A 20- by 20-inch brick foundation block of the once thriving Hudson County Consumers Brewery Company was found, along with the base of a manhole still connected to an original sewer that opened underneath the brewery.
"Workers did find a brick foundation block during the excavation [of the stadium site], but we don't know what it was used for yet, and we're still looking for treasures," said Bill Hogan, director of facilities for the Board of Education.
Founded by German-born Barthold C. Basse and Claus Basse, the Hudson County Consumers Brewery Company was one of the largest and most successful breweries of the North Hudson area during the early 1900s, along with the William Peter Brewery Company in neighboring Union Hill.
Claus Basse is also remembered as one of Weehawken's most prominent citizens and businessmen, who also owned a renowned hotel on Willow Avenue and 14th Street served as a Weehawken city councilman in 1887.
Remnants of the Roaring '20s
Hudson County Consumers Brewery Co. first opened during the summer of 1901 at 481-515 Summit Ave., West Hoboken (now Union City), just off of Hudson Boulevard (now Kennedy Boulevard).
"The brewery was an extensive industrial compound of low brick buildings, busy mills, and spiraling smokestacks," according to a Roosevelt Stadium commemoration Web site designed by Union Hill High School students.
The brewery ran a successful operation and employed thousands of Union City residents until Prohibition hit in the 1920s, which caused about half of the breweries in the United States to permanently shut down.
With the outlawing of alcohol, the brewery turned to manufacturing ice but then it closed in 1928.
Afterwards, the property was acquired by the city of Union City in the early 1930s and the brewery was leveled to make room for the famed Roosevelt Stadium, which first opened in 1937 and served as the site of the popular annual Thanksgiving football game between Union Hill and Emerson high schools.
"They had demolished the existing brewery building and just put fill on top of the foundation," said Hogan.
The stadium has since been demolished, and the remaining foundation and manhole will probably be removed, but while construction crews continue to excavate the site, officials will be on the lookout for other hidden treasures for preservation.
"We're looking for old beer bottles with the name of the brewery and any type of artifacts; we also know it once contained stables," said Hogan.
During the original construction of the stadium in the 1930s, artifacts of the Leni Lenape Native Americans that once dwelled in North Hudson were also discovered, and some residents believe there may be more.
Changes to the plan
The high school is one of the state's "High School Demonstration Projects," which are funded by the New Jersey School's Construction Corporation. They are community schools being built that incorporate new design features and are also coordinated with larger local economic development projects.
Originally, Union City's High School Demonstration Project was meant to replace the existing Emerson High School, and would include a 4,000-person capacity rooftop athletic complex to replace Roosevelt Stadium.
However, while construction plans for the facility have not changed, it will now accommodate both of Union City's high schools from grades 10 through 12, and move the ninth grade classes into the four proposed junior highs, including the completed Jose Marti Middle School. Both existing high schools will become junior highs for seventh through ninth graders.
"Everything remains the same [with the new building], but we are taking a closer look at the internal housing concept and adding a full service emergency generator at [an additional] cost to the Board of Education that will provide an added refuge for the community in the event of a natural or unforeseen disaster," said Anthony Dragona, business administrator for the Board of Education. "It is an added expense for the district, but one that is well worth it."
Despite those few changes, all the initial plans will remain the same for the 345,000 square-foot facility, which will include 66 classrooms to accommodate up to 1,700 students, a performing arts auditorium, and a 200-space parking garage.
Excavation of the site will continue for the next few months. It will include blasting through rocks and the removal of water as construction crews hit the area's natural springs.
"You have to remember that this was all part of the old Kerrigan Farm area," said Hogan.
The slated cost for the project is $136 million, and it is on schedule for a September, 2008 opening.