After the separation of Hudson County from Bergen County in 1840, the low-lying Harsimus area along the Hudson River separated from the larger municipality of Bergen Township to form a new township. Two years earlier (1838), Jersey City (east of Warren Street) had become independent. It set the stage for the creation of Van Vorst Township by the New Jersey legislature on March 11, 1841. The township committee, first headed by Cornelius Van Vorst (1794-1852), met at the Weaver's Arms, a saloon run by William Hough on the south side of Newark Avenue near Jersey Avenue. Van Vorst owned much of the land in the southern portion of the new township. He had a map drawn up that laid out a grid plan of city blocks for his property in preparation for the sale of individual lots. He also donated the land that became Van Vorst Park.
A grid plan and map had already existed for the northern portion of the township since 1804. John B. Coles of New York City had purchased the property that year. Much of the land north of the Newark Plank Road (Newark Avenue) and south of Hoboken was still in the hands of his heirs circa 1841.
The newly formed Van Vorst Township had only 1,057 residents living on mostly farmland, but changes due to urbanization and industrialization were advancing. The first street laid in the township was placed at the corner of Grove Street and Railroad Avenue in 1845 costing $12. Grove Street was paved from Newark to Pavonia avenues. The following year, the First Reformed Church, now the Mt. Olive Baptist Church, on Wayne Street was begun. A firehouse was built on Bay Street off Newark Avenue in 1847. Later, a room at the firehouse served as Town Hall (Grundy 35-36). The transportation services of the Morris Canal and the New Jersey Railroad at the waterfront supported the growth of industrial plants, such as the Dixon Crucible Company and Colgate Company nearby. Paulus Hook and Marin Boulevard are at the southern part of the area historically known as Harsimus and the former Township of Van Vorst.
The Van Vorst Park Historic District includes significant sites such as the Jersey City Free Public Library, Dixon Crucible Company, City Hall, and the Barrow Mansion. It is bound by Christopher Columbus Drive (formerly Railroad Avenue), Grand Street, Marin Boulevard (formerly Henderson Street), and Brunswick Street.
Grundy, J. Owen. The History of Jersey City, 1609-1976. Jersey City, NJ: Progress Printing Co., Inc. 1976.
McLean, Alexander. The History of Jersey City, N.J. Jersey City, NJ: F.T. Smiley and Co., 1895.
Winfield, Charles H. History of the County of Hudson, New Jersey. New York: Kennard & Hay Printing Company, 1874.