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Rahway, New Jersey
City
City of Rahway
Merchants' and Drovers' Tavern
Rahway highlighted in Union County. Inset: location of Union County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
Rahway highlighted in Union County. Inset: location of Union County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
Census Bureau map of Rahway, New Jersey
Census Bureau map of Rahway, New Jersey
Country  United States
State  New Jersey
County Union
Incorporated April 19, 1858
Government
 • Type Faulkner Act (mayor–council)
 • Body City Council
Area
 • Total 4.04 sq mi (10.47 km2)
 • Land 3.90 sq mi (10.09 km2)
 • Water 0.15 sq mi (0.38 km2)  3.59%
Area rank 295th of 565 in state
12th of 21 in county
Elevation
23 ft (7 m)
Population
 • Total 27,346
 • Estimate 
(2019)
29,895
 • Rank 84th of 566 in state
6th of 21 in county
 • Density 7,016.8/sq mi (2,709.2/km2)
 • Density rank 62nd of 566 in state
7th of 21 in county
Time zone UTC−05:00 (Eastern Standard Time (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−04:00 (Eastern (EDT))
ZIP Code
07065
Area code(s) 732
FIPS code 3403961530
GNIS feature ID 0885363
Elm ave 2
Elm Avenue, looking west, in the early 1900s

Rahway is a city in southern Union County, New Jersey, United States. It is part of the New York metropolitan area, 21.6 miles (34.8 km) southwest of Manhattan and 5 miles (8.0 km) west of Staten Island. Built on the navigable Rahway River, it was an industrial and artisanal craft city for much of its history. The city's leadership has successfully endeavored to reinvent it over recent years as a diverse regional hub for the arts.

As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 27,346, reflecting an increase of 846 (+3.2%) from the 26,500 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 1,175 (+4.6%) from the 25,325 counted in the 1990 Census.

Panorama of the Hamilton Stage at UCPAC
Panorama of the Hamilton Stage complex at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway
Hamilton Stage for the Performing Arts in Rahway, New Jersey
Hamilton Stage for the Performing Arts at UCPAC in Rahway

Arts and Culture

Rahway is home to the Union County Performing Arts Center. It is in the process of building dedicated artists' housing so that actors, musicians, dancers, comedians, poets, filmmakers, and visual artists can live in safe affordable housing.

A number of contemporary art galleries sit in the Rahway Arts District as well as three professional rehearsal and recording studios.

History

Rahway and the surrounding area were once the home of the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, and tradition states that the city was named after Rahwack, a local tribal chief.

Formal European settlement began in 1664 with the purchase by the English from the Lenape of the Elizabethtown Tract, which encompassed lands from the mouth of the Raritan River and included all of present-day Union County as well as parts of Somerset, Middlesex, Morris and Essex counties. The Seventeenth Century Clark House is one of the oldest buildings in the state.

Rahway saw action during the American Revolutionary War because of its proximity to Staten Island, Elizabethtown and Perth Amboy. In January 1777, rebels were victorious against the British in the Battle of Spanktown, which resulted in the death of some 100 British troops. The battle was named this after Rahway's original name given to it by the first settlers, Spanktown, which is said to have been chosen "because an early settler publicly took his spouse across his knee and chastised her".

The Merchants' and Drovers' Tavern resides at the corner of St. Georges and Westfield Avenues. The earliest buildings at the site date to 1795 and the property remains one of Rahway's most prominent historical landmarks. George Washington visited Rahway during his travel to New York City prior to his presidential inauguration in 1789. A marker across the street from the tavern reads:

Here, on April 23, 1789, on his way to New York City, Washington
was received by troops from Elizabethtown and Newark. He was
entertained at the inn kept by Samuel Smith by gentlemen of the town.

Following the Revolution, Rahway became the home of the first national mint to create a coin bearing the inscription E pluribus unum. A United States Post Office established in Rahway was one of only six in the entire state in 1791.

Rahway grew due to its location along the major stagecoach and railroad lines between New York City and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The navigable Rahway River, which flows through the city, also aided the city's commercial growth.

As immigrants from Britain, Ireland and Germany streamed into what was then Rahway Township in the 1850s, Rahway became incorporated as a city by an act of the State Legislature on April 19, 1858, from portions of Rahway Township in Union and Woodbridge Township in Middlesex County. In 1860, the portion of Rahway that had been part of Middlesex County was transferred to Union. On March 13, 1861, the remainder of Rahway Township became part of Rahway City. Clark Township was formed from portions of the city on March 23, 1864.

The first municipal elections for the mayor and council were conducted on April 19, 1858, and the council held its first meeting on May 3, 1858. The city's police department and its initial group of four constables were created at that first council meeting.

The city became home to dozens of major manufacturers, including the Regina Music Box Company, Wheatena, Mershon Bros. and, most importantly, Merck & Co., which was established in Rahway in 1903, when George Merck moved his small chemical company to Rahway from New York City. The company remained in Rahway through the presidency of George W. Merck and after.

The national decline in industry after World War II led to the closure of most of Rahway's major manufacturing facilities (except for Merck) and a general deterioration of the city's central business district. Beginning in the late 1990s, the city launched a plan to revitalize the downtown area and authorized the construction of hundreds of new market-rate housing units, a hotel, art galleries and additional retail space.

Geography

Rahway Welcome Sign.jpg

According to the United States Census Bureau, Rahway had a total area of 4.028 square miles (10.434 km2), including 3.897 square miles (10.094 km2) of land and 0.131 square miles (0.340 km2) of water (3.26%).

Rahway is bordered to the northwest by Clark, to the northeast by Linden and to the south by Woodbridge Township in Middlesex County.

Rahway River and Water Tower
Rahway River and water tower

The Rahway River travels through Rahway, entering from Clark at Rahway River Park. The river receives the waters of Robinsons Branch at Elizabeth Avenue between West Grand Avenue and West Main Street, and then receives the waters of the South Branch at East Hazlewood Avenue and Leesville Avenue. Finally the river leaves Rahway to enter the city limits of Linden and Carteret before flowing into the Arthur Kill.

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

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, Rahway has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.

Climate data for Rahway, New Jersey
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 3.9
(39)
4.4
(40)
11.7
(53)
16.7
(62)
26.1
(79)
31.1
(88)
32.8
(91)
30
(86)
27.8
(82)
20.6
(69)
12.8
(55)
4.4
(40)
18.3
(65)
Average low °C (°F) -5.6
(22)
-3.9
(25)
0
(32)
4.4
(40)
11.1
(52)
16.1
(61)
18.3
(65)
17.8
(64)
13.9
(57)
7.2
(45)
3.3
(38)
-3.9
(25)
6.7
(44)
Precipitation mm (inches) 74
(2.9)
71
(2.8)
97
(3.8)
97
(3.8)
97
(3.8)
86
(3.4)
122
(4.8)
107
(4.2)
94
(3.7)
76
(3)
94
(3.7)
89
(3.5)
1,102
(43.4)
Source: Weatherbase

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 7,130
1870 6,258 −12.2%
1880 6,455 3.1%
1890 7,105 10.1%
1900 7,935 11.7%
1910 9,337 17.7%
1920 11,042 18.3%
1930 16,011 45.0%
1940 17,498 9.3%
1950 21,290 21.7%
1960 27,699 30.1%
1970 29,114 5.1%
1980 26,723 −8.2%
1990 25,325 −5.2%
2000 26,500 4.6%
2010 27,346 3.2%
2019 (est.) 29,895 9.3%
Population sources: 1860-1920
1860-1960 1860-1870 1870
1890-1910 1860-1930
1900-1990 2000 2010
* = Lost territory in previous decade.

Census 2010

As of the census of 2010, there were 27,346 people, 10,533 households, and 6,815 families residing in the city. The population density was 7,016.8 per square mile (2,709.2/km2). There were 11,300 housing units at an average density of 2,899.5 per square mile (1,119.5/km2)*. The racial makeup of the city was 52.30% (14,301) White, 30.93% (8,457) Black or African American, 0.31% (84) Native American, 4.30% (1,175) Asian, 0.02% (5) Pacific Islander, 8.37% (2,288) from other races, and 3.79% (1,036) from two or more races. [[Hispanic (U.S. Census)|Hispanic or Latino of any race were 23.52% (6,433) of the population.

There were 10,533 households out of which 28.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.4% were married couples living together, 16.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.3% were non-families. 29.5% 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 2.58 and the average family size was 3.23.

In the city, the population was spread out with 21.8% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 27.5% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.8 years. For every 100 females there were 91.1 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and old there were 87.1 males.

The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $58,551 (with a margin of error of +/- $3,355) and the median family income was $77,268 (+/- $9,506). Males had a median income of $56,572 (+/- $3,375) versus $47,832 (+/- $3,542) for females. The per capita income for the city was $28,855 (+/- $1,981). About 5.4% of families and 8.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.9% of those under age 18 and 9.4% of those age 65 or over.

Census 2000

As of the 2000 United States Census there were 26,500 people, 10,028 households, and 6,728 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,642.7 people per square mile (2,564.3/km2). There were 10,381 housing units at an average density of 2,602.2 per square mile (1,004.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 60.19% White, 27.07% African American, 0.16% Native American, 3.58% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 5.62% from other races, and 3.33% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 13.87% of the population.

There were 10,028 households, out of which 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.7% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.9% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.24.

In the city the population was spread out, with 23.9% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 32.0% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $50,729, and the median income for a family was $61,931. Males had a median income of $41,047 versus $32,091 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,481. About 5.4% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.3% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.

Parks and recreation

City parks

The city is home to more than ten parks. The best-known park is Rahway River Park, which is maintained by Union County, and is also partially located in Clark. Parks and plazas run by the City of Rahway (and overseen by the Rahway Recreation and Parks Department) include:

  • Berzinec Park (tennis courts)
  • Brennan Field (soccer, baseball)
  • Flanagan Field (baseball field)
  • Madden Field (football and baseball fields)
  • Tully Field (baseball field)
  • Hart Street Park
  • Arts District Park
  • Rahway Train Plaza

County parks

Parks run by the county inside Rahway's borders (overseen by the Union County Parks and Recreation Department) include:

  • Rahway River Park hosts a number of baseball fields, picnic areas, a lake and a public pool. The park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers in 1922 and its swimming pool, built in 1929, was documented by the Historic American Engineering Record in 1985.
  • Madison Avenue Park
  • Milton Lake Park (also in Clark)

Rahway River Parkway - Rahway Section

The Rahway River Parkway is a greenway of parkland that hugs the Rahway River and its tributaries. It was designed in the 1920s by the Olmsted Brothers firm, who were the sons of the eminent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The Rahway section follows the banks of the meandering Rahway River as it flows south through Rahway.

Transportation

Roads and highways

The city had a total of 73.67 miles (118.56 km) of roadways, of which 59.18 miles (95.24 km) were maintained by the municipality, 10.45 miles (16.82 km) by Union County and 4.04 miles (6.50 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

Rahway is served by U.S. Route 1/9, and Route 27. The city is sandwiched between the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike, which are each located about two miles outside of the city limits.

Public transportation

NJ Transit 115 route provides local service and interstate service to and from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan, with service on the 48 line to Elizabeth and Perth Amboy.

Rahway Train Station serves NJ Transit's North Jersey Coast Line and Northeast Corridor Line. The City of Rahway and NJ Transit helped fund a $16 million renovation for the station in 1999 and a public plaza in front of the station was completed in 2001, changes that have spurred cleanup and revitalization downtown. A new US$11.2 million 524-space parking deck opened across the street from the station in January 2005, helping train commuters and allowing the city to transform old parking lot space into new buildings and residences. A typical train ride to New York City's Pennsylvania Station takes 40 minutes.

Airport

Newark Liberty International Airport is located 10.2 miles (16.4 km) northeast of Rahway, approximately a 20-minute drive by car.

Economy

Downtown

In 2020, downtown Rahway received accolades as a Great Downtown by the APA:

"Downtown Rahway is a great place. It is a place that emphasizes livability, walkability, shopping, food, art, diversity and a destination. Centered in the heart of the bustling City of Rahway, next to the NJ Transit Station, Rahway's downtown is the building block for this diverse city."

Beginning in the early 1990s and continuing through the present day, the City of Rahway has rebounded as its downtown began to see the construction of new restaurants, art galleries, market-rate housing and the old Rahway Theatre reopening as the Union County Performing Arts Center. The theater underwent a $6.2-million renovation and expansion project, completed in 2007. As part of the expansion, the facility was purchased by the County of Union for $1.3 million and leased back for $1 a year.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Rahway

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Rahway, formerly Rahway Hospital, is a 122-bed non-profit, public, research and academic teaching hospital located in Rahway. The medical center is a part of the RWJBarnabas Health System. It is affiliated with the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. It also has an emergency department for area residents.

Merck & Co.

In 2020, Merck announced that it would be returning its global headquarters to its Rahway research campus (currently the largest private employer in Rahway) and former HQ.

Rahway library

Rahway Public Library
Rahway Public Library, 2006

In September 1999, remnants of Hurricane Floyd swept across New Jersey and caused severe damage. The Rahway Public Library was on a flood plain and suffered over US$1 million in flood damage. The building was demolished in October 2001 and a new library was constructed and opened on March 22, 2004, behind the city's municipal building along a less flood-prone area of the Rahway River. The area where the former Rahway Public Library was now contains tennis courts and a small playground.

Education

The Rahway Public Schools serve students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. As of the 2017–18 school year, the district, comprised of six schools, had an enrollment of 3,922 students and 328.9 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 11.9:1. Schools in the district (with 2017-18 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are Grover Cleveland Elementary School (559 students; in grades PreK-6), Franklin Elementary School (647; PreK-6), Madison Elementary School (349; PreK-6), Roosevelt Elementary School (608; PreK-6), Rahway 7th & 8th Grade Academy (599; 7–8) and Rahway High School (1,090; 9-12).

Notable people

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

Antonio Garay 06112013
Antonio Garay
  • Antonio Alfano, American football defensive tackle for the Colorado Buffaloes.
  • Juliette Atkinson (1873–1944), Hall of Fame tennis player and three-time U.S. Open champion
  • Peter Boettke (born 1960), economist of the Austrian School
  • Frank E. Boland (c. 1880–1913), James Paul Boland (1882–1970) and Joseph John Boland (1879–1964), early aircraft designers who started the Boland Airplane and Motor Company
  • Kimberly Brandão (born 1984), professional women's soccer player; captain of the Portugal Women's National Team, which she has represented since 2007
  • Chris Brantley (born 1970), former NFL wide receiver; played for the Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills
  • Ronald Breslow (born 1931), chemist
  • Isaac Brokaw (1746–1826), clockmaker
  • Harvey Brown (1795–1874), military officer who fought in the Black Hawk and Seminole Wars, the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War
  • Darrion Caldwell (born 1987), mixed martial artist competing for Bellator MMA
  • Louis Campbell (born 1979), professional basketball player; plays for Strasbourg IG of the French League
  • Clifford P. Case (1904–1982), Representative of the Sixth District of New Jersey in the House of Representatives (1945–1954); United States Senator (R-NJ) 1955–1979
  • Abraham Clark (1725–1794), signer of the Declaration of Independence; buried at the Rahway Cemetery
  • Earl Clark (born 1988), professional basketball player who played in the NBA for the Brooklyn Nets
  • Samuel Hanson Cox (1793–1880), Presbyterian minister and abolitionist
  • Mary Frances Creighton (1899-1936), housewife, who along with Everett Applegate, was executed in Sing Sing prison's electric chair, Old Sparky, for the poisoning of Applegate's wife.
  • Joseph T. Crowell (1817–1891), Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly and President of the New Jersey Senate
  • Arnold D'Ambrosa (born 1933), politician who served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1974 to 1976, until his career was cut short by a political scandal
  • George Davenport (1783–1845), frontiersman, trader, United States Army officer and settler in the Iowa Territory; namesake of Davenport, Iowa
  • Dion Dawkins (born 1994), offensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills of the NFL.
  • Evie (born 1956), contemporary Christian music singer
  • John Frazee (1790–1862), sculptor and architect
  • Amos Noë Freeman (1809–1893), abolitionist, educator and Presbyterian minister
  • Milton Friedman (1912–2006), economist and Nobel Prize winner
  • Leighton Gage (1942–2013), author of crime fiction
  • Antonio Garay (born 1979), defensive tackle for the San Diego Chargers
  • Wayne Gilchrest (born 1946), U.S. Congressman
  • Alfred M. Gray Jr. (born 1928), 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps, from July 1, 1987, to June 30, 1991.
  • Jerome Kagan (1929–2021), professor emeritus of psychology at Harvard University; one of the pioneers of developmental psychology
  • Janis Karpinski (born 1953), one of the first women Brigadier Generals of the Army; former commander of the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq
  • William H. Lash (1961–2006), Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance 2001–2005
  • Paul Matey (born 1971), attorney who is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
  • Benjamin Fay Mills (1857-1916), evangelist preacher, vegetarianism activist and writer.
  • Richard Moran (born 1950), investor, venture capitalist, author and president emeritus of Menlo College.
  • Ira Nadel (born 1943), biographer, literary critic and James Joyce scholar.
  • Dory Previn (1925–2012, born as Dorothy Veronica Langan), lyricist and singer-songwriter
  • Pearl Reaves (1929–2000), R&B singer and guitarist
  • Eric Roberson (born 1976), R&B and soul singer-songwriter
  • Freddie Russo (1924–1987), professional boxer
  • Carl Sagan (1934–1996), astronomer; winner of Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction Writing in 1978
  • Mike Seamon (born 1988), soccer midfielder who has played for the Seattle Sounders FC and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds
  • Mark Slonaker (born 1957), college basketball coach; head coach of the Mercer Bears men's basketball team 1998–2008
  • Chris Smith (born 1953), U.S. Congressman
  • Dexter Strickland (born 1990), McDonald's High School All-American basketball player; attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Kurt Sutter (born 1966), screenwriter, director, producer and actor
  • Nikola Tesla (1856–1943), formed his company, Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing, in Rahway
  • Marques Townes (born 1995), basketball player for the Loyola Ramblers men's basketball team, who transferred out of Cardinal McCarrick after his sophomore year.
  • Kevin M. Tucker (1940–2012), Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, 1986–1988
  • Allan Vache (born 1953), jazz clarinetist; younger brother of Warren Vache
  • Warren Vache (born 1951), jazz cornetist and veteran of the groups of Benny Goodman, Rosemary Clooney, Benny Carter, Annie Ross and many other jazz notables
  • Dr. P. Roy Vagelos (born 1929), retired Merck & Co. CEO
  • Carolyn Wells (1862–1942), author and poet
  • Shanice Williams (born 1996), actress who starred as Dorothy in The Wiz Live! on NBC in December 2015
  • Emmanuel Yarborough (1964–2015), 1995 USA World Sumo Champion
  • Robert Rahway Zakanitch (born 1935). American painter and a founder of the Pattern and Decoration movement.

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