The township is marked by an eclectic mix of neighborhoods and housing types, which roughly correspond to the township's geographic features. Generally, the township has four distinct neighborhoods:
Downtown West Orange and The Valley
The oldest and most densely populated part of the township is Downtown West Orange, which lies in the low basin along the township's eastern border with the city of Orange and Montclair. Main Street, in this section, is home to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, as well as the municipal building, police headquarters, and a branch post office. The West Orange Public Library is located on Mount Pleasant Avenue in this section, just west of Main Street. Downtown West Orange is laid out in the pattern of a traditional town, and is formed around the western termini of two major east-west arteries of the Newark street grid: Central Avenue and Park Avenue. Downtown West Orange has the most urban character of the township's neighborhoods, while the Valley is home to a growing arts district and a significant African American community.
The First Mountain
West of Downtown, the neighborhoods of West Orange become increasingly suburban as one ascends the steep hill of the First Watchung Mountain along Northfield, Mount Pleasant, or Eagle Rock Avenue. The housing stock in the neighborhoods of Hutton Park and Gregory is a mixture of Victorian, Jazz Age, and Tudor-style houses; large estates; garden apartments; and post-World War II modern houses. The Victorian enclave of Llewellyn Park, one of America's first planned residential communities, is also located on the First Mountain, having been created in 1853 as a site for country homes for the wealthy from New York City. Many blocks on the First Mountain have sweeping views of the Newark and New York City skylines.
Pleasant Valley and Pleasantdale
Beyond the high ridge traced by Prospect Avenue, West Orange becomes a patchwork of post-World War II suburban neighborhoods, interspersed with pockets of older Victorian homes, as well as golf courses, professional campuses, and shopping centers. Pleasantdale, a walkable business district in this part of the township, includes a number of restaurants, office buildings, and houses of worship. Pleasantdale is also home to a significant Orthodox Jewish community.
There were 16,790 households, of which 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.1% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.0% were non-families. 25.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.28.
In the township, 23.7% of the population were under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 27.6% from 45 to 64, and 15.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.6 years. For every 100 females there were 88.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.2 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $88,917 (with a margin of error of +/- $4,480) and the median family income was $106,742 (+/- $5,256). Males had a median income of $65,854 (+/- $4,548) versus $43,223 (+/- $2,769) for females. The per capita income for the township was $43,368 (+/- $2,021). About 4.9% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.5% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.
There were 16,480 households out of which 32.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.0% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.1% were non-families. 24.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.19. In the township the population was spread out with 23.3% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 23.4% from 45 to 64, and 17.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.0 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $69,254, and the median income for a family was $83,375. Males had a median income of $52,029 versus $39,484 for females. The per capita income for the township was $34,412. About 4.6% of families and 5.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.0% of those under age 18 and 7.8% of those age 65 or over.
West Orange Municipal Building, Main Street & Mount Pleasant Avenue.
West Orange is governed by Plan B of the Mayor-Council system of municipal government pursuant to the Faulkner Act, as implemented on July 1, 1962, by direct petition. Each member of the Council is elected to a four-year term of on a staggered basis, with either three council seats or two seats and the mayoral seat up for election every even-numbered year. Township elections are nonpartisan and at-large. In December 2013, the Township Council approved an ordinance that shifted municipal elections from May to the November general election, citing savings from the combined elections estimated as much as $100,000 per cycle.
As of 2014[update], the Mayor of West Orange is Robert Parisi, whose term of office ends December 31, 2018. Members of the Township Council are Council President Victor Jerry Guarino (2016), Victor Cirilo (2018), Joe Krakoviak (2016), Susan McCartney (2018) and Patty Spango (2016).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 30,561 registered voters in West Orange, of which 14,166 (46.4%) were registered as Democrats, 3,273 (10.7%) were registered as Republicans and 13,108 (42.9%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were no voters registered to other parties.
In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 67.8% of the vote here (15,423 cast), ahead of Republican John McCain with 29.3% (6,667 votes) and other candidates with 0.7% (154 votes), among the 22,740 ballots cast by the township's 30,260 registered voters, for a turnout of 75.1%. In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 64.7% of the vote here (13,535 ballots cast), outpolling Republican George W. Bush with 34.0% (7,118 votes) and other candidates with 0.7% (186 votes), among the 20,933 ballots cast by the township's 28,418 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 73.7.
In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 59.3% of the vote here (8,168 ballots cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 32.9% (4,530 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 6.2% (858 votes) and other candidates with 0.7% (100 votes), among the 13,773 ballots cast by the township's 29,898 registered voters, yielding a 46.1% turnout.
Federal, state and county representation
West Orange is split between the 10th and 11th Congressional Districts and is part of New Jersey's 27th state legislative district. Prior to the 2010 Census, West Orange had been split between the 8th Congressional District and the 10th Congressional District, a change made by the New Jersey Redistricting Commission that took effect in January 2013, based on the results of the November 2012 general elections. In the redistricting that took effect in 2013, 18,122 residents in the eastern third of the township were placed in the 10th district, while 28,085 residents in the western portion of the township were placed in the 11th District.
The West Orange Public Schools serves students in pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade. As of the 2011-12 school year, the district's 11 schools had an enrollment of 6,792 students and 573.6 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 11.84:1. Schools in the district (with 2011-12 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) seven elementary schools — Gregory Elementary School (590 students; in grades K-5), Hazel Avenue Elementary School (368; K-5), Mount Pleasant Elementary School (416; K-5), Pleasantdale Elementary School (424; PreK-5), Redwood Elementary School (576; K-5), St. Cloud Elementary School (386; K-5) and Washington Elementary School (403; K-5) — three middle schools — Thomas A. Edison Central Six School (6; 475), Liberty Middle School (7&8; 551) and Roosevelt Middle School (7&8; 464) — and West Orange High School (2,141) for grades 9-12.
Roads and highways
As of 2010[update], the township had a total of 114.54 miles (184.33 km) of roadways, of which 89.63 miles (144.25 km) were maintained by the municipality, 19.45 miles (31.30 km) by Essex County and 5.46 miles (8.79 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
The township offers a jitney service that operates on weekdays, offering service to the Orange and South Orange train stations.
West Orange was initially a part of the city of Newark, and remained so until November 27, 1806, when the territory now encompassing all of The Oranges was detached to form Orange Township. On April 13, 1807, the first government was elected. On January 31, 1860, Orange was incorporated as a town, and on April 3, 1872, it was reincorporated as a city. Almost immediately, Orange began fragmenting into smaller communities, primarily because of local disputes about the costs of establishing paid police, fire and street departments. South Orange was organized on April 1, 1861, Fairmount (an independent municipality for less than one year that was later to become part of West Orange) on March 11, 1862, and East Orange on March 4, 1863. West Orange (including what had been the briefly independent municipality of Fairmount) was incorporated as a township on April 10, 1863, and was reformed as a town on February 28, 1900.
The Thomas Edison factory in West Orange.
Llewellyn Park, the first planned community in America, is located within West Orange, and was designed by entrepreneur Llewellyn Haskell and architect Alexander Jackson Davis in 1857. Llewellyn Park is considered among the best examples of the "Romantic Landscape" movement of that period.Thomas Edison was one of the many residents.
Evangelical Methodist Church
The Jersey Rockhoppers hockey team of the Eastern Professional Hockey League, formed for the 2008-09 season, played home games at the Richard J. Codey Arena. The arena also used to be the practice facility for the New Jersey Devils from 1986-2007. The New Jersey Daredevils, a special needs hockey team formed in 2002 that plays in the SHI (Special Hockey International League), uses the arena for home games and practices. Annually in October, the Daredevils host a Halloween themed tournament for Special Hockey International teams (including the Daredevils themselves) called Frankenfest. Frankenfest has been going on every October since 2009. The New Jersey Devils Youth Hockey team also plays here as well.
Mass media and telecommunications
For years West Orange has been a hotbed for the mass-media and telecommunications industries. Edison's Black Maria, the first movie studio ever, was located here. Several broadcast antennas are located in the town. From the mid-1970s until the early 1990s Channel 68 TV maintained their offices, studios and transmitter on Eagle Rock Avenue which was later occupied by WNBC-TV and WPXN-TV as a backup transmitter facility after Channel 68 moved to West Market Street in Newark. As of March 2007, the 416 Eagle Rock Avenue property is an empty lot, the main building which housed Channel 68 was recently demolished and the transmitter tower stands alone. WFME-FM has offices studios and transmitter while their sister station WNYJ-TV has executive offices in the same building on Mount Pleasant Avenue next to an MCI Communications (Now part of Verizon Communications) Fiber optics and satellite transmission facility and a Fiber Optic and satellite transmission facility on Eagle Rock Avenue next to the old Channel 68 building. Former Upsala College radio station WFMU's transmitter is on Marcella Avenue just down the street from WFME-FM. Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless all have cell towers located throughout the township to provide clear coverage and Verizon maintains a huge Central Office on Prospect Avenue.
Shopping and entertainment
An outdoor mall called Essex Green Shopping Center has stores, restaurants, and an AMC Theaters Fork and Screen, a dine-in movie theater.
Joan Caulfield (1922–1991), movie, theatre, television actress of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s who was born in East Orange, moved to West Orange during childhood and lived here until her high school graduation from a private school in Orange.
Fred Ott (1860–1936), an employee of Thomas Edison's in the 1890s who "starred" in two of the earliest surviving motion pictures – Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (a.k.a. Fred Ott's Sneeze) and Fred Ott Holding a Bird – both filmed in 1894.
Amos Alonzo Stagg (1862–1965), known as "The Grand Old Man" of college football. During the founding year of the College Football Hall of Fame, he was inducted as both a player and a coach. He was among the first group of inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959. He is also credited with the invention of the batting cage in baseball and the tackling dummy in football. West Orange's Stagg Field playground is named in his honor. Ranked #4 on the Sports Illustrated list of The 50 Greatest New Jersey Sports Figures.
^ abGeneral Information, Essex County, New Jersey. Accessed July 9, 2014. "The Board of Chosen Freeholders consists of nine members, five of whom are elected from districts and four of whom are elected at-large. They are elected for three-year concurrent terms and may be re-elected to successive terms at the annual election in November."
^Lee, Eunice. "Labor leader from South Orange tapped as new Essex County freeholder", The Star-Ledger, December 19, 2012. Accessed July 9, 2014. "A longtime labor union leader from South Orange was sworn in this afternoon as the newest Essex County freeholder.Gerald Owens, 74, is a general organizer for the International Longshoremen's Association.... Owens is filling the seat vacated by former at-large freeholder Donald Payne Jr., who stepped down from the post last month after securing the 10th Congressional District seat left open by his late father."
^Stephenson, Colin. "Jersey Rockhoppers ready to drop puck", The Star-Ledger, October 30, 2008. Accessed October 3, 2013. "But the Eastern Professional Hockey League is nevertheless set to debut this weekend in four markets in the Greater New York area, with one of the league's teams based in northern New Jersey. The Jersey Rockhoppers, who will play their home games at the Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange, are set to open up at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with a home game against the Brooklyn Aces."
^Home Page, Essex Green. Accessed October 30, 2014.
^Golway, Terry. "When Codey Talks, He Talks to Them", The New York Times, October 31, 2004. Accessed November 5, 2007. "Essex County, home of the state's largest city, Newark, and a diverse population of nearly 800,000, has not had a governor to call its own since Brendan T. Byrne - another native of West Orange - left office January 1982."
^ abAllis, Tim. "The Boys Are Back", People (magazine), November 1, 1993. Accessed May 4, 2011. "David, by contrast, spent his earliest years as an only child in a row house in West Orange, N.J., with his mother, stage actress Evelyn Ward, who was divorced from Jack when David was 3."
^ abRoss, Barbara. "'NAUGHTY' GUYS ARE ARRESTED ON GUN CHARGES", Daily News (New York), June 14, 1997. Accessed January 29, 2011. "Two members of the Grammy-winning rap group Naughty by Nature were charged yesterday with carrying loaded and unlicensed 9-mm. pistols. Anthony (Treach) Criss, 26, and Vincent (Vinnie) Brown, 26, both of West Orange, N.J., were arraigned on felony charges of criminal possession of a weapon."
^Hepp, Mark. "A killer's final insult", The Star-Ledger, March 3, 2006. Accessed October 30, 2014. "'Yes, I can,' said Cullen, a slightly built, 46-year-old West Orange native who did not look at the judge or the 21 people who addressed him as he sat at the defense table in Somerset County's Historic Courthouse."
^Jordan, Chris. "Hip-hop phenomenon 'mixtapes' go mainstream", The Tennessean, March 8, 2005. Accessed November 5, 2007. "Whoo Kid, who hails from West Orange, N.J., has certainly diversified. The Queens-raised kid of Haitian parents starting spinning at 16; now, he performs around the world with 50 Cent and on his own."
^Staff. "THE REGION; Frank Dodd in Race", The New York Times, February 4, 1981. Accessed October 30, 2014. "Senator Frank J. Dodd, Democrat of West Orange, became the fourth person to announce formally that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor."
^Love, Rhoda M. "Georgia Mason: Eleven Summers Alone in the Wallowas", Native Plant Society of Oregon. Accessed October 30, 2014. "Mason, whose birth name was Georgia Mavropoulos, was born in West Orange, New Jersey, on March 16, 1910, the middle of three daughters of Greek immigrants Peter and Bessie Mavropoulos."
^Staff. "Nick Massi, Original Member of Four Seasons Pop Group", Los Angeles Times, December 30, 2000. Accessed October 30, 2014. "Nick Massi, 73, an original member of the vocal group the Four Seasons who handled bass vocals and vocal arrangements throughout the band's glory days. The longtime resident of West Orange, N.J., performed with several bands before joining Frankie Valli in a group called the Four Lovers."
^Bumiller, Elisabeth. "Israeli Diplomat Is Man in Middle", The New York Times, September 17, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2012. "Raised in a conservative Jewish family in West Orange, N.J., Mr. Oren worked on a kibbutz at 15, was educated at Princeton and Columbia, immigrated to Israel and spent multiple tours in the Israeli Army, including a job as spokesman during an infamous low point for the military, its poor performance in the 2006 war in Lebanon."
^Kaufman, Michael T. "Peter W. Rodino Dies at 96; Led House Inquiry on Nixon", The New York Times, May 8, 2005. Accessed November 25, 2007. "Peter W. Rodino Jr., an obscure congressman from the streets of Newark who impressed the nation by the dignity, fairness and firmness he showed as chairman of the impeachment hearings that induced Richard M. Nixon to resign as president, died yesterday at his home in West Orange, N.J.. He was 95."
^Mueller, Mark. "Rutgers' oldest alumnus Walter Seward dies at 111", The Star-Ledger, September 15, 2008. Accessed January 29, 2011. "Long celebrated as the oldest Rutgers alumnus, the West Orange resident also was believed to be the most long-lived New Jerseyan and the third-oldest man in the United States, according to the Gerontology Research Group, a California organization that tracks the world's most venerable people."
^Sullivan, Joseph F. "Jersey Man in Abscam Case Is Experienced With Inquiries; Conspiracy Charges Dismissed Two Other Directors From Jersey Started as Tire Salesman Need for Advice Questioned Bid-Rigging Indictment Message Termed Death Threat", The New York Times, March 9, 1980. "Mr. Zwillman, who later was found hanged in his West Orange home, also testified about his relationship with Mr. Bozzo."