About Somerville, NJ
At a little over two square miles, it’s a fairly densely-populated town, ranking in the top 20% of NJ cities for density.
An NJ Transit Station (Somerville) is also located near the center of town.
Below is the “encyclopedia” entry:
Somerville, New Jersey
Somerville is a borough in Somerset County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough’s population was 12,098, reflecting a decline of 325 (-2.6%) from the 12,423 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 791 (+6.8%) from the 11,632 counted in the 1990 Census. It is the county seat of Somerset County.
Somerville was originally formed as a town on March 25, 1863, within a portion of Bridgewater Township. Somerville was incorporated as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 16, 1909, based on the results of a referendum held on May 4, 1909, at which point it was fully set off from Bridgewater Township.
The borough is named for Somerset in England.
Somerville was settled in colonial times primarily by the Dutch who purchased land from the English proprietors of the colony. The Dutch established their church near what is today Somerville and a Dutch Reformed minister or Domine lived at the Old Dutch Parsonage from about 1754. The early village grew up around a church, courthouse and a tavern built at a crossroads shortly after the American Revolution. The name “Somerville” was taken from four brothers of the Somerville family, William, Edward, John and James from Drishane and Castlehaven, County Cork, Ireland, who first founded the town in the 1750s. Somerville was originally a sparsely populated farming community but rapidly grew after the completion of the railroad in the 1840s and development of water power along the Raritan River in the 1850s. Early industry included brick making from the plentiful red clay and shale on which Somerville is built. While much of the borough features distinctive Victorian architecture in several neighborhoods and along its Main Street, other periods are represented. National Register sites in Somerville include the white marble 1909 Somerville Court House and the wooden and stone colonial Wallace House (today a museum) where George Washington spent a winter during the American Revolutionary War. Near the Wallace House is the Old Dutch Parsonage, where Reverend Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, a founder and first president of Rutgers University, then called Queens College, lived. Register-listed Victorian structures include the James Harper Smith Estate (privately owned), St. John’s Episcopal Church and rectory, and the Fire Museum (a vintage firehouse). Other notable, register eligible structures are the Victorian train station (privately owned) and the municipal building, the former Robert Mansion.
Originally the center of local commerce, the borough has evolved into a destination for boutique retail and dining. Modern highways today surround and go through Somerville, including U.S. Route 22, U.S. Route 202, U.S. Route 206 and Route 28 and is within 5 miles (8.0 km) of Interstate 287 and Interstate 78, making it an important hub in central New Jersey.
Main Street Somerville maintains most of its historical buildings, although many are now boutique specialty shops and second-hand shops. Somerville has quite a diverse and large selection of restaurants that draw people from the surrounding area. In many ways, Somerville remains Somerset County’s downtown and is the heart of its designated Regional Center. Several of the factories in Somerville were abandoned and replaced with modern office buildings or remodeled as apartments. Somerville today and historically has had an important African American community, a distinguished member of which was Paul Robeson. Another famous Somerville native was famed character actor Lee Van Cleef. One of the founders of modern American Dance, Ruth St. Denis, made her professional debut at Somerset Hall, once a vaudeville theatre and today a local restaurant. The mix of modern amenities and an interesting and diverse past make Main Street, Somerville a unique destination for dining, strolling and visiting.
The shopping center on the west side of the downtown area was demolished and a new shopping center, townhomes and other amenities will be built on the shopping center land and on adjacent land in the former borough landfill to the south. The ground was broken for a new “world class” ShopRite supermarket in March 2011 and opened in November 2011. Borough planners envision a transit village style redevelopment centered around the Somerville train station.
Somerville was hit hard by Hurricane Floyd in September 1999, despite its having been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it impacted the vicinity. The borough received a record 13.34 inches (339 mm) of rain over three days during the slow-moving storm, causing significant flooding and considerable damage.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 2.362 square miles (6.118 km), including 2.331 square miles (6.038 km) of land and 0.031 square miles (0.080 km) of water (1.31%). The borough’s territory is flat land. Somerville borders the Raritan River to the south.
At the 2010 United States Census, there were 12,098 people, 4,591 households, and 2,778 families residing in the borough. The population density was 5,189.5 per square mile (2,003.7/km). There were 4,951 housing units at an average density of 2,123.8 per square mile (820.0/km). The racial makeup of the borough was 65.64% (7,941) White, 12.15% (1,470) Black or African American, 0.34% (41) Native American, 11.37% (1,375) Asian, 0.07% (9) Pacific Islander, 6.34% (767) from other races, and 4.09% (495) from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 23.75% (2,873) of the population.
There were 4,591 households, of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.7% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.5% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.20.
In the borough, 21.3% of the population were under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 34.0% from 25 to 44, 24.8% from 45 to 64, and 11.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35.5 years. For every 100 females there were 107.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 106.7 males.
The Census Bureau’s 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $69,836 (with a margin of error of +/- $5,384) and the median family income was $80,461 (+/- $9,281). Males had a median income of $45,929 (+/- $5,005) versus $46,540 (+/- $3,751) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $30,272 (+/- $2,145). About 3.6% of families and 6.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.8% of those under age 18 and 10.8% of those age 65 or over.
Roads and highways
As of May 2010, the borough had a total of 36.16 miles (58.19 km) of roadways, of which 30.96 miles (49.83 km) were maintained by the municipality, 1.90 miles (3.06 km) by Somerset County and 3.30 miles (5.31 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
U.S. Route 22 runs along the northern boundary of Somerville and offers connections to the state highway network. U.S. Route 206 runs along the western boundary of Somerville, via the Somerville Circle, and provides north/south connections to nearby towns.
Interstate 287 is outside in neighboring Bridgewater Township and is accessible via US Routes 22 and 202/206.
The Somerville train station offers service on New Jersey Transit’s Raritan Valley Line, with frequent service to Newark Penn Station, with connecting service to Penn Station New York in Midtown Manhattan.
The closest airport with scheduled service is Newark Liberty International Airport.
Points of interest
- Duke Gardens – Estate of the late tobacco heiress Doris Duke, located in neighboring Hillsborough.
- The Wallace House New Jersey State Historic House Museum- Washington’s Headquarters during the Middlebrook Encampment of 1778-1779.
- Old Dutch Parsonage Hew Jersey State Historic Site — First parsonage of the Dutch Reformed Church in Somerset County and home of Rev. Jacob Hardenburgh, a founder and later first President of Queens College (now Rutgers University).
- The Robert Mansion (Somerville Municipal Building) – National Register Property, Alexander Jackson Davis design, classic example of American Gothic architecture
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Somerville include:
- Alicia Albe (born 1977), competitor in rhythmic gymnastics.
- Mary Ellicott Arnold (1876-1968), social activist, teacher and writer best known for her memoir In the Land of the Grasshopper Song.
- Nicole Arendt (born 1969), professional tennis player.
- Frank Asch (born 1946), author of children’s literature.
- Christopher “Kip” Bateman (born 1957), politician who has served in the New Jersey Senate since 2008, where he represents the 16th Legislative District.
- Raymond Bateman (norn 1927), politician who served in the New Jersey Senate in the 1960s and 1970s, who was the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey in 1977.
- Nicholas L. Bissell, Jr. (1947-1996), county prosecutor of Somerset County who fled to Laughlin, Nevada and took his own life after being charged with embezzlement, tax fraud and abuse of power.
- George H. Brown (1810–1865), represented New Jersey’s 4th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1853 to 1855.
- Clarence E. Case (1877-1961), politician who served as acting Republican Governor of New Jersey in 1920, succeeding William Nelson Runyon.
- Alvah A. Clark (1840–1912), represented New Jersey’s 4th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1877 to 1881.
- Kate Claxton (1848–1924), stage actress.
- Royal Page Davidson (1870-1943), educator and inventor.
- Don Elliott (1926–1984), jazz trumpeter, vibraphonist, vocalist, and mellophone player.
- Kevin Foley (born 1987), professional golfer.
- Gene Freed (1930-2009), bridge player and physician.
- Frederick Frelinghuysen, (1753-1804), lawyer, soldier, and senator from New Jersey.
- Mary Exton Gaston (1855–1956), first female physician in Somerville and a “major force in the borough’s development”.
- Reggie Harrison (born 1951), former professional American football running back for four seasons in the National Football League for the Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Cardinals.
- Naomi Jakobsson, member of the Illinois House of Representatives, representing the 103rd District since 2003.
- Walter J. Kavanaugh (1933–2008), member of the State Senate who represented New Jersey’s 16th Legislative District who had been a successful businessman in Somerville and a life member of the Somerville First Aid & Rescue Squad.
- Joyce Kozloff (born 1942),artist whose politically engaged work has been based on cartography since the early 1990s.
- Joe Lis (born 1946), Major League Baseball player who played for Philadelphia, Minnesota, Cleveland and Seattle.
- John Mack (1926–2006), principal oboist with the Cleveland Orchestra.
- Eric Murdock (born 1968), NBA player for the Utah Jazz, Milwaukee Bucks, Vancouver Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, and the Los Angeles Clippers.
- Steven J. Ostro (1946-2008), scientist specializing in radar astronomy.
- Paul Robeson (1898–1976), actor, athlete, bass-baritone concert singer, writer, civil rights activist, Fellow traveler, Spingarn Medal winner, and Stalin Peace Prize laureate.
- Brian E. Rumpf (born 1964), represents the 9th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly.
- Ruth St. Denis (1879–1968), modern dance pioneer, was born in Somerset County near Somerville.
- William Gaston Steele, (1820–92), represented New Jersey’s 3rd congressional district from 1861 to 1865.
- Lee Van Cleef (1925–1989), actor, featured in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More, Escape from New York and many other films and TV series, was an accountant in his hometown before his movie career began.
- Fred Van Eps (1878–1960), banjoist and early recording artist.
- Frederica von Stade (born 1945), mezzo-soprano.
- Daniel Spader Voorhees (1852-1935), New Jersey State Treasurer from 1907 to 1913.
- Craig Walsh (born 1971), composer.
- Jon Williams (born 1961), NFL player for the New England Patriots.
- Elinor Wylie (1885–1928), poet and novelist, author of Angels and Earthly Creatures, The Orphan Angel and other works.