Paulus Hook is a community on the Hudson River waterfront in Jersey City, New Jersey, located one mile across the river from Manhattan. The name Hook comes from the Dutch word "hoeck" which translates into "point of land." This "point of land" has been described as an elevated area, the location of which is today bounded by Montgomery, Hudson, Dudley and Van Vorst Streets. The neighborhood's main street is the north- and south-running Washington Street. The waterfront of Paulus Hook is along the basin of the Morris Canal in a park with a segment of Liberty State Park. The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail has a Paulus Hook stop at Essex Street and the Liberty Water Taxi at Warren Street. The introduction of the light rail and development of office buildings on the Hudson Waterfront have brought more businesses to Morris Street including a number of restaurants with outdoor seating and small neighborhood shops.
Originally the location was called Arressick or Arisheck Island by the earliest settlers after a corrupted Lenape term, possibly from Kaniskeck meaning a long, grassy marsh or meadow.
The location was originally part of a tract of land purchased by Michael Pauw, an Amsterdam Burgomaster and Lord of Achttienhoven in 1630 as part of Pavonia. The first settlement at Paulus Hook was in 1633 when the area was an island at high tide. In 1638 it was granted to Pauw's agent, a man named Micheal Paulez (Pauluson, Powles) who operated an occasional ferry and traded with the local Lenape population. Paulez's name eventually became "Paulus," the name given to the hook jutting into the river and bay. By permission of the Director of New Netherland, Willem Kieft, the land at Paulus Hook was acquired by Abraham Isaacsen Verplanck on May 1, 1638. The Manatus Map of 1639 depicts land holdings in the nascent province; number 31 is described as the "plantations at Paulus Hook",
Until the American Revolution, the Dutch and then the English governed the site. In 1664, an expedition sailed from England to seize Dutch colonies in the New World. The colony of New Netherland's Director-General Peter Stuyvesant surrendered its capital to the English forces on September 8, 1664, so New Amsterdam became New York (although the Dutch recaptured it briefly). This was a trigger event for the Second Anglo-Dutch War in which the Dutch lost their North American territories. Charles II of England awarded territories to his brother James, Duke of York (who later became King James II), and the region between New England and Maryland became proprietary colonies (as opposed to a royal colony). James then granted the land between the Hudson River and the Delaware River (the land that would become New Jersey) to two friends who had been loyal through the English Civil War: John Berkeley and George Carteret, who had been with the Duke in exile on Jersey in the Channel Islands. So the name "New Jersey" was chosen, and today the communities of Carteret and Berkeley Heights are also named for the two friends, Elizabeth is named for Carteret's wife, and the Duke of York is himself the namesake of New York.
In 1672, the Third Anglo-Dutch War broke out, and in July 1673, the Dutch reoccupied New York City, renaming it New Orange. Peace was achieved in 1674 under terms of the Treaty of Westminster, and England recovered New York until the American Revolution.
In 1776, patriot colonists built several forts to defend the western banks of the Hudson, one of which was located at Paulus Hook. After suffering defeats in New York City, the rebels abandoned Paulus Hook and the British occupied it. The fort was a naturally defensible position that guarded the gateway to New Jersey.
In mid-summer 1779, a flamboyant 23-year-old Princeton University graduate, Major Henry Lee, recommended to General George Washington a daring plan to attack the fort, in what became known as the Battle of Paulus Hook. The assault was planned to begin shortly after midnight on August 19, 1779. Lee led a force of about 300 men, some of whom got lost during the march, through the swampy, marshy land. The attack was late in getting started but the main contingent of the force was able to reach the fort's gate without being challenged. It is believed that the British mistook the approaching force for Hessian allies returning from patrol but this is not documented. The attacking Patriots succeeded in damaging the fort and took 158 prisoners, but were unable to destroy the fort and spike its cannons. As daytime arrived, Lee decided that prudent action demanded that the Patriots withdraw before the British forces from New York could cross the river. Paulus Hook remained in British hands until after the war but the battle was a small strategic victory for the forces of independence as it forced the British to abandon their plans for taking rebel positions in the New York area.
While the battle occupies only a small portion of U.S. Revolutionary history, it is an important part of the history of New Jersey and holds an even more important place in the history of the neighborhood. A monument was erected in 1903 to memorialize the battle.
In July 1764 a ferry began operating from Paulus Hook to Mesier's dock which was located at the foot of Courtland Street (where Cortland Street Ferry Depot would be built) and where Battery Park City Ferry Terminal is located today. Paulus Hook subsequently became a major road and rail head for traffic along the Northeast Corridor and in 1836 a railroad station linking the area to Newark was opened. The Jersey City Ferry, as the original ferry became known, and later the Desbrosses Street Ferry and a ferry to West 34th Street in Manhattan would open and serve the Pennsylvania Railroad's Exchange Place Station. During the mid-20th century the Pennsylvania Railroad's operations shifted to Newark and New York Penn stations and ferry services to Manhattan were discontinued.
During the 21st century the arrival of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, a construction boom following the attacks of September 11th, investments in Liberty State Park and the expansion of the area's ferry connections to lower Manhattan all helped to propel a process of gentrification.
Today, real estate prices in Paulus Hook are generally higher than in surrounding neighborhoods, which include Liberty Harbor, the Financial District, WALDO, and Hamilton Park. Morris Street and Washington Street have become the "restaurant rows" of the neighborhood, which is mainly residential.