The history of Saint Dominic Academy, among Jersey City's oldest continuously operating high schools, is also intertwined with two social clubs in Jersey City--the Carteret Club for men and the Jersey City Woman's Club.
Saint Dominic Academy
Saint Dominic's began its long educational tradition in Jersey City as part of the German ethnic parish and school of St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church on First Street. German immigration to Jersey City had begun in the 1840's and 1850's and continued in large numbers well into the early twentieth century. The non-territorial parish of St. Boniface Church was established during the 1860's to minister to the newly-arrived German-speaking Catholics throughout the city.
The original academy included both a coeducational grammar school as well as a much smaller all-girls secondary division. The founders, administrators, and teachers were the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell, who came to New Jersey from Germany by way of New York City. The cornerstone for the First Street convent and school building was laid on May 24, 1878, and the academy received its official charter on September 21, 1882. The school was enlarged to the east with an addition completed in November 1888.
In 1915, St. Dominic Academy opened a special annex in a large vacant home at 669 Bergen Avenue between Kensington and Duncan Avenues for the use of its secondary school programs. The secondary division students would follow one of three different courses: academic, commercial, or stenographic. The Academy's lower grades remained on First St. and later became known as St. Boniface R.C. School. During the 1930's, St. Dominic's operated out of 20 Bentley Avenue, and on March 7, 1942 the school removed to its current location on the corner of Duncan Avenue and Hudson (now Kennedy) Boulevard.
The school had purchased its new premises from the old Carteret Club of Jersey City. The streets surrounding the Academy included some of Jersey City's largest homes and most prestigious addresses such as the tall luxury apartment building across the street where Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague resided. During the years that followed, St. Dominic's was able to expand and increase its enrollment in its new home.
While the property has mostly retained its original exterior features, a new wing for laboratories in the sciences and language was added to the campus in 1994. The original mission of St. Dominic Academy was to educate immigrant girls under the motto: "Empowering Women for Leadership" to which it has remained true during its more than 135 years.
At the turn of the twentieth century, social clubs and organizations were at their peak of popularity throughout the United States. Local historian Harriet Phillips Eaton claims that there were approximately 50 clubs in Jersey City. They were mostly sex-segregated social and civic organizations except when members gathered for special occasions and speakers.
Reportedly the city's first such club was the Everett Literary Union, founded in 1865, that met on Newark Avenue. Among literary clubs for women were the Aesthetic Society, founded by Erminnie A. Smith, Odd Volumes (New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs), Cosmos Club, and Ramblers (associated with Hasbrouck Institute). The Woman's Club of Jersey City was a service organization and the Ceramics Club invited women to enjoy the culture of pottery.
Among the men's clubs were the Crescent Club, Catholic Club, Jersey City Club, New Jersey Club, Elk's Club, and Palma Club. Politics was on the agenda at the Hudson County Democratic Society and Union League. Sports enthusiasts could join the Athletic Club, Golf Club and New Jersey Athletic Club. There were gun clubs, such as the Carteret Gun Club of Bergen Point (Bayonne) that held pigeon shouting, and boating clubs, such as the Orion Rowing and Athletic Association and Hudson Boat Club.
One particularly popular men's club was the Carteret Club. Founded on November 17, 1885, the members rented for a time the old De Mott homestead on historic Bergen Square, near Vroom and Academy streets. W.W. Coffin was its first president. The club may have been named for either Sir George Carteret, one of the two royal proprietors of colonial New Jersey, or his cousin Philip Carteret, the colony's first proprietary governor (1665-1682).
In March 1889, the club built a "Romanesque shingle-style club house" at the northeast corner of Bergen Avenue and Mercer (former Church) Street (Gabrielan 74). The four-story brick building held all the entertainment and social amenities of the day--bathing, bowling alleys and cycling on the ground floor; billiard room, game and smoking rooms and reading room. The third floor had a ladies' parlor, music room and library. The fourth floor gymnasium was also used for receptions and performances. The club boasted 358 active members and 245 associate members, namely women who "enjoy the privileges of the club on Thursday evenings, and all afternoons, excepting Sundays and holidays" (McLean 184).
In September 1917, after selling the property to Saint Aedan's RC Church for a rectory, it built a more fashionable meeting place the southeast corner of Duncan Avenue and Hudson (now Kennedy) Boulevard. The L-shaped two-story red brick building is elevated from the street for privacy with its main entrance accessed on Duncan Avenue. It offered club members a gracious county club-style setting in a mostly residential neighborhood. They could avail themselves of bowling alleys, bridge, two outdoor tennis courts prominently placed at the corner of the property (now a parking lot) and banquet hall. Here the Lincoln Association met for the 110th anniversary of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln in 1919.
Across the street from the Carteret Club building between Duncan and Fairview Avenues was the Carteret Garage and the small city park known as the Vorhees Quadrangle. During the 1950's the park was enlarged and renamed in honor of World War II veterans S/Sgt. Robert H. Boyd, Lt. Walter M. Boyd, and Pfc. Joseph McGuiness who grew up on Duncan Avenue. The park was recently renovated by the city in 2015. The adjacent Boyd-McGuiness Apartments for senior citizens, built in 1981, takes its name from the park. The Carteret Garage still carried the name of the men's club into the 1960's.
In 1942, the Carteret Club sold the property for the relocation of Saint Dominic's Academy. The club continued to held meetings at a restaurant on Fairmount Avenue becoming the Bergen Carteret Club. Its last meetings were held at the Yellow Bowl Restaurant on Sip Avenue, now site of the Hudson County Community Culinary Institute.
On March 30, 2015, Saint Dominic's added an off-site property to its campus from a generous donation. It is the former 6,000 square-foot meeting house of the Woman's Club of Jersey City property located on Fairmount Avenue, around the corner from the historic Divine Fairmount (now Fairmount Hotel) on Kennedy Boulevard and one block from the academy.
The two-story, neoclassical revival style house was built in 1910. It features a three-part facade with two-story portico flanked by two-story wings. Single-story Ionic round-fluted columns frame the glass paned double door beneath a pediment. On the second floor, a Palladian motif window with stained glass appears over entrance. The roof line is accented by a cornice and broad frieze. The interior has well-appointed meeting rooms that contained collectibles and a grand ballroom. The renovated addition will host the members of Saint Dominic's Parents Association and Alumni Association as well as showcase student performances and art exhibits.
The Woman's Club of Jersey City, noted for its community service, was founded in 1894. It attracted a membership of 200 and held its monthly meeting at the Hasbrouck Institute.
Under the motto, "In great things, unity; in small things, liberty; in all things, charity," the non-profit organization was particularly active in the life of the city. Like other women's clubs of the time, it promoted social reform through community projects. For example, they advocated the addition of kindergartens to the school curriculum and expansion of libraries, promoted by the Odd Volumes.
The Woman's Club opened a free kindergarten in 1897 to compensate for the lack of the preparatory school year in the Jersey City school system. The Odd Volumes, founded in 1891 and a forerunner of the Woman's Club, was a book club that compensated for the absence of a public library in Jersey City, not opened until 1891.
In 1898, the Woman's Club sponsored and published the writing of Jersey City and Its Historic Sites by Harriet Eaton to preserve the history of the city. In 1911, while she was president of the Woman's Club, Mabel Smith Douglass and her members participated in a campaign to convince the Trustees of Rutgers University to establish a separate public college for women in New Jersey. Backed by the New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs, she succeeded in the founding of the New Jersey College for Women in 1918 and became its first dean. The college was renamed for Douglass in 1955 and is now Rutgers, Douglass Residential College.
Until recently the Woman's Club continued its civic and charity works that included clothing drives, assistance to women in need, and Gilda's Club of Northern New Jersey. Its residence, now called Siena Hall, will be a complement to the mission for women espoused by Saint Dominic's Academy.
"St. Dominic's Academy." Jersey Journal 2 September 1899.
"St. Dominic Academy Commencement." Jersey Journal 12 June 1913.
"St. Dominic Academy in Bergen." Jersey Journal 26 August 1915.
Eaton, Harriet Phillips. Jersey City and Its Historic Sites. Jersey City, NJ: Woman's Club of Jersey City, 1899.
Gabrielan, Randall. Jersey City in Vintage Postcards. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 1999.
"Jersey City Women's [sic] Club to Celebrate Its Centennial on Sunday Afternoon." Jersey Journal 2 December 2011.
McLean, Alexander. The History of Jersey City, N.J. Jersey City, NJ: F.T. Smiley and Co., 1895. p. 184-185
Panico, Rebecca. "Jersey City Woman's Club Donates Historic Building to St. Dominic Academy." Jersey Journal 1 May 2015.
Richardson, William H. The "Makings" of the Lincoln Association of Jersey City. Jersey City, NJ: The Jersey City Printing Company, 1919.
Santora, Rev. Alex. "Living Women's History." Jersey Journal 6 November 2008.
Santora, Rev. Alex. "Proud 125 Years." Jersey Journal 8 May 2003.