Hamilton Park remains the centerpiece of the Hamilton Park Historic District in downtown Jersey City from the time of its inception in the early nineteenth century. Tree-lined streets with rows of Victorian brownstone homes border the 5.4-acre “residential square,” giving the area its picturesque streetscape. Hamilton Park neighborhood was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1979.
It was John B. Coles, a Federalist from New York, who initiated the plan for a public park in Jersey City to be named after Alexander Hamilton, the aide-de-camp of General George Washington during the Revolutionary War and later the nation’s first secretary of the treasury under President Washington. Hamilton, the head of the Federalist Party, lost his life in a duel with Aaron Burr, the first vice president under Thomas Jefferson.
A flour merchant, Coles served in the New York senate (1799-1802) and was one of the thirty-five investors in the Associates of the Jersey Company. In 1804, he purchased the northern half of Harsimus Island; the streets and residential blocks of today’s neighborhood, laid out along a grid plan design, follow the lines of Coles’ original map and survey of his property. In 1827, Coles laid out plans for a park on a map in the northern center of the Harsimus area.
The park remains not only as a memorial to Alexander Hamilton but also as a reminder of the legacy of John B. Coles to Jersey City. The park underwent a restoration in 2010 and today has a large gazebo, basketball court, children’s playground, and two tennis courts. The boundaries of the Hamilton Park Historic District are Sixth Street, Bay Street, Manila Avenue (formerly Grove Street), and Coles Street.