County: Hudson County
Saint Peter’s Parish was established in 1831 as Jersey City’s and Hudson County’s first Catholic parish. Prior to the establishment of St. Peter’s Parish and the subsequent construction of the original St. Peter’s Church in the late 1830s, Catholics living in Jersey City would celebrate mass in private homes or would travel across the Hudson River to Manhattan in order to attend mass.
St. Peter’s Parish School was built in 1861 as Jersey City’s first parochial school. In 1898, St. Peter’s Hall was constructed abutting the building. St. Peter’s Hall was designed by prominent local architect Herman Kreitler, who designed various other notable buildings in Jersey City. The buildings, together known as the School, function as one building. Constructed with Romanesque Revival and Italianate elements, the School boasts terra cotta ornamentation, corbeled brick arches, brownstone trim, and a cupola.
The School operated for over 150 years, serving generations of immigrants. Latino and Filipino immigrants became a large portion of the School’s students starting in the mid-20th century and St. Peter’s Church was the first Catholic Church in Hudson County to offer services in Spanish. The School was also used for community and political events. Woodrow Wilson launched his gubernatorial campaign in St. Peter’s Hall. Woodrow Wilson would go on to become President of the United States and lead the nation through the first World War.
The School was purchased by St. Peter’s Preparatory School (“Prep”) in 2002. Since then, the School has been mostly vacant and falling into a state of disrepair. In 2019, Prep applied to the Jersey City Historic Preservation Commission to demolish the School and replace it with a parking lot. The application was unanimously denied, but Prep is currently appealing the denial.
The School is located in Downtown Jersey City’s historic Paulus Hook neighborhood, which has experienced significant development of high rise buildings. The School is one of the few non-residential Civil War era buildings still surviving in Downtown. Given its architectural and historical significance, and location in a historically significant neighborhood, Preservation New Jersey opposes the demolition of the School and supports its adaptive reuse.
Diane Kaese, President
Historic Paulus Hook Association