Weehawken is a township in Hudson County, New Jersey, United States. As of the United States 2000 Census, the township population was 13,501.
Situated on the western shore of the Hudson River, along the southern end of the New Jersey Palisades, and across from Midtown Manhattan, Weehawken is the location of the western terminus of the Lincoln Tunnel.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 1.5 square miles (3.9 km²), of which, 0.9 square miles (2.2 km²) of it is land and 0.7 square miles (1.7 km²) of it (43.71%) is water.
Though small, Weehawken is very urban, with a population density that is among the highest in the United States and comparable with that of nearby Jersey City. Weehawken is a residential community of primarily one- and two-family homes (many built during the Edwardian era) and low-rise apartment buildings.
Weehawken has a retail district along Park Avenue (its boundary with Union City) and large office and apartment/townhouse developments along the Hudson River. A few scattered retail shops and light manufacturing facilities blend into their respective neighborhoods. Local zoning laws prohibit the construction of high-rise buildings that would obstruct sight-lines from higher points in town.
As the emergent "Palisades" cliffs define Weehawken's natural topography, so too the Lincoln Tunnel (which cuts the town in half) looms as an inescapable man-made feature. Geographically, Weehawken retains distinct neighborhoods: Downtown (or The Shades), The Heights, Uptown (which includes The Bluff), and The Waterfront which in the 1990s and 2000s developed into a commercial/residential nexus. Though some are long abandoned (e.g., Grauert Causeway), there are still several outdoor public staircases (e.g., Shippen Steps) throughout the town, and a surprising number (more than 15) of "dead-end" streets. At its southeastern corner is Weehawken Cove which, along with the rail tracks farther inland, defines Weehawken's border with Hoboken. Its northern boundary is shared with West New York. Traversing Weehawken is JFK Boulevard East (known by earlier designation Boulevard East), a scenic thoroughfare atop the cliff of The Palisades offering a sweeping vista of the Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline.
As of the census
of 2000, there were 13,501 people, 5,975 households, and 3,059 families residing in the township. The population density
was 15,891.3 people per square mile (6,132.7/km²). There were 6,159 housing units at an average density of 7,249.4/sq mi (2,797.7/km²). The racial makeup of the township was 73.05% White
, 3.58% African American
, 0.20% Native American
, 4.67% Asian
, 0.10% Pacific Islander
, 13.94% from other races
, and 4.47% from two or more races. Hispanic
of any race were 40.64% of the population.
There were 5,975 households, out of which 20.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.1% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 48.8% were non-families. 35.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 3.02.
In the township the population was spread out with 16.6% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 42.4% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 95.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.9 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $50,196, and the median income for a family was $52,613. Males had a median income of $41,307 versus $36,063 for females. The per capita income for the township was $29,269. About 9.3% of families and 11.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.0% of those under age 18 and 11.3% of those age 65 or over.
"Weehawken" is generally considered to have evolved from the Lenape
(or Delaware Indian
). It has variously been interpreted as "place of gulls" or "rocks that look like rows of trees", which would refer to the Palisades, atop of which most of the town sits. The Lenape, whose contemporary language the word "wikweko" means "at the end of", may have used that meaning to describe the end of the cliffs closest to the river or to the mouth of the stream that flowed from them.
Spellings in Dutch and English have included: Awiehawken, Wiehacken, Weehauk, Weehawk, Weehock, Wiceaken and Wiehachan.
Weehawken was formed as a township by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature
on March 15
, from portions of Hoboken
and North Bergen
). A portion of the township was ceded to Hoboken in 1874. Additional territory was annexed in 1879 from West Hoboken
Its written history began in 1609 when Henry Hudson, on his third voyage to the New World, sailed up what was later named The North River on the Half Moon and weighed anchor in Weehawken Cove. At the time it was the territory of the Hackensack and Tappan, of the Turtle Clan, or Unami, a branch of the Lenni Lenape.. They were displaced by immigrants to the province of New Netherland, who had begun to settle the west bank of the Hudson at Pavonia in 1630. On May 11, 1647, Maryn Adriansen received a patent for a plantation (of 169 acres) at Awiehaken. In 1658, Director-General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant negotiated a deal with the Lenape to purchase all the land from "the great rock above Wiehacken", west to Sikakes (Secaucus) and south to Konstapels Hoeck (Constable Hook). In 1661, Weehawken become part of Bergen when it (and most of northeastern New Jersey) came under the jurisdiction of the court at Bergen Square.
In 1674, New Netherland was ceded to the British, and the town became part of the Province of East Jersey. Most habitation was along the top of the cliffs since much of the low-lying areas were marshland. Descriptions from the period speak of the dense foliage and forests and excellent land for growing vegetables and orchard fruits. In 1752, Weehawken was given its first official grant for ferry service (although boats had been crossing the river long before that); the ferry house was north of Hoboken and was primarily used for farm produce, and likely was sold at the Greenwich Village landing that became Weehawken Street.
During the American Revolutionary War, Weehawken was used as a lookout for the patriots to check on the British, who were in situated in New York and controlled the surrounding waterways. In fact, in July 1778, Lord Stirling asked Aaron Burr, in a letter written on behalf of General George Washington, to employ several persons to "go to the Bergen heights, Weehawk, Hoebuck or other heights to observe the motions of the enemy's shipping" and to gather any other possible intelligence.
Early documented inhabitants included a Captain James Deas, whose stately residence at Deas' Point was located atop a knoll along the river. Lafayette had used the mansion as his headquarters and later Washington Irving came to gaze at Manhattan.
Not far from Deas' was a ledge- 11 paces wide 20 paces long and situated 20 ft (6.1 m) above the Hudson along the Palisades. This ledge, long-gone, hosted 18 documented duels and many unknown ones between the years 1798–1845, the most famous being that between General Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, and Colonel Aaron Burr, sitting third Vice President of the United States, which took place on July 11, 1804. The duel was re-enacted on July 11, 2004, the 200th anniversary of the fatal duel, by descendants of Hamilton and Burr. In the mid 1800s, James G. King built his estate Highwood on the bluff that now bears his name, and entertained many politic and artistic figures of the era, including Daniel Webster.
With the ferry, the Hackensack Plank Road (a toll road that was a main artery from Weehawken to Hackensack), and later, the West Shore Railroad, built during the early 1870s, the waterfront became a transportation hub. The wealthy built homes along the top of the New Jersey Palisades, where they might flee from the sweltering heat of New York, and breathe the fresh air of the heights. Weehawken became the playground of the rich during the middle to late 1800s. A series of wagon lifts, stairs, and even an elevator designed by famed Frenchman Gustave Eiffel (which at the time was the world's largest) were put in place to accommodate the tourists and summer dwellers. The Eldorado, a sort of 19th century amusement park, drew massive crowds.
The turn of the century saw the end of the large estates, casinos, hotels, and theaters as tourism gave way to subdivisions (such as Highwood Park and Clifton Park) and the construction of many of the private homes still seen in town. This coincided with the influx of the Germans, Austrians, and Swiss, who built them and the breweries and embroidery factories in nearby Union City and West New York, NJ. While remaining essentially residential, Weehawken continued to grow as Hudson County became more industrial and more populated. Many Irish families (with roots in New York City's Hell's Kitchen) and Italian families (who had started out in Hoboken) made it their home. Weehawken saw its highest census numbers in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, approaching but never quite reaching 15,000.
In the 1970s, Cuban emigree families (many of whom had established themselves in North Hudson's "Havana on the Hudson") chose Weehawken as the place to live. Since the 1990s, a growing population of individuals and childless families (often retirees, gay men and women, or newlyweds) have taken up residency in town.
Points of interest
Though the panoramic view (from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
to George Washington Bridge
) may be its most famous attraction, Weehawken is also home to other sites of historic, aesthetic, and engineering importance:
- Hamilton Park, used by tourists, wedding parties, advertising companies, fashion designers, and others as a setting for photographs
- King's Bluff, a historic district at "the end of the Palisades" with many homes in an eclectic array of architectural styles
- The Weehawken Water Tower (on Park Avenue), was built in the 1800s as part of the Hackensack Water Company Complex, and inspired by Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. The Tower is cited on the Federal Maritime Chart as the "Red Tower", and serves as warning to ships traveling south along the Hudson that they are approaching New York Bay.
- The former North Hudson Hospital (on Park Avenue)
- The Public Library, former home of the Peters Brewery family (overlooking Park Ave and I-495)
- Hackensack Plank Road, an early colonial thoroughfare climbing from the The Shades to The Heights and furthur north.
- The Horseshoe (at Shippen Street), a cobbled double hairpin street leading to Hackensack Plank Road
- Shippen Street Steps, at the bottom of which is located Weehawken's original town hall
- Hackensack Number Two, (at Highpoint Avenue), a reservoir previously part Hudson County's water system along with #1 (demolished), and #3 and #4 in Jersey City Heights in the Gregory/Highpoint Historic District. All are named for the river from which water was pumped into them.
- The Lincoln Tunnel Toll Plaza, designed in Art Deco style, and The Helix, an eight-lane circular viaduct leading to it. In the 1960s, a rail-workers strike required Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, to unload in Weehawken and march their caravans, cages, and elephants through the Lincoln Tunnel, much to the delight of children who were awakened to watch it.
- Lincoln Tunnel Ventilation Towers
- The Atrium, home to Hudson River Performing Arts Center-sponsored events
- The NY Waterway Ferry Terminal, located at the site of The United Fruit Company, which for many years was the largest banana import facility in the nation
- The West Shore Railroad Tunnel, carved through the cliffs, and now used for the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.
- Hamilton Memorial (at the northern end of Hamilton Avenue)
The first memorial to the duel was constructed in 1806 by the Saint Andrew Society, of which Hamilton had been a member. A 14-foot (4.3-m) marble cenotaph, consisting of an obelisk, topped by a flaming urn and a plaque with a quote from Horace, surrounded by an iron fence, was constructed approximately where Hamilton was believed to have fallen. Duels continued to be fought at the site, and the marble was slowly vandalized and removed for souvenirs, leaving nothing remaining by 1820. The tablet itself did survive, turning up in a junk store and finding its way to the New York Historical Society in Manhattan, where it still resides.
From 1820 to 1857, the site was marked by two stones, with the names Hamilton and Burr, placed where they were thought to have stood during the duel. When a road from Hoboken to Fort Lee was built through the site in 1858, an inscription on a boulder where a mortally wounded Hamilton was thought to have rested—one of the many pieces of graffiti left by visitors—was all that remained. No primary accounts of the duel confirm the boulder anecdote. In 1870, railroad tracks were built directly through the site, and the boulder was hauled to the top of the Palisades, where it remains today. In 1894, an iron fence was built around the boulder, supplemented by a bust of Hamilton and a plaque. The bust was thrown over the cliff on October 14, 1934 by vandals, and the head was never recovered; a new bust was unveiled on July 12, 1935.
The plaque was stolen by vandals in the 1980s, and an abbreviated version of the text was inscribed on the indentation left in the boulder, which remained until the 1990s, when a granite pedestal was added in front of the boulder, and the bust was moved to the top of the pedestal. New markers were added on July 11, 2004, the 200th anniversary of the duel.
Weehawken operates under the Faulkner Act (Council-Manager)
form of municipal government.
As of 2008 members of Weehawken's Township Council are:
- Richard F. Turner, Mayor
- Robert Zucconi, Councilman-at-Large
- Carmela Silvestri Ehret, 1st Ward Councilwoman
- Rosemary J. Lavagnino, 2nd Ward Councilwoman
- Robert J. Sosa, 3rd Ward Councilman
James Marchetti is the Township Manager.
Federal, state and county representation
Weehawken is in the Thirteenth Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 33rd Legislative District.
Hudson County's County Executive is Thomas A. DeGise. Weehawken is in Freeholder District 7 of the County's Board of Chosen Freeholders, and is represented by Jose C. Munoz, who also represents Guttenberg and West New York.
The Weehawken School District
serves public school students in prekindergarten through twelfth grade. Schools in the district (with 2005-06 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics
) are Daniel Webster School
(307 students in PreK through 2nd grade), Theodore Roosevelt School
(342 students in grades 3-6) and Weehawken High School
(541 students in grades 7-12).
During the 1940s and 1950s, Weehawken and Hudson County saw its extensive streetcar/trolley system dismantled and replaced by buses (as had happened in many cities across the USA).
Today, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) provides service on the waterfront at Lincoln Harbor and Port Imperial, where transfer to the boat is possible. The system connects with neighboring North Hudson locations at Bergenline Avenue and 48th Street (Union City/West New York) and Tonnelle Avenue (North Bergen) heading westbound and continues southbound towards Hoboken, Jersey City and Bayonne.
In 1910, the Pennsylvania Railroad opened the North River Tunnels, with a western portal in North Bergen and terminus in the also newly-opened Pennsylvania Station. Now used by the Northeast Corridor line, it is operated by Amtrak and shared with New Jersey Transit trains. Although the tunnel runs deep underground through the township, there has never been a stop in Weehawken, but one is being considered for the proposed Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel (THE Tunnel). Weehawken is a short bus or light-rail trip away from Hoboken Terminal, where connections to New Jersey Transit trains and the PATH system is possible.
Bus service is provided by New Jersey Transit
to the Port Authority Bus Terminal
in Midtown Manhattan
on the 123
routes. The George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal
is served by the 181
by the 67
, and Jersey City
on the 23
routes. There is also service by "carrito" (licensed mini-bus) with destinations in Journal Square
in Jersey City
,and southeast Bergen County
In 1959, the last boat left the Western Shore Terminal, ending almost 300 years of ferry service. But in the late 1980s, the ferry returned in the form of NY Waterway
. Ridership continues to grow (it was extremely high after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks
, but some of the growth was temporary) and new ferry stops are being planned for the west bank of the Hudson from Fort Lee
. In 2006, in agreement with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
, the company opened new major terminals on Weehawken's waterfront and West 38th Street in Manhattan.
Currently, NY Waterway offers service to midtown and lower Manhattan, as well sight-seeing trips and seasonal excursions to the Hudson Valley, Yankee Stadium, and Sandy Hook.
Notable current and former residents of Weehawken include:
- Liam Aiken (born 1990), actor who starred in various films, including Good Boy! and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events spent his early childhood in Weehawken.
- Ed Alberian, (1920–1997), entertainer, whose credits include early television's Clarabell the Clown on the Howdy Doody Show, The Beachcomber Bill Show, and Let's Have Fun
- Adele Astaire, (1896–1981), Fred Astaire's elder sister, dancer and entertainer in vaudeville, on Broadway and the West End, who retired in 1932 to become Lady Charles Cavendish
- Fred Astaire, (1899–1987), Hollywood legend, lived in Weehawken as a teenager, and during vaudville and early Broadway years
- Francis Bitter, (1902–1967), son of Karl Bitter, physicist know for his research with magnets and long career at MIT.
- Karl Bitter, (1867–1915), sculptor, established atelier in town, where he lived and worked until his death.
- Nica de Koenigswarter nee Rothschild, (1913–1988), known as the "bebop baroness" for her patronage of many jazz musicians.
- Franck de Las Mercedes, (born 1972), Renowned postmodern Artist, creator of the global public art project called the "Priority Boxes.
- John Diebold, (1926–2005), computer scientist, considered to be an automation evangelist.
- John J. Eagan, (1872–1956), a Democrat who represented New Jersey's 11th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1913-1921.
- John Erskine, (1879–1951), educator and author, who reflects on the town in The Memory of Certain Persons.
- Edward Feigenbaum, (born 1936), computer scientist who collaborated on the development of the first expert system Dendral.
- Peter Fiordalisi, (1904–1988), modern artist whose work was inspired by the Palisades, Hudson, and skyline
- Barry Harris, (born 1929), jazz pianist and educator.
- James G. King (1791–1853), businessman and politician who represented from 1849 to 1851.
- Lori Majewski, journalist, former contributor to Spin and US Weekly magazines, and current managing editor of Teen People magazine.
- John Marin, (1870–1953), modern American artist, raised by maternal grandparents and two artistically talented maiden aunts in town.
- Steven Massarsky (1948–2007), American lawyer and businessman; founder of Voyager Communications.
- Thelonious Monk, (1917–1982), jazz legend, who retired to and spent last years in town.
- Kate Pierson, (born 1948), lead singer and founding member of The B-52's.
- Jerome Robbins, (1918–1998), choreographer, famous for West Side Story and many works for the New York City Ballet.
- William Ranney (1813–1857), famed 19th Century Western painter.
- Gerard Schwarz, (born 1947), conductor, currently with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
- William Stelling, film actor in 1940s and 1950s.
- Frank Tashlin, (1913–1972), film director, whose credits include The Glass Bottom Boat and The Alphabet Murders.
- Derrick Ward (born 1980), played for the New York Giants in the 2007 season.
- Daniel Webster (1782–1852), American statesman who spent part of his later years in town
Use of the name
- Weehawken Street is located in Greenwich Village, one block from the Hudson River at Christopher Street. During the colonial era it was the site of a ferry landing and market where fresh produce was brought to Manhattan from farms across the river.
- The USS Weehawken, launched on November 5, 1862, was a Passaic-class monitor, or ironclad ship, which sailed for the Union Navy during the American Civil War, encountered battles at the Charleston, South Carolina coast, and sank in a moderate gale on December 6, 1863.
- Weehawken Cemetery is located in nearby North Bergen.
- Weehawk is a type of knife-blade.
- Weehawkin is the name of a street in Oceanport, NJ
- In his 1918 Pulitzer Prize-winning Cornhuskers, Carl Sandburg mentions Weehawken in reference to its railyards.
Popular culture references
- Weehawken (though misspelled in a caption as "Weehauken") was humorously slighted in the TV series Futurama as being the prior location of the rather ramshackle Democratic Order Of Planets (DOOP) headquarters, which was shown after the new headquarters was destroyed.
- In the TV series Sex and The City, the star was advised to seek a cheap apartment in town.
- In House (in an episode that included a character from forementioned Sex in the City), the town was cited as a humorously mundane place for a patient to have travelled.
- Weehawken is referred to in many Dr. Seuss stories, most notably The Lorax.
- Wee Willie Weehawken is a character in Boys' Ranch, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, and published by Harper Comics in the 1950s.
- In the TV sit-com Petticoat Junction, a swindler registers at a hotel as being from Weehawken.
- In the comic strip Pogo, the turtle character, Churchy Lafemme, once exclaimed "Weehawken!" as his head was unstuck from his shell by use of a bicycle pump.
- On Moby Grape's 1968 album Wow, the track "Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot" (strangely, cut at 78 rpm) features Arthur Godfrey announcing: "And now, emanating from the Secaucus Lounge at the fabulous Fandango Hotel in Weehawken, New Jersey..."
Weehawken was used as a film location as early as 1902 when three silents were shot there: Baby in a Rage
, Little Man
, and Baby Playing in Gutter
. Woody Allen
shot scenes for Zelig
(1983) and Broadway Danny Rose
(1984) in town. Other movies shot partially in town include Straight, No Chaser
(1988) about Thelonious Monk
, Backstreet Dreams
(1990), Hudson Hawk
(1991), Naked Fear
(1999), Forces of Nature
(1999), Miss Congeniality
(2000), In America
(2002), Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
(2004), My African Giraffe