A Good Look at Hoboken On the Waterfront

Hoboken is a city of about one square mile sandwiched between the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels that run under the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey. Once the butt of urban renewal jokes, the city has enjoyed a renaissance in the last quarter century as its proximity to Manhattan's Financial District has attracted more affluent tenants, pumping money into the local economy and reviving what was once a depressed town.

Back in the Day

The town's name, according to the Hoboken Historical Museum, is a corruption of the Dutch hoebuck, meaning "high bluff," or the Lenape Indian hopoghan hackigh, meaning, "Land of the Tobacco Pipe."

To date, Hoboken's main claim to fame is being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra. The pleasant road that traces the Hudson River is named for him, as is a newly renovated park built on the piers facing Manhattan's Greenwich Village. The first floor of City Hall is an unofficial Sinatra museum.

The first organized game of baseball was played in Hoboken in 1846, on land now occupied by 11th Street. In those days, the town was home to a resort called the Elysian Fields, a getaway for New Yorkers with means—among them John Jacob Astor, who maintained a summer home in Hoboken. Hoboken was also home to the first American brewery, the Tootsie Roll, and the dual miracles of soft-serve ice cream and that indispensable bit of everyday hardware, the zipper.

Notwithstanding its short-lived run as playground for the wealthy two centuries ago, Hoboken has historically been a community of immigrants drawn to the city by its proximity to Ellis Island, its readily available blue-collar jobs, and affordable rents. Two waves of immigration on either side of the First World War brought Germans, Irish, Italians, Slavs, Latinos and Indians to Hoboken. All of these groups are still well represented here, most notably the Italians and Latinos.

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