South Orange, NJ

Some of my best friends live in South Orange, NJ, as do clients I’ve worked with for over 20 years.

The history of South Orange begins in 1666, when a group of Connecticut settlers landed on the banks of the Passaic River and purchased land from the Lenape Indians. This settlement became Newark. Some of the families in the party headed towards more open spaces to farm and are credited with being the first to settle in what is now South Orange.

For over 150 years the area was a Jeffersonian vision of Americana: bucolic farms, churches, general stores, a paper mill and, of course, churches. A resort opened in 1847, with “water cures” from local spring water, but it wasn’t until after the Civil War that significant change came in the form of the Montrose development. These were large houses on big lots attracting wealthy families from Newark and New York City during the decades from 1870-1900. South Orange began its ascent as a bedroom community, served by the Morris and Essex railroad, which eventually became New Jersey Transit. Electric trolley cars plied local routes and an infrastructure of parks, a library and village center all contributed to the growth of suburban South Orange. The Orange Lawn Tennis club was founded in Montrose and in 1886 it was the location for the first US national tennis championships. In the 1920s Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig crossed the Hudson for several exhibition games at Cameron Field. Attended by over 12,000, at least one game featured a home run by Gehrig that reportedly traveled 600 feet.  In the 1920s South Orange’s growth as a suburban community increased, with the available land being developed for both large and more modest homes for the wealthy and middle class. The only significant area not developed by 1930 was the high ground west of Wyoming Ave. The rock quarry that makes up much of this district was finally turned into a condominium community within the last decade.

Culturally, South Orange is home to Seton Hall University, the oldest and largest Catholic university in New Jersey, and to The South Orange Performing Arts Center. Seton Hall University contributed significantly to the project, and in 2006 SOPAC opened to the public. Since then the 415 seat theater has hosted live performances from artists as diverse as Yo-Yo Ma, Dionne Warwick and Paquito Rivera. Carrie Fisher’s HBO special “Wishful Drinking” was filmed at SOPAC.

Socially progressive South Orange was the first municipality in New Jersey to recognize civil unions for homosexual couples.

For me South Orange is the home of good friends, exceptional park facilities, an eclectic mix of great homes, and, with SOPAC, first class cultural attractions.

Leave a Reply »

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.