Pieces of the historical puzzle that bind The Provident Bank and the City of Jersey City now have become part of the Jersey City Free Public Library, for their preservation and for all to see.
All items being donated to the New Jersey Room of the Jersey City Free Public Library are property of The Provident Bank and were accumulated in the course of its 173 years of banking.
“Provident and Jersey City share more than a connection with Dudley Gregory, Provident’s first acting president and Jersey City’s first mayor. The Provident Bank shares a rich history with the City of Jersey City: its businesses, its peoples, its successes and its challenges. We take pride in this shared history, and we are delighted that we can share our treasure trove of historical information with the residents of Jersey City through the Jersey City Public Library,” said Jean Quinn, vice president, public relations, The Provident Bank.
Also representing The Provident was Nicholas Cavaluzzi, vice president and area manager, Jersey City.
“The Provident Bank has been with us from the beginning, so it’s only fitting that we preserve its history,” said Library Director Priscilla Gardner. “The Provident continually offers the Library support through donations to various capital improvement projects.” In recent years, The Provident Bank Foundation has donated the following: $5,000 for the Five Corners Branch computer training center and $10,000 toward the capital improvement plan, both in 2004; $20,000 toward the 2008 purchase of the custom-designed and –built Bookmobile, and $15,000 toward purchase and installation of security cameras throughout the system in 2009.
The New Jersey Room owns the original 1841 map, one of only three copies in existence. The other two are in the New Jersey Historical Society in Trenton and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
BACKGROUND – THE PROVIDENT BANK:
The Provident Institution for Savings in Jersey City was founded in 1839 to meet the needs of the residents of the fledging city and its growing immigrant population. It was a difficult time for banking and it is highly doubtful the founders were thinking beyond survival the first few months and years.
While these archival documents would have been found laughable if someone had predicted the bank would be in existence 173 years hence, certainly it would seem that no thought was given to preserving the records and tools used in their normal work-a-day world beyond the legal requirements of the day.
The Provident Bank historical collection came into existence in late 2008. Preparations were underway to celebrate its 170-year anniversary in February 2009, and this heighted the collective sense of history. It began with a telephone call received during a departmental holiday lunch. A man asked if Vice President, Public Relations Jean Quinn had a key to a Santa Claus bank that Provident had distributed to customers, possibly in the 1950s. She did not have a key. Ms. Quinn shared the story with The Provident’s then-Chairman Paul Pantozzi. It prompted him to ask her to gather the old bank ledgers that were scattered throughout their numerous Hudson County branches. This began the preservation of Provident’s history. This new responsibility piqued Ms. Quinn’s interest in the Bank’s history and led to an interest in the history of Jersey City.
Provident and Jersey City share more than a connection with Dudley Gregory, The Provident’s first acting president and Jersey City’s first mayor. The Provident Bank shares a rich history with the City of Jersey City: its businesses, its peoples, its successes and its challenges. We take pride in this shared history, and we are delighted that we can share our treasure trove of historical information with the residents of Jersey City through the Jersey City Public Library.
HISTORICAL LINK BETWEEN THE PROVIDENT AND THE LIBRARY:
Chronicled in the commemorative book, Fifty Years of Service 1891-1941, A brief history of the Library compiled by the Librarian for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the opening of the Library, held on November 6 and 7, 1941, the Jersey City Free Public Library reveals a little-known fact: Provident was instrumental in establishing one of the Jersey City’s most cherished institutions.
“On December 1, 1890 the ground floor of the building of the Provident Institution for Savings on Washington Street was rented for a library….About this time the books of the Public School Free Library, numbering about five thousand volumes which had been kept in the High School, were transferred to the Trustees of the Public Library and were placed in the new library rooms on Washington Street….
“All of the library departments except the reading room were located in the basement of the building of the Provident Institution for Savings. This basement was about four feet below the sidewalk with an entrance on Washington Street….Because of its location and small size this space was dubbed “the coop” a distinction which continued until the library was moved. The librarian’s office was to the right of the entrance….The basement was lighted by windows along the south side facing and on a level with the adjoining park which occupied the corner of Grand and Washington Streets. At night time the book stacks and the rooms were lighted by gas. The fixtures were fitted with Welsbach burners. These burners gave an excellent light when properly adjusted….”
According to the book written in 1895, History of Jersey City, N.J., A Record of Its Early Settlement and Corporate Progress, by Alexander McLean, the library began from interested parties from within the school system after passage of a law in 1873 for boards of education to be authorized for establishment of free libraries. In November 1890, the “….old public school library, consisting of 5,631 volumes, was transferred to the public library trustees. These books formed the basis for the new library. The labor of buying and catalogueing (sic) the books required time, ….”
CURRENT MAP – The New Jersey Room at Jersey City’s Main Library has many archival maps. Featured, is an 1876 copy of the original 1841 map of the area. This one is separated in three sections, and is encased in plastic, for use by library patrons.
THANK YOU, PROVIDENT BANK – A well-preserved and framed 1876 copy of the original 1841 map was recently donated to the New Jersey Room by The Provident Bank, which has played an integral role in the development of Jersey City and Hudson County. The Provident, founded in 1839, is sandwiched between the incorporation of Jersey City (1838) and Hudson County (1840).
AN AWESOME ARCHIVAL MAP – The New Jersey Room has a fully restored original 1841 map, encased in plastic, and one of only three in existence. The other two originals are in the New Jersey Historical Society in Trenton and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Pictured, is a close up of the map’s legend.
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE – The framed 1876 version of this map, donated by The Provident Bank to the Jersey City Free Public Library, has embellishments to its drawings and identifications, keeping the actual map current for its time. The close up of this map’s legend is much easier to read than the restored original 1841 map.
LEGENDS OF THE FALL –Known for the Battle of Paulus Hook on August 19, 1779, the Paulus Hook section of Jersey City is identified in a second legend of the vintage 19th century map. In the American Revolutionary War, Lt. Col. Henry ‘Light Horse Harry’ Lee captured this tiny piece of land from the British. Though ‘Light Horse Harry’ eventually couldn’t keep ahold of the land, this skirmish provided a much-needed psychological boost to General George Washington and his troops for the ultimate winning of the Continentals against the British.
EXPLORING THE ARCHIVAL DONATIONS – The Provident Bank donated books and photographs depicting their past, including a pamphlet describing the murals on the walls of its headquarters on Washington Street in the Historic Paulus Hook District of Downtown Jersey City. From L to R: New Jersey Room manager Cynthia Harris (left) talks to Jean Quinn, vice president of public relations for The Provident Bank; New Jersey Room assistant manager John Beekman (back row); Vice President and Area Manager, Jersey City, Nicholas Cavaluzzi for the The Provident Bank; Library Director Priscilla Gardner; and Assistant Library Director Sonia Araujo, who oversees the New Jersey Room.
THE PROVIDENT’S MURALS – This close up of a portion of one of The Provident’s many murals depicts the end of Communipaw Avenue, where the river meets the land. Communipaw Avenue was the first road in Jersey City, which extended from the Hudson River to Bergen.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE PROVIDENT – This archival document from 1864 outlines the current bank officers and trustees, from its bank president Honorable Dudley S. Gregory, then-mayor of the City of Jersey City, to identifying its incorporation date of February 27, 1839. Note some famous last names are seen, as known from current street names, such as Gregory, Griffith, Harrison, Morgan and Zabriskie.
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