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Watchung, New Jersey
Borough of Watchung
Cascading dam holds in Watchung Lake
Cascading dam holds in Watchung Lake
Map of Watchung in Somerset County. Inset: Location of Somerset County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
Map of Watchung in Somerset County. Inset: Location of Somerset County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
Census Bureau map of Watchung, New Jersey
Census Bureau map of Watchung, New Jersey
Country  United States
State  New Jersey
County Flag of Somerset County, New Jersey.gif Somerset
Incorporated April 20, 1926
 • Type Borough
 • Body Borough Council
 • Total 6.04 sq mi (15.65 km2)
 • Land 6.02 sq mi (15.58 km2)
 • Water 0.03 sq mi (0.07 km2)  0.46%
Area rank 256th of 565 in state
10th of 21 in county
259 ft (79 m)
 • Total 5,801
 • Estimate 
 • Rank 355th of 566 in state
16th of 21 in county
 • Density 962.7/sq mi (371.7/km2)
 • Density rank 387th of 566 in state
12th of 21 in county
Time zone UTC−05:00 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−04:00 (Eastern (EDT))
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 908
FIPS code 3403577600
GNIS feature ID 0885433

Watchung is a borough in Somerset County, New Jersey, United States, located approximately 29 miles (47 km) west of New York City. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 5,801, reflecting an increase of 188 (+3.3%) from the 5,613 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 503 (+9.8%) from the 5,110 counted in the 1990 Census. It is located within the Raritan Valley region.

Watchung was incorporated as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on May 23, 1926, from portions of North Plainfield Township (now Green Brook Township) based on the results of a referendum held on April 20, 1926. The name "Watchung" comes from the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, meaning "high hills" or from "watschu," meaning "hill."

In 2012, listed Watchung as 384th in its listing of "America's Most Expensive ZIP Codes", with a median home price of $767,507.

The borough is one of the state's highest-income communities. Based on data from the American Community Survey (ACS) for 2014–2018, Watchung residents had a median household income of $153,341, almost double the statewide median of $79,363.


The name "Watchung" comes from the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, meaning "high hills" or from "watschu", meaning "hill".

George Washington surveyed the British troops in Perth Amboy, many miles away, from the first ridge of the Watchung Mountains. The eastern edge of these ridges reaches to the Oranges in the direction of Newark. The name "Washingtonville" was used in early times, but was rejected as the name for the area by the United States Postal Service, which felt that the state already had too many places named Washington.

Watchung, in the 1900s was a semi-rural small community of about 3,200 people in comparison with the relatively larger and more urban communities of Plainfield and Somerville. The first mayor of the town was Henry Baldwin Macdonald, who served from 1926 to 1928. Even as late as the 1960s, it was common for residents to know one another by name, with few moving in or out of the town. The 1967 Plainfield riots, however, caused an exodus of the large upper-middle class population from the nearby cities to the Watchung Hills area to communities such as Watchung, Warren Township and Bridgewater Township.

Watchung was incorporated as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on May 23, 1926, from portions of North Plainfield Township (now Green Brook Township) based on the results of a referendum held on April 20, 1926.

Watchung Lake, Watchung New Jersey
Fishing is allowed at Watchung Lake on a catch-and-release basis only.

In the wake of public fear that ensued after the 1938 radio broadcast of Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds, National Guard troops were stationed around the hills in Watchung, as told on the vinyl record recording of news reports of the day.

Notable figures who have lived in Watchung include Bobby Thomson, Billy Ard and Carl Banks.

Historic places

Eaton House is a Watchung historic site that was owned by congressman Charles Aubrey Eaton and has been the residence of other notables over the years. Known also as the Sunbright Farm farmhouse, the home was damaged in April 2014 when it was hit by trees that fell as a result of a likely microburst in a severe storm that rolled through the area.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 6.054 square miles (15.679 km2), including 6.026 square miles (15.607 km2) of land and 0.028 square miles (0.072 km2) of water (0.46%).

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

The borough borders Bernards Township, Bridgewater Township, Green Brook Township and Watchung in Somerset County; portions of Morris County; and Berkeley Heights in Union County.

The Stony Brook flows through Watchung borough, making its way from Warren Township to the Watchung Lake, then through the gorge in the first Watchung mountain and over the Wetumpka Falls, on its way to the Green Brook.

The borough is roughly a 25-minute drive from New York City and a 10-minute drive from Newark.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1930 906
1940 1,158 27.8%
1950 1,818 57.0%
1960 3,312 82.2%
1970 4,750 43.4%
1980 5,290 11.4%
1990 5,110 −3.4%
2000 5,613 9.8%
2010 5,801 3.3%
2019 (est.) 6,006 3.5%
Population sources: 1930
1930–1990 2000 2010

2010 Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 5,801 people, 2,114 households, and 1,613 families residing in the borough. The population density was 962.7 per square mile (371.7/km2). There were 2,234 housing units at an average density of 370.7 per square mile (143.1/km2)*. The racial makeup of the borough was 80.52% (4,671) White, 3.45% (200) Black or African American, 0.12% (7) Native American, 12.69% (736) Asian, 0.00% (0) Pacific Islander, 0.81% (47) from other races, and 2.41% (140) from two or more races. [[Hispanic (U.S. Census)|Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.29% (307) of the population.

There were 2,114 households out of which 32.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.2% were married couples living together, 7.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.7% were non-families. 20.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.12.

In the borough, the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 4.7% from 18 to 24, 18.8% from 25 to 44, 32.1% from 45 to 64, and 21.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46.9 years. For every 100 females there were 92.1 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and old there were 87.3 males.

The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $112,917 (with a margin of error of +/- $21,189) and the median family income was $144,883 (+/- $38,172). Males had a median income of $92,667 (+/- $15,969) versus $63,811 (+/- $15,306) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $59,177 (+/- $6,617). About 3.2% of families and 2.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.2% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.


2021-07-06 14 54 23 View west along the westbound lanes of Interstate 78 (Phillipsburg-Newark Expressway) from the overpass for Drift Road in Watchung, Somerset County, New Jersey
Interstate 78 westbound in Watchung

Roads and highways

As of May 2010, the borough had a total of 44.63 miles (71.83 km) of roadways, of which 33.24 miles (53.49 km) were maintained by the municipality, 9.07 miles (14.60 km) by Somerset County and 2.32 miles (3.73 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and 1.09 miles (1.75 km) by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

Interstate 78 runs through the northwestern portion of the borough, including interchange 41, entering in the east from Warren Township and continuing for 1.4 miles (2.3 km) to Berkeley Heights Township in Union County. U.S. Route 22 passes briefly through the borough's southeast corner, entering from North Plainfield in the west and continuing into Scotch Plains Township in Union County.

County Route 527 (Mountain Boulevard / Valley Road) stretches 5.2 miles (8.4 km) across the length of the borough from Warren Township in the southwest to Berkeley Heights in the northeast. County Route 531 (Somerset Road / Hillcrest Road) runs for 1.4 miles (2.3 km) across the borough from North Plainfield in the south to the Interstate 78 interchange in Warren Township in the north.

Public transportation

NJ Transit provides service on the 95 bus route between Watchung and Newark.


Students in public school for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade are educated in the Watchung Borough Schools. As of the 2019–20 school year, the district, comprised of two schools, had an enrollment of 604 students and 66.6 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 9.1:1. Schools in the district (with 2019–20 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are Bayberry Elementary School with 326 students in grades PreK – 4 and Valley View School with 271 students in grades 5 – 8.

Watchung's students in public school for ninth through twelfth grades attend Watchung Hills Regional High School in Warren Township together with students from the neighboring communities of Green Brook Township and Warren Township (in Somerset County) and Long Hill Township (in Morris County). As of the 2019–20 school year, the high school had an enrollment of 1,948 students and 160.6 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 12.1:1. The district's board of education is comprised of nine members, who are elected directly by the voters to serve three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with three seats up for each year. Of the nine elected seats, two are allocated to Watchung.

Christian denomination Mount St. Mary Academy (9–12), which opened in 1908, is operated by the Sisters of Mercy under the supervision of Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen.

Notable people

See also (related category): People from Watchung, New Jersey

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

  • Billy Ard (born 1959), former New York Giants football player.
  • Carl Banks (born 1962), former New York Giants football player.
  • Anne Casale (1930-2002, class of 1948), cookbook author and cooking teacher.
  • James Maxime DuPont (1912–1991), collector of meteorites.
  • Charles Aubrey Eaton (1868–1953), clergyman and politician who served in the United States House of Representatives, representing the New Jersey's 4th congressional district from 1925–1933, and the 5th district from 1933–1953.
  • Chaka Khan (born 1953), Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter.
  • Harold Norman Moldenke (1909-1996), botanist and taxonomist.
  • David Palmer, vocalist and songwriter, best known as a former member of Steely Dan and as the lyricist of the Carole King number two hit, "Jazzman".
  • Laura Prepon (born 1980), actress who played the character of Donna Pinciotti on That '70s Show.
  • Bjarne Stroustrup (b. 1950), inventor of the C++ programming language.
  • Bobby Thomson (1923–2010), former professional baseball player for the New York Giants, who hit the famous Shot Heard 'Round the World to win the 1951 NL pennant.
  • Anthony Volpe (born 2000), professional baseball shortstop in the New York Yankees organization.
  • Katt Williams (born 1973), comedian, actor and rapper.
  • 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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