kids encyclopedia robot

Union County, New Jersey facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Union County
Downtown Westfield in July 2005
Downtown Westfield in July 2005
Flag of Union County
Official seal of Union County
Map of New Jersey highlighting Union County
Location within the U.S. state of New Jersey
Map of the United States highlighting New Jersey
New Jersey's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 40°39′N 74°17′W / 40.65°N 74.29°W / 40.65; -74.29Coordinates: 40°39′N 74°17′W / 40.65°N 74.29°W / 40.65; -74.29
Country  United States
State  New Jersey
Founded 1857
Named for Union threatened by slavery dispute
Seat Elizabeth
Largest city Elizabeth (population and area)
 • Total 105.40 sq mi (273.0 km2)
 • Land 102.86 sq mi (266.4 km2)
 • Water 2.55 sq mi (6.6 km2)  2.42%
 • Total 575,545
 • Density 5,593.5/sq mi (2,159.7/km2)
Congressional districts 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th

Union County is a county in the northern part of the U.S. state of New Jersey. As of the 2020 United States Census, the county's population was enumerated at 575,345, making it the seventh-most populous of the New Jersey's 21 counties, and representing an increase of 38,846 (7.2%) from the 536,499 residents counted at the 2010 U.S. Census, in turn an increase of 13,958 (2.7%) from 522,541 at the 2000 Census. Its county seat is Elizabeth.

In 2015, the county had a per capita personal income of $60,089, the seventh-highest in New Jersey and ranked 152nd of 3,113 counties in the United States. The Bureau of Economic Analysis ranked the county as having the 119th-highest per capita income of all 3,113 counties in the United States (and the eighth-highest in New Jersey) in 2009. A study by determined that Union County pays the second-highest property taxes of all U.S. counties, based on 2007 data.

With a population density of 4,955 people per square mile (water excluded), Union County was the 15th-most densely populated county in the United States as of the 2010 Census, and third-densest in New Jersey, behind Hudson County (ranked 6th nationwide at 9,754 per square mile) and Essex County (ranked 11th at 6,126).


All of present-day Union County was part of the Elizabethtown Tract, which was purchased in 1664, by English colonists from the Lenape Native Americans that lived in the area of present-day Elizabeth, New Jersey. Union County was formed on March 19, 1857, from portions of Essex County; it was the last of New Jersey's 21 counties to be established.

Many historic places and structures are to be found in the county, including on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Union County, New Jersey.

Every fall, Union County holds its annual "Four Centuries in a Weekend" festival for the public, celebrating and touring historic buildings, museums and sites in the county.

Museums and historical societies

Union County Historical Society

In 1869, the Union County Historical Society of New Jersey was incorporated. The society meets at the Hanson House in Cranford.

Municipal historical societies

  • Berkeley Heights - The Berkeley Heights Historical Society.
  • Clark - The Clark Historical Society was founded in 1970. It operates the Dr. William Robinson Plantation House Museum, built in 1690 by a doctor from Scotland.
  • Cranford - The Cranford Historic Preservation Advisory Board is an official township committee body, while the Cranford Historical Society itself is citizen-run. It is located in the Hanson House in Hanson Park on Springfield Avenue and maintains the Crane-Phillips House (c. 1845) a couple of blocks south on North Union Avenue as a museum.
  • Garwood - Garwood Historical Committee.
  • Hillside - The Hillside Historical Society, founded in 1975, meets at the Woodruff House.
  • Kenilworth - The Kenilworth Historical Society dates to 1974. It runs the Oswald J. Nitschke House (c. 1880).
  • Linden - The Linden Society for Historical Preservation is an offshoot of an official cultural board in the city.
  • Mountainside - The Mountainside Restoration Committee, Inc. is also called the Mountainside Historic Committee, founded in 1984.
  • Plainfield - The Historical Society of Plainfield is headquartered at the Nathaniel Drake House Museum, built in 1746 on the Old York Road.
  • Scotch Plains and Fanwood - The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Historical Society runs the Osborn Cannonball House.
  • Rahway - The Rahway Historical Society is now called the Merchants' and Drovers' Tavern Museum Association.
  • Westfield - The Westfield Historical Society is in the Reeve History & Cultural Resource Center, a structure from the 1870s. The Society also runs the Miller-Cory House Museum, in a home that dates back to the 1740s.

Other historical preservation groups

  • Friends of Rahway River Parkway is dedicated to preserving Olmsted design principles and features of county parkland along the Rahway River as it flows to the Arthur Kill.


According to the 2010 Census, the county had a total area of 105.40 square miles (273.0 km2), including 102.86 square miles (266.4 km2) of land (97.6%) and 2.55 square miles (6.6 km2) of water (2.4%).

Much of Union County is relatively flat and low-lying. Only in the northwestern corner does any significant relief appear as the Watchung Mountains cross the county. It is there that highest elevations, two areas approximately 560 feet (170 m) above sea level, are found in Berkeley Heights. The lowest elevation is sea level along the eastern shore.

Rivers, lakes and streams

Climate and weather

Weather chart for Elizabeth, New Jersey
temperatures in °F
precipitation totals in inches
source: The Weather Channel

In recent years, average temperatures in the county seat of Elizabeth have ranged from a low of 24 °F (−4 °C) in January to a high of 86 °F (30 °C) in July, although a record low of −14 °F (−26 °C) was recorded in February 1934 and a record high of 105 °F (41 °C) was recorded in July 1993. Average monthly precipitation ranged from 2.99 inches (76 mm) in February to 4.76 inches (121 mm) in July.

Adjacent counties

Union County adjoins the following counties:


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 27,780
1870 41,859 50.7%
1880 55,571 32.8%
1890 72,467 30.4%
1900 99,353 37.1%
1910 140,197 41.1%
1920 200,157 42.8%
1930 305,209 52.5%
1940 328,344 7.6%
1950 398,138 21.3%
1960 504,255 26.7%
1970 543,116 7.7%
1980 504,094 −7.2%
1990 493,819 −2.0%
2000 522,541 5.8%
2010 536,499 2.7%
2020 575,345 7.2%
Historical sources: 1790–1990
1970–2010 2000
2010 2000–2010 2010-2020

Union County is diverse ethnically. Berkeley Heights, Clark, Roselle Park, Cranford, Kenilworth, Linden, New Providence, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Summit, Union and Westfield have high percentages of Italian American residents. Elizabeth, Plainfield, Rahway, Roselle and Union all have large African American communities. Roselle Park has a notably large Indian American community, while Roselle Park, Roselle, Linden, Rahway, Plainfield and particularly Elizabeth have fast-growing Hispanic and Portuguese populations.

The county's Jewish population was 35,000 as of 2004, with notable communities located in Cranford, Elizabeth, Hillside, Linden, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Union, and Westfield.

2020 Census

2010 Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 536,499 people, 188,118 households, and 134,692 families residing in the county. The population density was 5,216.1 per square mile (2,013.9/km2). There were 199,489 housing units at an average density of 1,939.5 per square mile (748.8/km2)*. The racial makeup of the county was 61.33% (329,052) White, 22.05% (118,313) Black or African American, 0.39% (2,080) Native American, 4.63% (24,839) Asian, 0.03% (163) Pacific Islander, 8.48% (45,496) from other races, and 3.09% (16,556) from two or more races. [[Hispanic (U.S. Census)|Hispanic or Latino of any race were 27.34% (146,704) of the population.

There were 188,118 households out of which 34.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.1% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.4% were non-families. 23.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.82 and the average family size was 3.32.

In the county, the population was spread out with 24.5% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 27.5% from 25 to 44, 26.8% from 45 to 64, and 12.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 94 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and old there were 90.7 males.

Union County Police

Union county is one of a limited number of US counties with a county police department called the Union County Police Department, which operates independently of the Sheriff's office. The Union County Police Department originally began as the Union County Park Police. The Union County Police are tasked with patrolling Union County's properties. They also supplement the local municipalities with police presence and patrol when requested. Captain James Debbie is the current Officer in Charge.

The Union County Police have several divisions and are relied upon for their multiple services. Currently assigned are Patrol, Detective Bureau, Emergency Services Unit, and the Marine Unit. Union County Regional 911 and Dispatch is one of the many services that the County Police provide. They are the primary PSAP for multiple municipalities, provide police/fire/EMS dispatch, dispatch medics, and Union County Fire Mutual Aid. The PD belongs to the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association, Local 73.

The only line of duty death was under the Union County Park Police. After two years of service, Patrolman Fitzpatrick was killed by a drunk driver October 17, 1928.


The county is served by rail, air, highways and ports.

Roads and highways

As of 2010, the county had a total of 1,418.31 miles (2,282.55 km) of roadways, of which 1,158.45 miles (1,864.34 km) were maintained by the local municipality, 176.32 miles (283.76 km) by Union County and 66.22 miles (106.57 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and 17.32 miles (27.87 km) by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

Major highways which traverse the county include the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95), Garden State Parkway, I-78, I-278, U.S. Route 1/9, U.S. Route 22, Route 24. Route 27, Route 28, Route 35, Route 82, Route 124, Route 439, and the Goethals Bridge.

Public transportation

Passenger rail service is provide by New Jersey Transit via the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line, Raritan Valley Line, the Morristown Line and the Gladstone Branch. Freight service is provided by on Conrail's Lehigh Line and Chemical Coast Branch. Freight and passenger rail service was provided by the Rahway Valley Railroad from 1897 until 1992 when the short line closed due to lack of customers.

NJ Transit provides bus service to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan, as well as service to major cities in New Jersey and within Union County.

The Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal is part of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The southern portion of Newark Airport is located in Elizabeth, within Union County.


Union County, New Jersey Municipalities
Index map of Union County municipalities (click to see index key)

Municipalities in Union County (with 2010 Census data for population, housing units and area) are:

(with map key)
Population Housing
Berkeley Heights (21) township 13,183 4,596 6.27 0.05 6.21 2,122.4 739.9 Murray Hill (part)
Clark (14) township 14,756 5,751 4.49 0.19 4.30 3,430.5 1,337.0
Cranford (16) township 22,625 8,816 4.87 0.04 4.83 4,684.6 1,825.4
Elizabeth (11) city 124,969 45,516 13.46 1.15 12.32 10,144.1 3,694.7
Fanwood (6) borough 7,318 2,686 1.34 0.00 1.34 5,454.1 2,001.9
Garwood (5) borough 4,226 1,870 0.66 0.00 0.66 6,362.7 2,815.5
Hillside (19) township 21,404 7,536 2.76 0.01 2.75 7,784.0 2,740.6
Kenilworth (8) borough 7,914 2,924 2.16 0.00 2.16 3,668.3 1,355.3
Linden (12) city 40,499 15,872 11.41 0.73 10.68 3,793.8 1,486.8
Mountainside (3) borough 6,685 2,558 4.05 0.04 4.01 1,668.0 638.3
New Providence (2) borough 12,171 4,537 3.66 0.02 3.64 3,343.4 1,246.3 Murray Hill (part)
Plainfield (7) city 49,808 16,621 6.03 0.01 6.02 8,270.1 2,759.8
Rahway (13) city 27,346 11,300 4.03 0.13 3.90 7,016.8 2,899.5
Roselle (10) borough 21,085 7,939 2.66 0.01 2.65 7,953.5 2,994.7
Roselle Park (9) borough 13,297 5,231 1.23 0.00 1.23 10,792.7 4,245.8
Scotch Plains (20) township 23,510 8,896 9.05 0.03 9.02 2,606.9 986.4
Springfield (17) township 15,817 6,736 5.19 0.02 5.17 3,057.2 1,302.0
Summit (1) city 21,457 8,190 6.05 0.05 6.00 3,578.9 1,366.0
Union (18) township 56,642 20,250 9.09 0.02 9.07 6,244.3 2,232.4
Westfield (4) town 30,316 10,950 6.74 0.02 6.72 4,512.2 1,629.8
Winfield (15) township 1,471 714 0.18 0.00 0.18 8,320.1 4,038.5
Union County county 536,499 199,489 105.40 2.55 102.85 5,216.1 1,939.5

Parks and recreation

Warinanco boathouse jeh
Warinanco Park

County parks are maintained and operated by the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, successor agency to the Union County Park Commission.

"The plan of any County Park System should be based on the principle that such system would benefit the whole population of the county, that it should be convenient and easily accessible to the large centers of population and that above all else, it should take over and preserve for park purposes land adoptable for parks before it is utilized for residences, factories or other purposes.”


County-run parks

  • Ash Brook Reservation
  • Black Brook Park
  • Briant Park
    • Springfield
  • Brookside Park
  • Cedar Brook Park. Home to the Shakespeare Garden in Plainfield.
  • Echo Lake Park
    • Westfield and Mountainside
    • The privately owned Echo Lake Country Club donated the parkland for this park in the 1920s. The name arises from the echo heard off the high bluff on the far side of the lake. Echo Lake itself was created by damning when mills were established on Nomahegan Brook, a tributary of the Rahway River. The Great Minisink Trail passed by Echo Lake Park.
  • Elizabeth River Park
  • Green Brook Park
  • Hidden Valley Park
  • Lenape Park
    • Cranford/Westfield/Kenilworth
    • In the 1930s, workers digging Lenape lake found mastodon bones here.
  • Madison Avenue Park
  • Mattano Park. This park is named for a Lenape tribal leader, whose name was recorded by colonists as Mattano. In 1664, a group called the Elizabethtown Associates bought land in the Union County area from Mattano and another Lenape leader named Warinanco.
  • Watchung Reservation
  • MacConnell Park; Named for the first town doctor in Cranford, New Jersey
  • Milton Lake Park
  • Mindowaskin Park
  • Nomahegan Park
    • Located in Cranford, this park contains Nomahegan Park Pond and encircles the Rahway River.
  • Oak Ridge Park
  • Passaic River Park
  • Phil Rizzuto Park
    • Elizabeth
  • Ponderosa Farm Park
  • Rahway River Park
    • Rahway
    • Environmental groups protested at the building of a stadium here in 2016. The movement gave birth to Friends of Rahway River Parkway.
  • Rahway River Parkway
  • Tamaques Park
  • Unami Park
  • Warinanco Park; Named for the Native American known as "Warinanco." Designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm.

Other notable parks

Parks that are not controlled by county government include:

Rahway River Parkway

The Rahway River Parkway is a greenway of parkland that hugs the Rahway River and its tributaries, such as Nomahegan Brook. It was the inaugural project of the Union County Parks Commission designed in the 1920s by the Olmsted Brothers firm, who were the sons of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

Several county and municipal parks run along the Rahway River.

  • Millburn/Springfield section
  • Cranford section
    • The Cranford section follows the banks of the meandering Rahway River as it flows south through Lenape Park, Nomahegan Park, Hampton Park, MacConnell Park, Hanson Park, William Miller Sperry Park, Crane's Park, Droeschers Mill Park, and Mohawk Park.
  • Clark section
  • Rahway section

Elizabeth River Parkway

The Elizabeth River Parkway is a greenway of parkland alongside the Elizabeth River and its tributaries. It runs through Kean University and Liberty Hall Museum on the river's way to the Arthur Kill. The Elizabeth River Parkway is broken down into separate sections.

  • Chatfield/Zimmerman - Hillside and Union Township
  • Lightning Brook - Hillside and Union
  • Pruden/Pearl Oval - Elizabeth
  • Salem/Rutgers/Liberty - Hillside and Union
  • Woodruff/Conant Street - Hillside and Union
  • Ursino - Hillside and Union Township


Public golf courses

Union County’s Division of Golf Operations runs two golf courses, which offer golf lessons and practice areas.

  • Ash Brook Golf Course in Scotch Plains.
  • Galloping Hill Golf Course and Golf Learning Center in Kenilworth. The facility, which hosts the headquarters of the New Jersey State Golf Association, hosted the 2016 New Jersey State Open golf tournament, the first public golf course to host the tournament since it was established in 1921.

Private golf courses

Other recreational facilities

  • Clark Community Pool
  • Cranford Pool
  • Oak Ridge Archery Range
  • Trailside Nature and Science Center at Watchung Reservation
  • Warinanco Ice Skating Rink
  • Wheeler Park
  • County Pool – Wheeler Park (Linden)
  • County Pool – Rahway River Park (Rahway)

Potential rail-to-trails

Union County Park Line rail trail is a proposed walking and/or biking trail proposed on old railroad tracks. Two abandoned rails exist in the county.

The City of Summit and the Summit Park Line Foundation are working on turning the line from Morris Avenue to Briant Park in Summit into a rail trail that will be approximately one mile long. This rail trail, potentially called the Summit Park Line, could provide a greenway to connect several county parks, akin to a Summit High Line. A path could run directly from Summit to the Arthur Kill in Linden, New Jersey on the Rahway Valley Railroad and the Staten Island Rapid Transit line.

The Summit city council applied for a $1 million grant toward the Summit Park Line project in November 2016. “If Summit is able to complete the project, it might help other parts of the greenway come through,” said Union County Public Relations Coordinator, Sebastian Delia.

The Rahway Valley Railroad runs from Summit to Roselle Park. Beginning in Hidden Valley Park, the railroad right-of-way continues by connecting Houdaille Quarry, Briant Park, Meisel Park, Rahway River Parkway, Galloping Hill Golf Course and Black Brook Park. The ending of the railway is on Westfield Avenue in Roselle Park. The Staten Island Rapid Transit runs from Cranford to Staten Island, although the project would only include the section that runs from Cranford to Linden. The possible inception in Cranford would be a lot on South Avenue East. The ending of this trail would be in Linden at an empty lot. A boardwalk would run over the existing tracks to ease line reactivation.

The impact of the controversial planned Pilgrim Pipeline, which would use this particular abandoned rail line to pipe crude oil, kerosene, and diesel fuel through Cranford, New Jersey and Roselle, New Jersey, is not known.

Arts and culture

  • The Union County Performing Arts Center, located in the Rahway Arts District, offers professional productions in music and theater as well as training in the performing arts.
  • Kean Stage is the professional performing arts arm of Kean University. It is home to Wilkins Theatre on the Kean Main Campus in Union, Enlow Recital Hall directly across the Elizabeth River in East Campus in Hillside, as well as Premiere Stages, the professional equity theater company in residence at Kean University.
  • The Cranford Dramatic Club has been putting on theatrical productions since its establishment in 1919.
  • Tomasulo Art Gallery is in the MacKay Library at Union County College's Cranford campus.
  • The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, located in Berkeley Heights and New Providence, is a center for music training and other training in performing arts, particularly aimed at children. It consists of the Performing Arts School (formerly Wharton Music Center), New Jersey Youth Symphony, and Paterson Music Project.
  • The Plainfield Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1919, making it the state's oldest community orchestra.
  • The duCret School of Art in Plainfield was founded in 1926.
  • The Swain Gallery, in Plainfield, was founded in 1868 and is the oldest privately owned art gallery in the state.

Sister city

The county has a sister city relationship with Wenzhou in Zhejiang, China.


The top employers in 2011, according to the Union County Economic Development Corporation, were:

# Employer # of employees
1 Merck & Co. 10,000
2 New England Motor Freight 3,900
3 USI Services Group 3,200
4 Overlook Medical Center 2,961
5 Maher Terminals 1,700
6 Trinitas Hospital 1,674
7 Children's Specialized Hospital 1,440
8 Alcatel-Lucent 1,300
9 ConocoPhillips 1,000


Kean University, a co-educational, public research university dating back to 1855 is located in Union and Hillside, serving nearly 13,000 undergraduates. Kean University educates its students in the liberal arts, the sciences and the professions; it is best known for its programs in the humanities and social sciences and in education, graduating the most teachers in the state of New Jersey annually, along with a physical therapy program which it holds in conjunction with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

UCC logo
Union County College, New Jersey

Union County College is the two-year community college for Union County, one of a network of 19 county colleges in New Jersey. Union County College was founded in 1933 and has campuses in Cranford, Elizabeth, Plainfield and Scotch Plains.

Most municipalities have their own public high schools, exceptions being Garwood, whose students attend Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark; Winfield, whose students attend David Brearley High School in Kenilworth; and Mountainside, whose students attend Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights. Fanwood is mostly merged with Scotch Plains educationally and the two towns have one high school.

The county also has Union County Vocational Technical Schools, which has both full-time magnet programs that students must apply to, and split-time vocational programs.

Images for kids

kids search engine
Union County, New Jersey Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.