A Window Back in Time; Exchange Place.

This is another of my ‘Then and Now’ attempts from last week’s exploration of Jersey City.

As previously mentioned: my fascination with Pennsylvania Railroad’s Jersey City waterfront terminal at Exchange Place, inspired a family trip to look for vestiges in February 1983. This is my window back in time.

Exchange Place in Jersey City as I photographed it with my Leica in February 1983. I'm looking south toward the Colgate-Palmolive Building. About the only thing left of this scene today is the bank building at the left.
Exchange Place in Jersey City as I photographed it with my Leica in February 1983. I’m looking south toward the Colgate-Palmolive Building. About the only thing left of this scene today is the bank building at the left.

Both my dad and I made a few photos. At the time I was trying to get a sense for how things looked decades earlier. (Pop, had made views of PRR MP54s by day and by night at the old terminal, which by 1983 was long gone.)
Fast forward another 32-33 years, and I find that Jersey City has been completely transformed. Most traces of Conrail’s waterfront track have been replaced by modern development, while NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail now winds through the city.

Working from my 1983 view at Exchange Place, on my recent visit I spent an hour walking around in concentric circles trying to figure out where I’d made the old photo. How hard could this be?

Complicating matters, I’d only been there once, my father was driving, and my memories from this one visit are a bit hazy.

Yes, I remember the day, and I recall making the photos, but how the various locations related to one another remained a bit sketchy. This was especially difficult because today the setting has been so completely changed that many of the landmarks in my old image are gone.

Exchange Place in December 2015: Perhaps after the renovation work on the bank building (at left) has been completed, I’ll come back and make another view.
Exchange Place in December 2015: Perhaps after the renovation work on the bank building (at left) has been completed, I’ll come back and make another view.

I’d all but given up. I went for a spin on the Light Rail, and my way back north towards Hoboken, I recognized the setting for my 1983 image.

Now then, how could I have known that my 1983 Exchange Place view was indeed at today’s NJ Transit Exchange Place light rail station!

The location of the awnings makes the direct recreation complicated. Ideally I'd need to stand back a little further with a 50mm lens perspective to precisely the same view of the bank on the right (as shown in the 1983 view).
The location of the Light Rail awnings makes the direct recreation complicated. Ideally I’d need to stand back a little further using a 50mm lens perspective to precisely recreate  the same view of the bank on the right (as shown in the 1983 view).

Construction on the bank building made for a difficult comparison view, as does the Light Rail’s supporting infrastructure: awnings, ticket machines, catenary poles, etc, which precluded standing in the exact same spot.

Actually, the bank building on the left is just about the only common anchor between my two images. Almost all the other buildings in the 1983, including the Colgate-Palmolive building in the distance, have been replaced by newer structures.

Jersey City P1350781

And, while there are tracks in both views, these are on different alignments and serve entire different purposes.

Tracking the Light Transcends Time!

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One thought on “A Window Back in Time; Exchange Place.”

  1. I have always enjoyed “before and after” images! Thanks for sharing and Happy Holidays to you and your folks! – Bill

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