Stevens and Hoboken: Longtime Civic — and Cultural — Partners
Stevens Institute of Technology and Hoboken have long been linked, not only by geography but by partnership. That close partnership continues today.
The land that is now the city of Hoboken was purchased by Colonel John Stevens to develop as an estate and summer resort after the Revolutionary War. The area would eventually become so much more than just a summer getaway destination.
Col. Stevens founded the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company, creating a system of streets, building row houses and developing manufacturing sites. He later initiated the nation's first ferry and railway service. The Colonel's son, Edwin A. Stevens, founded Stevens Institute of Technology as the country’s first college for mechanical engineering with a bequest that took effect upon his passing.
Edwin’s wife, Martha Bayard Stevens, became instrumental in the creation of the university, while also helping to manage the family business and becoming active in philanthropy. Passionate about education, low-income housing and opportunities for working-class women, she played a major role in founding, developing and financing many social service organizations in Hoboken, including the free Church of the Holy Innocents; a foundling hospital and birthing center at St Mary’s Hospital; the Robert L. Stevens Fund for Municipal Research; manual training schools for boys and girls; and the present-day Hoboken Public Library.
Martha and Edwin’s daughter, Caroline Bayard Stevens Wittpenn, was another important local civic leader and social reformer. During the First World War, she held important posts with the Red Cross and in the administration of Liberty Bonds. She worked to spearhead reform of social relief systems and juvenile courts and was appointed by President Hoover to represent the U.S. at an international crime conference. Upon her death in 1932, Eleanor Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover sent telegrams of condolence.
Today, the family's civic contributions endure. The Church of the Holy Innocents, Martha’s houses on Willow Terrace, the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company building, the city's park lands, the ferries to Manhattan, the famed Lackawanna Terminal transit station — all remain in tribute to the Stevens family’s industrious and generous spirit.
Their namesake university also continues its impact on the community, inviting residents to come to campus to take part in educational, athletic and arts and cultural programs. Stevens students are highly active in local community service and faculty research offers valuable insight to city officials on sustainability, flood forecasting, emergency preparedness and resiliency.
As the fourth-largest employer in Hoboken and home to a growing student body, Stevens plays a valuable role in the local, regional and state economies. Many student entrepreneurs choose the city as headquarters for fledgling business ventures.
“Stevens is among Hoboken’s strongest assets,” concludes Aaron Price, president and CEO of the New Jersey Tech Council. “Stevens’ commitment to excellence in education, innovation and civic engagement stimulate our culturally and intellectually diverse community to thrive.”
Martha Bayard Stevens, the wife of Stevens founder Edwin A. Stevens, began the university's long, enduring tradition of civic engagement with the city of Hoboken.