Burlington was first incorporated on October 24, 1693, and was reincorporated by Royal charter on May 7, 1733. After American independence, the city was incorporated by the State of New Jersey on December 21, 1784. On March 14, 1851, the city was reincorporated and enlarged with portions of the surrounding township.
Burlington was originally the county seat of Burlington County but in 1796, as the population had been increasing to the east away from the Delaware River, the county seat was moved to Mount Holly Township, a more central location.
The council of West Jersey Proprietors purchased roughly 30 miles (48 km) of riverfront land in 1676 from the LenapeNative Americans. Burlington was founded on part of that land by English settlers (primarily Quakers) in 1677, and served as the capital of the province until 1702, when West Jersey and East Jersey were combined into a singe Crown Colony.
Burlington takes its name (including the county name) from the English east-coast town of Bridlington, of which Burlington was a district. It is now amalgamated into the larger Bridlington town.
The Quakers formally established their congregation in 1678. Initially, they met in private homes; between 1683 and 1687, Francis Collings constructed a hexagonal meeting house of brick. Over the next century, the membership grew substantially and a larger building was needed. The present meeting house on High Street was built in 1783 in front of the old meeting house and cemetery. The cemetery predated the first building. A tablet commemorates that the Lenape chief King Ockanickon, a loyal friend of the English settlers, was buried here in 1681. The oldest gravestone is inscribed "D.B. 1726." Many notable Quakers are buried here.
One of the oldest buildings in Burlington is known as the Revell House. Originally built in 1685 for George Hutchinson, it stood on East Pearl Street. The property was soon purchased by Thomas Revell, one of the original European settlers. Local tradition associates this house with the young Benjamin Franklin, who received gingerbread while traveling from Boston to Philadelphia. In the early 20th century, the house was purchased by the Annis Stockton Chapter of the DAR to become their clubhouse. The Colonial Burlington Foundation acquired and restored it in the 1950s.
Many institutions established in the 18th century continue to function in the 21st century. After the Quakers, the second oldest religious congregation in Burlington were the Episcopalians. Their original church, Old St. Mary's, remains the oldest church in Burlington and New Jersey. The congregation was founded in 1702 by George Keith and John Talbot. Talbot became the first minister and laid the cornerstone for the church in 1702. He served as the church's rector until 1725. The congregation prospered, and the church became the see of the Anglican bishops of New Jersey. In 1846, under the leadership of Bishop and Rector George Washington Doane, construction was begun on New St. Mary's. This early Gothic Revival architecture church was designed by Richard Upjohn, who also designed Trinity Church at the foot of Wall Street in Lower Manhattan.
The Library Company of Burlington was organized in 1757 as a "free" library open to the public as well as members. There were 60 members of the original Library Company each paying ten shillings per year to support the institution. The Library received a Charter from King George II of Great Britain in 1758. The Library's books were kept in members' homes for a few years—Thomas Rodman's at 446 South High Street and after 1767—Robert Smith's at 218 High Street. In 1789 the Library moved to its own building. The Library is currently in a stone building that was built on West Union Street in 1864. The Burlington Library is the oldest continuously operating library in New Jersey and the nation's seventh oldest.
The Endeavor Fire Company was organized in 1795 and was one of the four companies in the Burlington Fire Department when it was organized almost a century later. Endeavor was the first permanent fire fighting organization in Burlington and remains one of the oldest fire companies under its original name in the state. By 1882, the Company had relocated to their present building, which was erected in 1852 as a Market House.
Burlington has been the home of many notable people including John Lawrence, a politician and his son, Captain James Lawrence. The elder Lawrence served in the State Assembly, as Mayor of Burlington, New Jersey in 1769, and as a member of the Provincial Council from 1771 to 1775. Unfortunately, he was suspected of being loyal to the British during the Revolution, which ended his career. His son was born on October 1, 1781 and became a legend during the war of 1812 with the command "Don't Give Up the Ship." Lawyer and writer, James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote The Last of the Mohicans, was also from Burlington.
The building at 301 High Street houses the oldest continuously operating pharmacy in New Jersey. Originally a dwelling, the ground floor was converted to commercial use around 1845 by William Allinson, a druggist, local historian, and leading Quaker abolitionist. He used the building as a center of anti-slavery activity.John Greenleaf Whittier denounced slavery from the doorstep, and local tradition holds that fugitive slaves hid in tunnels under the building.
During the 19th century, Burlington City was known for the quality and quantity of its manufacturing. The shoe industry rivaled shipbuilding and canning in prominence. The 1850 United States Census indicates that the largest number of men were employed in the shoe industry, followed closely by carpentry and bricklaying. J. Frank Budd got his start in the shoe business at a Burlington shoe company just after the Civil War. In 1887, J.F. Budd broke ground for a children's "shoeworks" at the corner of Penn and Dilwyn Streets. The company employed approximately 325 people and operated six days a week for ten hours a day. The J.F. Budd Baby Shoe Company billed itself as the "largest baby shoe plant in the world."
The commercial activity provided revenues for the City's cultural activity. In 1839, a Lyceum was erected as a venue for lectures, concerts, and public meetings. It served in that capacity until 1851, when it was turned over to the city to become City Hall. The municipal offices' move was concurrent with the adoption of a new City charter. The Oneida Boat Club was organized in 1873 by a group of 10 members. Over the next few years, the club grew rapidly and in 1876, they dedicated their newly built clubhouse on the banks of the Delaware River at York Street. The Oneida is the oldest continuously operating boat club on the Delaware River.
During this century, the City of Burlington grew in a grid pattern from the main crossroads of High and Broad Streets. Blocks of attached rowhouses built in the latest architectural style characterize the city as a 19th-century town.
This historic carriage house now houses the local tourism office in Burlington.
Burlington's waterfront park was developed as a result of urban renewal and flood control projects in the late 1960s and 1970s. The shoreline improvements—revetments, walkways, etc. -- span the city's Delaware riverfront from the Burlington-Bristol Bridge to Assiscunk Creek. The remains of former waterfront industries, ferry terminals and docks were demolished. Development of an open, grassy park with a tree-lined waterfront esplanade has reconnected the city to its riverfront for recreation. This ensures that business properties are not at risk during floods and reduces damages.
The Oneida Clubhouse narrowly escaped demolition during the urban renewal campaign. It was saved and renovated. As the new esplanade was built on fill that added land between the building and river's edge, it created a landlocked clubhouse for the boat club.
Burlington Coat Factory was founded in 1924 as a wholesaler of ladies' coats and outerwear. The modern company was formed in 1972 when Monroe Milstein purchased a warehouse in the outskirts of the city of Burlington, and started selling coats and outerwear. The company gradually added other apparel, including suits, shoes, and accessories, and has branched out to include baby items and linens, all at discount prices. The original Burlington Coat Factory relocated to a new store in the fall of 2008. The company's corporate headquarters was moved to Burlington Township in 1988.
There were 3,858 households, of which 27.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.6% were married couples living together, 20.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.8% were non-families. 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.18.
In the city, 23.9% of the population were under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 25.5% from 25 to 44, 26.4% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.9 years. For every 100 females there were 87.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.8 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $48,317 (with a margin of error of +/- $3,334) and the median family income was $62,049 (+/- $6,446). Males had a median income of $43,146 (+/- $7,469) versus $40,929 (+/- $3,562) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $24,612 (+/- $1,541). About 10.6% of families and 11.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.0% of those under age 18 and 7.4% of those age 65 or over.
There were 3,898 households out of which 27.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.6% were married couples living together, 17.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.3% were non-families. 29.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the city the population was spread out with 23.9% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 16.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 90.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $43,115, and the median income for a family was $47,969. Males had a median income of $38,012 versus $28,022 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,208. About 5.4% of families and 8.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.2% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over.
The City of Burlington is governed within the Faulkner Act (formally known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law) under the Mayor-Council form of municipal government (Plan 4), implemented based on the recommendations of a Charter Study Commission as of January 1, 1992. The governing body consists of a mayor and a seven-member Common Council, all elected on a partisan basis in a vote held as part of the November general election. The Mayor serves a four-year term of office. The Common Council consists of seven members, each serving four-year terms of office: three at-large Councilpersons representing the entire City and one representing each of the four voting wards, with the at-large and mayoral seats up for election as a group and the ward seats up for vote two years later.
As of 2014[update], the Mayor of Burlington City is Democrat Dr. James Fazzone, whose term of office ends December 31, 2015. Members of the City Council are Council President David Babula (At-Large; D, 2015), Vice President Ila Marie Lollar (Ward 4; D, 2017), Barry Conaway (Ward 1; D, 2017), Doug Ghaul (At-Large; D, 2015), Helen F. Hatala (Ward 3; D, 2017), Thomas J. Swan (Ward 2; R, 2017) and Suzanne Woodard (At-Large; D, 2015).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 5,765 registered voters in Burlington City, of which 2,813 (48.8% vs. 33.3% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 795 (13.8% vs. 23.9%) were registered as Republicans and 2,150 (37.3% vs. 42.8%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 7 voters registered to other parties. Among the city's 2010 Census population, 58.1% (vs. 61.7% in Burlington County) were registered to vote, including 76.4% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 80.3% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 3,138 votes here (72.0% vs. 58.1% countywide), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 1,146 votes (26.3% vs. 40.2%) and other candidates with 35 votes (0.8% vs. 1.0%), among the 4,356 ballots cast by the city's 6,097 registered voters, for a turnout of 71.4% (vs. 74.5% in Burlington County). In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 3,285 votes here (69.9% vs. 58.4% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 1,308 votes (27.8% vs. 39.9%) and other candidates with 55 votes (1.2% vs. 1.0%), among the 4,697 ballots cast by the city's 6,117 registered voters, for a turnout of 76.8% (vs. 80.0% in Burlington County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 2,819 votes here (64.2% vs. 52.9% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 1,486 votes (33.8% vs. 46.0%) and other candidates with 37 votes (0.8% vs. 0.8%), among the 4,390 ballots cast by the city's 5,832 registered voters, for a turnout of 75.3% (vs. 78.8% in the whole county).
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 1,422 votes here (50.9% vs. 61.4% countywide), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 1,284 votes (46.0% vs. 35.8%) and other candidates with 30 votes (1.1% vs. 1.2%), among the 2,793 ballots cast by the city's 6,115 registered voters, yielding a 45.7% turnout (vs. 44.5% in the county). In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 1,622 ballots cast (59.6% vs. 44.5% countywide), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 881 votes (32.4% vs. 47.7%), Independent Chris Daggett with 129 votes (4.7% vs. 4.8%) and other candidates with 48 votes (1.8% vs. 1.2%), among the 2,723 ballots cast by the city's 6,010 registered voters, yielding a 45.3% turnout (vs. 44.9% in the county).
The historic William R. Allen School was originally built for the education of black children.
Doane Academy, a co-educational, Episcopal college-preparatory school, was founded as St. Mary's Hall, a boarding school for girls, by George Washington Doane in 1837. The name was shortened from St. Mary's Hall-Doane Academy in March 2008. All Saints Catholic Grade School (Pre-K though 8th grade) closed in June 2006 with several other Catholic schools in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton due to low enrollment, after 75 years of operation, based on the results of recommendations issues in 2005 that recommended the closure to help improve diocese finances.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Burlington include:
Joseph Bloomfield (1753–1823), Captain in Revolutionary War, New Jersey Attorney General, Chief Justice of the New Jersey Vice-Admiralty Court, president of the first Society for the Abolition of Slavery, Mayor from 1795 to 1800, Governor of New Jersey (1801–1802 and 1803–1812), a Brigadier General in the War of 1812 and U.S. Representative from 1817 to 1821.
^History, Burlington County Prison Museum. Accessed September 21, 2011. "When the county seat was moved to Mount Holly in 1796, the federal-style courthouse was newly completed the same year."
^Walton, Jean R. "New Jersey County Formation, New Jersey Postal History Society. Accessed September 24, 2011. "The Capital of East Jersey was moved to Perth Amboy (then just Amboy) in 1683. Burlington, founded in 1677, was named Capital of West Jersey in 1681. In 1702, these two proprietorships were combined into one Crown Colony, but the two Capitals were maintained until the Revolutionary War, with the Governor sharing his time between each."
^"The Founding of the Quaker colony of West Jersey", Independence Hall Association. Accessed September 24, 2011. 'At Chygoes Island they laid out a town. "After locating the main street, they divided the land on each side into lots — the easternmost among the Yorkshire proprietors, the other among the Londoners. The town was first called Beverly, then Bridlington, and finally Burlington.' (Smith's History of NJ)"
^ abcdefgIntensive Level Architectural Survey of Burlington City, McCabe & Associates, 2002
^Centuries of Service, Library Company of Burlington. Accessed July 1, 2011. "It is the oldest library in continuous operation in New Jersey, and has the distinction of being the seventh oldest in the United States."
^ abcShermerhorn, William. The History of Burlington, New Jersey (Burlington, NJ: Press of Enterprise Publishing Co., 1927)
^ abStrauss, Robert. "Driving Through the Heart of a State", The New York Times, January 2, 2000. Accessed August 14, 2013. "James Fenimore Cooper, too, has his own eponymous service area in Mount Laurel, near where he was born in Burlington, but he spent only a few years of his childhood there before migrating to New York State, the scene of much of his writing."
^Underground Railroad Tour, City of Burlington Historic District. Accessed June 14, 2012. "301 High Street: This is New Jersey’s oldest pharmacy in continuous operation. Burlington Pharmacy was built in 1731, the numerals spelled out in bricks on the gable end facing Union Street. In 1841 commenced pharmacy operations. It was owned, then, by Quaker William J. Allinson, an active abolitionist who used it as a forum for anti-slavery rallies."
^Hefler, Jan. "Garganio again to head Burlco Freeholder Board", The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 29, 2014. Accessed July 27, 2014. "The new director of the Burlington County Freeholder Board is Bruce Garganio, a Republican who led the five-member board for three years before he was defeated in his bid for reelection in November 2011.... Two weeks ago, the county Republican Committee tapped Garganio to fill the one-year vacancy that was created after Leah Arter resigned as freeholder director."
^What are SDA Districts?, New Jersey Schools Development Authority. Accessed August 14, 2012. "SDA Districts are 31 special-needs school districts throughout New Jersey. They were formerly known as Abbott Districts, based on the Abbott v. Burke case in which the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the State must provide 100 percent funding for all school renovation and construction projects in special-needs school districts.... The districts were renamed after the elimination of the Abbott designation through passage of the state’s new School Funding Formula in January 2008."
^Historic Timeline, Doane Academy. Accessed July 1, 2011. "For decades, Saint Mary's Hall-Doane Academy had labored under the awkwardness of the hyphenated dual name. Longstanding confusion about the school's identity made it increasingly difficult to recruit new students to continue Bishop Doane's mission. In 2008, the Board of Trustees voted to simplify the school's name and honor its founder by changing the school's legal name to 'Doane Academy'."
^Joseph Bloomfield, Burlington City, N.J. Accessed July 1, 2011. "Born in 1753, Joseph Bloomfield reached the rank of Captain in the Revolutionary War, then served as New Jersey state attorney general and chief justice of the New Jersey Vice-Admiralty Court. He moved to Burlington upon marrying Mary McIlvaine, and took up residence in a mansion on High Street which had been built about 1750.... Bloomfield served as Mayor from 1795 to 1800, the second mayor under the Act of Incorporation of 1784."
^Staff. "Death of Bishop Doane.", The New York Times, April 28, 1859. Accessed April 5, 2011. "The Right Rev. GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey, died at his residence in Burlington, yesterday, aged sixty years."
^William Franklin, Burlington City, N.J. Accessed July 1, 2011. "The son of Benjamin Franklin, William Franklin spent much of his youth in England, where he earned a Master's degree by Oxford, was accepted to the bar, and married. Upon his return to America in 1763, he became royal governor of New Jersey at the age of thirty-two, and took up residence at Green Bank, a riverside Burlington mansion."
^Egle, William Henry. "Ann Wood Henry", Some Pennsylvania women during the War of the Revolution, p. 87, Harrisburg Publishing Co., 1898. Accessed July 1, 2011.
^James Kinsey, Historic Burlington County, March 1, 1997. Accessed November 22, 2013. "Kinsey's house, built in 1770, was sold after his death by his wife Hannah. Located at 38 West Broad Street, the house now serves as Lodge 965 of the Loyal Order of Moose."
^Mannion, Helen. "Take a self-guided tour of S.J. history", Courier-Post, August 25, 2010. Accessed April 5, 2011. "Captain James Lawrence House -- This building served as the birthplace of the naval war hero in the War of 1812, who coined the U.S. Navy's motto 'Don't Give up the Ship!' 459 High St."
^Revolutionary War Sites in Burlington, New Jersey, Revolutionary War New Jersey. Accessed November 22, 2013. "Bowes Reed - Served as colonel of the Burlington County militia during the Revolution; Mayor of Burlington in 1780, His brother was Joseph Reed, aide-de-camp to Washington."
^History, Burlington Lodge #32. Accessed April 5, 2011. "John Skene, Deputy governor of West Jersey, moves to Burlington, the capital of the Province. As far as can be determined, Skene has the distinction of being the first Freemason in the American Colonies."
^Mackey, Albert Gallatin; and Haywood, Harry LeRoy. "Encyclopedia of freemasonry, Volume 3", p. 1151, Kessinger Publishing, 1946. Accessed April 5, 2011. "John Skene settled at Burlington, capital of East Jersey, and was Deputy Governor from 1685 until his death in 1690."
^Medal of Honor Recipients - Civil War (M-Z), United States Army. Accessed November 22, 2013. "TAYLOR, ANTHONY Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, Company A, 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Place and date: At Chickamauga, Ga., 20 September 1863. Entered service at: Philadelphia, Pa. Born: 11 October 1837, Burlington, N.J."