Revitalization efforts make Journal Square an arts and culture hub

by PDM STAFF

The Revolutionary War relic Apple Tree House | Contributed Photo

JERSEY CITY – The City Council voted on Tuesday, Sept. 20, to lease the National Historic Landmark Apple Tree House to the Museum of Jersey City History, reviving Journal Square as a regional destination and the standard-bearer for arts and culture in New Jersey.

The new museum is in addition to the Centre Pompidou coming to the Pathside building, the Loew’s Theatre renovation with the New Jersey Devils, the Liberty Science Center expansion, and the Arts and Culture Trust Fund — all geared toward Fulop’s administration to revitalize Journal Square as a sought-after arts and culture hub.

“The Apple Tree House embodies Jersey City’s rich history and diverse communities, which is why it was our priority to restore the historical landmark as part of our broader efforts to bring Journal Square back to life as the premier destination for arts and culture,” said Mayor Steven M. Fulop. “Establishing this Jersey City-centric museum furthers our efforts to preserve our City’s history and culture while expanding opportunities to educate and inspire our community.

The first floor of the Museum of Jersey City History at Apple Tree House will host permanent exhibits highlighting different aspects of the City’s history. The level above will feature rotating Jersey City-themed historical exhibitions.

“The Museum of Jersey City History (MJCH) is grateful to the Mayor and Council of the City of Jersey City for providing the museum with a perfect home in the splendidly restored and maintained Apple Tree House, rich in memories of every period of our City’s history from the Lenni Lenape to the present renaissance of Journal Square,” added Martin Pierce, MJCH Board President.

Located at 298 Academy Street in Journal Square, the building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is named after the apple tree under which General George Washington dined with French Major General Marquis De Lafayette in 1779 to strategically plan for battle against the British during the Revolutionary War. Mayor Fulop committed to restoring and reviving the Apple Tree House early in his tenure. Following construction, the historic landmark was reopened to the public in 2017.

MJCH was recently gifted with an oil portrait of Mayor Frank Hague by Bill Doyle, great-nephew of John Malone, Hague’s long-serving Deputy Mayor and close friend to whom Hague had personally gifted the portrait. The painting will serve as the centerpiece of the museum’s inaugural exhibition, “Frank Hague’s Jersey City: Yesterday and Today.”

“For years, we fought to restore the Apple Tree House and find a permanent place where we not only preserve Jersey City’s historical significance but also where residents and visitors can learn about the key role our City has played in our nation’s history,” said Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano. “I’m proud to have the Museum of Jersey City History at the Apple Tree House in Ward C.”

The Van Wagenen House, as the Apple Tree House is also known, was built in 1740. Since being restored and reopened in 2017, the Revolutionary War relic has hosted various community events, including heritage celebrations, history exhibitions, family programming, educational lectures, and tours. It also housed City offices such as the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Economic Development Corporation.

“After successfully partnering with MJCH over the past several months, this will mark the transition to full-time operations as the Museum of Jersey City History at Apple Tree House, promoting an interest in and a knowledge of Jersey City history,” concluded Christine Goodman, Director of Jersey City’s Department of Cultural Affairs. “This is a historic day for Jersey City in many ways.”

MJCH negotiated the return of much of the historical material formerly part of the defunct Jersey City Museum’s collection from the Zimmerli in New Brunswick.

–With Ricky Rillera/PDM

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