Preserve America Community:
Woodbridge Township, New Jersey
Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, (population 106,000) is the home of the Lenni Lenape Indians. It was settled in 1664 by English colonists from Massachusetts. The township was an early publishing center. In 1751, printer James Parker, a business associate of Benjamin Franklin, established the first permanent printing house in New Jersey here. During the American Revolution, 14 battles were fought in the township and, in 1783, the first U.S. antislavery meeting was held at the farm of Moses Bloomfield, a Continental Army surgeon.
In the 19th century, Woodbridge Township became a global center for brick making, clay mining and coal handling. Boasting the first super-highway cloverleaf and the largest shopping mall in New Jersey, the township became a road and rail transportation hub and center for retail development. Currently, Woodbridge Township is a center for information technology and is the state’s fifth largest urban center.
With three properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places and on the state register, Woodbridge is preserving its history while revitalizing the 10 towns within its township. Erected in 1911, the Woodbridge Township Civil War Monument received a complete restoration in 2008. The Barron Arts Center is a thriving adaptive reuse of an 1875 Richardsonian Romanesque structure that served as the first public library in Middlesex County. Historical burial grounds and early places of worship are also vital to the history of the area.
Charged with leading historic preservation within the community is the Woodbridge Township Historic Preservation Commission (WTHPC). The commission implements all historical preservation reviews and has prepared an inventory of historic properties that can be viewed from the township’s Web site. WTHPC has established a docent training program for local history sites and has received a county grant to create and post historical markers throughout the township. The commission is also developing a historic walking tour brochure and an Internet-based history tour with the Downtown Merchant’s Association.
The Annual Civil War Living History Weekend, held at Parker Press Park since 1998, allows thousands of visitors to experience Civil War history and learn about civilian life in the 1860s. Living historians demonstrate cooking, dressmaking, quilting, and chair caning. Parker Press Park is also visited regularly by school children. The park includes a building that contains Colonial era artifacts and replica printing equipment that was used by Parker himself.
In the works is the development of a Woodbridge Township History Museum, a partnership among the municipal government, the Methodist Church, and the Historical Association of Woodbridge Township. The museum will include local archive collections belonging to the Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table, the Woodbridge Public Library, and the Historical Association of Woodbridge Township, as well as Woodbridge Township municipal records dating back to the 1660s.
For more information
Woodbridge Township, New Jersey: www.twp.woodbridge.nj.us
Posted May 27, 2009