Before sleek wind turbines appeared across the modern landscape, the traditional-looking windmill was the freely available source of energy for grinding grain from the colonial era to the early nineteenth century. When Isaac Edge immigrated to Paulus Hook (now Jersey City) in 1806, he planned to follow in his English father's trade as a miller. He bought waterfront property from the Associates of the Jersey Company, near present-day Exchange Place, and proceeded to set up a windmill for his gristmill.
Edge's father sent him the machinery and millstones, with instructions, to assemble a windmill. They were patterned after his father's mill in Derbyshire, England. Edge hired the Burmley and Oakes millwright firm to construct a seven-story octagonal brownstone tower, upon a 100-foot-long pier, for a foundation that jutted out into the Hudson River. Completed in 1815, the windmill became a landmark for ships approaching the Hudson River from the Upper Bay.
Edge's windmill stood at the present corner of Montgomery and Greene streets, and Robert Fulton's shipyard was at the corner of Green and Morgan streets. Local historian J. Owen Grundy writes that the Edge and Fulton businesses were "probably the first industries in Jersey City" ("Edge's Wind Mill" 3).
Edge's quality milling process and efficient business practices attracted an expanding clientele. Farmers from as far south as Bergen Point (Bayonne), northern parts of Bergen County, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Long Island brought their grain by sloops to be processed at the mill. For a time, Edge also ran a bakery at the southwest corner of Greene and York streets, no doubt a spin-off from the grain business. A storm, on September 3, 1821, destroyed the canvas fans on the wings of the mill, Edge replaced the canvas sails with those made of iron and rebuilt the dock damaged by the storm.
In 1839, the New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Co. (later the Pennsylvania Railroad) bought Edge's property and covered the pier with landfill to build its terminal at Exchange Place. The purchase and reclamation resulted in the layout for Hudson Street and a straight-line bulkhead at the waterfront. The mill was dismantled, parts labeled, and then shipped and reassembled at Mill Hill in Southhold, Long Island. It was destroyed by fire on June 25, 1870.
Later, Edge's son, Isaac Edge, Jr., opened a fireworks plant that became a training center for pyrotechnics. His fireworks displays, for which he was internationally known, depicted figures and scenes. Besides pyrotechnics, Edge experimented with rocketry. Because of the hazardous nature of his business, Edge had to relocate his facilities to the outskirts of the rapidly growing municipality of Jersey City.
Dr. Benjamin Edge, a descendant of Isaac Edge, bought the Cornelius Van Vorst mansion at 89 Wayne Street in 1874, which was demolished, circa 1925. The mansion was the twin building of the Barrow Mansion at 83 Wayne Street.
Eaton, Harriet Phillips. Jersey City and Its Historic Sites. Jersey City, NJ: Women's Club of Jersey City of Jersey City, 1899.
Grundy, J. Owen. "Edge's Wind Mill: A Jersey City Landmark and the Edge Family." Jersey City, NJ: Free Public Library, 1973.
_____. The History of Jersey City, 1609-1976. Jersey City: Progress Printing Co., Inc. 1976.
Wagen, Irv. "Waterfront Park Would Brighten Exchange Place." Jersey Journal 23 April 1981.
Winfield, Charles H. History of the County of Hudson, New Jersey. New York: Kennard & Hay Printing Company, 1874.