Before any sleek wind turbines began to appear across the modern landscape, the traditional looking windmill tapped into this freely available source of energy to grind the grain of colonial and early nineteenth century American farmers. Isaac Edge, the son of an English miller, settled in Paulus Hook (now Jersey City) in 1806. Wishing to continue his father's trade on the waterfront area, Edge bought property from the Associates of the Jersey Company to establish his own gristmill, near the present-day Exchange Place. It became one of old Jersey City's first manufacturing businesses.
Edge's father sent him the machinery and the millstones with instructions for assembly. The parts of the windmill were patterned after his father's mill in Derbyshire, England. The millwright firm of Burmley and Oakes constructed a seven-story octagonal brownstone tower upon a one-hundred foot long pier that jutted out into the Hudson River. The windmill, completed in 1815, was built on this foundation. It served as a landmark for ships approaching the Hudson River from the Upper Bay and stood at the present corner of Montgomery and Greene streets. Robert Fulton's shipyard stood at the corner of Green and Morgan streets. According to local historian J. Owen Grundy, 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 a burgeoning 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 Edge's mill. For a time, Edge also operated a bakery at the southwest corner of Greene and York streets, no doubt a spin-off from the grain operation. 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; he also 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; it also resulted in the layout for Hudson Street, and straight line bulkhead at the waterfront. The mill was dismantled, parts labeled, 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.