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Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Warehouse
Provost Street between First and Bay Streets, near the Holland Tunnel and three blocks west of the Hudson River
National Register of Historic Places
State Register of Historic Places

 

Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Warehouse c.1908
Source: W. Muirheid, Jersey City of Today

Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Warehouse
Photo: P. Shalhoub, 2002


The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company is known as the "father of the chain store phenomenon." According to journalist Gordon Bishop, "The A& P was the first nationwide chain, dating back to 1859, 20 years before Frank W. Woolworth founded his variety chain" (177).

Designed by Howard Chapman in 1907 and built by the Turner Construction Company, the warehouse covers 360,000 square feet of the Jersey City waterfront near the cobblestone historic district of other nineteenth century industrial plants. The warehouse formed part of a five-unit manufacturing and distribution center and served the local A & P stores in New Jersey, New York and Long Island between 1900 and 1929.

The A & P was founded by George Huntington Hartford and George Francis Gilman, son of a ship owner who had a leather importing business. In 1859 Gilman and his worker Hartman opened a corner shop on Vesey Street in Lower Manhattan where the World Trade Center stood. They sold teas, coffees, spices, baking powder, condensed milk, and other groceries left in the holds of the clipper ships as well as leather products. By 1864 they formed the Great American Tea Company, having given up their leather trade. In the 1870s it began to ship its goods via the nation's transcontinental railroad and changed its name to the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company; it was incorporated in 1901. The chain had sixty-seven outlets, all with the familiar red and white façade that Frank W. Woolworth also chose for his variety chain stores.

Bishop describes the historic Jersey City warehouse as "a nine-story reinforced concrete structure of beam and girder construction and brick wall fill. Along each façade, the building's concrete piers and girders divide its face uniformly into bays, almost all of which hold either a double or triple window" (177). It has a massive dentil cornice on three sides. A loading dock on the ground level wraps around three sides of the building with sliding doors that lead to a metal-covered shed. The warehouse also includes eight large freight elevators, two passenger elevators and a sprinkler system that was a modern safety feature for its time. The ninth floor on the Provost Street front had dining rooms and kitchens for employees as well as the coffee roasting machinery, for which the chain store was known.

The buildings were sold in the late 1920s for decentralization of A & P's national operation but the warehouse remains. It is now owned by Kaycel Reality in New York and used for storage.

Reference:
Gordon Bishop, Gems of New Jersey (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1985).

 

By: Carmela Karnoutsos
Project Administrator: Patrick Shalhoub