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Caldwell was incorporated as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on February 10, 1892, from portions of Caldwell Township (now Fairfield Township), based on the results of a referendum held on the previous day. In 1981, the borough's name was changed to the "Township of the Borough of Caldwell", as one of seven Essex County municipalities to pass a referendum to become a township, joining four municipalities that had already made the change, of what would ultimately be more than a dozen Essex County municipalities to reclassify themselves as townships in order take advantage of federal revenue sharing policies that allocated townships a greater share of government aid to municipalities on a per capita basis. Effective January 26, 1995, it again became a borough.
Though today the Caldwell area is considered to be a suburb of both Newark and New York City, the area originally developed as its own individual, self-contained community and economy rather than as urban sprawl from a larger city. When it was formed, miles of woods separated downtown Caldwell from Newark or any of its developing suburbs.
New Jersey Monthly magazine ranked Caldwell as its third-best place to live in its 2010 rankings of the "Best Places To Live" in New Jersey.
In 1702, settlers purchased the 14,000 acres (57 km2) Horseneck Tract from the Lenni LenapeNative Americans for goods equal to $325. This purchase encompassed much of western Essex County, from the First Mountain to the Passaic River. Caldwell is located in the center of the Horse Neck Tract. Settlement began about 1740 by Thomas Gould and Saunders Sanders.
Caldwell Township contained what is today the towns of West Caldwell and Caldwell. Soon after, the area of Caldwell Township just to the east of Caldwell Borough between Caldwell Borough and Montclair (present-day Verona and Cedar Grove) decided to follow Caldwell's lead and incorporated itself as its own borough, Verona. Some of the already developed eastern neighborhoods of Caldwell Township chose to become part of Montclair, as it was a rapidly developing suburb of Newark and Paterson. At around the same time, the area north of Caldwell Borough became its own town, North Caldwell. The wooded area directly to the south of downtown Caldwell Borough became Essex Fells. Meanwhile, the farmland to the south of the western portion of Caldwell township attempted to become its own municipality known as South Caldwell. This failed, as much of developed sections of that area lied on its southernmost and easternmost borders, along the expanding Newark suburbs of Livingston and West Orange respectively. Those areas were engulfed by those two towns once they became incorporated municipalities of several small villages and developments.
This left only the most rural farmland south of Caldwell Borough and Essex Fells to become its own township, Roseland. At this point, all that remained of the original Caldwell Township was a large piece of undeveloped land in the northwestern-most part of Essex County. In 1963, Caldwell Township changed its name to Fairfield in order to avoid being confused with Caldwell Borough.
Immediately following the separation of the original Caldwell, the western part of Caldwell Borough generally remained less developed than downtown Caldwell Borough and contained several farms and a large area of undeveloped swampland known as Hatfield Swamp. However, two individual settlements, known as Franklin and Westville, soon formed in the western part of Caldwell Borough. As development increased and population grew in the western part of Caldwell, the town's more rural western population and more urban east often could not reconcile their differences. This led to the areas of Franklin and Westville consolidating into their own township known as West Caldwell in 1904, leaving only the one square mile of original downtown Horseneck development as the borough of Caldwell. Lewis G. Lockward was elected the first mayor of Caldwell. In 1929, an attempt to consolidate the three Caldwells into a single municipality was rejected by voters.
George Washington and his staff made their way through the community during the Revolution. They stopped for lunch at the old stone house of Saunders Sanders (located near present-day Brookside Avenue), one of the two people to settle the original area.
About 1816, Elias B. Caldwell and family, Presbyterians, helped found Liberia, a nation for free blacks, and the town of Caldwell, Liberia.
During the 1928 Presidential campaign, Herbert Hoover visited the Grover Cleveland Birthplace with his wife.
Grover Cleveland lived the first four years of his life in Caldwell.
In October 1897, a severe fire ripped through a large portion of Bloomfield Avenue, destroying buildings in its wake. These buildings were replaced, in part, by the Hasler Building, opposite the Presbyterian Church. This became Caldwell's first brick building.
In 1914, during a Fourth of July fireworks celebration, a bomb fell, injuring 20 people. Local churches raised funds to defray the medical bills of the injured.
In 1968, Caldwell's ornate historic bronze dolphin handle cannon was stolen off the town green. The cannon had been given to the borough by Marquis de Lafayette,who was a friend of Caldwell. A poor cast rusting iron cannon was constructed and was placed at the site.
On July 14, 1974, the landmark Park Theatre was destroyed by fire.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 1.167 square miles (3.023 km2), including 1.166 square miles (3.019 km2) of land and 0.001 square miles (0.004 km2) of water (0.12%).
Caldwell is part of "The Caldwells", the group of three Essex County municipalities which all have the word Caldwell in their name. Together with North Caldwell and West Caldwell, these communities are named after the Reverend James Caldwell, a Patriot who played an active role supporting the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, most notably his actions at the Battle of Springfield, where he gave the soldiers pages from hymn books to use as wadding for their rifle bullets. While each community has its own independent government, and the three municipalities have no shared governance (other than Essex County), the term is often used to refer to the area, including on highway exit signs. Signage for Exit 47B and 52 on Interstate 80 refer to "The Caldwells" as a destination. Fairfield Township was known as Caldwell Township until it abandoned its original name in 1963 in an effort to avoid confusion of mail distribution in the various Caldwells.
In a report performed by the United Way of Northern New Jersey based on 2012 data, around 34% of Caldwell households were classified as "Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed" households (below a threshold of $50,000 for households below 65, below $35,000 for those over 65), struggling with basic necessities, such as housing, childcare, food, health care, and transportation, compared to 38% statewide and 47% in Essex County.
There were 3,359 households out of which 23.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.3% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.5% were non-families. 39.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 3.01.
In the borough, the population was spread out with 18.5% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 27.8% from 25 to 44, 26.5% from 45 to 64, and 16.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.4 years. For every 100 females there were 87.9 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 85.5 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $76,354 (with a margin of error of +/- $7,683) and the median family income was $99,898 (+/- $10,668). Males had a median income of $75,026 (+/- $12,328) versus $61,667 (+/- $20,342) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $45,693 (+/- $4,350). About 1.1% of families and 2.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.7% of those under age 18 and 5.7% of those age 65 or over.
There were 3,311 households out of which 23.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.5% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.2% were non-families. 38.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the borough the population was spread out with 18.1% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 32.9% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 17.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 82.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.6 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $61,250, and the median income for a family was $81,989. Males had a median income of $53,548 versus $40,543 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $34,630. About 2.5% of families and 4.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.0% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.
Caldwell is governed under the Borough form of New Jersey municipal government. The governing body consists of a Mayor and a Borough Council comprising six council members, with all positions elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election. A Mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office. The Borough Council consists of six members elected to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election each year in a three-year cycle. The Borough form of government used by Caldwell, the most common system used in the state, is a "weak mayor / strong council" government in which council members act as the legislative body with the mayor presiding at meetings and voting only in the event of a tie. The mayor can veto ordinances subject to an override by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.
As of 2019[update], the Mayor of Caldwell is Democrat John Kelley, whose term of office ends December 31, 2022. Members of the Borough Council are Council President Francis X. Rodgers III (D, 2021), Pasquale Capozzoli (R, 2019), Henderson Cole (D, 2020), John Lace (D, 2020), Thomas O'Donnell (R, 2019) and Christine V. Schmidt (D, 2021).
Caldwell and West Caldwellshare services including the Recreation Department and the school system. The Board of Recreation Commissioners of the Boroughs of Caldwell and West Caldwell was established in 1947.
Federal, state and county representation
Caldwell is located in the 11th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 27th state legislative district.
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 5,035 registered voters in Caldwell, of which 1,585 (31.5%) were registered as Democrats, 1,118 (22.2%) were registered as Republicans and 2,331 (46.3%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There was one voter registered to another party.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 49.8% of the vote (1,814 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 49.4% (1,799 votes), and other candidates with 0.9% (31 votes), among the 3,672 ballots cast by the borough's 5,281 registered voters (28 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 69.5%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 48.4% of the vote (1,823 cast), ahead of Republican John McCain with 47.0% (1,770 votes) and other candidates with 1.1% (41 votes), among the 3,769 ballots cast by the borough's 4,973 registered voters, for a turnout of 75.8%. In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 52.2% of the vote (1,981 ballots cast), outpolling Democrat John Kerry with 46.6% (1,767 votes) and other candidates with 0.7% (33 votes), among the 3,794 ballots cast by the borough's 4,852 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 78.2.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 62.7% of the vote (1,485 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 36.2% (857 votes), and other candidates with 1.1% (25 votes), among the 2,417 ballots cast by the borough's 5,263 registered voters (50 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 45.9%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 50.5% of the vote (1,353 ballots cast), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 37.7% (1,008 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 9.4% (251 votes) and other candidates with 0.9% (24 votes), among the 2,677 ballots cast by the borough's 4,974 registered voters, yielding a 53.8% turnout.
The Caldwell-West Caldwell Public Schools system serves students from Caldwell and West Caldwell and dates back to 1872, though formal consolidation of the districts was established in 1904. As of the 2017-18 school year, the district's six schools had an enrollment of 2,655 students and 218.8 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student-teacher ratio of 12.1:1. Students are enrolled in an elementary school based on their home location, and students attend one middle school and one high school. Schools in the district (with 2017-18 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are
Harrison School (West Caldwell; 42 students; grades K-PreK),
Jefferson Elementary School (West Caldwell; 274; K-5),
Lincoln Elementary School (Caldwell; 247; K-5),
Washington Elementary School (West Caldwell; 366; K-5),
Wilson Elementary School (West Caldwell; 240; K-5),
Grover Cleveland Middle School (Caldwell; 626; 6-8) and
James Caldwell High School (West Caldwell; 812; 9-12).
As of May 2010[update], the borough had a total of 18.41 miles (29.63 km) of roadways, of which 14.77 miles (23.77 km) were maintained by the municipality and 3.64 miles (5.86 km) by Essex County.
Commuter train service had been offered at Caldwell station on the Caldwell Branch, which ran from Great Notch to Essex Fells, with service offered starting in 1891. The borough of Caldwell bought the station in 1965 from the Erie Lackawanna Railway and demolished it later that year. Service at Caldwell station ended in October 1966, when Erie Lackawanna discontinued several commuter lines, in the face of unsuccessful legal action in the courts to keep the service operating. In 1979, the tracks on the Caldwell Branch were torn up.
Cleveland's birthplace, in Caldwell, New Jersey
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Caldwell include:
^"Removing Tiering From The Revenue Sharing Formula Would Eliminate Payment Inequities To Local Governments", Government Accountability Office, April 15, 1982. Accessed September 24, 2015. "In 1978, South Orange Village was the first municipality to change its name to the 'township' of South Orange Village effective beginning in entitlement period 10 (October 1978 to September 1979). The Borough of Fairfield in 1978 changed its designation by a majority vote of the electorate and became the 'Township of Fairfield' effective beginning entitlement period 11 (October 1979 to September 1980). ... However, the Revenue Sharing Act was not changed and the actions taken by South Orange and Fairfield prompted the Town of Montclair and West Orange to change their designation by referendum in the November 4, 1980, election. The municipalities of Belleville, Verona, Bloomfield, Nutley, Essex Fells, Caldwell, and West Caldwell have since changed their classification from municipality to a township."
^Narvaez, Alfonso A. "New Jersey Journal", The New York Times, December 27, 1981. Accessed September 24, 2015. "Under the Federal system, New Jersey's portion of the revenue sharing funds is disbursed among the 21 counties to create three 'money pools.' One is for county governments, one for 'places' and a third for townships. By making the change, a community can use the 'township advantage' to get away from the category containing areas with low per capita incomes."
^Wright, George Cable. "Jersey Aroused by Referendums; Some Ballots on Tuesday to List Nine Questions", The New York Times, November 3, 1963. Accessed July 5, 2012. "The voters of Caldwell Township wilt be asked to substitute the name of Fairfield, which the township bore 100 years ago when it stretched east to Newark. The name change was recommended because of confusion of mail distribution in Caldwell, West Caldwell and North Caldwell. There is presently a Fairfield Township in Cumberland County."
^ abCouncil Business Meeting April 15, 2014, Borough of Caldwell. Accessed November 3, 2019. "Whereas, General George Washington and his staff stopped for lunch at Saunders Sanders stone tavern during the Revolution, and the militia met and drilled at the Green to set off from the green for the battles of Connecticut Farms, Springfield, and Monmouth under the leadership of Captain William Gould, and... Whereas, the Marquis de Lafayette visited Caldwell on a triumphal tour, celebrated at the Crane Tavern, and Caldwell was given the brass cannon on the green by Colonel Peter Decatur during that visit in 1824, and"
^ abGeneral Information, Essex County, New Jersey. Accessed June 10, 2018. "The County Executive, elected from the County at-large, for a four-year term, is the chief political and administrative officer of the County.... The Board of Chosen Freeholders consists of nine members, five of whom are elected from districts and four of whom are elected at-large. They are elected for three-year concurrent terms and may be re-elected to successive terms at the annual election in November."
^A Brief History, Caldwell-West Caldwell Public Schools. Accessed November 6, 2012. "The Borough of Caldwell and the Township of West Caldwell have played a prominent role in the development of the Caldwell-West Caldwell school system and the quality of education it provides. Cooperation of the two communities began in 1872 when state laws governing school districts permitted the villages of Caldwell, Franklin and Westville to consolidate into a 'School Borough.' ... West Caldwell became a borough February 24, 1904. On March 30, 1904, a special school meeting was held to vote on the consolidation of Caldwell and West Caldwell into one school district. The vote was in favor of consolidation."
^Admissions, Essex County Schools of Technology. Accessed September 12, 2019. "Any eighth, ninth, tenth or eleventh grade student who is a resident of Essex County, who expects to be promoted by their local district to the grade they seek to enter, is eligible to apply for fall admission or admission during the school year subject to the availability of openings."
^Our History, Trinity Academy. Accessed November 14, 2016. "Instituted in September 1991, Trinity Academy is a Catholic elementary school, grades pre-kindergarten through eight, which was created and supported by the parishes of St. Aloysius in Caldwell, Notre Dame in North Caldwell, and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Roseland."
^Mueller, Mark. "Which N.J. schools were named National Blue Ribbon schools?", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, September 29, 2015. Accessed November 14, 2016. "Fifteen New Jersey schools have been recognized by the federal government as National Blue Ribbon Schools, a designation that celebrates excellence in academics or progress in closing the achievement gap among groups of students.... Each of the 15 New Jersey schools was chosen for the 'exemplary high performing' category, which weighs state or national tests, high school graduation rates and the performance of subgroups of students, such as those who are economically disadvantaged."
^About Caldwell, Caldwell University. Accessed September 12, 2019. "Located in the picturesque town of Caldwell, New Jersey. Recently, Caldwell was voted the third best place to live in all of New Jersey by New Jersey Monthly Magazine.... Caldwell University enrolls approximately 2,200 full-time, part-time, and graduate students."
^"Historical Sites in New Jersey", The New York Times, September 30, 2007. Accessed October 16, 2007. "Grover Cleveland Birthplace Caldwell. Grover Cleveland was born in this house in 1837 while his father, the Rev. Richard Falley Cleveland, was the minister to the First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell."
^Staff. "Babe Ruth documentary wins award ", The Progress, April 19, 2013. Accessed July 31, 2013. "Sylvester was Lilley's great-uncle. He was born in 1915 in Caldwell where he lived before moving with his family to a large house in Essex Fells in 1921."
^Staff. "Calvin L. Thomas, Actor, Dies at 79", The New York Times, September 27, 1964. Accessed November 3, 2019. "Caldwell, N J., Sept. 26--Calvin L. Thomas, a character actor in nearly a hundred Broadway productions during the last 50 years, died today in Essex General Hospital. He was 79 years old and lived at Linwood Terrace."