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Chatham Borough, New Jersey facts for kids

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This article is about a borough in New Jersey. For an adjacent township, see Chatham Township. For more information about their shared services, including school and library systems, see The Chathams.
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Chatham Borough, New Jersey
Borough of Chatham
Dusenberry House
Dusenberry House
Location in Morris County and the state of New Jersey.
Location in Morris County and the state of New Jersey.
Census Bureau map of Chatham Borough, New Jersey
Census Bureau map of Chatham Borough, New Jersey
Country  United States
State  New Jersey
County Morris
Settled 1710 (as a colonial village)
Incorporated August 19, 1892 (as village)
Reincorporated March 1, 1897 (as borough)
Named for William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham
 • Type Borough
 • Body Borough Council
 • Total 2.425 sq mi (6.281 km2)
 • Land 2.373 sq mi (6.147 km2)
 • Water 0.052 sq mi (0.134 km2)  2.13%
Area rank 378th of 566 in state
32nd of 39 in county
233 ft (71 m)
 • Total 8,962
 • Estimate 
 • Rank 256th of 566 in state
21st of 39 in county
 • Density 3,776.1/sq mi (1,458.0/km2)
 • Density rank 166th of 566 in state
5th of 39 in county
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (Eastern (EDT))
ZIP code
Area code(s) 973
FIPS code 3402712100
GNIS feature ID 0885182

Chatham is a borough in Morris County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, Chatham's population was 8,962, reflecting an increase of 502 (+5.9%) from the 8,460 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 453 (+5.7%) from the 8,007 counted in the 1990 Census.

The community that now is Chatham Borough was first settled by Europeans in 1710 within Morris Township, in what was then the Province of New Jersey. The community was settled because the site already was the location of an important crossing of the Passaic River, as well as being close to a gap in the Watchung Mountains and on the path of a well-worn Native American trail. The residents of the community changed its name from John Day's Bridge to Chatham, New Jersey in 1773.

Chatham's residents were active participants in the American Revolutionary War, which ended in 1783. Chatham Township was formed in the state of New Jersey on February 12, 1806, taking its name from this pre-revolutionary village. The new township governed the village of Chatham, which is included within the present-day borough, along with several other pre-revolutionary, colonial villages and large areas of unsettled lands connecting or adjacent to them. On August 19, 1892, Chatham adopted a new village form of government allowed within townships in the state after the revolution. The village of Chatham reincorporated for governance as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 1, 1897 with complete independence from the surrounding Chatham Township.

Chatham Borough is a pedestrian-friendly community that covers less than 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2), including a central business district and railroad station within about a mile from its farthest boundary.

In July 2005, CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Chatham ninth on its annual list of the 100 Best Places to Live in the United States. New Jersey Monthly magazine ranked Chatham as its twenty-fifth best place to live in its 2008 rankings of the "Best Places To Live" in New Jersey.


Occupied for thousands of years by Native Americans, this land was overseen by clans of the Minsi and Lenni Lenape, who farmed, fished, and hunted upon it. They were organized into a matrilineal, agricultural, and mobile hunting society sustained with fixed, but not permanent, settlements in their clan territories. Villages were established and relocated as the clans farmed new sections of the land when soil fertility lessened and moved among their fishing and hunting grounds.

In 1498, John Cabot explored this portion of the New World. The area was claimed as a part of the Dutch New Netherland province, where active trading in furs took advantage of the natural pass west, but, the Lenape prevented permanent settlement beyond what is now Jersey City. Although rapid exhaustion of the local beaver population soon turned the Dutch interests much farther north, contention existed between the Dutch and the British over the rights to this land and battles ensued. Passing to the rule of the British as the Province of New Jersey upon the fall of New Amsterdam in 1664, and becoming one of its original thirteen colonies, marks the beginning of permanent European settlements on this land.

The land that would become Chatham was part of the Province of East Jersey; the Indian rights to Chatham were purchased in 1680 from members of the Minsi and Lenni Lenape tribes. They spoke an Algonquian language. They hunted and fished in the area and farmed on the lands of their settlements. The area was well connected with established paths among their settlements, to and from bountiful resources, and to neighboring settlements. Safe passageways through the valleys, marshes, swamps, and mountains of this portion of the Watchung Mountains connected the area which would become Chatham with other settlements in the area. Except for highways built since the 1970s and a shunpike built to avoid tolls on the roads connecting the colonial settlements of Chatham and Bottle Hill, the roads of the area follow those time proven, long trodden trails made by the Indians. Main Street rises from a shallow crossing of the Passaic River and, after traveling through what became the settlements of Chatham and Bottle Hill (which became Madison), the road follows a westward path that leads to the top of the plateau on which Morristown was founded.

In 1680, the British first purchased this Lenape land upon which John Day made the first European settlement in 1710. He chose to settle upon the western bank of the Fishawack Crossing (of the Passaic River) on the traditional Lenape Minisink Trail. Chatham was in the area delineated as Morris Township by the English. The landing at that location was the best place to ford the river and always had been used by the Lenape on their route to the Hudson River and south from their hunting grounds in what is now Sussex County. That traditional part of the Great Trail would become Route 24, leading to Madison, Morristown, Mendham, and Chester. It became known as Main Street in Chatham.

Old Mill at Chatham, from a 1911 postcard

Before long, the village became known as John Day's Bridge because of a bridge he built across the river at the shallow landing. By 1750, the village had a blacksmith shop as well as a flour mill, a grist mill, and a lumber mill.

In 1773, the village was renamed to "Chatham" to honor a member of the British Parliament, William Pitt, the first Earl of Chatham, who was an outspoken advocate of the rights of the colonists in America.

New Jersey was one of the Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolutionary War. The New Jersey Constitution of 1776 was passed on July 2, 1776, two days before the Second Continental Congress declared American Independence from Great Britain. It was an act of the New Jersey Provincial Congress, which made itself into the state Legislature. To reassure neutrals, it provided that it would become void if the state of New Jersey reached reconciliation with Great Britain.

The citizens of Chatham were active participants in the Revolutionary War and nearby Morristown became the military center of the revolution. George Washington twice established his winter headquarters in Morristown and revolutionary troops were active regularly in the entire area. The Lenape assisted the colonists, supplying the revolutionary army with warriors and scouts in exchange for food supplies and the promise of a role at the head of a future Native American state. The Treaty of Easton signed by the Lenape and the British in 1766 had required that the Lenape move to Pennsylvania. Wanting to recoup rights lost thereby to the British, the Lenape were the first tribe to enter into a treaty with the emerging government of the United States.

The Watchung mountain range was a strategic asset in the war, acting as a natural barrier to the British troops and providing a vantage point for Washington to monitor their troop movements. The Minisink Trail and the village bridge provided a route for essential supplies across the river and through the mountain range. The Hobart Gap was vital as the only pass through the Watchung Mountains.

Washington wrote 17 letters while he stayed at a homestead in Chatham. The community was the site of several skirmishes, as residents and the rebel army held off British advances, preventing them from attacking Washington's supplies at Morristown.

In 1779, a printing press was established in the village of Chatham by Shepard Kollock. From his workshop, he published books, pamphlets, and the New Jersey Journal (the third newspaper published in New Jersey) conducting lively debates about the efforts for independence and boosting the morale of the troops and their families with information derived directly from Washington's headquarters in nearby Morristown. Kollock's paper was published until 1992 as the Elizabeth Daily Journal (having restarted it there in 1787) and was the fourth oldest newspaper published continuously in the United States.

After the Revolutionary War was over in 1783, establishment of new forms of government began. On February 12, 1806, the village of Chatham became part of Chatham Township with a township form of government that shared the village's name and included several other area communities and a large amount of unsettled land. However, "[i]n 1892 Chatham Village found itself at odds with the rest of the township. Although village residents paid 40 percent of the township taxes, they got only 7 percent of the receipts in services. The village had to raise its own money to install kerosene street lamps and its roads were in poor repair. As a result, the village voted on August 9, 1892, to secede from governance by the township."

Ten days later, on August 19, 1892, the citizens of Chatham reincorporated with another type of village government then offered as an alternative within townships by the new state. The evolving state regulations regarding governance structure soon began to offer a borough form for governance. Chatham adopted that new government form and the village reincorporated for governance as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 1, 1897 with complete independence from Chatham Township.

Most of the colonial settlements that had been part of Chatham Township abandoned its governance as soon as new forms of government became available to them during this evolution of new state regulations. Green Village being the exception, each of the settlements withdrew from governance by the township and Chatham Township was left to govern mostly unsettled lands.

In 1910, Chatham Borough expanded when it acquired a slice of Florham Park. The local form of government and the boundaries of Chatham Borough have remained the same since that acquisition, making it about 2.4 square miles (6.2 km2).


Being only 2.4 square miles (6.2 km2) in area, Chatham was mostly built out well before World War II, retaining its charming homes that sometimes display the dates of their construction during the colonial and revolutionary times. Two houses, now privately owned, survive from colonial times - the Paul Day House, at 24 Kings Road, and the Nathaniel Bonnell House, at 34 Watchung Avenue.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 2.425 square miles (6.281 km2), including 2.373 square miles (6.147 km2) of land and 0.052 square miles (0.134 km2) of water (2.13%).

Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the borough include Stanley.

Chatham Borough is located 20 miles (32 km) west of New York City on the eastern edge of Morris County. Chatham's neighboring communities are Summit to the southeast located in Union County, Millburn/Short Hills in Essex County to the northeast, while communities also located in Morris County include Chatham Township to the west, and Madison and Florham Park Boroughs to the north.

The Passaic River, which rises in Mendham and defines the Great Swamp, flows north along the eastern boundary of Chatham. A good crossing location, identified by Native Americans to early European settlers, figured significantly in the colonial history of the community. Fairmount Avenue ascends Long Hill perpendicularly from Main Street in the contemporary center of town to the highest elevation of the town among the Watchung Mountains. From there, one may see the lights of New York beyond the crest of the ridge hills of Summit and Short Hills. Water from artesian wells is stored at its crest to provide the drinking water for the community.

A portion of the Great Swamp extends to the southern boundary of Chatham and other marshes surround the community to the north and northwest. The marshes and brooks in the area contain water draining from the plateau of Morristown and many points to the north and west. All are remnants of a massive lake that covered the area following the retreat of the Wisconsin glacier of the last Ice age. Residents of Chatham were among those in late 1959 who formed the Jersey Jetport Site Association and instigated preservation of the Great Swamp when the New York Port Authority sought to turn it into a massive regional airport. They later were joined by the North American Wildlife Foundation that completed acquisition of enough of the Great Swamp to protect the massive natural resource as a federal park.

The Great Swamp is a major watershed and a significant resting point for migratory birds. The core of the swamp was purchased with the help of Geraldine R. Dodge and Marcellus Hartley Dodge Sr.. Several other members of the Jersey Jetport Site Association, including two residents of Chatham, Kafi Benz and Esty Weiss, who were students at the nearby campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University, began to infiltrate meetings of the administration of Austin Joseph Tobin, the executive director of the Port Authority. They attended meetings scheduled quietly to garner the support of union workers. Once inside the meetings, they provided pamphlets in opposition to the project, which infuriated the Port Authority administration. Eventually, other organizations formed to join the opposition to the plans for the airport and finally, a majority of the swamp was assembled to be donated to the federal government to become a National Wildlife Refuge. Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior under President John F. Kennedy, lent his support to the local efforts to save the swamp while he served as U.S. Representative from Arizona, making recommendations to the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration to also lend their support. On November 3, 1960, the legislation creating the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was passed by an act of the United States Congress. Just Northeast of the borough is the upscale Mall at Short Hills located in the Short Hills area of Millburn.


Chatham Borough has a humid continental climate and is slightly more variant (lows are colder, highs are warmer) than its neighbor 20 miles (32 km) east: New York City.

Climate data for Chatham (07928, includes Chatham Borough and Township)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 73
Average high °F (°C) 39
Average low °F (°C) 18
Record low °F (°C) −25
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.54


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 738
1890 780 5.7%
1900 1,361 74.5%
1910 1,874 37.7%
1920 2,421 29.2%
1930 3,869 59.8%
1940 4,888 26.3%
1950 7,391 51.2%
1960 9,517 28.8%
1970 9,566 0.5%
1980 8,537 −10.8%
1990 8,007 −6.2%
2000 8,460 5.7%
2010 8,962 5.9%
2015 (est.) 8,993 0.3%
Population sources:
1880-1890 1890-1920
1890-1910 1910-1930
1900-1990 2000 2010

2010 Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 8,962 people, 3,073 households, and 2,397 families residing in the borough. The population density was 3,776.1 per square mile (1,458.0/km2). There were 3,210 housing units at an average density of 1,352.5 per square mile (522.2/km2)*. The racial makeup of the borough was 91.13% (8,167) White, 0.99% (89) Black or African American, 0.20% (18) Native American, 4.85% (435) Asian, 0.00% (0) Pacific Islander, 1.00% (90) from other races, and 1.82% (163) from two or more races. [[Hispanic (U.S. Census)|Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.10% (457) of the population.

There were 3,073 households out of which 48.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 68.9% were married couples living together, 7.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.0% were non-families. 18.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.91 and the average family size was 3.37.

In the borough, the population was spread out with 33.5% under the age of 18, 3.9% from 18 to 24, 25.8% from 25 to 44, 26.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.0 years. For every 100 females there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and old there were 89.9 males.

The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $143,281 (with a margin of error of +/- $14,294) and the median family income was $164,805 (+/- $12,245). Males had a median income of $127,906 (+/- $13,208) versus $59,271 (+/- $14,990) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $64,950 (+/- $5,936). About 0.4% of families and 1.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 0.3% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.

Fishawack Festival

First celebrated in 1971, the Fishawack Festival is held in the beginning of summer, on South Passaic Avenue and Fire House Plaza, which are blocked off so up to 20,000 attendees can walk freely in the streets. Local vendors set up booths to sell food, clothing, toys, and various other souvenirs, as well as games and rides for children. The festival has been sponsored by the Madison YMCA, PipeWorks Services and Klas Electrical. Funds generated from the Fishawack Festival go towards various community groups throughout the Chathams.

The word "Fishawack" is derived from the Lenni Lenape name for the Passaic River.


Roads and highways

As of May 2010, the borough had a total of 32.16 miles (51.76 km) of roadways, of which 26.56 miles (42.74 km) were maintained by the municipality, 3.33 miles (5.36 km) by Morris County and 2.27 miles (3.65 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

The borough received coverage from The New York Times and The Chatham Press in 1906 for implementation of what may be the world's first recorded use of a speed bump as a traffic calming device. A report from the April 24, 1906, issue of The Times described how "[t]he 'bumps' installed by the borough officials of the village of Chatham to check the speed of automobiles through the village had their first test yesterday, and proved a decided success."

Public transportation

Chatham, NJ, train station
Chatham railroad station

NJ Transit stops at the Chatham station to provide commuter service on the Morristown Line, with trains heading to the Hoboken Terminal and to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan.

NJ Transit does not provide direct bus service to Manhattan. It provides various route options with bus transfers. NJ Transit local bus service is provided on the 873 route to the Livingston Mall and Parsippany-Troy Hills, which replaced service that had been offered until 2010 on the MCM3 and MCM8 routes.

Bus lines also connect Chatham with the other towns along Route 24 from Newark to Morristown, mostly running parallel to the train lines. Nowadays, buses transport people along the line, but stagecoaches and trolleys were mass transit methods once used along the route that followed Main Street. That section of the old route now is labeled Route 124 because of the opening of a new Route 24, a modern highway. The destruction of the historic downtown by a proposed widening of the historic route was opposed and after much debate, an alternate route was chosen to preserve the historic downtowns of Chatham and Madison. The last rails for the trolley system were removed from the area roads in the 1950s.


Library of the Chathams jeh
Library of The Chathams

Chatham Library was founded in 1907 in downtown Chatham Borough after decades of discussion and planning. Growth of the collection brought about expansion and movement to progressively larger facilities until the current building was built on Main Street on the former site of the Fairview Hotel, after it had burned down. The hotel land was bought after a borough-wide solicitation of funds that was proposed by Charles M. Lum, after whose family Lum Avenue is named, and a brick building was constructed to house the library. The new Chatham Library was dedicated and opened to the public in 1924.

A referendum on the November 1974 ballot regarding jointure was approved by voters, providing that the Chatham Library would also serve Chatham Township residents. The library was renamed as the Library of The Chathams, which now is administered by six trustees, who are appointed jointly through the two governments via the mayors of Chatham Borough and Chatham Township or their representatives, as well as a representative from the newly created joint School District of the Chathams.

The Library of The Chathams joined the Morris Automated Information Network (MAIN), an electronic database linking together all the public libraries in Morris County, in 1985. Recently, an expansion costing nearly $4,000,000 was completed (with the governments of Chatham Borough and Chatham Township contributing a combined $2,000,000). The project was completed and the new addition dedicated on January 11, 2004.

Sister city

Chatham has one sister city:

Historical research resources

  • Anderson, John R. Shepard Kollock: Editor for Freedom. Chatham, New Jersey: Chatham Historical Society, 1975.
  • Cunningham, John T. Chatham: At the Crossing of the Fishawack. Chatham, New Jersey: Chatham Historical Society, 1967.
  • Philhower, Charles A., Brief History of Chatham, Morris County, New Jersey. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1914.
  • Thayer, Theodore. Colonial and Revolutionary Morris County. The Morris County Heritage Commission. (government publication)
  • Vanderpoel, Ambrose Ely. History of Chatham, New Jersey. New York: Charles Francis Press, 1921. Reprint. Chatham, New Jersey: Chatham Historical Society, 1959.
  • White, Donald Wallace. A Village at War: Chatham and the American Revolution. Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1979.
  • ______________. Chatham. Dover, New Hampshire: Arcadia Publishing, 1997.
  • ______________. "Historic Minisink Trail". Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society. 8, (January–October, 1923): 199-205.
  • ______________. "Indians of the Morris County Area". Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society. 54 (October 1936): 248-267.
  • Design Guidelines Manual For Rehabilitation and Construction in the Main Street Historic District. Chatham, New Jersey: Chatham Borough Historic Preservation Commission, 1994. (government publication)

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