The industrial and commercial activity in the 11 block area now known as the Powerhouse Arts District was significant, not only to the Jersey City economy, but also to the regional and national economy, from the post-Civil War period until the Great Depression. The district was tied to the Pennsylvania Railroad yards (to the north, in what is now BJ’s parking lot) by railroad spurs; the remnants of these can still be seen on Provost Street.
In the district’s heyday, some of the world’s largest manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers built here. Lorillard Tobacco constructed 111 First Street in several phases: the east wing dates from 1866, the central and west wings from 1887. Butler Brothers – suppliers for the Five and Dime chain stores – had a warehouse at 350 Morgan St. which dates from 1906 . The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company built their headquarters at 150 Bay Street in 1908. Over the years, the warehouses and railroad lines fell into disuse. The buildings were eventually converted to storage and other light industrial uses; however, the warehouse district remains largely intact. When zoning was codified, the district was given the designation “Intensive Industrial” (I-2) , reflecting its current use.