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Bridgeton, New Jersey
City
City of Bridgeton
Downtown Bridgeton
Downtown Bridgeton
Map of Bridgeton highlighted within Cumberland County. Right: Location of Cumberland County in New Jersey.
Map of Bridgeton highlighted within Cumberland County. Right: Location of Cumberland County in New Jersey.
Census Bureau map of Bridgeton, New Jersey
Census Bureau map of Bridgeton, New Jersey
Country  United States
State  New Jersey
County Cumberland
Incorporated March 1, 1865
Named for Bridge on Cohansey River
Government
 • Type Faulkner Act (mayor–council)
 • Body City Council
Area
 • Total 6.49 sq mi (16.82 km2)
 • Land 6.23 sq mi (16.13 km2)
 • Water 0.27 sq mi (0.69 km2)  4.10%
Area rank 249th of 565 in state
13th of 14 in county
Elevation
39 ft (12 m)
Population
 • Total 25,349
 • Estimate 
(2019)
24,160
 • Rank 98th of 566 in state
3rd of 14 in county
 • Density 4,102.5/sq mi (1,584.0/km2)
 • Density rank 149th of 566 in state
1st of 14 in county
Time zone UTC−05:00 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−04:00 (Eastern (EDT))
ZIP Code
08302
Area code(s) 856
FIPS code 3401107600
GNIS feature ID 0885169

Bridgeton is a city in Cumberland County, New Jersey, United States, in the southern part of the state, on the Cohansey River, near Delaware Bay. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 25,349, reflecting an increase of 2,578 (+11.3%) from the 22,771 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 3,829 (+20.2%) from the 18,942 counted in the 1990 Census. It is the county seat of Cumberland County. Bridgeton, Millville, and Vineland are the three principal cities of the Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses those cities and all of Cumberland County for statistical purposes and which constitutes a part of the Delaware Valley.

History

Similar to other areas near rivers and the bay, this area was inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous peoples. At the time of European contact, Lenni-Lenape Native Americans lived in the area, following a seasonal pattern of cultivation and hunting and fishing. The state-recognized Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of New Jersey maintain a cultural center here, serving a community of 12,000 in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.

The first recorded European settlement in what is now Bridgeton was made by 1686 when Richard Hancock established a sawmill here. Settlers established a pioneer iron-works in 1814. Bridgeton was incorporated as a township by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 3, 1845, from portions of Deerfield Township. Bridgeton city was incorporated on March 1, 1865, replacing both Bridgeton Township and Cohansey Township. The city was named for its location at a bridge on the Cohansey River and is said to be a corruption of "bridge town".

After the American Civil War, Bridgeton's industrial base and commercial centrality in this area of high agricultural production, along with its high profile as an educational center (it was home to the South Jersey Institute, the West Jersey Academy, and two notable academies for women), made it the most prosperous town in the state. Bridgeton was home to glass factories, sewing factories, metal and machine works and other manufacturers. The most notable of these was the Ferracute Machine Works, founded and operated by Oberlin Smith, an inventive genius and philanthropist credited with inventing the first device for magnetic recording, and now in the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame.

Bridgeton Historic District covers a quarter of the city and includes more than 2,000 properties. These range from the early Federal architecture to the 1920s, including many structures eligible for individual listing and some documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) during the 1930s. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and is the largest such district of any municipality in New Jersey.

Potters Tavern
Potter's Tavern

Although it is visually dominated by large Victorian homes and a downtown area constructed from the 1880s to the 1920s, the district, besides many neighborhoods of gingerbreaded "doubles" that were essentially working-class housing, includes several notable structures dating from the 18th century and early Federal period. One of these is Potter's Tavern, said to have been built in the 1750s, but restored to its appearance in 1776 when it was home to The Plain Dealer, considered New Jersey's first newspaper. A second is Brearley (Masonic) Lodge, founded by General James Giles in 1795, and still active. A third is the so-called "Nail House" (c. 1815; second build c. 1855), administrative home of the Cumberland Nail & Iron Works that established Bridgeton's industrial prowess in the early nineteenth century. The first Cumberland National Bank building (1816), which was only the second bank chartered in New Jersey, is now part of the Bridgeton Library. There is also the David Sheppard House (1791), recently restored with assistance from the Garden State Historic Trust and home to the Cousteau Coastal Center of Rutgers University since 2008.

Bridgeton straddles the tidal Cohansey River and is located near the center of the Delaware Bay lowlands. It derives its name from the original movable bridge that offered the option of regular overland travel on the "King's Highway" across the Cohansey watershed region for the first time in 1716. It is said that its name went from Bridge-towne to Bridgeton in 1816-1817 owing to a printing error on documents published by the Cumberland Bank.

Bridgeton is home to numerous large municipal parks. The largest of these, consisting of pinelands, wetlands and lakes, as well as the original raceway system that provided waterpower to the mills, was formed out of the property owned and managed by the Cumberland Nail & Iron Works until 1899. Long considered a recreational area for the region even under ownership by the Iron Works, the property was finally purchased in 1902-3 by the City and preserved in perpetuity as the Bridgeton City Park. It includes three major lakes: Mary Elmer Lake, Sunset Lake, and East Lake. Bridgeton Park encompasses about 1,500 acres (6.1 km2). It now includes the Cohanzick Zoo, New Jersey's oldest zoo, which is free to the public.

The city suffered an economic downturn in the 1980s with the loss of its remaining manufacturing sector jobs in glass and textiles. Agricultural employment, however, has continued to attract immigrant workers largely from Mexico but also Guatemala, creating new challenges and opportunities for revitalization. A significant minority of Bridgeton residents and their children speak Zapoteco, either as their only language or alongside Spanish. Downtown Bridgeton includes an art gallery, a Native American post, second hand stores, and perhaps most notably, a makerspace. The makerspace, called STEAMWorks was opened as a collaborative project between the city and the local Cumberland County College, run by the college the space offers specialized equipment and software to the public at a membership based pricing system, as well as workshops and a limited set of certification courses, no involvement with the college is required. Bridgeton Main Street declared its downtown a Culinary Arts district and is highlighting downtown activity through the food and cooking-related retail sector. Bridgeton Main Street Association is the oldest Main Street Association in the state, founded in 1990.

In 2008, Rutgers opened the Cousteau Coastal Center of its Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences in the former David Sheppard House, a base from which it coordinates cutting-edge ecological research and develops modules for environmental learning at all educational levels from elementary school upward. South Woods State Prison, opened near Bridgeton in 1997, is the largest state prison in New Jersey and provides a range of employment. Bridgeton is also home to the Rutgers Food Innovation Center, an entry point for startup food manufacturers that allows a new company or entrepreneur to work with a specialized team from Rutgers University to develop, test, brand, and package their product.

Geography

Cohansey River
The Cohansey River in Bridgeton in 2006

Bridgeton is located about one hour away from Philadelphia, and 50 minutes away from Wilmington, Delaware. It is also about one hour away from Atlantic City and Cape May. Bridgeton is divided into three sections, Northside, Southside and Hillside.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city had a total area of 6.431 square miles (16.656 km2), including 6.179 square miles (16.003 km2) of land and 0.252 square miles (0.653 km2) of water (3.92%).

Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the city include East Lake.

Bridgeton borders Upper Deerfield Township, Hopewell Township, and Fairfield Township.

Climate

The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Bridgeton has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 6,830
1880 8,722 27.7%
1890 11,424 31.0%
1900 13,913 21.8%
1910 14,209 2.1%
1920 14,323 0.8%
1930 15,699 9.6%
1940 15,992 1.9%
1950 18,378 14.9%
1960 20,966 14.1%
1970 20,435 −2.5%
1980 18,795 −8.0%
1990 18,942 0.8%
2000 22,771 20.2%
2010 25,349 11.3%
2019 (est.) 24,160 −4.7%
Population sources: 1870-2000
1870-1920 1870 1880-1890
1890-1910 1870-1930
1930-1990 2000 2010

As of 2015, 32.0% of residents were living in poverty in 2015. The poverty rate was 13.3% for White Non-Hispanic residents, 35.6% for Black residents, 33.7% for Hispanic or Latino residents, 66.3% for American Indian residents, 32.9% for other race residents and 29.9% for two or more races residents.

Residents in the town include numerous immigrants from the south of Mexico, whose Amerindian languages include Zapotec, Nahuatl, and Mixtec.

Census 2010

As of the census of 2010, there were 25,349 people, 6,265 households, and 4,304 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,102.5 per square mile (1,584.0/km2). There were 6,782 housing units at an average density of 1,097.6 per square mile (423.8/km2)*. The racial makeup of the city was 32.64% (8,274) White, 35.49% (8,996) Black or African American, 1.38% (350) Native American, 0.60% (153) Asian, 0.05% (12) Pacific Islander, 25.71% (6,518) from other races, and 4.13% (1,046) from two or more races. [[Hispanic (U.S. Census)|Hispanic or Latino of any race were 43.58% (11,046) of the population.

There were 6,265 households out of which 40.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.7% were married couples living together, 27.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.3% were non-families. 25.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.36 and the average family size was 3.85.

In the city, the population was spread out with 27.9% under the age of 18, 12.2% from 18 to 24, 34.6% from 25 to 44, 18.1% from 45 to 64, and 7.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29.7 years. For every 100 females there were 135.3 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and old there were 151.6 males.

The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $31,044 (with a margin of error of +/- $2,412) and the median family income was $38,750 (+/- $2,233). Males had a median income of $31,202 (+/- $3,369) versus $31,031 (+/- $2,158) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $12,418 (+/- $1,023). About 26.3% of families and 27.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.4% of those under age 18 and 15.6% of those age 65 or over.

Census 2000

As of the 2000 United States Census there were 22,771 people, 6,182 households, and 4,179 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,659.8 people per square mile (1,413.5/km2). There were 6,795 housing units at an average density of 1,092.1 per square mile (421.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 38.88% White, 41.84% African American, 1.19% Native American, 0.70% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 13.67% from other races, and 3.63% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 24.49% of the population.

There were 6,182 households, out of which 36.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.3% were married couples living together, 26.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.4% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.96 and the average family size was 3.49.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 26.0% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 36.0% from 25 to 44, 15.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females, there were 130.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 139.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,923, and the median income for a family was $30,502. Males had a median income of $28,858 versus $22,722 for females. The per capita income for the city was $10,917. About 22.7% of families and 26.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.3% of those under age 18 and 17.8% of those age 65 or over.

Transportation

Roads and highways

As of May 2010, the city had a total of 71.95 miles (115.79 km) of roadways, of which 46.36 miles (74.61 km) were maintained by the municipality, 20.62 miles (33.18 km) by Cumberland County and 4.97 miles (8.00 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

Public transportation

NJ Transit offers service on the 410 route between Bridgeton and Philadelphia, and the 553 route between Upper Deerfield Township and Atlantic City.

Airports

The following public-use airports are located in Bridgeton:

  • Bucks Airport is located 3.5 miles (5.6 km) northeast of the central business district of Bridgeton.
  • Li Calzi Airport located 2.3 miles (3.7 km) south of the central business district of Bridgeton.

Places of interest

Old Broad St Presby Bridgeton
Old Broad Street Presbyterian

Economy

Portions of Bridgeton are part of an Urban Enterprise Zone. The city was selected in 1983 as one of the initial group of 10 municipalities chosen to participate in the program. In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the Zone, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3.3125% sales tax rate (half of the 6.625% rate charged statewide) at eligible merchants. Established in January 1986, the city's Urban Enterprise Zone status expires in December 2023.

The UEZ program in Bridgeton and four other original UEZ cities had been allowed to lapse as of January 1, 2017, after Governor Chris Christie, who called the program an "abject failure", vetoed a compromise bill that would have extended the status for two years. In May 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law that reinstated the program in these five cities and extended the expiration date in other zones.

Bridgeton is home to Ardagh Group, one of the largest glass production facilities in the state. In 2016, Ardagh Group, Glass – North America became ISO 14001 certified, which recognizes efforts to minimize their impact on the environment, comply with applicable laws and regulations, and work toward continuous environmental improvement.

Education

Bridgeton's public schools are operated by Bridgeton Public Schools, which serve students in preschool through twelfth grade. The district is one of 31 former Abbott districts statewide, which are now referred to as "SDA Districts" based on the requirement for the state to cover all costs for school building and renovation projects in these districts under the supervision of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.

As of the 2017–18 school year, the district, comprised of eight schools, had an enrollment of 6,399 students and 500.1 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 12.8:1. Schools in the district (with 2017-18 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are Geraldine O. Foster Early Childhood Center (285 students in PreK), Broad Street School (945; K-8), Buckshutem Road School (604; K-8), Cherry Street School (580; K-8), ExCEL School (enrollment not listed; K-8), Indian Avenue School (645; K-8), Quarter Mile Lane School (733; PreK-8), West Avenue School (723; K-8) and Bridgeton High School (1,378; 9-12). Students from Downe Township and some students from Lawrence Township attend the district's high school for ninth through twelfth grades as part of sending/receiving relationships; Other students from Lawrence Township are sent to Millville Senior High School.

Students are also eligible to attend Cumberland County Technology Education Center in Millville, serving students from the entire county in its full-time technical training programs, which are offered without charge to students who are county residents. Previously the school (formerly Cumberland County Technical Education Center) was a part-time school in Deerfield Township, and it had a Bridgeton postal address. It moved to its current location and became full time in 2016.

Notable people

People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Bridgeton include:

  • Jonathan Adler (born 1966), designer.
  • Ryquell Armstead (born 1996), football running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL.
  • Radcliffe Bailey (born 1968), contemporary artist noted for mixed-media, paint, and sculpture works that explore African-American history.
  • Newton Bateman (1822-1897), academic, educational administrator, and editor.
  • Robin Bernstein (born 1953), Florida businesswoman who has been confirmed as United States Ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
  • Ella Reeve Bloor (1862–1951), radical labor organizer.
  • Frank L. Bodine (1874-c. 1930), architect who practiced in Asbury Park, New Jersey and in Orlando, Florida in the first four decades of the twentieth century.
  • Charles Brown (1797-1883), member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania.
  • Lester R. Brown (born 1934), environmentalist, founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute.
  • Benjamin Champneys (1800-1871), Pennsylvania State Representative, Pennsylvania State Senator and Pennsylvania Attorney General from 1846 to 1848.
  • Nadia Davy (born 1980), track and field athlete, competing internationally for Jamaica, who was a bronze medalist in the 4 × 400 m relay at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
  • Braheme Days Jr. (born 1995), shot putter who won a bronze medal at the 2011 World Youth Championships in Athletics.
  • Lucius Elmer (1793–1883), represented New Jersey's 1st congressional district from 1843 to 1845.
  • Charles Ewing (1780-1832), politician who served as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
  • Douglas H. Fisher (born c. 1948), New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture, member of the New Jersey General Assembly who represented the 3rd Legislative District and served on the Bridgeton City Council from 1990 to 1992.
  • James Galanos (1924-2016), fashion designer.
  • Goose Goslin (1900–1971), Baseball Hall of Fame left fielder who played for the Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns and Detroit Tigers, in a career that ran from 1921 to 1938
  • Edward Everett Grosscup (1860-1933), chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee from 1911 to 1919 and Treasurer of the State of New Jersey from 1913 to 1915.
  • James G. Hampton (1814–1861) represented New Jersey's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1845 to 1849.
  • Charles L. Harris (1834–1910), Union Army Brigadier General.
  • Charles Hill (1936–2021), diplomat and academic
  • Alfred Ellet Hitchner (1882-1959), college football pioneer who was head coach of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team in 1904.
  • George Jamison (born 1962), NFL linebacker who played for the Detroit Lions.
  • Harvey Johnson (1919–1983), served as head coach for the National Football League's Buffalo Bills.
  • Benjamin F. Lee (1841-1926), religious leader and educator, who was the president of Wilberforce University from 1876 to 1884.
  • Carwood Lipton (1920-2001), commissioned officer with the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, who was portrayed by Donnie Wahlberg in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.
  • Frank LoBiondo (born 1946), Congressman who represents New Jersey's 2nd congressional district.
  • Brison Manor (born 1952), defensive lineman who played eight seasons in the National Football League for the Denver Broncos, from 1977 to 1984.
  • Rube Oldring (1884-1961), professional baseball player who played outfield in the MLB from 1905 to 1918 for the Philadelphia Athletics and New York Yankees.
  • Harold E. Pierce (1922-2006), dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon.
  • Steve Rammel (born 1968), retired U.S. soccer forward who played two seasons in Major League Soccer.
  • Floyd Reid (1927-1994), running back who played in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers from 1950 to 1956.
  • Celeste Riley (born 1960), Clerk of Cumberland County, who was the first woman to represent the 3rd Legislative District.
  • Elias P. Seeley (1791–1846), 11th Governor of New Jersey in 1833.
  • Oberlin Smith (1840–1926), engineer and inventor.
  • John J. Spoltore (1921-1973), Republican Party politician who served as Chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee in 1973 after having served four years as Mayor of Bridgeton in the mid-1950s.
  • Aharon Wasserman (born 1986), entrepreneur and software designer.
  • Melinda Watts (born 1978), urban contemporary gospel artist and musician.
  • Dominique Williams (born 1990), running back for the Calgary Stampeders.
  • Shana Williams (born 1972), former track and field athlete who competed in the long jump.
  • Jason Winrow (1971-2012), offensive guard who played for the New York Giants.
  • H. Boyd Woodruff (1917-2017), soil microbiologist who discovered actinomycin and developed industrial production by fermentation of many natural products, including cyanocobalamin (a synthetic form of Vitamin B12), the avermectins and other important antibiotics.

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