Embankment history should be understood in the context
of broader railroad history, the development of Jersey City,
and the place of Hudson County as a transportation hub. 
The sources provided here can get you started.


In a reference to its historic role as a transportation hub, New Jersey historian John Cunningham once referred to Hudson County as "a mantle of wheels." The Pennsylvania Railroad and its Harsimus Branch freightway were a notable part of that "mantle," contributing to the County's importance in state transportation history, as well as to city social and planning history and to the development of the Port of New York and New Jersey, over more than a century. Rail lines built more than a century ago affected neighborhoods in both beneficial and deleterious ways, including shaping the distinctive historic neighborhoods that exist to this day.

For detailed information about the Embankment and related history, start with the sources below. 

Harsimus Branch Embankment

  • The Harsimus Branch brought freight to car float bridges at the end of Fifth and Sixth Streets and elsewhere along the west bank of the Hudson. A list of these bridges can be found here and includes one believed to be the first overhead suspension (non-pontoon) float bridge installed in New York Harbor (1888).
  • In July 2018, the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) issued Opinions that the Embankment is a contributor to both the Harsimus Cove Historic District and the Hamilton Park Historic District.  In addition, the longer Harsimus Branch right-of-way from Marin Boulevard to Control Point Waldo (between Waldo and Chestnut Streets beyond the Harsimus Cemetery) is eligible for the National Register, and the Harsimus Branch is also part of the Pennsylvania Railroad (New York to Philadelphia) Historic District.  These Opinions and others on nearby sites were part of Phase II of a federally-mandated National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 review conducted by the Surface Transportation Board, and are documented in the Board's Cultural Resources Assessment Report.

Related Railroad History

  • Exchange Place Fact Sheet: Exchange Place was the site of the Pennsylvania Railroad passenger station, once the largest rail station in the world.
  • Warehouse District Draft Statement of Historic Significance. Rick James, a member of the Embankment Preservation Coalition, wrote a draft nomination to the State and National Registers for what was at the time an intact Warehouse District associated with the Pennsylvania Railroad Harsimus Branch. The City of Jersey City determined that the District was a Municipal Landmark, but then rescinded its determination and decided to nominate only individual buildings as landmarks.
  • New Jersey City University Assistant Professor of Urban History Dr. Timothy White makes the case for the importance of Jersey City's rail infrastructure in the building of the Port of New York and New Jersey. His lively TEDx talk is on you-tube,

National Historic Districts and Nearby Historic Buildings

  • Harsimus Cove Historic District Nomination. Harsimus Cove National Historic District has the Embankment as its northern boundary. Historic properties within the District back up to the Embankment. Learn more about the District from excerpts from its Nomination to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
  • St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church Nomination. St. Anthony's is just outside the Hamilton Park National Historic District but is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in its own right. Its brownstone facade echoes the stone of the nearby Embankment. St. Anthony's is the first Polish Roman Catholic parish in New Jersey.
  • Holy Rosary Church on 6th Street is the first Italian Roman Catholic parish in New Jersey. It was the center of religious and social life for the historic Italian community that grew up in the interstices of the railroads that ran through the Downtown.
  • Many other historic sites lie along the Harsimus Branch. See the Surface Transportation Board's Cultural Resources Assessment Report, which lists historic resources in the Area of Potential Effects of the Harsimus Branch. The Embankment Preservation Coalition is working with the City of Jersey City, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and others to protect the Branch and its stone Embankment in the event the STB decides to abandon the rail line, thus removing it from federal jurisdiction.


In the fourteen-year effort to preserve the Embankment, it has received many recognitions from city, county, state, regional, and national organizations and government agencies. 

Environment Studies

Studies and plans from multiple sources include information on the Embankment related to open space and transportation, flora and fauna, storm water collection, and environmental contaminants.

What is the Embankment?

The Harsimus Branch Embankment is a segmented stone structure that runs for a half-mile along Sixth Street in Downtown Jersey City.  The Embankment is a municipal, state, and nationally recognized historic place.

What is the Coalition?

The embankment redering

The Embankment Preservation Coalition is a nonprofit volunteer organization.  It educates the public about the Embankment and works with local, regional, and national supporters to protect the landmark for reuse as a habitat-oriented park and greenway, with potential for rail use.

Become a Member

Members are the bedrock of the Coalition.  With your support, we can make the Embankment park a reality!