PHOTOS: Revolutionary War Sites in Jersey City
In Jersey City, Hudson County and the state of New Jersey in general, it’s easy to walk by historic sites without realizing their true significance.
History buff Al Frazza of Little Falls has spent the past three years traveling to every corner of New Jersey’s 21 counties, photographing and researching various sites related to the Revolutionary War era. His project is viewable on RevolutionaryWarNewJersey.com. (RWNJ), which doesn’t just focus on forts or battle sites — the website also features historic houses, memorials and other places.
Frazza’s site current has listings for ten places in Hudson County — the dueling site of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in Weehawken; Mercer Park and the Bergen Neck Fort/Fort Delancey Site, both in Bayonne; and seven locations in Jersey City. While Frazza says JC wasn’t essential to the Revolutionary War, he says it is home to a few historic sites like the Paulus Hook Fort Site and the Apple Tree House. With Fourth of July fast approaching on Wednesday, residents can learn a bit about Revolutionary War history from each of the places.
Paulus Hook Fort Site:
The American fort was built in 1776 but was occupied by the British when the Americans faced defeats in New York City and abandoned Paulus Hook. Frazza’s site recounts how the Americans tried to reclaim the fort:
In August 1779, Major Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee advised General Washington of a plan to attack the fort and reclaim it from the British. This became known as the Battle of Paulus Hook. The assault was planned to begin shortly after midnight of August 19, 1779. Lee led a force of approximately 300 men. Some of the men got lost during the march. The attack got started late, but the main contingent of the force was able to reach the fort’s gate without being challenged. The Americans succeeded in damaging the fort and took 158 prisoners. However, Lee chose not to destroy the fort. The fort contained wounded soldiers, and wives and children of soldiers, so Lee chose to spare the fort. As daytime arrived, Lee decided to withdraw before the British forces from New York could cross the river. Lee and his men retreated up what is now Newark Avenue. After a shooting engagement with pursuing British soldiers, they escaped to Hackensack. The British continued to occupy Paulus Hook until after the war.
Apple Tree House:
The Academy Street home dates back to the 17th century and is in the Register of Historic Places at both the state and national levels. According to legend, it played host to a supposed meeting between General George Washington and General Lafayette to discuss strategy over a meal during the Revolutionary War. The home, which is currently being restored, is sometimes thought to not have been the actual site of the meeting, according to RWNJ:
While it is known from their correspondence that both Washington and Lafayette were in Bergen (present day Jersey City) between August 24 and 26, 1780, many historians now question the accuracy of the story. The prevailing theory is that Washington and Lafayette did meet under an apple tree in this area, but this house may not have been the correct location. Certainly, the Sentinel of Freedom article, and the existence of the cane in the Louvre are evidence of a Washington/Lafayette apple tree meeting in this area. And the house itself did stand here at that time.
Site of the Home of Jane Tuers:
Jane Van Reypen Tuers, for whom Tuers Avenue is named, helped General Washington find out about Benedict Arnold’s treasonous intentions to turn West Point over to the British after she learned about Arnold’s plans from a New York tavern owner who overheard the information. The site of Jane Van Reypen Tuers home is now the Hudson Catholic High School, which has a plaque on the Bergen Ave side of the building, RWNJ says. Her original home was razed in for the construction of the old Fourth Regiment Armory in 1894. Tuers herself is buried in the Old Bergen cemetery in an unmarked grave, RWNJ says.
Old Bergen Church and Cemetery:
The church, which is over 400 years old, was rebuilt shortly before the Revolution in 1773. The current church building dates to 1842, and used many of the stones from the original church, RWNJ says. During the Revolutionary War, the Reverend Jackson addressed his congregation about support for the patriots, RWNJ says, adding that this resulted in Jackson’s personal reprimand before British General William Howe.
Jersey City History Sign:
A sign at Washington Boulevard and Pavonia Avenue near Newport Mall which reads, “Southeast of this spot, the Half Moon anchored Sept. 11-12, 1609. Here, the community of Pavonia was established Jan. 10, 1630. Washington made this area the keystone of his campaign, 1776. Hamilton and his friends planned the city Feb. 22, 1804.”
Original Site of Sip Manor:
Although the actual Sip Manor building was moved to Westfield, the original site was at Bergen Avenue and Academy Street. General Cornwallis used it as his headquarters in 1776, RWNJ says. The building belonged to the Sip family, one of the founding families of the village of Bergen and New Netherland according to New Jersey City University’s Past and Present website.
Newkirk House/Summit House:
The building, located on Summit Avenue near Sip Avenue, is currently Sanai’s Restaurant (which serves meals and hosts entertainment acts most recently including “Totally 80’s, Totally Murder“). It was built circa 1690 and is the oldest building in Jersey City, RWNJ says. It originally stood several blocks northeast of the nearby Dutch settlement known as Bergen Square. In 1928, it was moved to the current location.
Frazza said that seeing these sites can make people feel more connected to history and used the Apple Tree House as an example.
“People can feel connected to the fact that the house stood here at the time these events occurred. Washington and Lafayette were here and I’m here now, right in this very spot. These people who seemed so larger than life to us, it gives us a connection to that. They’re not just statues, they stood where I’m standing and looked over the river. Obviously the New York skyline looked different, but it was the same river and these events took place in the same place where we now stand,” said Frazza.
“I’ve lived in New Jersey my whole life and I’m very proud to be from New Jersey. Doing this project, I had to go to so many different corners of this state. I was photographing in Jersey City one day and the next day I was down in Salem County, which is extremely rural with wide, open fields. It’s really given me a sense that this is all New Jersey, and I’ve seen all angles of what we have to offer,” said Frazza, who adds that he’s also bonded with people across the state who’ve helped him find directions, new historical sites and interesting facts. “A connection between me and New Jersey grew out of this project and it’s been very gratifying for me.”
Photos by Al Frazza