Jersey City - A City of Neighborhoods
Jersey City grew to it's current size by a gradually consolidation of smaller independent towns within first Bergen County and then Hudson County after the latter was separated from Bergen in 1840. Those previous towns now form the basis of the many neighborhoods that make up the current Jersey City. As in all urban areas Jersey City residents have always considered themselves not just from Jersey City but from a certain neighborhood within the city. In his book, "Images of America, Jersey City 1940-1960, The Dan McNulty Collection", Ken French, local historian, stated: "Depending on where you grew up, you could know every store on Central Avenue but might never have gone to Newark Avenue." I believe no other statement better typifies the local sense of community within Jersey City. Here is how those communities came together to form Jersey City:
All the present area of Jersey City and Hudson County began as Bergen Township with the two major settlements being Paulus Hook, bordering the Hudson River near the present Exchange Place, and Bergen Square atop Bergen Hill near the present Journal Square. Over time small areas of Bergen Township gained independence from the original township and eventually consolidated into the present Greater Jersey City.
The original Jersey City was located in the Paulus Hook section and was incorporated as the City of Jersey City in 1820 but remained part of the larger Bergen Township until 1838 when it became independent. The area surrounding the original Jersey City was known as Van Vorst and became independent of Bergen in 1843. Van Vorst retained it's independence only until March 18, 1851 when it merged with Jersey City.
Atop Bergen Hill the original Bergen Township divided into Bergen and North Bergen in 1843. Continuing the establishment of independent towns the town of Hudson was separated from North Bergen in 1852; while Bayonne and Greenville were separated from Bergen in 1862 and 1863.
Soon after the Civil War the idea of uniting all of the town of Hudson County in one municipality of Jersey City began to gain favor. In 1868 a bill for submitting the question of consolidation of all of Hudson County to the voters was presented to the board of chosen freeholders. The bill did not include the western towns of Harrison and Kearny but included all towns east of the Hackensack River.
The bill was approved by the State legislature on April 2, 1869 and the special election was scheduled for October 5, 1869. An element of the bill provide that only contiguous towns could be consolidated.
The results of the election were as follows:
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While a majority of the voters approved the merger only Jersey City, Hudson and Bergen could consolidated since they were the only continuous approving towns. Both the Town of Union and Union Township could not be included due to the dissenting vote of West Hoboken which lay between them and Hudson City. On March 17, 1870 Jersey City, Hudson City and Bergen merged into Jersey City. Only three years later the present outline of Jersey City was completed when Greenville agreed to merge into the Greater Jersey City.
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