Bridgewater is a relatively large, mostly affluent suburban township located in the center of Somerset County. The area of the present Township of Bridgewater was originally purchased from a local LenapeNative American tribe. Bridgewater was chartered by George II of Great Britain in 1749, and incorporated on February 21, 1798, as one of New Jersey's 104 original townships. It is named after the town of Bridgwater in the English county of Somerset.
Tradition holds that it was at the Middlebrook encampment that the first official flag of the United States was unfurled, after a law to adopt a national flag had been passed by Congress on June 14, 1777. By special order of Congress, a Thirteen Star Flag is flown 24 hours a day at the Washington Camp Ground, part of the former Middlebrook encampment, in Bridgewater. Since 1889, the first hoisting of the flag is commemorated annually each July 4 with a changing of the flag, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and the delivery of an historical address.
Until a few decades ago, Bridgewater was known as largely a farming community. In the 1970s its population began to grow when residents of larger cities such as Plainfield and Newark started to migrate into Bridgewater as a result of the 1967 Plainfield Riots and 1967 Newark riots. Subsequently, Bridgewater started to receive an influx of residents who worked in the strong pharmaceutical, telecommunications and financial industries in Bridgewater and the Raritan Valley. More recently, there has also been growth as Bridgewater has become more popular with New York City commuters who use Bridgewater Station on New Jersey Transit's Raritan Valley Line or Interstate 78 East to commute to New York City. Bridgewater is now a fairly developed suburban community, with only a few traces of its rural past still evident in the town (particularly in its northwestern section). Bridgewater is now Somerset County's second-most populous municipality, after Franklin Township.
While much of Bridgewater has relatively flat terrain, the northeastern portion of the township is very hilly, with the First Ridge of the Watchung Mountains (sometimes known as the First Watchung Mountain) passing through the township. Additionally the Second Ridge (Second Mountain) passes just north of the township border.
The Raritan River and its branches and tributaries form much of Bridgewater's borders with other municipalities and a number of smaller rivers and streams run through Bridgewater. The Raritan itself runs along Bridgewater's southern border (except where Somerville and Raritan were carved out as separate boroughs) and the North Branch of the Raritan River forms the township's western border with Branchburg. The North Branch and South Branch of the Raritan River meet at the extreme southwestern corner of Bridgewater at the border with both Branchburg Township and Hillsborough Township, and this point known as the Raritan River Confluence was once intended to be a major reservoir.
Bridgewater contains a number of communities and sections, many of which do not have officially defined boundaries. They include:
Bradley Gardens: Located in southwestern Bridgewater, bordered on the east by Raritan and Branchburg to the west. This is one of Bridgewater's older residential areas but also includes some newer developments as well as a commercial area along Old York Road.
North Branch (eastern portion): Most of North Branch is in Branchburg, but a portion lies to the east of the North Branch of the Raritan River, in Bridgewater Township.
Finderne: Located in southeastern Bridgewater between Bound Brook and Somerville. This is a diverse area with older neighborhoods bordering Foothill Road, newer developments, multi-unit housing near the Raritan River/Manville border, as well as commercial and industrial areas. The Middlebrook Crossing industrial park, the Promenade shopping center and TD Bank Ballpark, home to the Somerset Patriots, are located here.
Thomae Park: In the extreme eastern portion of Bridgewater, bordering Bound Brook and Middlesex. Residents there have a Bound Brook ZIP code. One of their main attractions is Thomae Park, which has a playground, basketball court, baseball field, and hiking trail.
Country Club/Meadow Road Area: This area is referred to by some as the "Country Club-Meadow Road area" or similar names, after the major north-south streets there. Some also refer to "the Van Holten area" after the elementary school located there. It borders Bedminster and Branchburg. It is Bridgewater's most "rural" section, although it is comprised almost exclusively of residential communities.
Milltown/Vanderveer Road Area: This area is known to some as the "Milltown-Vanderveer" area. The area is northeast of Bradley Gardens bordering Raritan and Branchburg. It is mainly a residential community with many new homes built in recent years.
Martinsville: Located in northeastern Bridgewater near Warren Township and Bernards Township. This is a predominantly residential area, though it does have its own commercial center along Washington Valley Road, and its own post office and ZIP code. This also is a very hilly area as it is the portion of Bridgewater through which the Watchung Mountains pass.
Sunset Lake: Built around a man-made lake in the extreme northern part of Bridgewater, near the interchange of Interstate 287 and Interstate 78. Some of the residents there have the Basking Ridge ZIP code 07920.
There were 16,111 households of which 38.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.1% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.3% were non-families. 21.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.21.
In the township, 25.5% of the population were under the age of 18, 5.6% from 18 to 24, 23.7% from 25 to 44, 30.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42.2 years. For every 100 females there were 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.8 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $108,680 (with a margin of error of +/- $5,095) and the median family income was $130,594 (+/- $6,507). Males had a median income of $90,875 (+/- $4,851) versus $65,501 (+/- $4,264) for females. The per capita income for the township was $46,994 (+/- $1,811). About 1.6% of families and 2.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.1% of those under age 18 and 5.4% of those age 65 or over.
There were 15,561 households of which 38.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.6% were married couples living together, 7.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.6% were non-families. 19.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.71 and the average family size was 3.14.
25.7% of the population were under the age of 18, 4.9% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 92.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.4 males.
The median household income was $88,308 and the median family income was $99,832. Males had a median income of $67,089 versus $49,096 for females. The per capita income for the township was $39,555. About 1.6% of families and 2.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.7% of those under age 18 and 3.7% of those age 65 or over.
Bridgewater Township is governed under a Faulkner Act system of municipal government, under Mayor-Council plan 2, as implemented on January 1, 1984, based on actions of the Township Committee. The township is governed by a Mayor and a five-member Township Council. Councilmembers are elected at-large in partisan elections to serve four-terms of office on a staggered basis, with two or three seats coming up for election every other year.
As of 2013[update], the Mayor of Bridgewater Township is Daniel J. Hayes, Jr. (R, term ends December 31, 2015). Members of the Bridgewater Township Committee are Council President Christine Henderson Rose (R, 2015), Allen Kurdyla (R, 2013), Matthew Moench (R, 2015), Howard Norgalis (R, 2013) and Filipe Pedroso (R, 2013; serving the one-year unexpired term of Daniel J. Hayes, Jr.). Patricia Flannery, elected mayor in 2003 and 2007, chose not to seek re-election in 2011 and Hayes was elected to succeed her, with Pedroso chosen to replace him on the council.
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 28,049 registered voters in Bridgewater Township, of which 6,468 (23.1% vs. 26.0% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 7,618 (27.2% vs. 25.7%) were registered as Republicans and 13,947 (49.7% vs. 48.2%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 16 voters registered to other parties. Among the township's 2010 Census population, 63.1% (vs. 60.4% in Somerset County) were registered to vote, including 84.7% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 80.4% countywide).
In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 11,346 votes here (51.3% vs. 46.1% countywide), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 10,357 votes (46.8% vs. 52.1%) and other candidates with 267 votes (1.2% vs. 1.1%), among the 22,110 ballots cast by the township's 27,378 registered voters, for a turnout of 80.8% (vs. 78.7% in Somerset County). In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 11,641 votes here (55.5% vs. 51.5% countywide), ahead of Democrat John Kerry with 9,104 votes (43.4% vs. 47.2%) and other candidates with 170 votes (0.8% vs. 0.9%), among the 20,985 ballots cast by the township's 25,218 registered voters, for a turnout of 83.2% (vs. 81.7% in the whole county).
Bridgewater is part of the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District, which serves students in pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade from Bridgewater and Raritan Borough. All of the schools in the district are in Bridgewater except for Kennedy, which is in Raritan. Schools in the district (with 2010-11 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are six elementary schools (covering grades K-4, except as noted) — Adamsville Elementary School (568 students, including pre-K), Bradley Gardens Elementary School (326), Crim Elementary School (421), Hamilton Elementary School (408), John F. Kennedy Elementary School (443), Milltown Elementary School (519) and Van Holten Elementary School (430) — both Eisenhower Intermediate School (889) and Hillside Intermediate School (575) for grades 5 & 6, Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School (1,445) for grades 7 & 8 and Bridgewater-Raritan High School (2,914) for grades 9-12.
The headquarters of the Somerset County Library is located in Bridgewater.
Roads and highways
The township had a total of 239.75 miles (385.84 km) of roadways, of which 189.03 miles (304.21 km) are maintained by the municipality, 23.49 miles (37.80 km) by Somerset County and 27.23 miles (43.82 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Bridgewater Township is serviced by three local airports, Solberg-Hunterdon Airport to the west in Readington, Somerset Airport to the north in Bedminster Township, and Central Jersey Regional Airport to the south in Manville. These airports are open to the public and offer charter flight services as well as flight training and other aviation related services. They operate in all weather conditions and have instrument approaches available for use by pilots in bad weather.
The township's Communications Center handles all emergency calls with 11 full-time dispatchers and five part-time dispatchers, ensuring that all calls are directed to the appropriate department. The Bridgewater emergency dispatch is being transitioned to Somerset County by the summer of 2014, joining nine other county municipalities that have emergency calls handled centrally and dispatched to each individual police department. The move is expected to save the township $4.5 million over 10 years.
Bridgewater is protected by the 78 officers of the Bridgewater Township Police Department, which includes a patrol division, a detective bureau, a traffic unit, a communications bureau, a youth services bureau and many other divisions.
Country Hills Fire Department
Bridgewater has six all-volunteer fire companies, which provide fire suppression and assist in vehicle extrication and rescue attempts:
Bridgewater is served by five volunteer BLS rescue squads, which provide EMS coverage as well as vehicle extrication, water rescue, and other rescue services. ALS (paramedics) are dispatched from Somerset Medical Center. During daytime hours, Somerset Medical Center also provides Basic Life Support coverage for a portion of the township.
Washington Camp Ground (also known as Middlebrook encampment), just north of Bound Brook, a preserved portion of the land on which the army of George Washington encamped during the winter of 1778-79. (The general himself stayed in an actual house in Somerville.)
It was one the filming locations for the Columbia Pictures 1994 comedy film North, which used the Bridgewater Commons Mall as the setting for a discussion between characters.
Superfund Cleanup Site
In August 2011, Hurricane Irene submerged the former American CyanamidSuperfund site, causing chemicals to leak to the nearby Raritan River. It could cost Pfizer up to $205 million and take a decade to clean up nearly all of the contaminated American Cyanamid site in Bridgewater, according to a company study awaiting federal approval.
In early 2011, application was made to turn the former inn/reception center, the Redwood Inn, into a mosque, the town's first. In contravention of standard procedure, the township council hurriedly passed an ordinance that required houses of worship, country clubs and other such businesses only be built on locations with access to major roads. The planning board then immediately dismissed the application, averting a 5 May effective state statute that would have made rejection much more difficult. The applicant, Al Falah Center, then filed a lawsuit against the township. A federal judge has allowed a lawsuit challenging the council's decision to go forward, and the U.S. Justice Department is conducting its own investigation.
Notable current and former residents of Bridgewater Township include:
^Staff. "PATRIOTIC READING AGAIN SAVES SITE", The New York Times, July 4, 1970. "MIDDLEBROOK HEIGHTS, N. J., July 3 (UPI) A reading of the Declaration of Independence tomorrow will preserve for another year the historic campsite here where George Washington is believed to have first flown the 13-star flag officially before his troops."
^Raum, John O. The History of New Jersey: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume 1, p. 259, J. E. Potter and company, 1877. Accessed February 11, 2013. "Bridgewater township contained a population in 1850 of 4,070; in 1860, 4,947; and in 1870, 5,884. Somerville, the county seat, is in this township and contained in 1850, 1,300 inhabitants. This village is of modern date. Martinsville and Bound Brook are also villages in this township."
^via Associated Press. "Booker is officially a U.S. senator after being sworn in", NJ.com, October 31, 2013. Accessed October 31, 2013. "Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker was sworn in as a Democratic senator from New Jersey today, taking the oath of office, exchanging hugs with Vice President Joe Biden and acknowledging the applause of friends and family members seated in the visitor's gallery that rings the chamber.... Booker, 44, was elected to fill out the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died earlier this year."
^"CIBA cited as one of the best by Education Department", Journal Inquirer, November 16, 2006. "The Blue Ribbon award is given only to schools that reach the top 10 percent of their state's testing scores over several years or show significant gains in student achievement. It is considered the highest honor a school can achieve."
^"Viers Mill School Wins Blue Ribbon; School Scored High on Statewide Test" The Washington Post, September 29, 2005. "For their accomplishments, all three schools this month earned the status of Blue Ribbon School, the highest honor the U.S. Education Department can bestow upon a school."
^About TD Bank Ballpark, Somerset Patriots. Accessed March 3, 2013. "The 6,100-seat ballpark is owned by Somerset County and run by the Somerset Patriots, who have consistently drawn over 5,300 fans per game and 370,000 fans per season since 1999."
^Editorial, "No Room for Tolerance", The New York Times, September 18, 2011. Accessed February 15, 2012. "This spring, officials in Bridgewater, N.J., opposed a plan to turn an old inn, formerly used for weddings and political events, into the town’s only mosque. Rather than stand up to the opposition, stirred up partly by the Tea Party, the mayor, the township council and the planning board raced to change the zoning rules so that a house of worship would no longer be a permitted use on the inn’s property."
^"Former Philadelphia Warriors player Hank Beenders dies at 87", Burlington County Times, October 27, 2003. "born in Haarlem, Holland, he lived in Brooklyn, and in Scotch Plains before moving to Bridgewater 36 years ago."
^Staff. "Terrapins land the top class", ESPN College Soccer News, July 31, 2008. Accessed June 5, 2011. "The eight-member class features Parade All-American midfielders Kaoru Forbess from Benton, Arkansas, and Matt Kassel from Bridgewater, New Jersey, forward Casey Townsend from Traverse City, Michigan, and goalkeeper Zach MacMath from St. Petersburg, Florida."