Rahway saw action during the American Revolutionary War because of its proximity to Staten Island, Elizabethtown and Perth Amboy. In January 1777, rebels were victorious against the British in the Battle of Spanktown, which resulted in the death of some 100 British troops. The battle was named this after Rahway's original name given to it by the first settlers, Spanktown, which is said to have been chosen "because an early settler publicly took his spouse across his knee and chastised her".
The Merchants' and Drovers' Tavern resides at the corner of St. Georges and Westfield Avenues. The earliest buildings at the site date to 1795 and the property remains one of Rahway's most prominent historical landmarks.George Washington visited Rahway during his travel to New York City prior to his presidential inauguration in 1789. A marker across the street from the tavern reads:
Here, on April 23, 1789, on his way to New York City, Washington
was received by troops from Elizabethtown and Newark. He was
entertained at the inn kept by Samuel Smith by gentlemen of the town.
Following the Revolution, Rahway became the home of the first national mint to create a coin bearing the inscription E pluribus unum. A United States Post Office established in Rahway was one of only six in the entire state in 1791.
As immigrants from Britain, Ireland and Germany streamed into what was then Rahway Township in the 1850s, Rahway became incorporated as a city by an act of the State Legislature on April 19, 1858, from portions of Rahway Township in Union and Woodbridge Township in Middlesex County. In 1860, the portion of Rahway that had been part of Middlesex County was transferred to Union. On March 13, 1861, the remainder of Rahway Township became part of Rahway City. Clark Township was formed from portions of the city on March 23, 1864.
The first municipal elections for the Mayor and Council were conducted on April 19, 1858, and the Council held its first meeting on May 3, 1858. The city's police department and its initial group of four constables were created at that first council meeting.
The city became home to dozens of major manufacturers, including the Regina Music Box Company, Wheatena, Mershon Bros. and, most importantly, Merck & Co., which was established in Rahway in 1903, when George Merck moved his small chemical company to Rahway from New York City. The company remained in Rahway through the presidency of George W. Merck and after.
The national decline in industry after World War II led to the closure of most of Rahway's major manufacturing facilities (except for Merck) and a general deterioration of the city's central business district. Beginning in the late 1990s, the city launched a plan to revitalize the downtown area and authorized the construction of hundreds of new market-rate housing units, a hotel, art galleries and additional retail space.
The city is home to about ten parks. The best-known park is Rahway River Park, which is maintained by Union County, and is also partially located in Clark. The park hosts a number of baseball fields, picnic areas, a lake and a public pool. The park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers in 1922 and its swimming pool, built in 1929, was documented by the Historic American Engineering Record in 1985.
Rahway River and water tower
The Rahway River travels through Rahway, entering from Clark at Rahway River Park. The river receives the waters of Robinsons Branch at Elizabeth Avenue between West Grand Avenue and West Main Street, and then receives the waters of the South Branch at East Hazlewood Avenue and Leesville Avenue. Finally the river leaves Rahway to enter the city limits of Linden and Carteret before flowing into the Arthur Kill.
There were 10,533 households, of which 28.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.4% were married couples living together, 16.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.3% were non-families. 29.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.58 and the average family size was 3.23.
In the city, 21.8% of the population were under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 27.5% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.8 years. For every 100 females there were 91.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.1 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $58,551 (with a margin of error of +/- $3,355) and the median family income was $77,268 (+/- $9,506). Males had a median income of $56,572 (+/- $3,375) versus $47,832 (+/- $3,542) for females. The per capita income for the city was $28,855 (+/- $1,981). About 5.4% of families and 8.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.9% of those under age 18 and 9.4% of those age 65 or over.
There were 10,028 households out of which 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.7% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.9% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.24.
In the city the population was spread out with 23.9% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 32.0% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 91.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $50,729, and the median income for a family was $61,931. Males had a median income of $41,047 versus $32,091 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,481. About 5.4% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.3% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.
Under the City of Rahway's form of government, all executive and administrative authority is vested in the office of the Mayor who appoints the Business Administrator and department directors. The Business Administrator develops an annual budget for the city, manages the city's departments and oversees its employees. This form of government gives citizens a centralized line of authority for the efficient management of the city’s business. There are nine members of the Municipal Council, all elected to four-year terms of office. Six members of the council are elected from each of six wards. The other three members are elected to represent the entire city at large, and come up for election at the same time as the mayor two years after the ward seats are up for election.
As of 2014[update], the mayor of Rahway is Samson Steinman (D), who was appointed to the position following the resignation of Rick Proctor, whose term of office was to have extended until December 31, 2014. Members of the Municipal Council are Council President David Brown (Fourth Ward; D, 2016), James Baker (At Large; D, 2014), Robert "Bob" Bresenhan, Jr. (Second Ward; D, 2016), Rodney Farrar (First Ward; D, 2016), Raymond A. Giacobbe, Jr. (Sixth Ward; D, 2016), Jennifer Wenson Maier (Fifth Ward; D, 2016), Salvatore Mione (At Large; D, 2014), Nancy Saliga (At Large; D, 2014) and Jerry Scaturo (Third Ward; D, 2016).
Federal, state and county representation
The New Jersey state motor vehicle commission in Rahway.
Rahway is located in the 10th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 22nd state legislative district.
Union County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders, whose nine members are elected at-large to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis with three seats coming up for election each year, with an appointed County Manager overseeing the day-to-day operations of the county. At an annual reorganization meeting held in the beginning of January, the board selects a Chairman and Vice Chairman from among its members. As of 2014[update], Union County's Freeholders are Chairman Christopher Hudak (D, Linden, term ends December 31, 2014), Vice Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh (D, Roselle, 2015), Bruce Bergen (D, Springfield Township, 2015), Linda Carter (D, Plainfield, 2016), Angel G. Estrada (D, Elizabeth, 2014), Sergio Granados (D, Elizabeth, 2016) Bette Jane Kowalski (D, Cranford, 2016), Alexander Mirabella (D, Fanwood, 2015) and Vernell Wright (D, Union, 2014). Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi (D, Union, 2015), Sheriff Ralph Froehlich (D, Union, 2016) and Surrogate James S. LaCorte (D, Springfield Township, 2014). The County Manager is Alfred Faella.
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 15,719 registered voters in Rahway, of which 7,159 (45.5% vs. 41.8% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 1,675 (10.7% vs. 15.3%) were registered as Republicans and 6,880 (43.8% vs. 42.9%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 5 voters registered to other parties. Among the city's 2010 Census population, 57.5% (vs. 53.3% in Union County) were registered to vote, including 73.5% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 70.6% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 8,413 votes here (74.7% vs. 66.0% countywide), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 2,648 votes (23.5% vs. 32.3%) and other candidates with 107 votes (0.9% vs. 0.8%), among the 11,269 ballots cast by the city's 16,730 registered voters, for a turnout of 67.4% (vs. 68.8% in Union County). In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 8,340 votes here (69.8% vs. 63.1% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 3,410 votes (28.5% vs. 35.2%) and other candidates with 115 votes (1.0% vs. 0.9%), among the 11,944 ballots cast by the city's 16,039 registered voters, for a turnout of 74.5% (vs. 74.7% in Union County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 6,512 votes here (63.1% vs. 58.3% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 3,668 votes (35.5% vs. 40.3%) and other candidates with 92 votes (0.9% vs. 0.7%), among the 10,326 ballots cast by the city's 14,471 registered voters, for a turnout of 71.4% (vs. 72.3% in the whole county).
In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 3,961 ballots cast (57.4% vs. 50.6% countywide), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 2,451 votes (35.5% vs. 41.7%), Independent Chris Daggett with 366 votes (5.3% vs. 5.9%) and other candidates with 68 votes (1.0% vs. 0.8%), among the 6,895 ballots cast by the city's 15,842 registered voters, yielding a 43.5% turnout (vs. 46.5% in the county).
The city had a total of 73.67 miles (118.56 km) of roadways, of which 59.18 miles (95.24 km) are maintained by the municipality, 10.45 miles (16.82 km) by Union County and 4.04 miles (6.50 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Rahway Train Station serves New Jersey Transit's North Jersey Coast Line and Northeast Corridor Line. The City of Rahway and New Jersey Transit helped fund a $16 million renovation for the station in 1999 and a public plaza in front of the station was completed in 2001, changes that have spurred cleanup and revitalization downtown. A new US$11.2 million 524-space parking deck opened across the street from the station in January 2005, helping train commuters and allowing the city to transform old parking lot space into new buildings and residences. A typical train ride to New York City’s Pennsylvania Station takes 40 minutes.
Beginning in the early 1990s and continuing through the present day, the City of Rahway has rebounded as its downtown began to see the construction of new restaurants, art galleries, market-rate housing and the old Rahway Theatre reopening as the Union County Performing Arts Center. The theater underwent a $6.2-million renovation and expansion project, completed in 2007. As part of the expansion, the facility was purchased by the County of Union for $1.3 million and leased back for $1 a year.
In September 1999, remnants of Hurricane Floyd swept across New Jersey and caused severe damage. The Rahway Public Library was on a flood plain and suffered over US$1 million in flood damage. The building was demolished in October 2001 and a new library was constructed and opened on March 22, 2004, behind the city's municipal building along a less flood-prone area of the Rahway River. The area where the former Rahway Public Library was now contains tennis courts and a small playground.
^ abKhavkine, Richard. "Rahway Mayor Rick Proctor resigns post after 32 turbulent months", The Star-Ledger, September 11, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2013. "With a single-sentence resignation letter, Rick Proctor has ended his tumultuous 32-month tenure as mayor of Rahway, effective immediately.... Council president Samson Steinman, a one-time political ally but more recently a frequent Proctor adversary, has been named acting mayor."
^History, Dr. Wm. Robinson Plantation Museum. Accessed May 22, 2103.
^History, City of Rahway. Accessed November 20, 2012. "In January 1777, the Battle of Spanktown was fought on St. Georges Avenue in the vicinity of Robinson’s Branch and the North Branch of the Rahway River. The battle lasted twelve hours with the rebels getting the best of the British, who lost almost one hundred men."
^Staff. "Giacobbe picked to replace Steinman on Council", NJToday.net, October 8, 2013. Accessed October 16, 2013. "Raymond A. Giacobbe, Jr., of 439 Harbienko Court, was appointed as the Sixth Ward’s new representative when the City Council held a special meeting Tuesday immediately after Rahway Democrats offered his name among three contenders for the spot.Giacobbe, 34, was nominated as councilman to replace Mayor Samson Steinman, who resigned from the governing body when he was named to his current position following the unexpected departure of embattled former Mayor Rick Proctor."
^Martin, Antoinette. "Can a Face Lift Offer a New Identity?", The New York Times, October 29, 2006. Accessed May 20, 2012. "Rahway’s train station, transformed after a $16 million renovation, is in the heart of its compact downtown, offering commuters a direct trip to Penn Station in Manhattan, about 15 miles northeast of here, or to Penn Station in Newark or to Trenton."
^Google Maps - "Rahway" to "EWR" (Newark Liberty International Airport)
^About Us, Union County Performing Arts Center. Accessed May 20, 2012.
^Russell, Suzanne C. "RAHWAY FEMA action closes books on Rahway's flood-damaged library", Home News Tribune, November 14, 1999. Accessed May 20, 2012. "The flood-damaged Rahway Public Library will never reopen at the St. Georges Avenue building because Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have deemed the damage too severe. Instead, a new library and technology center are planned by the city for the 40,000-square-foot SDI Technologies building on Main Street, Rahway officials said."
^Antonio Garay, Chicago Bears. Accessed May 17, 2007. "Earned Prep Star All-American and All-New Jersey Group III honors as a senior at Rahway H.S. in Rahway, N.J. after totaling 141 tackles and 10 sacks in his final season... Outstanding wrestler who was tabbed the 275-pound national champion by the National High School Coaches' Association"
^About Wayne, Congressman Wayne Gilchrest. Accessed May 17, 2007. "Born in Rahway, New Jersey, he was the fourth of Elizabeth and Arthur Gilchrest's six boys."
^Freddie Russo, New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. Accessed May 22, 2013. "Freddie Russo was born in Brooklyn, New York on October 3, 1924. His family moved to Rahway, New Jersey and that city became the home base for one of the classiest boxer-punchers of that era."
^Staff. "Sagal adds edge to FX's new 'Sons'", Philadelphia Daily News, September 3, 2008. Accessed May 20, 2012. "Created by Kurt Sutter, a New Jersey native whose biography boasts that he was 'raised in the shadow of Rahway prison' and spent much of his childhood indoors, away from people, three feet from a TV screen."
^Cheney, Margaret. "Tesla: Man Out of Time". Accessed June 5, 2007. "The Tesla Electric Light Company was formed, with headquarters at Rahway, New Jersey, and a branch office in New York.
^Johnson, Robert. "Looking Back Is Not an Option", The New York Times, November 28, 2004. Accessed October 19, 2007. "He is also promoting his new book "Medicine, Science and Merck" (Cambridge University Press), written with Louis Galambos, describing his path from son of a luncheonette owner in Rahway, N.J., to leader of a pharmaceutical giant."