A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Jersey City's Van Vorst Park Historic District
A Walking Tour of Architectural Styles

By Herbert J. Githens

Jersey City is a nineteenth-century city. Downtown Jersey City especially represents this fact in its built environment. A wide spectrum of architectural styles can be experienced in the houses within the Van Vorst Park Historic District. This neighborhood is centered at Montgomery Street and Jersey Avenue, where an urban square orders townhouses – and the Main Branch of the Jersey City Library, where this tour begins – on four sides.

A brief description of each of the seven basic styles encountered on the tour follows.


This is the architectural style of the early American Republic, dating from after the Revolution and into the first two decades of the nineteenth century. At this time, Jersey City was principally composed of independent villages, including Paulus Hook, Pavonia, Communipaw, and Bergen. Few houses in the present city date to that era.

The Greek Revival

The Italianate

The Second Empire Mode

After the Civil War, contemporary French architecture influenced American building.. Architecture students went to Paris for training and returned with enthusiasm for French prototypes., Characteristic features of the Second Empire Mode are the mansard roof and Renaissance details.

The Eastlake Mode

Charles Eastlake was a nineteenth-century English designer who wrote an influential book called Hints on Household Taste. It was a guidebook for a decorative era. Eastlake advocated the use of fine contemporary materials and machine methods. His influence in American architecture peaked in the 1870s, '80s, and '90s.

Romanesque Revival

Under the influence of the architect Henry Hobson Richardson and the Chicago School, late-nineteenth-century American architects revived medieval Romanesque ideas. Round arches, strong masonry structure, and cast terra cotta ornaments are common features of this style. It dates from the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

The Queen Anne

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