In a reference to its historic role as a transportation hub, New Jersey historian John Cunningham once referred to Hudson County as "a mantle of wheels." The Pennsylvania Railroad and its Harsimus Branch freightway were a notable part of that "mantle," contributing to the County's importance in state transportation history, as well as to city social and planning history and to the development of the Port of New York and New Jersey, over more than a century. Rail lines built more than a century ago affected neighborhoods in both beneficial and deleterious ways, including shaping the distinctive historic neighborhoods that exist to this day.
For detailed information about the Embankment and related history, start with the sources below.
Harsimus Branch Embankment
- Richard James's Nomination of the Pennsylvania Railroad Harsimus Branch Embankment to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Excerpts from this document will give you a in-depth understanding of the Embankment, and its bibliography will point you to good primary and secondary sources for the Embankment and broader history.
- The Harsimus Branch brought freight to car float bridges at the end of Fifth and Sixth Streets and elsewhere along the west bank of the Hudson. A list of these bridges can be found here and includes one believed to be the first overhead suspension (non-pontoon) float bridge installed in New York Harbor (1888).
Related Railroad History
- Exchange Place Fact Sheet: Exchange Place was the site of the Pennsylvania Railroad passenger station, once the largest rail station in the world.
- Warehouse District Draft Statement of Historic Significance. Rick James, a member of the Embankment Preservation Coalition, wrote a draft nomination to the State and National Registers for what was at the time an intact Warehouse District associated with the Pennsylvania Railroad Harsimus Branch. The City of Jersey City determined that the District was a Municipal Landmark, but then rescinded its determination and decided to nominate only individual buildings as landmarks.
- New Jersey City University Assistant Professor of Urban History Dr. Timothy White makes the case for the importance of Jersey City's rail infrastructure in the building of the Port of New York and New Jersey. His lively TEDx talk is on you-tube,
National Historic Districts and Nearby Historic Buildings
- Harsimus Cove Historic District Nomination. Harsimus Cove National Historic District has the Embankment as its northern boundary. Historic properties within the District back up to the Embankment. Learn more about the District from excerpts from its Nomination to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
- Hamilton Park Historic District Nomination and Hamilton Park Historic District Extension Nomination. The Embankment is the de facto southern border of the Hamilton Park National Historic District. Learn more about the historic buildings in the District from excerpts from its nominations to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
- St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church Nomination. St. Anthony's is just outside the Hamilton Park National Historic District but is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in its own right. Its brownstone facade echoes the stone of the nearby Embankment. St. Anthony's is the first Polish Roman Catholic parish in New Jersey.
- Holy Rosary Church on 6th Street is the first Italian Roman Catholic parish in New Jersey. It was the center of religious and social life for the historic Italian community that grew up in the interstices of the railroads that ran through the Downtown.
- Many other historic sites lie along the Harsimus Branch. Look for more information here as it is developed.