Things are Lookin’ Up on the JC Docks

On the Irish Waterfront was honored Thurs. evening by an award from the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy. The venue–the majestic Loew’s theater in Journal Square—is the city’s most conspicuous, heroically preserved landmark, making for a wonderful setting and event shared with awardees from fields of historic preservation, architecture, and yes, local government, which is alive, well and gloriously contentious as ever in Hudson County (as one honoree knowingly blurted from the podium: ‘I don’t care what party…with this governor you’ll never know what you’re gonna get’).

It was a special treat to receive the J. Owen Grundy History Award from Landsmark Conservancy president John Hallanan who, as I informed the audience in my own Hudson County moment, was an all-time favorite student during my stint teaching at Saint Peter’s College. Yet as John quickly rejoined, those grades were submitted nearly a decade ago.

John wrote his senior thesis on Frank Hague, whose mayoral successor a few removed, Jeremiah Healy, made a gracious appearance early in the evening’s festivities. I’m counting on John Hallanan to make his own City Hall ascendancy in a decade or two from now. I know he’ll make it much easier for historians to function openly in Jersey City than did Hague, who petulantly harassed J. Owen Grundy for decades. The city’s official historian only made it harder on himself by reminding Hague that the Grundy’s had been present in Jersey City since the era of the American Revolution.

Hague’s idea of history was yesterday’s receipts from the ‘Horse Bourse,’ the incredibly extensive, ruthlessly efficient telephone wagering empire he installed throughout Hudson County after most of Manhattan’s leading bookies were driven across the river in a publicity-grabbing Tammany gesture at civic reform.

Thanks in very large part to the Landmarks Conservancy, Jersey City is today a model of discerning historic preservation (though the Horse Bourse was lost to the mists), much if not most waterfront and rail-traffic related. There is no place like that place, as I learned over a decade of historical inqury—much of it conducted in the precious confines of the New Jersey Room of the city’s public library—endless walks, and revelatory passages from classic works by Tom Fleming and Helene Stapinski, Jersey City authors I’m now honored to call both friends and fellow recipients of the J. Owen Grundy History Award. Thanks to all, and especially Dr. Chew and Charlie for making this special night out work smooth as a cool breeze for our tight team of three.


4 thoughts on “Things are Lookin’ Up on the JC Docks

  1. Congratulations on the well-deserved recognition of your important contribution to the study of Jersey City and environs (as we like to call it) in the 20th Century – a field in which so much work remains to be done. I want to point out that Grundy did not serve in an official capacity until well after the Hague era, though he certainly active as a journalist and citizen activist. Hague’s pet historian was William H. Richardson, who judiciously kept his studies focused on the Revolutionary and Federalist periods, including wonderfully curmudgeonly views on noncontemporary subjects like the theft of Staten Island from NJ. A fuller appreciation of Richardson’s career and research is among that work I mentioned above, a row which I am making my own small efforts to hoe.
    Again – congratulations on this award, so justly given.

  2. Thank you John! I been wondering if I give myself too much off duty leeway on some of these posts. I laid off Grundy last night and talked Plenty about the Jersey Room of that I know (John works there dear readers; he made possible many of the photos in Irish W’front). Hope to see you there soon for look-around might come up with new topic

  3. Maureen McVeigh-Berzok May 28, 2011 — 10:52 am

    How wonderful! Did you have to use the Helene Stapinski “five-finger discount” or did they really give you the award? Well-deserved! Wish I could have been there at that lovely theatre, too!

  4. Louise Mowder May 28, 2011 — 4:29 pm

    I’m sorry I couldn’t attend. What an honor! Jim, you deserve all of it. Your passion for your subject shines through every page of OTIW.

    You’re a true NJ treasure.

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