A Brief History of Woodbridge Township
Oldest New Jersey Township
The Township of Woodbridge is the oldest original township in the state of New Jersey. It was settled in the early autumn of 1664 and was granted a charter on June 1, 1669 by King Charles of England. Joseph Dally, in his history of Woodbridge (Woodbridge and Vicinity, published 1873), records that it was so called in honor of Reverend John Woodbridge of Newbury, Massachusetts. Another illustrious son of Woodbridge, James Parker, was born in 1714 and established the first permanent printing house in New Jersey in Woodbridge in 1751. He was a business associate of Benjamin Franklin. In 1758 he established and printed, at Woodbridge, "The New American Magazine," the first periodical of its kind edited and published in the Colony and the second magazine of its kind on the continent.
Likely First Antislavery Meeting
What may be said to be the first antislavery meeting ever held in the United States was held in Woodbridge on the 4th of July, 1783, seven years after the Declaration of Independence and 6 years before George Washington was inaugurated as President of the United States. This meeting was held on the farm of Moses Bloomfield, a surgeon in the Continental Army, located north of Freeman Street where Barron Avenue runs through Prospect.
When George Washington left Mount Vernon for New York to take the oath of office as the first President of the United States, he left Philadelphia on the morning of April 21, 1789, arrived at Trenton that afternoon, and that same night journeyed to Princeton, where he spent the night. Accompanied by Governor Livingston, Washington (on April 22) proceeded to Woodbridge where he spent the night at the Cross Keys Tavern, then located on the northwest corner of Amboy Avenue and Main Street, on the site presently occupied by the Knights of Columbus. This famous old building still stands, having been moved to a new location to the rear of the original site on the north side of James Street. On the morning of April 23, Washington left for New York by way of Rahway and Elizabethtown.
Captain John Pike & Thomas Bloomfield
Two famous residents of Woodbridge were Captain John Pike, the ancestor of General Zebulon M. Pike (Pike Peak was named in his honor), and Thomas Bloomfield, the ancestor of Joseph Bloomfield, for twelve years the Governor of New Jersey.
In the 1800s the large territory that made up Woodbridge Township was gradually divided and portions of the area went to other municipalities. But the Township is still one of the largest in the State with some 27 square miles. The original boundaries of Woodbridge comprised the communities we now know as Carteret, Rahway, New Dover, Oak Tree, Bonhamtown, Metuchen, Milton, Avenel, Colonia, Iselin, Menlo Park, Fords, Hopelawn, Keasbey, Sewaren, Port Reading, the eastern part of Raritan Township and Woodbridge Proper.
In the old days, the familiar names for the various sections were Woodbridge, Blazing Star or sometimes called Rahway Neck, now the Borough of Carteret, Lower Rahway, now Rahway, Uniontown, now Iselin, Metuchen, Pleasant Mills, now designated as the Inman Avenue section of Colonia, Bohamtown, And Hills, and Florida Grove. Lower Rahway or Rahway, became a part of Union County in 1860 by an act of the legislature. Ten years later, Raritan Township, now Edison Township, came into being and part of Piscataway and Metuchen, then a part of Woodbridge went to make up that municipality. Finally in 1906, a piece of land was taken away from Woodbridge to create the Borough of Roosevelt, now Carteret.
Fine Clay Deposits & Brick
Woodbridge is universally known for its fine clay deposits and its by-products, brick. In 1859, it was said that material for nearly 80 000-000-fire bricks was at that time being sent annually to the market from Woodbridge. In 1866, M.D. Valentine and James R. Valentine commenced business on the present site of the M.D. Valentine and Brothers Co. plant near Spa Spring and the manufacture of lath brick for which J.J. Valentine had been granted a patent the previous year. This brick was to be manufactured in scouring pipe, tile and brick. By 1876, the plant had grown to such proportions that it was capable of making 4,000,000 of these bricks a year. Woodbridge clay and its by-products are known throughout the world.
Additional Chronological Details
- In 1929, the nation's first Safety Engineered Super Highway intersection was built at the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and NJ Route 35 in Woodbridge. This was the first such intersection built in the United States or the world. It was known as the Woodbridge Cloverleaf. In 2006, the New Jersey Department of Transportation started a new reconstruction of this cloverleaf. When the NJ Turnpike opened in 1951, it created the famous intersection with the Garden State Parkway in Woodbridge.
- In January 1952, Woodbridge was thrilled with the courage displayed by Captain Kurt Carlsen, formerly of Alwat Street, Woodbridge, in clinging to his ship the Flying Enterprise in the hope that it could be saved. He stayed with the vessel until the very last moment.
- The All American City Award for 1964 was presented to Woodbridge by the National Municipal League. Woodbridge was one of ten municipalities in the nation to receive this award. Presentation of the coveted award was made in consideration of the great progressive growth of Woodbridge and its modern governmental operations.
- In 1965, The Community Redevelopment Committee spearheaded a Clean-Up, Fix-Up campaign with the cooperation of the Chamber of Commerce an civic organizations. For this, Woodbridge was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award in the National Cleanest Town Achievement Contest. The award was presented in February 1966, by the First Lady, Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson.
- Woodbridge Center, located between U.S. Routes 1 and 9, is one of the largest two-level enclosed shopping malls in the East. Opened in 1971, it has 1,500,000 square feet of retail space.
- The $2.6 million Woodbridge Metropark, providing high speed train service from Boston to Washington, opened in 1971.
- In 1993, the Downtown Merchants in Woodbridge with the support of then Mayor James E McGreevey and the Township Council, completed a major renovation project. This included re-doing the sidewalks in brick, new lamp posts, benches and planters dot the area. In 2006, commercial districts in Fords and Hopelawn (New Brunswick Avenue), Colonia (Inman Avenue) and Iselin (Oak Tree Road) have undergone similar street renovations that emphasize their importance to the Township business future.
- The Barron Arts Center, located on Rahway Avenue, is listed in the National Historic Registry. The Center, which housed the first library in Woodbridge, was given to the Township by the Barron Family and was built in 1877.
- With a population of 106,000 residents and burgeoning industrial retail service, transportation and professional growth, Woodbridge is the fifth largest municipality in New Jersey and the center of progress and activity for Central Jersey. Contributing to this phenomenal growth has been a knowledgeable and skilled populace willing to keep ahead of the time in developing its economy and community.