Hudson County, in consultation with the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office, has prepared an interpretive program as a way to preserve the history of the 14th Street Viaduct and educate visitors about the history of transportation within this region. The interpretive program shall express the role of 14th Street Viaduct that aided in the movement of people and goods. One (1) new bronze builders plaque and three (3) historic plaques will be permanently installed on the site in the final phase of construction.
Text for Plaque #1
THE HISTORIC 14TH STREET VIADUCT
In 1907, the County of Hudson began construction of the 14th Street Viaduct to connect Hoboken and West Hoboken (now Union City). The vehicular bridge was a complex engineering endeavor. It crossed five city streets, a railroad, and a trolley line while ascending about 80 ft. up the side of the Bergen Hill.
The 14th Street Viaduct had 31 spans supported on steel columns and towers, spaced over cross streets and rail lines. The majority of spans were riveted girders, but the two longest spans were Warren deck trusses. The quarter-mile-long Viaduct was a utilitarian design, lacking in ornamentation, but distinctively asymmetrical and unmistakable with its slanting vertical profile.
The Viaduct was a great improvement over the steep, winding road known as the Old Hillside Road. The Yardley Steps at the west end of the Viaduct were later built on that old road, an indication of just how steep it was.
With the opening of the 14th Street Viaduct in 1912, The New York Times called it a “desirable route for automobile travelers.” A small commercial building boom occurred at the Hoboken end of the Viaduct, including a number of automobile service stations, a novelty in the early days of the Model T.
The Viaduct served ably for over 100 years. In 2008, Hudson County commissioned the design of a modern replacement structure capable of accommodating 21st century traffic and meeting contemporary safety standards. Some of the new bridge’s features, such as the cross-braced piers and asymmetrical span lengths, were purposely selected as a reflection of the first Viaduct’s distinguished past.
The insets will interpret two historic themes: (1) The Transportation Challenge of the Bergen Hill; (2) The Old Hillside Road Trolley.
Images for Plaque #1
Text for Plaque #2
Builders Plaque will list the official date of opening, the funding sources, and the appropriate officials, engineers, architects, contractors. The names of the appropriate officials will be determined in the final phase of construction prior to and in coordination with the dedication service.
Text for Plaque #3
CLIMBING BERGEN HILL
Bergen Hill is a lengthy ridge of very hard trap rock running along the west side of the Hudson River. In some places it rises to over 200 ft. above sea level, forming an imposing natural barrier to all overland routes approaching New York City from the west. The dense transportation network that converged on the New York Harbor is one of the most historically important, engineered transportation corridors in the United States. The challenge of crossing the Bergen Hill has resulted in many innovative transportation solutions.
For over 300 years, wagon roads, turnpikes, ferries, canals, railroads, tunnels, bridges, trolleys, inclined planes, and highways have been built to carry people and goods over, around, through, and even under Bergen Hill. The 14th Street Viaduct is one engineering solution among many that have been designed to solve the transportation challenge of climbing Bergen Hill.
Text for Plaque #4
OLD HILLSIDE ROAD TROLLEY
Before there was a 14th Street Viaduct, there were other ways to climb the Bergen Hill from this spot. A steep, winding road, known as Old Hillside Road ascended from the west end of 13th Street in Hoboken. It climbed the hill north beyond 14th Street before turning sharply southwest along what is today the Yardley Stairs. The Old Hillside Road ceased to be used when the 14th Street Viaduct opened in 1912.
In 1893, the first significant transportation improvement in the vicinity of 14th Street was the Old Hillside Road Trolley Horseshoe Curve of the Jersey City, Hoboken & Paterson Railway. The electric trolley cut into the hard rock of Bergen Hill, carving out two horseshoe curves (hairpin turns) and a lengthy system of stone retaining walls. At the foot of the hill, at approximately the location where you stand today, was a nearly two-block-long timber trestle that carried the trolley line between 13th and 15th streets.
The trolley was initially a great convenience to passenger travel between West Hoboken (now Union City) and Hoboken. In 1928, a mere 35 years after opening, the Old Hillside Trolley Horseshoe Curve shut down, a victim to competition from automobiles and buses using the 14th Street Viaduct. Some remnants of the old trolley’s stone walls can still be seen if you look carefully at the hillside.