Weehawken is a township in Hudson County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 12,554, reflecting a decline of 947 (-7.0%) from the 13,501 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 1,116 (+9.0%) from the 12,385 counted in the 1990 Census.
Weehawken was formed as a township by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 15, 1859, from portions of Hoboken and North Bergen (see map). A portion of the township was ceded to Hoboken in 1874. Additional territory was annexed in 1879 from West Hoboken.
The township's written history began in 1609 when Henry Hudson, on his third voyage to the New World, sailed down what was later named The North River on the Half Moon and weighed anchor in Weehawken Cove. At the time it was the territory of the Hackensack and Tappan, of the Turtle Clan, or Unami, a branch of the Lenni Lenape. They were displaced by immigrants to the province of New Netherland, who had begun to settle the west bank of the Hudson at Pavonia in 1630. On May 11, 1647, Maryn Adriansen received a patent for a plantation (of 169 acres) at Awiehaken. In 1658, Director-General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant negotiated a deal with the Lenape to purchase all the land from "the great rock above Wiehacken", west to Sikakes (Secaucus) and south to Konstapels Hoeck (Constable Hook). In 1661, Weehawken become part of Bergen when it (and most of northeastern New Jersey) came under the jurisdiction of the court at Bergen Square.
During the American Revolutionary War, Weehawken was used as a lookout for the patriots to check on the British, who were situated in New York and controlled the surrounding waterways. In fact, in July 1778, Lord Stirling asked Aaron Burr, in a letter written on behalf of General George Washington, to employ several persons to "go to Bergen Heights, Weehawk, Hoebuck, or any other heights thereabout to observe the motions of the enemy's shipping" and to gather any other possible intelligence. Early documented inhabitants included a Captain James Deas, whose stately residence at Deas' Point was located atop a knoll along the river. Lafayette had used the mansion as his headquarters and later Washington Irving came to gaze at Manhattan.
Not far from Deas' was a ledge 11 paces wide and 20 paces long, situated above the Hudson on the Palisades. This ledge, long gone, was the site of 18 documented duels and probably many unrecorded ones in the years 1798–1845. The most famous is the duel between General Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, and Colonel Aaron Burr, sitting third Vice President of the United States, which took place on July 11, 1804. It was re-enacted on July 11, 2004, the 200th anniversary of the fatal duel, by descendants of Hamilton and Burr. In the mid-19th century, James G. King built his estate Highwood on the bluff that now bears his name, and entertained many political and artistic figures of the era, including Daniel Webster.
With the ferry, the Hackensack Plank Road (a toll road that was a main artery from Weehawken to Hackensack), and later, the West Shore Railroad, built during the early 1870s, the waterfront became a transportation hub. The wealthy built homes along the top of the New Jersey Palisades, where they might flee from the sweltering heat of New York, and breathe the fresh air of the heights. Weehawken became the playground of the rich during the middle to late 19th century. A series of wagon lifts, stairs, and even an elevator designed by the same engineer as those at the Eiffel Tower (which at the time was the world's largest) were put in place to accommodate the tourists and summer dwellers. The Eldorado Amusement Park, a pleasure garden, drew massive crowds.
The turn of the 20th century saw the end of the large estates, casinos, hotels, and theaters as tourism gave way to subdivisions (such as Highwood Park and Clifton Park) and the construction of many of the private homes still seen in town. This coincided with the influx of the Germans, Austrians, and Swiss, who built them and the breweries and embroidery factories in nearby Union City and West New York. While remaining essentially residential, Weehawken continued to grow as Hudson County became more industrial and more populated. Shortly after the First World War, a significant contingent of Syrian immigrants from Homs (a major textile center in its own right) moved into Weehawken to take advantage of the burgeoning textile industry.