Somerville, New Jersey

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Somerville is a borough in and the county seat of Somerset County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 12,098, reflecting a decline of 325 (-2.6%) from the 12,423 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 791 (+6.8%) from the 11,632 counted in the 1990 Census.Somerville was originally formed as a town on March 25, 1863, within a portion of Bridgewater Township. Somerville was incorporated as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 16, 1909, based on the results of a referendum held on May 4, 1909, at which point it was fully set off from Bridgewater Township. It is home of the oldest competitive bicycle race in the United States. The borough is named for Somerset in England.


Early development

Somerville was settled in colonial times primarily by the Dutch who purchased land from the English proprietors of the colony. The Dutch established their church near what is today Somerville and a Dutch Reformed minister or Domine lived at the Old Dutch Parsonage from about 1754. The early village grew up around a church, courthouse and a tavern built at a crossroads shortly after the American Revolution. The name "Somerville" was taken from four brothers of the Somerville family, William, Edward, John and James from Drishane and Castlehaven, County Cork, Ireland, who first founded the town in the 1750s. Somerville was originally a sparsely populated farming community, but rapidly grew after the completion of the railroad in the 1840s and development of water power along the Raritan River in the 1850s. Early industry included brick making from the plentiful red clay and shale on which Somerville is built. While much of the borough features distinctive Victorian architecture in several neighborhoods and along its Main Street, other periods are represented. National Register sites in Somerville include the white marble 1909 Somerville Court House and the wooden and stone colonial Wallace House (today a museum) where George Washington spent a winter during the American Revolutionary War. Near the Wallace House is the Old Dutch Parsonage, where Reverend Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, a founder and first president of Rutgers University, then called Queens College, lived. Register listed Victorian structures include the James Harper Smith Estate (privately owned), St. John's Episcopal Church and rectory, and the Fire Museum (a vintage fire house). Other notable, register eligible structures are the Victorian train station (privately owned) and the municipal building, the former Robert Mansion.Originally the center of local commerce, the borough has evolved into a destination for boutique retail and dining. Modern highways today surround and traverse Somerville, including U.S. Route 22, U.S. Route 202, U.S. Route 206 and Route 28 and is within 5 miles (8.0 km) of Interstate 287 and Interstate 78, making it an important hub in central New Jersey.

Tour of Somerville

In 1940, the first competitive bicycle race, called the Tour of Somerville was established by bicycle shop owner, Fred Kugler, to showcase his son, Furman, who was a national cycling champion, and who won the initial men's competition. His daughter, Mildred won the women's. The 50-mile race is held annually and has since become the oldest competitive bicycle race in the U.S. It carries a purse of $10,000 for each winner of the women's and men's races.

Downtown today

Main Street Somerville maintains most of its historical buildings, although many are now boutique specialty shops and second hand shops. Somerville has quite a diverse and large selection of restaurants that draw people from the surrounding area. In many ways, Somerville remains Somerset County's downtown, and is the heart of its designated Regional Center. Several of the factories in Somerville were abandoned and replaced with modern office buildings or remodeled as apartments. Somerville today and historically has had an important African American community, a distinguished member of which was Paul Robeson. Another famous Somerville native was famed character actor Lee Van Cleef. One of the founders of modern American Dance, Ruth St. Denis, made her professional debut at Somerset Hall, once a vaudeville theatre and today a local restaurant. The mix of modern amenities and an interesting and diverse past make Main Street, Somerville a unique destination for dining, strolling and visiting.

Future redevelopment

The shopping center on the west side of the downtown area was demolished and a new shopping center, town homes and other amenities will be built on the shopping center land and on adjacent land in the former borough landfill to the south. Ground was broken for a new "world class" ShopRite supermarket in March 2011 and opened in November 2011. Borough planners envision a transit village style redevelopment centered around the Somerville train station.

Hurricane Floyd

Somerville was hit hard by Hurricane Floyd in September 1999, despite its having been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it impacted the vicinity. The borough received a record 13.34 inches (339 mm) of rain over three days during the slow moving storm, causing significant flooding and considerable damage.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 2.37 square miles (6.13 km2), including 2.34 square miles (6.06 km2) of land and 0.03 square miles (0.07 km2) of water (1.18%). The borough's territory is flat land. Somerville borders the Raritan River to the south and is crossed by Peters Brook, a tributary. The borough borders Bridgewater Township, Hillsborough Township and Raritan.


Somerville's climate is warm during summer when temperatures tend to be in the 70s, 80s and 90s and cold during winter when temperatures tend to be in the 20s and 30s. The warmest month of the year is July with an average maximum temperature of 84.40 degrees Fahrenheit, while the coldest month of the year is January with an average minimum temperature of 19.10 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature variations between night and day tend to be moderate during summer with a difference that can reach 22 degrees Fahrenheit, and fairly limited during winter with an average difference of 19 degrees Fahrenheit. The annual average precipitation at Somerville is 45.93 inches (1,167 mm). Rainfall in is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year. The wettest month of the year is July with an average rainfall of 4.81 inches (122 mm).


2010 Census

The 2010 United States Census counted 12,098 people, 4,591 households, and 2,778 families in the borough. The population density was 5,189.5 inhabitants per square mile (2,003.7/km2). There were 4,951 housing units at an average density of 2,123.8 per square mile (820.0/km2). The racial makeup was 65.64% (7,941) White, 12.15% (1,470) Black or African American, 0.34% (41) Native American, 11.37% (1,375) Asian, 0.07% (9) Pacific Islander, 6.34% (767) from other races, and 4.09% (495) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 23.75% (2,873) of the population.Of the 4,591 households, 28.7% had children under the age of 18; 43.7% were married couples living together; 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present and 39.5% were non-families. Of all households, 30.8% were made up of individuals and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was of the population were under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 34.0% from 25 to 44, 24.8% from 45 to 64, and 11.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35.5 years. For every 100 females, the population had 107.3 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 106.7 males.The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $69,836 (with a margin of error of +/- $5,384) and the median family income was $80,461 (+/- $9,281). Males had a median income of $45,929 (+/- $5,005) versus $46,540 (+/- $3,751) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $30,272 (+/- $2,145). About 3.6% of families and 6.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.8% of those under age 18 and 10.8% of those age 65 or over.

2000 Census

As of the 2000 United States Census there were 12,423 people, 4,743 households, and 2,893 families residing in the borough. The population density was 5,262.4 people per square mile (2,032.4/km2). There were 4,882 housing units at an average density of 2,068.0 per square mile (798.7/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 71.21% White, 12.93% African American, 0.19% Native American, 7.35% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 5.10% from other races, and 3.20% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.00% of the population.There were 4,743 households, of which 28.6% had children under the age of 18, 44.5% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.0% were non-families. 31.4% 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 2.49 and the average family size was 3.15.The borough population consists of 21.9% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 35.8% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 101.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.1 males.The median income for a household in the borough was $51,237, and the median income for a family was $60,422. Males had a median income of $40,585 versus $32,697 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $23,310. About 4.8% of families and 7.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.7% of those under age 18 and 8.6% of those age 65 or over.


Local government

Somerville is governed under the Borough form of New Jersey municipal government, which is used in 218 municipalities (of the 565) statewide, making it the most common form of government in New Jersey. The governing body is comprised of the Mayor and the Borough Council, with all positions elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election. The Mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office. The Borough Council is comprised of six members elected to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election each year in a three-year cycle. The Borough form of government used by Somerville is a "weak mayor / strong council" government in which council members act as the legislative body with the mayor presiding at meetings and voting only in the event of a tie. The mayor can veto ordinances subject to an override by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council. The Borough Council elects a member to serve as Council President to act in the absence of the Mayor. Each council member is appointed by the Mayor to one of six standing committee's during the Annual Reorganization Meeting held on January 1 of each year. As of 2020, the Mayor of Somerville is Democrat Dennis Sullivan, whose term of office ends December 31, 2023. Members of the Somerville Borough Council are Council President Roger Vroom III (D, 2022), Granville Y. Brady Jr. (D, 2020), Jane C. Kobuta (D, 2022), Thompson H. Mitchell (D, 2021), RanD Pitts (D, 2021) and Frederick Wied V (D, 2020).In the November 2018 general election, Dennis Sullivan was chosen to serve the balance of the mayoral term of office, leaving his council seat expiring in December 2020 vacant.

Federal, state and county representation

Somerville is located in the 7th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 16th state legislative district Prior to the 2010 Census, Somerville had been part of the 11th 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.For the 116th United States Congress. New Jersey's Seventh Congressional District is represented by Tom Malinowski (D, Ringoes). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Democrats Cory Booker (Newark, term ends 2021) and Bob Menendez (Paramus, term ends 2025).For the 2018–2019 session (Senate, General Assembly), the 16th Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Christopher Bateman (R, Branchburg) and in the General Assembly by Andrew Zwicker (D, South Brunswick) and Roy Freiman (D, Hillsborough Township).Somerset County is governed by a five-member Board of Chosen Freeholders, whose members are elected at-large to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with one or two seats coming up for election each year. At an annual reorganization meeting held in the beginning of January, the board selects a Director and Deputy Director from among its members. As of 2020, Somerset County's Freeholders are Freeholder Director Shanel Robinson (D, Franklin Township, term as freeholder ends 2021; term as freeholder director ends 2020), Freeholder Deputy Director Sara Sooy (D, Basking Ridge in Bernards Township, term as freeholder ends 2021; term as freeholder deputy director ends 2020)), and Freeholders Brian G. Gallagher (R, Somerville, 2020), Brian D. Levine (R, Franklin Township, term as freeholder ends 2020), and Melonie Marano (D, Green Brook Township). Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are County Clerk Steve Peter (D, Somerville, 2022), Sheriff Darrin J. Russo (D, Franklin Township, 2022) and Surrogate Frank Bruno (R, Branchburg, 2020).


As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 6,565 registered voters in Somerville, of which 1,848 (28.1% vs. 26.0% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 1,358 (20.7% vs. 25.7%) were registered as Republicans and 3,349 (51.0% vs. 48.2%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 10 voters registered to other parties. Among the borough's 2010 Census population, 54.3% (vs. 60.4% in Somerset County) were registered to vote, including 69.0% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 80.4% countywide).In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 62.0% of the vote (2,779 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 36.4% (1,631 votes), and other candidates with 1.7% (75 votes), among the 4,516 ballots cast by the borough's 6,952 registered voters (31 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 65.0%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 2,847 votes (59.9% vs. 52.1% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 1,814 votes (38.2% vs. 46.1%) and other candidates with 52 votes (1.1% vs. 1.1%), among the 4,751 ballots cast by the borough's 6,547 registered voters, for a turnout of 72.6% (vs. 78.7% in Somerset County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 2,485 votes (53.6% vs. 47.2% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 2,019 votes (43.6% vs. 51.5%) and other candidates with 58 votes (1.3% vs. 0.9%), among the 4,633 ballots cast by the borough's 5,974 registered voters, for a turnout of 77.6% (vs. 81.7% in the whole county).In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 59.0% of the vote (1,707 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 38.8% (1,123 votes), and other candidates with 2.2% (64 votes), among the 2,972 ballots cast by the borough's 7,019 registered voters (78 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 42.3%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 1,465 votes (46.8% vs. 55.8% countywide), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 1,265 votes (40.4% vs. 34.1%), Independent Chris Daggett with 334 votes (10.7% vs. 8.7%) and other candidates with 33 votes (1.1% vs. 0.7%), among the 3,128 ballots cast by the borough's 6,605 registered voters, yielding a 47.4% turnout (vs. 52.5% in the county).


The Somerville Public Schools serve students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. As of the 2018–19 school year, the district, comprised of three schools, had an enrollment of 2,398 students and 204.7 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 11.7:1. Schools in the district (with 2018–19 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are Van Derveer Elementary School with 802 students in grades PreK-5, Somerville Middle School with 371 students in grades 6-8 and Somerville High School with 1,195 students in grades 9-12. Students from Branchburg Township attend the district's high school as part of a sending/receiving relationship with the Branchburg Township School District. For many years, Branchburg has accounted for 60-65% of the high school's enrollment.Immaculata High School is a private, coeducational, Roman Catholic high school, founded in 1962. The school enrolls approximately 850 students in grades 9 to 12. Immaculate Conception School is a Catholic private coeducational day school, founded in 1957, for students in grades Pre-K through 8. Both schools operate under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen.


Roads and highways

As of May 2010, the borough had a total of 36.16 miles (58.19 km) of roadways, of which 30.96 miles (49.83 km) were maintained by the municipality, 1.90 miles (3.06 km) by Somerset County and 3.30 miles (5.31 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.U.S. Route 22 runs along the northern boundary of Somerville and offers connections to the state highway network. U.S. Route 202 and U.S. Route 206 runs along the western boundary of Somerville, via the Somerville Circle, and provides north–south connections to nearby towns. Interstate 287 is in neighboring Bridgewater Township and is accessible via US Routes 22 and 202/206.

Public transportation

The Somerville train station offers service on New Jersey Transit's Raritan Valley Line, with frequent service to Newark Penn Station, with connecting service to Penn Station New York in Midtown Manhattan.The closest airport with scheduled service is Newark Liberty International Airport.

Points of interest

Duke Farms – Estate of the late tobacco heiress Doris Duke, located in neighboring Hillsborough. The Wallace House New Jersey State Historic House Museum – Washington's Headquarters during the second Middlebrook encampment (1778–79). Old Dutch Parsonage New Jersey State Historic Site – First parsonage of the Dutch Reformed Church in Somerset County and home of Reverend Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, a founder and later first President of Queens College (now Rutgers University). Daniel Robert House (Somerville Borough Hall) – National Register Property, based on Alexander Jackson Davis design, classic example of American Gothic architecture. West End Hose Company Number 3 – the Somerville Fire Department Museum

Notable people

People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Somerville include: Alicia Albe (born 1977), competitor in rhythmic gymnastics. Mary Ellicott Arnold (1876–1968), social activist, teacher and writer best known for her memoir In the Land of the Grasshopper Song. Nicole Arendt (born 1969), professional tennis player. Frank Asch (born 1946), author of children's literature. Christopher "Kip" Bateman (born 1957), politician who has served in the New Jersey Senate since 2008, where he represents the 16th Legislative District. Raymond Bateman (1927–2016), politician who served in the New Jersey Senate in the 1960s and 1970s, who was the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey in 1977. James J. Bergen (1847–1924), politician who served as Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly and an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. Nicholas L. Bissell Jr. (1947–1996), county prosecutor of Somerset County who fled to Laughlin, Nevada and took his own life after being charged with embezzlement, tax fraud and abuse of power. George H. Brown (1810–1865), represented New Jersey's 4th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1853–1855. Tony Camillo (1928–2018), record producer and arranger. Clarence E. Case (1877–1961), politician who served as acting Republican Governor of New Jersey in 1920, succeeding William Nelson Runyon. Jack M. Ciattarelli (born 1961), entrepreneur and politician who represented the 16th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly from 2011 to 2018. Alvah A. Clark (1840–1912), represented New Jersey's 4th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1877–1881. Kate Claxton (1848–1924), stage actress. Christine Danelson (born 1987), actress best known as the understudy for the role of Tracy in the national tour of the Broadway musical Hairspray. Royal Page Davidson (1870–1943), educator and inventor. Don Elliott (1926–1984), jazz trumpeter, vibraphonist, vocalist, and mellophone player. David Felmley (1857–1930), educator who served for 30 years as president of Illinois State University, then known as Illinois State Normal University. Lewis Van Syckle Fitz Randolph (1838–1921), businessman and politician. Kevin Foley (born 1987), professional golfer. Gene Freed (1930–2009), bridge player and physician. Frederick Frelinghuysen, (1753–1804), lawyer, soldier, and senator from New Jersey. Mary Exton Gaston (1855–1956), first female physician in Somerville and a "major force in the borough's development". Frederick Wilson Hall (1908–1984), Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1959 to 1975. Reggie Harrison (born 1951), former professional American football running back for four seasons in the National Football League for the Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Cardinals. Mort Herbert (1925–1983), jazz bassist and lawyer. Naomi Jakobsson (born 1941), member of the Illinois House of Representatives, representing the 103rd District since 2003. Walter J. Kavanaugh (1933–2008), member of the State Senate who represented New Jersey's 16th Legislative District who had been a successful businessman in Somerville and a life member of the Somerville First Aid & Rescue Squad. Joyce Kozloff (born 1942), artist whose politically engaged work has been based on cartography since the early 1990s. Joe Lis (born 1946), Major League Baseball player who played for Philadelphia, Minnesota, Cleveland and Seattle. John Mack (1926–2006), principal oboist with the Cleveland Orchestra. Eric Murdock (born 1968), NBA player for the Utah Jazz, Milwaukee Bucks, Vancouver Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Clippers. Michael J. Newman (born 1960), United States magistrate judge in the Southern District of Ohio. Steven J. Ostro (1946–2008), scientist specializing in radar astronomy. Helen Riehle (born 1950), politician who serves in the Vermont Senate, representing most of Chittenden County. Paul Robeson (1898–1976), actor, athlete, bass-baritone concert singer, writer, civil rights activist, Fellow traveler, Spingarn Medal winner, and Stalin Peace Prize laureate. Brian E. Rumpf (born 1964), represents the 9th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly. Theodore Runyon (1822–1896), politician, diplomat, and American Civil War brigadier general in the New Jersey Militia. Skinnyfromthe9 (born 1995), rapper and singer. Frank Snook (born 1949), former relief pitcher who played for the San Diego Padres. Ruth St. Denis (1879–1968), modern dance pioneer. William Gaston Steele, (1820–1892), represented New Jersey's 3rd congressional district from 1861–1865. Douglas Urbanski, film producer. Lee Van Cleef (1925–1989), actor, featured in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More, Escape from New York and many other films and TV series, was an accountant in his hometown before his movie career began. Fred Van Eps (1878–1960), banjoist and early recording artist. Jeffrey Vanderbeek, former owner of the New Jersey Devils. Mauricio Vargas (born 1992), soccer goalkeeper who plays for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League. Frederica von Stade (born 1945), mezzo-soprano. Daniel Spader Voorhees (1852–1935), New Jersey State Treasurer from 1907–1913. Craig Walsh (born 1971), composer. Jon Williams (born 1961), NFL player for the New England Patriots. Elvira Woodruff (born 1951), children's writer known for books that include elements of fantasy and history. Elinor Wylie (1885–1928), poet and novelist, author of Angels and Earthly Creatures, The Orphan Angel and other works.
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