By Sally Deering Photo of John Gomez by Bob Foster, Hoboken Historical Society
Published as part of the new Arcadia Publishing imprint Legendary Locals, John Gomez’s book LEGENDARY LOCALS OF JERSEY CITY shines new light on the people of Jersey City, past and present who stand out in the crowd. LEGENDARY LOCALS OF JERSEY CITY (Arcadia Publishing; 128 pgs.; $21.99, soft cover😉 focuses on Jersey City’s Who’s Who and “Who Was”
“I write about buildings,” Gomez says. “I’m an architectural historian, but then I thought we can’t have buildings without the people in them, so I agreed. I had a list of 500 people and had to shrink it to 150.”
Gomez decided to include information in the book that people who are historians would not necessarily know. To accomplish this required a lot of research, he says, and when he decided to add Jersey City Mayor Frank “Boss” Hague to the list, he came across surprising tidbits like the time Hague had a run-in with Russian communist Leon Trotsky in Journal Square. Hague, who was anti-Communist, learned Trotsky was to make an appearance in Journal Square to recruit communists and Hague was there to kick him out.
‘Research and I have a very mysterious relationship,” Gomez says. “Whenever I do research I come across surprising things. I wanted to give the book something fresh and original. When you look and read the book you come away with something about that person that you didn’t know anything about.”
Also in Gomez’s book is Ann Willis, the first woman architect from Jersey City who made it big. She was one of the first two women architects to be admitted into the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. She designed Trinity United Methodist Church located at the southwest corner of Summit Avenue and Bowers Street in Jersey City.
“She was a major architect,” Gomez says, “and her buildings are still here. We look at buildings and never know who the architect is.”
The Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City rededicated its first-floor Rotunda for architect Theodore Conrad who was a huge figure in America’s past, having designed the Eternal Flame Memorial for President John F. Kennedy at Arlington Cemetary.
“Ted Conrad’s spirit was the inspiration for this book,” Gomez says. “I met him in the 1990s. He was a huge influence on many people in Jersey City. When you read the book closely, it’s a testament to Ted Conrad.”
Also featured are Alfred Charles Bossom who designed the First National Bank at Exchange Place and the Greenville Bank and Trust Company at Ocean and Lembeck Avenues in Jersey City; and George Siegler who helped build the Holland Tunnel. Dr. Lena F. Edwards a Jersey City physician, who worked at Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964 with 29 other recipients including John Steinbeck, Walt Disney and Carl Sandburg – is also featured.
“During the ceremony, Lena Edwards stood side-by-side with these giants,” Gomez says.
Gomez outlined the chapters in the book according to Civil Rights Leaders, Photographers, Mom & Pop stores and other categories that are connected by the theme, Gomez says.
“The book wasn’t hard to shape,” Gomez says. “It was hard to do the research. I researched in the New Jersey Room at the library; I used Columbia University, my own archives, ancestry.com, Google books – I used about 20 sources. When it’s a history book you have to make sure everything is right.”
Jersey City’s history is rich in creativity, Gomez says, and the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy which he founded shares the city’s history with visitors who embark on the Conservancy’s walking and bus tours designed to educate and inspire them about the city’s history. Gomez continues to be in awe of the City’s architecture, especially the Powerhouse building located downtown.
“The Powerhouse is one of a kind; there’s nothing like it in the world,” Gomez says. “It’s what I call a one hit wonder. Designed by architect John Oakman it would never be repeated. That’s how grand and significant it is. What happens to it is very important to Jersey City.”
LEGENDARY LOCALS OF JERSEY CITY can be found on the bookshelves of New Word Bookstore on Newark Ave and Garden State News on Central Ave in Jersey City, and at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Route 3, Paramus. It can also be purchased online at Amazon.com and
Gomez says that although his new book may have a sequel, he’s working on a book that has nothing to do with Jersey City.
“It’s a book on architectural experience and theory,” Gomez says, “and it should be out later this year.”
If you’d like to purchase LEGENDARY LOCALS OF JERSEY CITY, its available online at Amazon.com, and B&N.com, for $21.99. For more info, contact John Gomez at www.hpnetwork.org.
Book Signings of LEGENDARY LOCALS OF JERSEY CITY by John Gomez will be held at:
Van Vorst Park Association: Tues, Feb. 18 7:30 PM at the Barrow Mansion, 83 Wayne Street, Jersey City
Village Neighborhood Association: Thurs, Feb. 20, 7:30 PM at 365 Second Street, The Italian Village. More info: jcvillage.org
Hoboken Historical Museum: Sun, Mar. 2, 4 PM @ 1301 Hudson Street, Hoboken. More info: hobokenmuseum.org
Morris Canal Community Development Corporation: Thurs, Mar. 6, 6:45 PM at 317-319 Pacific Avenue, Jersey City; For more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Miller’s Pub: Fri, Mar. 14, 8 PM at 293 Academy Street, Bergen Square. More info: email@example.com