Norman Rockwell himself might have dreamed up Califon as an ideal all-American village. Within its one-square-mile boundary are charming Victorian-style homes on quiet streets-so quiet, in fact, the borough doesn’t even have a traffic light. Set along the banks of the South Branch of the Raritan River, Califon is located in the beautiful rolling hills of Hunterdon County, bordering Lebanon and Tewksbury Townships.
The Califon Historical Society has over 150 structures registered with the National Register of Historic Places. In keeping with its Victorian heritage, the houses are marked with wooden plaques noting the builders' names and construction dates rather than street numbers.
The Borough was incorporated by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature in 1918. Its unusual name was shortened from the original choice, California, in honor of a resident returning from that state's Gold Rush. Mail addressed "California, New Jersey" was just too confusing for the post office to handle, so the named was shortened to Califon.
The High Bridge Branch of the Central Railroad of New Jersey began service to Califon in 1875, where there was a wooden freight and passenger station. The rail line was abandoned in 1976 and now serves as Columbia Trail, a picturesque Hunterdon County-administered rail trail.
Califon is a riverside village set on both banks of the South Branch of the Raritan River. This part of the river offers some of the best stream fishing in the state with an abundance of trout. Small shops and services are found along the borough's Main Street or in the Victorian Square shopping center on Route 513.
The village of Califon is just minutes from the towns of Chester and Long Valley, which offer over 100 shops, boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. Also located within several miles of Califon are golf courses, art museums, local theaters and nature preserves.
Nature and wildlife are part of this rural community's surroundings. Horses graze inside white-fenced pastures, while barns, small herds of deer as well as wild turkeys and native birds are common sights.
Students in kindergarten through eighth grade attend the Califon Public School at 6 School Street.
Public school students in grades 9 through 12 are served by the North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional High School District. Voorhees High School serves students from Califon Borough, Glen Gardner Borough, Hampton Borough, High Bridge Borough, Lebanon Township and Tewksbury Township.
Voorhees High School was the 30th-ranked public high school in New Jersey out of 316 schools statewide, in New Jersey Monthly magazine's September 2006 cover story on the state's top public high schools. In 2007, Newsweek ranked Voorhees High School as the 36th-highest ranked school in New Jersey.
Califon is a few miles north of Interstate 78, about 60 miles west of New York City, and less than an hour from Newark Liberty International Airport. A few miles east on I-78 brings you to I-287 which runs north toward Morristown and south toward the Garden State Parkway.
There is train service into New York City from High Bridge, about three miles south. Bus service runs from Clinton and Annandale along I-78 to both Newark Airport and New York City.
For long-distance travel, Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pennsylvania is about 42 miles away, and Newark Liberty International Airport is about 47 miles from Califon.
In addition to the classic front porch Victorians in town, Califon has a mix of housing styles including waterfront homes on the river; Federal homes from the early 1800s; vintage homes dating from the early 1900s, sometimes with a detached garage building or small barn in the back; traditional Colonials; historic stone and clapboard homes; antique farmhouses and well-kept residences built in the second half of the past century.
Ken Lockwood Gorge: Just down the river from Califon in High Bridge is Ken Lockwood Gorge, an area known for huge glacial boulders in the water, calm pools, bubbling rapids and tall hemlocks along the banks. It's popular among fly fisherman and those who appreciate the unique scenery.
Califon Historical Society Museum: Located at 25 Main Street, The Califon Historical Society shares the site with the town museum. Original station furniture, historic photos and antique uniforms donated by long-time residents are among the displays. The Central New Jersey Railroad built both a wooden freight and passenger station in town around 1875, and the citizens of Califon replaced it at their own expense with the existing stone structure.
Columbia Trail: The seven-mile long Columbia Trail passes through Califon, running from Lake Solitude and the South Branch of the Raritan River on to High Bridge. As a former railroad bed, the level trail has no grades higher than 2.5%, making it ideal for hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.
Fun Fact #1: Merv Griffin (1925-2007), television producer, once owned a farm a few miles outside of Califon. When he launched the game show Wheel of Fortune, he gave a nod to Califon when naming the production company which was expressly responsible for the show. To this day, Wheel of Fortune officially does business as Califon Productions, Inc., although the show is owned by Sony Pictures.
Fun Fact #2: In 2007, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick and Virginia Madsen were spotted filming a movie comedy titled "Diminished Capacity" in Califon.
Size: 1 square mile
2000 Census Population: 1,055
Location: Hunterdon County
Distance from New York City: About 56 miles
Distance from Newark: About 44 miles
Distance from Philadelphia: About 60 miles
Parks: Califon Island Park in the center of town; The Columbia Trail, Ken Lockwood Gorge down river in High Bridge.
Local Sites/Attractions: Califon Historical Society Museum on the site of the former Central Railroad of New Jersey train stop; the landmark 19th century iron truss bridge crossing the river is one of the few remaining in the state.
Mass Transportation: New Jersey Transit offers connecting train service from nearby Whitehouse Station or Raritan to New York, Newark or Hoboken. New Jersey Transit buses depart from Whitehouse Station to Port Authority in Midtown Manhattan with several stops including Newark and Newark Liberty International Airport.
Housing: Antique farmhouses, antique Colonials, luxury real estate, Victorians, equestrian properties, contemporaries and a variety of other architectural styles spanning the centuries.
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