New Jersey Monthly magazine named Chatham Township #1 in their 2008 Best Places to Live edition based on its stable population growth, open space, minimal crime and low jobless rate. This was an incredible achievement considering that 566 New Jersey municipalities were considered.
Chatham has also been noticed by other major publications. When CNN and Money magazine ranked Chatham ninth on its list of The 100 Best Places to Live in the United States in 2005, they described it as more like a “small New England town than a bustling Big Apple ‘burb.” Indeed, Chatham real estate offers vintage architecture, a strategic location 25 miles from Manhattan and an abiding sense of community making it a desirable destination in southeastern Morris County.
Chatham Borough and Chatham Township share a common heritage and are sometimes jointly referred to as The Chathams. Although the two are actually separate municipalities, they do share a library, school district, volunteer ambulance corps, zip code and post office. Residents have been known to say the Township and Borough are really just like one town that happens to have two different governments.
Noteworthy for the fine examples of Colonial and Victorian architecture along its tree-lined streets, the borough’s historic district on the east end of Main Street is filled with charming homes. Proud of its Early American roots, the borough was a resting spot for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Cultural opportunities in Chatham include historical, art, garden and musical groups, as well as the facilities and programs at neighboring Drew and Fairleigh Dickinson universities. Nearby communities include Summit, New Providence, Berkeley Heights, Harding Township, Madison, Florham Park, Morristown, Short Hills, Millburn and Livingston.
Thousands of years ago, the first people to settle in the area were the Minsi group of the Lenni Lenape Indians. It is believed that the Lenape migrated from as far away as Canada-- or possibly even Siberia-- in search of a warmer climate.
In 1680, Sir George Carteret purchased land from the Minsi Indians that included present-day Chatham. The area was named Chatham in 1773 to honor English Prime Minister Sir William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. He was an outspoken advocate of the rights of the Colonists in America. Chatham citizens were staunch revolutionaries during the Revolutionary War, and troops were active in the area.
In 1801, the Morris Turnpike was built connecting Elizabeth to Morristown through Springfield and Chatham. The Morris and Essex Railroad came to Chatham in 1837.
Chatham Borough was originally formed as a village within Chatham Township in 1892. It was officially incorporated as an independent borough by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature in 1897.
The years between the Civil War and World War I were a period of quiet living and prosperity. Chatham became a center of the rose growing industry in the 1870s and 80s. The area's reputation as a healthy place with fresh air brought the community a bustling trade in tourism. The trains that brought vacationers to Chatham also transported full-time residents to city jobs.
Being just 2.4 square miles in area, Chatham Borough was almost fully developed well before World War II. Today it retains that small-town feeling, a place where many antique homes display the dates of their construction, some reaching as far back as Colonial times.
The Chatham Historical Society celebrates Chatham's local heritage, bringing together those who are interested in learning about the town's history. It also preserves artifacts and records of historical interest relating to the development of Chatham.
Main Street in downtown Chatham is lined with quaint storefronts, picket fences, the town library, restaurants, cafes, shops and a village green with a gazebo. Residents of the Borough enjoy living in this pedestrian-friendly village where they can walk to the train station and shopping.
The township is characterized by quieter neighborhoods, larger properties and relatively newer developments. Although not within walking distance to the conveniences of Chatham Borough, the shopping district is only a short drive away.
In addition to the excellent shopping and restaurants available along Chatham's Main Street and at the Hickory Tree Shopping Center, there are vibrant downtowns in nearby Madison and Summit, as well as more extensive retail options at the Livingston Mall and The Mall at Short Hills.
Chatham's biggest annual event just might be the Fishawack Festival held in June. The term "Fishawack" was the Lenni Lenape name for the Passaic River, and this community-oriented festival was founded in 1971. Proceeds from the one-day event are given to town agencies and organizations such as the volunteer first aid squad or community band. Local artists, authors, children's activities, auto shows, food and entertainment are typically on the schedule.
The largest recreation area for Chatham homes is the 14-acre Sheppard Kollock Park at the east end of Main Street off Parrott Mill Road. Named for the publisher of a Revolutionary War era newspaper founded in Chatham, the park has two baseball diamonds, a covered picnic shelter, a playground, a boat launch and a walking trail along the Passaic River.
In the center of the borough is the 87,000-volume Library of the Chathams, located in the eight-acre Memorial Park off Main Street. Dedicated to veterans of all United States wars, the park was created by local residents in 1924. Amenities at the park include a tree-covered playground, softball, basketball, picnic tables and a swimming pool.
The Chatham Borough Municipal Pool memberships are available to borough residents. It opens on Memorial Day weekend and serves citizens through Labor Day.
Garden Park is adjacent to the Chatham Middle School and offers tennis practice boards, six tennis courts, basketball and playground areas.
Stanley Park on River Road has picnic areas, and Lum Field on Lum Avenue has a ballfield. There are more recreational options at Shunpike Field, Nash Field, Esternay Field and Mountainview Field.
Parts of the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center fall within Chatham's borders.
The Borough of Chatham and Chatham Township held elections in 1986 to consider joining their separate school districts. This proposal was supported by the voters of both municipalities and today they share a regionalized school district, the School District of the Chathams.
Public school students in kindergarten through grade three attend the Milton Avenue School, Southern Boulevard School or Washington Avenue School, depending on what part of Chatham they reside in. Grades four and five attend Lafayette School, and grades six to eight go to Chatham Middle School.
Chatham High School was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education for the 2004-05 school year. It was ranked 12th among 316 public high schools in the state by New Jersey Monthly magazine in September, 2006.
Saint Patrick School is a Roman Catholic school for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. It was awarded the Blue Ribbon School Award of Excellence during the 2003-04 school year.
Chatham Borough homes are a 35-minute drive or 45-minute train ride into midtown Manhattan. The New Jersey Transit train stops at the Chatham station to provide commuter service on the Morristown Line, heading to the Hoboken Terminal and to Penn Station at 34th Street in New York City.
Lakeland Bus leaves from nearby Summit for a 40-minute one-way ride to Port Authority in midtown Manhattan.
Amtrak stops at Newark or Metropark in Edison, both are about 14 miles from Chatham. Newark Liberty International Airport is about 16 miles from Chatham.
Nearby local and interstate highways include Route 24 (Chatham is Exit 7), Route 124/Main Street, Route 10 and Interstates 78 and 287.
Chatham's housing inventory runs the gamut from pre-Revolutionary dwellings and center hall antique Colonials to mid-century Cape Cods. There are many well-tended Victorians on winding roads lined with oak, maple and dogwood trees and accented with careful landscaping. A selection of luxury condominiums, townhouses and garden apartment rentals also make up the real estate market.
The Township features some newer luxury homes on larger lots and several condominium developments, while the Borough’s vintage properties tend to be set amid lush green lawns and perennial gardens.
The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center located on 247 Southern Boulevard features exhibits, educational programs, hiking and canoeing. The Nature Center houses a reference library, auditorium, two classrooms and natural history displays. Weekend family programming, trail walks and workshops are scheduled on a seasonal basis. A mile of trail, much of it on boardwalks, and an observation blind are among the attractions.
The Chatham Community Players at 23 North Passaic Avenue have been entertaining residents of Morris County and the surrounding area since 1922. They continue a long tradition of being a vital cultural component of the Chatham community, Morris County and the surrounding area.
The Chatham Borough Farmers' Market is held seasonally every Saturday through the end of October at the train station. Selections include organically grown fruits and vegetables, cheeses, baked goods and more.
Fun Fact: Aaron Montgomery Ward, a pioneer in the mail order business, was a Chatham resident.
Size: Borough: 2.4 square miles; Township: 9.4 square miles
Incorporated: Borough: Township: 1806
2000 Census Population: Borough: 8,390, Township: 10,279
Location: Morris County
Distance from New York City: About 25 miles
Distance from Newark: About 15 miles
Distance from Philadelphia: About 90 miles
Mass Transportation: New Jersey Transit train station in Chatham Borough, Lakeland Bus service from Summit, Interstate Highways 78 and 287.
Local Sites/Attractions: Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center, The Chatham Community Players, The Chatham Borough Farmers' Market.
Housing: Antique homes, antique Colonials, luxury real estate, Cape Cods, Victorians, executive homes, custom homes, cul-de-sac homes, expanded ranch homes, townhomes, condominiums, contemporary designs and a variety of architectural styles spanning the centuries.
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