The Powerhouse in Jersey City – A Great Historical Engineering


The powerhouse in Jersey City is one of the most breathtaking architectural landmarks in the metropolitan area. Once the embellished electrical engine of what is now the PATH rapid transit system, the Powerhouse stands as a rare reminder of America's glorious Gilded and Industrial Ages. The New York Times has hailed it as a "cathedral … a masterpiece of brickwork." This major historic preservation campaign hopes to make elected officials and prospective developers acutely aware of the Powerhouse's potential of becoming a massive cultural and / or commercial waterfront property.

Jersey City lawyer William G. McAdoo built it. President Theodore Roosevelt activated it. Thomas Edison toured it. And four professional photographers documented it – the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Powerhouse in Downtown Jersey City.

A relic from Jersey City's industrial age, the Powerhouse is a Romanesque Revival structure built in 1908 by McAdoo, among others. Powered by coal, which generated steam that ran the transformers, the Powerhouse was the electrical source for the H&M trains and stations, including the Hudson Terminal, where the World Trade Center stands today.

On the Powerhouse's very first day of operation, Feb. 25, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt dispatched a telegram from the White House instructing engineers to activate the first train to run through a series of tunnels and tubes under the Hudson River from Newark to New York. This historical event connected the island of Manhattan with the rest of the country for the very first time.

The Powerhouse shut down operations in 1929, and the subway system has developed into the PATH system. Since then, the roof deteriorated, windows were broken and boilers, turbines and dynamos were all sold for scrap. Kids in the neighborhood called it "Frankenstein's Castle."

Despite neglect, the structure remains solid, and there's talk of turning it into a museum or shopping mall. Meanwhile, the Jersey City Landmark Conservancy hopes to see the Powerhouse listed with New Jersey's Register of Historic Places.


Directly across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center, the Powerhouse is one block from the waterfront where ferries and water taxis arrive from lower and midtown Manhattan. It is a few blocks from three different PATH stations – the subway trip from the World Trade Center takes 3 minutes and the longest trip, from 33rd Street and 6th Avenue, takes under 15 minutes. For visitors traveling by car, it's less than a mile from the New Jersey Turnpike and the Holland Tunnel, and on-site parking is possible. In addition, three Hudson-Bergen Light Rail stations are within walking distance of the Powerhouse.


The Powerhouse is surrounded by new office buildings, malls, hotels, luxury residential complexes; restored historic districts; and the nearby attractions of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Liberty State Park and the Liberty Science Center.

The site is across the street from "WALDO," Jersey City's art district. This is an eight-block area of ​​historical warehouses in which artists, and only artists, are allowed to live. WALDO already has one building with 300 artist studios and another that's being developed for 133 work / live spaces. Several other warehouses will be developed soon, and plans are forming for an arts high school, theaters, restaurants, galleries and other art-related retail.


The structure is steel framed and exterior brick walls are 28 "thick. There are twelve lines of columns running north to south and fourteen lines running east to west. The largest windows are 1,300 square feet each (the largest of their kind on the East Coast ) and on the east side is a sliding access door large enough to admit a railroad car. An observation roof, 200 x 200 feet, offers sweeping, unobstructed views of Manhattan.


The Powerhouse is in a State Urban Enterprise Zone and qualifies for grants, low interest loans, reduced sales taxes and other benefits.

Because the building is eligible for historic designation, historic tax credits equal to 20% of redevelopment costs would be available.

New Jersey's new adaptive re-use building codes save 10% – 30% on renovation.

The State of New Jersey contributed millions toward the construction of the Performing Arts Center in Newark and may do likewise here.

Redevelopment would save the Port Authority demolition costs estimated to be in the $ 50 million range – savings that could be shared with a developer.


The 1908 inauguration of the Powerhouse was so important that President Theodore Roosevelt, sitting in the White House, threw the opening switch.

The Powerhouse not only provided electricity to the "Hudson Tubes" (now known as PATH) but also to what was the world's largest office complex, the Hudson Terminals.


"It is like some ancient, partly ruined cathedral … A masterpiece of brickwork."
-Christopher Gray, The New York Times, November 18, 1990

"An elegant brute of steel and brick."
-Steve Strunsky, The New York Times, September 12, 1999

"One of the most impressive examples of the urban industrial system powerhouse as a building type whose survival is becoming increasingly rare."
-Dorothy P. Guzzo, NJ State Historic Preservation Office, 1999

The Powerhouse Has Been Prominently Featured In The New York Times.

Details Info Will be Found At Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy: http: //www.jclandmarks.orgar