It began with a plan. In 1804, Col. John Stevens hired surveyor Charles Loss to create a plan for the new City of Hoboken. Col. Stevens owned 564 acres that would become much of the city as it is known today. This plan was referred to as the Loss Map of 1804.
The Loss Map delineated Hoboken’s streets and the blocks and lots for private development. It also designated the town’s first two public parks, twin parks bounded by Fourth and Fifth Streets. Hudson Square, now known as Stevens Park or Fifth Street Park, was east of Hudson Street and came down to the Hudson River. The other park, later to be named Church Square Park, was between Garden and Willow Streets.
By 1855, Hoboken became a City by an act of the New Jersey legislature. In the same year the City of Hoboken adopted a charter that included the designation of these two parks, Hudson Square and Church Square, both roughly equal in size, over three acres each. As the City grew, the plan for the City was revised, adding new streets, block and lots, plus Elysian Park and, later, Columbus Park developed by Hudson County.
The first improvements to these parks were completed in 1873 for Church Square Park, 1875 for Hudson Square and 1899 for Elysian. All three of these public spaces were laid out as Victorian parks typical of that era.
By the turn of the century, pictures of Hudson Square (Stevens) Park show it sloping down to the Hudson River. The views to the river were protected through an agreement that the City made with the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company in 1889. A 1909 map of the area shows a long narrow pier in front of the park with a public bath house at the end and five boating clubs: including the Atlantic, Valencia, and Germania.
Photo of Hudson Square Park facing the Hudson River. (Credit: Hoboken Historical Museum)