on their steps and just watch everything happen. It still does have that old feeling sometimes."

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