What’s that building?? Mysteries inside giant structures revealed

J’ever wonder what that factory building is on the other side of the highway? Or the giant red tower?

It’s common to pass Hudson’s huge structures and not know what they are. Some are empty, some are being renovated, and others are on the New Jersey Register of Historical Places. But they all have one thing in common: they leave people wondering, “What’s that building?”

Lackawanna Warehouse and Viaduct – Jersey City near Hoboken border

It’s a block-long structure on the border of Jersey City near Hoboken, and it’s been there since the early 1900s.

The Lackawanna Warehouse and Viaduct – also known by its newer name, the Hudson Industrial Center – is located on 16th Street from Grove to Henderson streets in Jersey City. It cannot be missed when driving past the Holland Tunnel, toward Hoboken.

The once-industrial brick building was constructed between 1929 and 1930. It was originally used as a warehouse by the Lackawanna Railroad, said Bruce Brant, librarian in the Jersey Room at Jersey City Public Library.

The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company connected Pennsylvania’s coal-rich Lackawanna Valley to New York City, Buffalo, and Oswego, N.Y.

“The trains would pull in and they would store material there,” Brant said.

Elevated tracks still run beside the 16th Street façade, next to the loading platforms.

The building is a “truly monumental and imposing tribute to the Lackawanna Railroad and to turn-of-the-century warehouse architecture,” wrote Joseph Brooks and Peter Lynch of the Jersey City Division of Urban Research and Design in 1981. The two men recorded a good deal of description on the building in a survey for the Historic Preservation section for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Office of Cultural and Environmental Services.

The old warehouse, which is now used commercially, is not on the New Jersey Register of Historical Places.

Still, Lackawanna Warehouse has been given a positive “SHPO Opinion,” an opinion of eligibility issued by the State Historic Preservation Officer.

The warehouse’s well-known rectangular shape is in the “international with Romanesque cornice” style, with an exterior wall consisting of brick, stone and glass, according to Brooks and Lynch. It currently houses companies such as: HMS Monaco (which manufactures and imports costume jewelry and novelties), Vita Pharmacy, Zelouf International Corp., Sadler Inc., Coupon Services Corp., Direct Access Market, M. London INL, Downtown Interiors, and Log On NJ LLC. It is owned by Lackawanna Warehouse Corporation of New Jersey and New Rock Properties, whose office is on the eighth floor of the building.

‘Record Building’ – Hoboken

It predates the Hoboken Terminal, and began to crop up on city plans by 1904. Described as an English Victorian gothic revival structure, the Record Building, with its red brick façade, humbly marks the entrance to the Hoboken train station at the foot of Washington Street and Observer Highway.

Designed by architect Frank J. Nies, the Record Building housed the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad’s records for years, said Paul Somerville, a member of the Hoboken Historic Preservation Commission.

Today, the now-vacant structure is currently owned by NJ Transit, although Somerville said he is reluctant to state that as fact.

“They’re a quasigovernmental instrumentality of the state,” he said. “It’s the citizens of state who really own it.”

At one time the Record Building specifically contained vast archives of the rail engineering and law departments of the entire Lackawanna railroad. Somerville assumes that when the railroad company switched to ownership by a public entity because of the booming automobile industry, the building became outdated.

“Once there was the ability to make good and inexpensive copies, that building would have been obsolete,” Somerville said. “At one time, the records needed to be stored, and the original was the only document, so it was more valuable and precious to safeguard.”

This was the railroad company’s flagship property, its starting point to link the rails to the west, Somerville said. People who worked for the railroad were often sent to the building to store or receive information.

“It was the kind of building that was never intended to be somebody’s work building; there was no heat or plumbing,” he said.

Those interested in the building’s architecture should check out the 26th Street Armory in New York City, or the Hudson and Manhattan Power in Jersey City, as both were built the same year as the Record Building and have comparable designs, he said.

Architect Frank Nies also designed the Brick Church station in East Orange, and the Morristown and Dover train stations, among others.

Somerville said NJ Transit has been ordered by the state Historic Sites Council to move along procedures for it to be designated as a historic landmark, which would offer it a high level of protection.

Currently, the Record Building is not on the New Jersey or National Register of Historic Places. That was a huge oversight when a survey on the building was completed in the 1970s, Somerville said.

Wallpaper factory, Hoboken

If driving on Jackson Street, there is another building in Hoboken that can’t be missed at the crossroads with Newark Street. It is home to a wallpaper factory, Chambord Prints, Inc., which is located on the first floor. There are other companies inside, including an engineering firm. The building is owned by International Realty LLC.

Weehawken Water Tower

The red Weehawken Water Tower, standing tall on Park Avenue near the Pathmark Supermarket, was built in 1883, before the Statue of Liberty was brought to the New York Harbor.

Originally built for the Hackensack Water Company, for years it served the people of Weehawken, Union City and Hoboken, holding 165,000 gallons of water.

The tower stands 175 feet high and 300 feet above sea level. Its designer, Frederick Clarke Withers, modeled it after the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy.

When Weehawken acquired it in 2000 from private ownership, the city decided it was time for a change, and now the tower is about to begin its third phase of restoration.

“The whole place was renovated and cleaned,” said Matthew Papio, president of Paragon Restoration Corporation.

The company finished restoration of the exterior in September 2004, after approximately eight months of work.

Joints were cut and re-appointed, new slate was put on the roof, and the stonework was fixed at the base, he said. The windows were also replaced and a new flagpole now stands at the peak. Alane Finnerty, chairperson of the Water Tower Preservation Committee, which was formed in 2000 when the tower was threatened to be demolished, said the interior was also stabilized. “Every floor had new steel supports and new wood floors,” she said.

Room was also left to allow for the installation of an elevator and fire staircase in the future. Finnerty said she hopes to break ground with the next phase of the project Sept. 1, which will cost Weehawken $500,000.

This will include grading, paving and planting for a garden design that will surround the base of the tower, she said.

There will be a series of four, lighted, barrier-free courtyards, as well as plantings and a fountain. “It’s a very unique design, we’re very excited about it,” Finnerty said.

In the future there are plans to brighten the entire tower with a “wash of light” for the evenings. “It’s so visible from the left side of New York; it would be really impressive and special,” she said.

Finnerty also hopes that one day there will be a plaque for the tower, possibly given through a historical society grant. The tower is currently on both State and Federal registers of Historic Places, and has been listed on the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places as the Hackensack Water Company Complex.

Despite its location on Park Avenue next to a bustling shopping center, the tower can be seen from the Hudson River. Because of its height, the “Red Tower,” as it is known on the Federal Maritime Chart, coincidentally served as a landmark that guided ships moving south from upstate New York.

When they spotted the Red Tower, they knew they were approaching the Hudson River harbor. While standing on the U.S.S. Intrepid with her family, Finnerty said she could see the tower, and deck workers told her they always wondered what it was.

“If I had a wish, it would be for a way to link the history of the area and the people of the area,” she said. “It would be a dream of mine to have that network, and to exchange and share that information.”

Yardley Building – Union City

The Yardley Building, for decades a soap-making facility, is located on the Palisades in Union City but can be seen from down in Hoboken.

Yardley still has a corporate office in New York City, but they left Union City years ago. The six-acre plot and prominent post-industrial building has been in a legal entanglement between the Union City Redevelopment Agency and current owner Richard Kocher.

Kocher originally had an agreement for redevelopment with Jersey City developer Joseph Panepinto Properties, but there was a falling out between the two over plans for improvement that has led to a lawsuit of counter claims, according to Tom Leane, executive director for the Union City Redevelopment Agency.

Kocher did not return phone calls to the Hudson Reporter.

The Redevelopment Agency has posted an offer to buy the tower and is currently waiting for Kocher to accept or reject it, which he has 14 days to do, Leane said. His time will be up this week.

“This is a process. We’ve been through it hundreds of times,” he said.

If Kocher chooses to reject it, he must put up a counter offer in court, Leane said.

The Redevelopment Agency does have a plan in the works for the old factory, providing it can acquire the building, he said. Panepinto has been named to redevelop the Yardley property by the Redevelopment Agency, and has turned in a conceptual design which it will present to the Planning Board once ownership is decided.

The building would be primarily residential, with 350 units, although a portion of the structure facing Palisades Avenue would have retail space and a commercial garage.

If the Redevelopment Agency wins ownership, or if Kocher decides to put up a counter offer, it could mean relocation for many businesses that are currently in the Yardley Building. “There are a number of businesses located inside the building, all on monthly leases,” Leane said. “If we acquire it we have to help them relocate. The law is very specific; it’s a pretty complex situation.”

Eduardo Tajonera, owner of Eddy’s Doors and Cabinets, moved his new store into a first-floor space of the old Yardley Building four months ago and could be affected by the relocation. Tajonera had previously been working in Hoboken for another business, but moved to Union City because the rent was reasonable. He pays approximately $2,000 per month for the location. While one of Tajonera’s friends complained about the lack of affordable space for new store owners, another one talked of the hope for Tajonera’s store.

“It’s just the beginning. It’s a new business. It’s going to grow,” said George Cabrera.

Secaucus Junction

It’s been passed by millions of people driving along the New Jersey Turnpike. But even those who heard that a new train station was coming to Secaucus might not realize that the shiny, blocky structure by the highway is Secaucus Junction.

The transfer-only station first opened its doors Dec. 8, 2003, according to George Jenson, Secaucus’ transportation coordinator. The 312,000-square-foot structure links 10 of the 11 NJ Transit lines.

The building has three floors, street level, mezzanine and concourse. Although there is no parking at the station, residents of Secaucus can reach the station by shuttle bus for just $1, Jenson said. Other commuters can reach the junction by NJ Transit bus and rail from various locations throughout the state.

More Secaucus buildings

The train station is not the only building in Secaucus that leaves people wondering. There are many other prominent structures that jump out to the average eye.

For example, the red Harmon Cove Towers high-rise condominiums on the Meadowlands Parkway can be seen from locations all around Secaucus, and the campus-like look of Meadowview Hospital is sure to make drivers curious as they pass by.

Ever wonder why there are so many UPS tractor trailer trucks are driving around Secaucus? It’s because the city has a UPS site on County Avenue. It seems to extend forever on that avenue, and some might not notice the signs on the long buildings as they whiz past them down the street.


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