About Reservoir #3

Why Save the Reservoir?

The Reservoir is a beautiful lake surrounded by trees and meadow-topped walls in the center of the Jersey City Heights. Since Jersey City discontinued use of the Reservoir for drinking water over twenty years ago, nature has reclaimed the Reservoir area. Walking up the old stone steps today, one gets the opportunity to step out of our hectic world and into an oasis of quiet.

Closed in with high stone walls, this “hidden jewel” is a stunning example of wildlife in this very urban area. Great blue heron, swallows, peregrine falcons, and numerous other birds find haven here, and the residents of Jersey City, from students to seniors, would reap incalculable benefit from keeping this natural oasis alive and protected.

The Reservoir stands just south of Pershing Field Park in the Heights section of Jersey City. The 1874 Egyptian Revival walls and Romanesque gate houses are of major historic significance to our City and region.

A black and white photo in which two men in early1900s fashion  stand outside Gatehouse 2, watching the water gush out of the building's gates and into the Reservoir below. The water reaches about halfway up the puddle wall of stacked stone.
Water Gate House 2 (Outside), Troy Street and Summit Avenue

Presently the Reservoir is only partially protected from development. The entire 13 acres of the Reservoir need to be protected now, before they are sold off as a short-term solution to a budget gap and built over with a parking garage, high-rise, school, or some other inappropriate use.

Swaying wildflower meadows, thriving trees including oak, cherry, apple, and birch, and emerging wetlands that include healthy stands of broad-leaved cattails surround a large lake at this peaceful 14-acre site.

Historic Timeline

  • 1618  – Land is inhabited and stewarded by the Lenape people.
  • 1618  – Land is colonized by Dutch trappers & renamed Paulus Hook.
  • 1820  – Paulus Hook renamed & founded as Jersey City. Water is acquired from brackish wells & traveled in on wagons.
  • 1850  – Reservoir 2 built.  Passaic River water is pumped  by steam engine to Coppermine Ridge in Kearny, then flows by gravity to Reservoir 2.
  • 1870s – Reservoir 3 built. There is rampant political corruption within Jersey City. Plans include Pershing Field site as well, but the City runs out of money and postpones the project.
  • 1890s – Passaic River is polluted by salt water,  industry & urban development. A Typhoid epidemic occurs.
  • 1900s – Second gate house built. Jersey City locates a new water source at Boonton Reservoir; first use of chlorine in the United States occurs there & is distributed through Jersey City Reservoir 3. 
  • 1980s – Reservoir 2 shut down. 
  • 1990s – Reservoir 3 shut down & drained. Herbie Hules leads a group to prevent strip mall, parking garage or other construction. Nature reclaims land.
  • 2002  – Save the Reservoir campaign begins.
  • 2005  – The Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance is formally incorporated & starts arts, educational, & recreational programming.
  • 2009  – Healy administration backs the Alliance & funds a historic structures report as the first stage toward restoration.
  • 2012  – Reservoir 3 site listed on the State Register of Historic Places & the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 2014  – Fulop administration works with Alliance to request proposals from premier architectural firms. 
  • 2018  – Alliance expands community outreach & public relations, publishes op-ed in Jersey Journal, increasing support.
  • 2019  – Fulop administration backs the Alliance & secures funding to begin restoration of the site.
  • 2020  – Alliance launches Digital Archive Project. Fulop administration Site Safety Improvements Project plans released- Alliance begins campaign fighting for drastic changes to protect the historic & natural value of the site.
  • 2021 – Alliance & Fulop administration compromise on Site Safety Improvements Plan. Groundbreaking occurs in spring & the Reservoir closes for restoration.
A black and white photo of the inside of Gatehouse 2. On the left are a series of what look to be controls installed against the wall. In the center are two large holes, separated by a boardwalk. In each hole are 2 massive pipes lined West to East, and each pipe has two massive valve controls on it. Light shines through the windows of the building, and dozens of potted plants are on the sills and small tables against the walls of the building.
Water Gate House 2 (Inside), Troy Street and Summit Avenue