The Barrow Mansion has an eclectic, storied history, one that has evolved and remains current in Jersey City’s cultural landscape. Named for its first owner, Dr. William Barrow, who lived here with his wife, Eliza Brower, the Mansion has undergone several transformations throughout the years. Eliza’s brother-in-law, Cornelius Van Vorst, owned much of Jersey City, then largely tidal marsh, and decided to build twin mansions on the higher ground in 1837. Van Vorst aspired to develop a fashionable Manhattan suburb, and reserved one lot to build beautiful Van Vorst Park, which retains its splendor to this day.
The Paulmier family, wealthy merchants who later purchased the Mansion, made a number of modern changes to its interior. Like Cornelius Van Vorst, Jesse Paulmier was also engaged in real estate development, but on a smaller scale. In 1879, while Paulmier was building Hampton Court Terrace, next door to the Barrow Mansion, he died suddenly, and his widow and daughters soon moved.
The Barrow Mansion then became the home of a YMCA from 1890-1897; the organization provided housing and recreation for migrant railroad workers, adding a bowling alley, gymnasium and even a rifle range. St. Matthew’s Church was built on the large garden between the twin houses and they bought the Mansion in 1897 from the YMCA.
The mansion where the Van Vorst family lived was torn down in the 1920s. An important reminder of the early developments of this part of Jersey City, the aspirations of its builders, and the changing demographic patterns of the city since its creation, The Barrow Mansion is listed in the National and New Jersey Register of Historic Places.
The Barrow Mansion Development Corporation was formed in 1984 to restore the Mansion for the community. The BMDC leases the Mansion from St. Matthew’s Church and raised $1.75 million to install modern plumbing, heating and, later, air conditioning, a new roof and a wheelchair lift which made the building wheelchair accessible. The majority of these funds came from grants from the New Jersey Historic Trust and the City of Jersey City Community Development Block Grant [CDBG] program.
Every year, 40,000 people come through our door attending more than 1,500 meetings and events. Many 12-Step groups call the Mansion home.
Arts programming is a significant part of the Mansion’s interaction with the community, hosting theater, dance and music performances. The Mansion also hosts workshops, lectures, weddings and other events.
During Hurricane Sandy, the Mansion served as a critical operations center for the neighborhood, collecting and distributing supplies and services to many whose homes had been devastated.
We are creating a Capital Improvement Campaign to restore historic aspects of the Mansion. The Bowling Alley, one of the only examples of 19th century bowling left in the country, will be historically restored for public use, as well as the Billiard Room and the Front Parlor.
It will continue be a place where people and groups come together to grow as individuals while developing more inclusive communities, through work-shops, lectures, small groups, arts, music and cultural programming.
We are forming volunteer teams to create and manage projects with the BMDC for beautifying the Mansion through gardening, hosting more open houses for the community, docent training for interactive tours, member- ship drives and fundraising.
We are committed to projects which serve those diverse communities in Jersey City who may still be underserved. ﾠSee more in our Strategic Plan, created from ideas developed by selected members of the diverse Downtown Jersey City community. Please join us!
The Barrow Mansion Development Corporation’s mission is to be a focal point for inclusive, empowering community service and to preserve and enhance the historic Barrow Mansion.