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Westfield History and Community Profile

The town of Westfield, New Jersey was originally a part of the Elizabethtown tract which the English Long Islanders purchased from the Leni Lenape Indians in 1664. In 1693, the Elizabethtown tract officially became Elizabeth Township. Between 1699 and 1700 the West fields of the area were divided into 171 hundred-acre plots. In 1720, Westfield became a distinct settlement and forty-one years later it developed into a voting ward of the Elizabeth borough.


During the American Revolution, the Westfield area served as a command post for the British army, who looted the area; in 1780, many Westfielders participated in the victorious Battle of Springfield. Fourteen years later, in 1794, Westfield became a separate municipality, as Westfield Township. Finally, in 1903, it formed its current government as a Town—the only one it New Jersey. Since then, the town of Westfield has been successfully growing into the homey suburban neighborhood that it is today. The small-town charm of the downtown area coupled with the calm, relaxing atmosphere of the neighborhoods has made Westfield the place that many call home. Former residents of note include:

  • Renowned poet, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes
  • Cartoonist Charles Addams (most famous for his Addam's Family cartoons
  • Athlete, Actor, Singer, Political Activist Paul Robeson
  • Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff.
  • Creator of the Apgar score Dr. Virginia Apgar,
  • Actor Andrew McCarthy (Pretty in Pink, Weekend at Bernie's)
  • NY Knick and NBA Hall of Famer Earl "The Pearl" Monroe

Westfield has also served as the filming location for the popular NBC show Ed, the 2007 Queen Latifah starrer The Perfect Holiday. It has also served as the location for countless commercial productions.


About Westfield

The town of Westfield has something to offer everyone. Located just twenty-five miles southwest of New York City, the Westfield area offers a quiet, suburban hometown that is just a short commuting distance from the city. The area features a Colonial influence that is evident in the beautiful Victorian and Colonial style homes that fill the area; many of these properties also feature spacious yards.
Westfield's 29, 460 residents (based on a 2000 census) feature a great level of cultural diversity with the area's major ancestry groups tracing back to Irish, Italian, German, English, Polish, and Russian descent. Other cultural groups in the area include individuals and families of African American, Hispanic, Chinese, Asian Indian, Korean, and multi-ethnic descents.


The area is also home to a number of various churches and synagogues, including but not limited to: First United Methodist Church, Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Bethel Baptist Church, Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Saint Luke African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, First Baptist Church of Westfield, Temple Emmanuel, and more. (If you are associated with a house of worship that you want included here, please feel free to contact us).


Public Transportation

The Westfield area provides convenient access to a number of public transportation modes so that no matter where you work, commuting will not be a problem. Westfield is located only thirteen miles from Newark International Airport and twenty two miles from New York City.
NJ Transit's Raritan Valley Line provides rail service to Newark with connecting service to New York Penn Station via NJ Transit or to lower Manhattan via the PATH trains. NJ Transit also provides bus service to New York City. Amtrak trains can also be accessed at the Metropark/Iselin station approximately 20 minutes away.


Westfield is also conveniently located only a short driving distance away from the Garden State Parkway, Routes I-78 and I-287, Routes 1/9, and the New Jersey Turnpike.


Entertainment and Activities

With Westfield's Downtown area, you do not need to go far to find great dining, shopping and other entertainment venues. Westfield and the downtown area feature nearly 50 dining locations with cuisine ranging from American, Thai, Italian, Mexican, French and more. Whether you are looking to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks or a relaxing dinner at Teresa's, Westfield has something for every palate. Downtown Westfield also offers a variety of over 130 shops and stores including Ann Taylor, The Gap, Coach, Bluemercury Spa and Funk and Standard.


This area also has a number of entertainment options including the town's own local movie theater, The Rialto, located downtown, and in season, outdoor music concerts and performances. Westfield is also just a short driving distance from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the Prudential Center, which recently opened in October 2007, both of which are located in Newark.


If outdoor activities and sports recreation is more your taste, Westfield can satisfy that need as well. The Westfield Area Y (which first opened in 1929), the Nomahegan Swim Club and the Echo Lake Golf Course are just a few of the places you can go for recreation and relaxation. There are also a number of parks in the area including Echo Lake Park, Brightwood Park, Tamaques Reservation, Clark Memorial Park and Mindowaskin Park.


In addition, Westfield is convenient to a number of interesting tourist attractions:

Miller-Cory House Museum
Located at 614 Mountain Avenue in Westfield, this home was built in 1740 and exists today as a "living museum" that serves as an example of what an average New Jersey home looked like in the mid-Eighteenth Century.


Liberty Hall Museum
Located in Union, NJ, this history museum was the former governor Kean's residence.


Children's Museum of New Jersey
Located in Paramus, NJ, this museum provides children with a hands-on learning experience and a variety of exhibits.


Bowcraft Amusement Park
Located on Route 22 in nearby Scotch Plains, NJ. This amusement park features a variety of rides and games for children and families to enjoy.


Liberty Science Center
Located in Jersey City, NJ, this museum has numerous interactive science exhibits themed around invention, environment and health, with hands-on exhibits, shows and events for young and old alike.

Westfield provides the perfect blend of a quiet, suburban neighborhood and a lively downtown area. It is an ideal location in which to work and live. With the towns' numerous features and opportunities, there is something to make everyone feel at home.


The Gold Star Streets of Westfield, NJ.

By coincidence a number of the streets I considered buying on, and the one where we found our happy home, bore gold stars on their signs, signifying that renaming. A little investigation revealed that these were among the 18 streets renamed in honor of the supreme sacrifice by Westfield's young men who served and died in WW1. There were three Clarks lost in the war, so their first names were used to give individual honors to the several heroic Clarks who served.


Archbold Place honors Private Nelson Archbold. Brown Ave salutes Private George Brown. Cacciola Place commemorates Private Domenico Cacciola . Cauefield Place honors Private Bernard Cauefield. Coleman Place salutes Lieutenant Coleman Clark. Cowperthwaite Place commemorates Private Harold Cowperthwaite. Dunham Ave honors Private Ernest Dunham. Hanford Place salutes Sgt Robert Hanford. Hort St. commemorates Lieutenant Nathaniel Hort. Hyslip Ave honors Private. Edward Hyslip. Palsted Ave salutes Corporal Axel Palsted. Raymond St. commemorates Private John Raymond Clark. Reese Place recalls Private Walter Reese. Salter Place honors Acting Captain Salter Clark. Saunders Ave commemorates Lieutenant Stuart Saunders. Stevens Ave salutes Sergeant Henry Stevens. Tice Place recalls Corporal Raymond Tice. Wallberg Ave commemorates Private Martin Wallberg.


The Birth of a Town: Westfield, New Jersey 1900-1903*

By Marcie R. Horowitz


In Union County, New Jersey, there are eight townships , seven boroughs , five cities -- and just one town, the Town of Westfield. How did Westfield become a "town"? Who made that choice, and why? And what were the consequences of that decision?
The people who live in Westfield today, by and large, give absolutely no thought to this issue. We accept, without question, that Westfield is a town -- as if that fact were an immutable law of physics or nature. But it is not. In the early 20th Century, the citizens of Westfield vigorously debated not only their form of government but also their community's municipal character. That debate, and its broader implications, are the subjects of this brief paper.


    The "West Fields of Elizabeth Town" were laid out in 1699 when the land within the Rahway River watershed was divided into 100-acre lots. Within twenty years or so, a small village began to take shape at the intersections of East Broad Street, Central Avenue, and Mountain Avenue. This was, and still is, the heart of Westfield.

    On January 27, 1794, Westfield formally separated from Elizabeth and was "made a separate Township,…to be called by the name of the Township of Westfield." At the time of its separation from Elizabeth, Westfield was a rural community that included one Presbyterian church, about fourteen houses, one store, one blacksmith shop, one tavern and one school house. (Philhower, p. 51.) The town "had been in substantially this condition for nearly a century….'There was absolutely no growth.'" (Id. (quoting Clayton).)
    The arrival of the railroad, and the beginnings of the industrial revolution, marked a turning point in the history of Westfield. The first train passed through Westfield in 1838, and by the 1860's, the Central Railroad of New Jersey enabled passengers to ride from Westfield to Jersey City (and thence by ferry to lower Manhattan). The railroad promoted Westfield as a fine place to live; a sales brochure promised that commuters would travel in "luxurious palace coaches"; that Westfield residents were "entirely free from all inflamatory [sic] or chronic diseases;" and that the town had just built a "tasty and commodious" school." (Johnson, p. 36.) An 1894 brochure similarly boasted that "Westfield, indeed, hath charms. Where in the wide, wide world, is the grass greener, the sky bluer, or the air purer? Why, the very exhilaration of such an atmosphere sets every nerve a tingle, and the whole world aglow." (Id.)

    The last two decades of the 19th Century saw a rush to progress in Westfield. In 1882, the population of the township was 875; by 1900, the population had climbed to over 4,000. (Philhower, p. 53.) Between 1880 and 1890, three newspapers were established in the town. Electric lights arrived in 1893; the public water supply was established in 1894; a sewer system was installed in 1895, and the trolley appeared for the first time in Westfield in 1898. (Philhower, p. 93.)
    The little rural village was quickly becoming an urban center. It is against this backdrop that the township leaders began a push, in 1900, to incorporate Westfield as a city.
    The incorporation of Summit City in 1899 provided the spark that inspired Westfielders to consider changing their form of government. A progressive group known as the Westfield Sound Money Club initiated the movement during the presidential campaign of 1900. In November 1900, the club disbanded and another club, the Good Government Club, was established in its stead. The club formed a committee to visit Summit and report on the new city's progress, and a public meeting held to discuss the issue drew a "large attendance." (Union County Standard, December 18, 1900.) The attendees of this public meeting decided to arrange an advisory election of "all legal voters who voted in Westfield at the last election" to vote on the question whether or not to incorporate as a city.

    Newspaper columns written before the advisory election highlighted the controversy. On one side, proponents of city government foresaw progress, employment, and growth:

    With a city government we could have such things as Plainfield and Summit have, and we lack namely: All the year work for carpenters, painters, masons and tinmen….During a large part of last year when our mechanics were idle because no building was going up in Westfield, buildings were going up in great numbers in the cities round about us. PLAINFIELD and SUMMIT WERE BOTH SMALLER THAN WESTFIELD UNTIL THEY BECAME CITIES. NOW PLAINFIELD HAS TWENTY TIMES OUR MONEY and five times our population, and Summit already has several times as much money and is rapidly beating us in population.

    Why talk of laws and figures, and why imagine strange things? Plainly we have the better situation, but we lack a government to do business with. Plainfield and Summit have beaten us solely because they did not have an antique form of government to keep them back.
    (Union County Standard, January 4, 1901.)

    In the same issue of the newspaper, another columnist took the opposing view. He urged that Westfield could have everything it wanted "and much more without any change of government." The writer warned: "The organization of a city takes too much power away from the people and places it in a board of seven councilmen and a Mayor. We warn the people against an act that will make city fathers of a few, who may do with us as a tyranical father might do with a child." (Id.)

    In a subsequent town meeting, public sentiment was against any change in Westfield's form of government. A newspaper article dated February 8, 1901, reported on the "eloquent plea" for city government made by Martin Welles, the chairman of the township committee. Welles argued that if Westfield were a city, "the taxpayers at large would not be compelled to stand the expense of lateral sewers or of opening new streets which did not affect their property." (Union County Standard, February 8, 1901.) He also described how hard it was for the current township government -- consisting merely of three committeemen -- to handle the work of the township (a point that drew a derisive response from the audience). On the other side, one man expressed the fear that under the city form of government, "the people would grow careless and elect men to the common council who were not honest." (Id.) A couple of weeks later, the voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposal, and the issue was dropped for over a year.
    In 1902, the question of Westfield's government was raised anew, and by early 1903 the issue was again being vigorously debated. Some residents were concerned that taxes would rise if Westfield became a city. Others argued that tax dollars would be better and more wisely spent if Westfield were a city:

    A tax used by a capable business-like government is like capital in business. In Englewood and in Summit the tax is the best investment of each inhabitant….Every tradesman, mechanic and land owner is better off, because Summit was made a city. Summit has acquired a class of population which our trades people and mechanics and land owners are anxious to get into Westfield. Land values in Summit and Englewood have increased….There is a somewhat lower tax in Clark and Mountainside communities adjoining Westfield. But Clark and Mountainside are dead and miserable. Every cent of their tax is a loss to the tax payer, who receives nothing whatever for his tax. The present management of Westfield tends toward Clark and Mountainside. A better government would work for the conditions of Summit and Englewood.
    (Union County Standard, January 2, 1903.)

    On January 23, 1903, the Westfield Local Government Committee submitted its report summarizing the advantages and disadvantages of the township, borough, and city forms of government. Basically, the city government appeared to have more power and more resources. A city would be governed by a mayor and a seven-member city council representing different wards. (As a township, Westfield had only three committeemen and no mayor.) A city could control the licensing of saloons (excise power) and the use of the streets. It also had greater power to pass ordinances and to enforce them. In a city, the council could raise money by taxation; in a township, appropriations were voted by the people. Summarizing the report, the Union County Standard editorialized: "There is but one thing to do -- Incorporate as a City and keep up with the times. Westfield has a grand future before her as a City -- as a Township -- none." (Union County Standard, January 23, 1903.)

    At a public meeting one week later, a large crowd gathered to debate the issue. The group unanimously agreed "that the present Township government is inadequate." A large majority also agreed that the borough form of government would also be insufficient. However, some residents were concerned that in a city, the council's taxing power would result in higher taxes. Others feared that limitations on a city's ability to issue school bonds would "handicap our school facilities, for which people came to Westfield, [and] would be a public calamity." Finally, there were those who favored the city form because they "did not care to have people in Elizabeth determine our excise privileges." When put to a vote, the vast majority (42 to 7) voted against the city government proposal.

    It was at this meeting that the idea of becoming a town was raised (or at least reported on) for the first time. This was a new, compromise position supported, it seems, by those who preferred the city form of government but realized their proposal was not going to carry the day. Certain town leaders thought the "Town would be a move in the right direction." As the Union County Standard put it: "If we can't have a City, let us have a Town." (Union County Standard, January 30, 1903.) In a later article, the newspaper opined that the project to incorporate as a city might have been "premature and a little ambitious." (Union County Standard, February 13, 1903.) The town form of government was viewed as "an advance, not too great, yet offering advantages…." (Id.) The Westfield Manual -- written by two of the town leaders just after the town was finally incorporated in 1903 -- explained why the "town" compromise ultimately won favor:

    (1) … under the Town the schools would still be independent, while in a city they would be a part of the municipal system; and
    (2) … the dread which some had of the name "City," it foreboding greater opportunity for misgovernment.
    (Thompson and Taggart, p. 5.)

    In a matter of weeks, legislation was drawn up and was under consideration in Trenton. Some opposition developed, apparently by certain county officials "who considered themselves politically imperiled by Westfield's incorporation" as a Town. But the opposition quickly died out, and on March 4, 1903, the state legislature passed Chapter 14 of the Laws of 1903 pursuant to which Westfield became a "town." That is where the matter stands today, almost a century later.
    Westfield's decision to become a town was more than a simple choice between two statutory forms of government. Westfield's "growing pains" reflect the overall shift in America at the turn of the 19th Century from a rural to an urban society. The heated controversy that surrounded the decision suggests that, to the people of the time, the decision to become a "city" or a "town" was a symbolic act as well, fraught with emotion and colored by the residents' aspirations and fears.
    Westfield ultimately rejected the city model, and settled for a middle-ground, compromise position. As a town -- not a city, no longer a rural village -- Westfield set a course for itself as the quintessential New Jersey suburb it has become today.

Westfield Community Links

Places of Worship

Westfield, NJ

Bethel Baptist Church
539 Trinity Pl


Christadelphian Chapel
600 Springfield Ave


Church of Christ Echo Lake
419 Springfield Ave


First Baptist Church of Westfield
170 Elm Street


First Church of Christ, Scientist
422 E. Broad Street


First Congregational Church
125 Elmer Street


First United Methodist Church of Westfield
1 E. Broad Street


Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church
1100 Boulevard


Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
250 Gallows Hill Rd


Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church
315 1st St.

Immanuel Church of NJ
1100 Boulevard


Presbyterian Church in Westfield, The
140 Mountain Ave


Rabbinic Center Synagogue
128 E. Dudley Ave


Redeemer Lutheran Church
229 Cowperthwaite Pl


St. Helen's Roman Catholic Church
1600 Rahway Ave


St. Luke AME Zion Church
500 Downer Street


St. Paul's Episcopal Church
414 E. Broad Street


Temple Emanu-El
756 E. Broad Street


Union County Torah Center
418 Central Ave


Summit, NJ

Unitarian Church in Summit
4 Waldron Ave


Springfield, NJ

Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church
101 Mountain Ave


Temple Beth Ahm-Conservative
60 Temple Drive

Temple Sha'arey Shalom
78 South Springfield Ave


Springfield Abundant Life
35 Fadem Rd


Scotch Plains, NJ

All Saints Episcopal Church
559 Park Ave


Church of Jesus Christ of LDS
1781 Raritan Rd


Congregation Beth Israel
18 Shalom Way


Evangel Church
1251 Terrill Rd


First United Methodist Church of Scotch Plains
1171 Terrill Rd


Immaculate Heart of Mary Church
1571 Martine Ave


Metropolitan Baptist Church
823 Jerusalem Rd

Mt. Sinai Alpha Omega Church of Christ
2678 Plainfield Ave


Scotch Plains Baptist Church
333 Park Ave


Scotch Plains Christian Church
1800 Raritan Rd


St. Bartholomew Church
2032 Westfield Ave


St. John Baptist Church
2387 Morse Ave


Terrill Road Baptist Church SBC
1340 Terrill Rd


Willow Grove Presbyterian Church
1961 Raritan Rd


Rahway, NJ

St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church
211 West Grand Ave


Plainfield, NJ

First Unitarian Society of Plainfield
724 Park Ave


Mountainside, NJ

Community Presbyterian Church
1449 Deer Path


Mountainside Chapel
1180 Spruce Drive


NJ District - Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
1168 Springfield Ave

Oasis Church
1180 Spruce Drive


Our Lady of Lourdes
300 Central Ave


Visions of God Family Worship
1122 Rt 22#6


Garwood, NJ

St. Anne Church
325 2nd Ave
St. Paul's United Church of Christ
213 Center Street


Fanwood, NJ

Emanuel Baptist Church
1130 Lincoln Ave


Fanwood Presbyterian Church
74 Martine Ave S.


First Church of Christ, Scientist
257 Midway Ave

Terrill Road Bible Chapel
535 Terrill Rd


Woodside Chapel
5 Morse Ave


Cranford, NJ

Calvary Tabernacle
69 Myrtle St


Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim
338 Walnut Ave

Trinity Episcopal Church
North Ave at Forest


Temple Beth-El of Cranford and Westfield
338 Walnut Ave


Clark, NJ

Jehovah's Witnesses
1170 Old Raritan Rd


Temple Beth O'r/Beth Torah of Clark
111 Valley Rd

Union County Baptist Church
4 Valley Rd


Zion Lutheran Church of Clark
559 Raritan Rd


If your place of worship is not listed please notify us for inclusion.



Copyright 2002 by Marcie R. Horowitz

Johnson, James P., Westfield: from Settlement to Suburb (Westfield Bicentennial Committee, 1977).
Lingeman, Richard, Small Town America (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1980).
Philhower, Charles A., History of Town of Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1923).
Russo, David J., American Towns, An Interpretive History (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001).
The Union County Standard (Westfield, NJ: various dates in 1900-1903; available on microfilm).
Thompson, Lloyd and Taggart, Frederick S., The Westfield Manual for 1903-1904.


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