In 1804, The Associates of the Jersey Company was founded by a group of proprietors to purchase property at Paulus Hook. It was the idea of Alexander Hamilton of New York, the first US Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington. Hamilton believed in the future of American manufacturing and looked to New Jersey for a location to fulfill that goal. He convinced other New Yorkers of this idea. They, like him, were Federalists. They had lost out in recent politics with the 1800 election of Thomas Jefferson and their other Democratic-Republicans opponents.
Anthony Dey, a lawyer, purchased land at Paulus Hook with ferry privileges from Cornelius Van Vorst. The property was surveyed, laid out into streets and blocks before the transfer of title to three prominent Federalists: Colonel Richard Varick, a lawyer and former New York City mayor, 1789-1801, and Dey's cousin; Jacob Radcliff, a Justice of the New York Supreme Court and later mayor of New York City, 1810-1811; and Dey, a large real estate holder.
They each held 100 shares in the Company and were to receive an annuity from the rental of the lots and the ferry at Paulus Hook. There were also 31 shareowners of lesser amounts, such as four New Jersey governors--Joseph Bloomfield, Aaron Ogden, William S. Pennington, and Isaac H. Williamson--as well as Alex C. McWhorter, Elisha Boudinot, John C. Coles, and Samuel Pennington. Hamilton initially acted as an attorney for the group and drew up the charter of incorporation. It was approved by the New Jersey Legislature on November 10, 1804. Hamilton, who was killed in a duel with New York rival Aaron Burr in Weehawken in July of that year, did not live to guide the organization he helped found.
The Associates had a sense of history when they named the streets of their project in 1804. They read like a "who's who" of prominent individuals from the Revolutionary War era. Among the named streets are Washington Street for General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief and first president of the United States; Montgomery Street for Brigadier General Richard Montgomery killed at Quebec; Warren Street for Brigadier General Joseph Warren who was killed at Bunker Hill; Greene Street for Major-General Nathaniel Greene; Mercer Street for Brigadier-General Hugh Mercer who was killed at the Battle of Princeton; Steuben Street for Brigadier-General Baron Von Steuben; and Morgan Street for Brigadier-General Daniel Morgan.
On May 4, 1805, William Halsey proposed the building of two frame houses with brick fronts on the property. The Jersey Company also planned a hotel on Grand Street; it was later known as the Hudson House and became part of the Colgate complex. They ordered shade trees and made plans for a shipyard, churches, a school, a public market, and wells for water. Isaac Edge applied for lots to erect a grist mill. It stood at the westerly end of the new depot of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
In 1816, Colonel Richard Varick purchased lots 20, 22, and 24, on the north side of Essex Street, and built a brick house known as "Prospect Hall," overlooking the Hudson River. The property was landscaped with lawns and gardens to the waterfront. Major General Marquis de Lafayette visited his former Revolutionary War comrade Col. Varick at Prospect Hall, while touring America in 1824 for special Fourth of July celebrations. Varick lived at Prospect Hall until he died on July 30, 1831. The building was altered over time and became tenement housing. Eventually, the structure was demolished.
The overall project planned by the Associates of the Jersey Company was not successful. Investors like the Jersey Steam Boat Ferry Company failed. This was due to several factors. The State of New Jersey and the City of New York continued to claim control of land and coastal waters to the New Jersey shore at Jersey City. This discouraged investment by those who wanted lots on the waterfront for commercial purposes. In June 1804, Hamilton and his law partner, Josiah Ogden Hoffman, challenged New York's claim, but press coverage over the controversy kept investors away. Also, the shareholders of the Associates of the Jersey Company required a rental charge to cover the annuity approved in its Articles of Agreement. Additionally, the Associates, who owned the land, had municipal governing rights to make regulations for the tenants or residents on the property.
The boundary dispute between New York and New Jersey was clarified in the Treaty of 1834. The treaty allowed for the purchase of the Van Vorst mortgage by Colonel Varick and an agreement to sell the lots in full. Also, the rights of New Jersey to the land under the water of the Hudson River were conceded by the State of New York. By this time, however, the impetus for the Associates of the Jersey Company's plans and its original leadership were lost.
While the prospects of the Associates of the Jersey Company did not live up to expectations, it contributed to the founding of Jersey City. In 1819, the Jersey Company applied to the New Jersey Legislature to incorporate the Town of Jersey. On January 28, 1820, the legislature enacted "An Act to incorporate the City of Jersey, in the County of Bergen." The City of Jersey became "Jersey City" due to the use of the expression in the body of the legislation. Under the provision, five freeholders were to be chosen as "the Board of Selectmen of Jersey City," thereby establishing the first governing body of the emerging municipality. Furthermore, the legislation included nothing that might impede the work of the Jersey Company. In 1829, the city's name was formally changed to "Jersey City" under the second charter of incorporation.
Winfield, Charles H. A Monograph of the Founding of Jersey City. New York: The Caxton Press, 1891.