Madison, New Jersey

History

Early Beginnings
The community was anchored by the Presbyterian Church from 1747, and the earliest settlers were typically Presbyterians of Anglo-American stock who migrated into the area from Long Island, Elizabethtown, and Newark, seeking land, commercial opportunities, and political autonomy. By the early 19th century, Bottle Hill had a Catholic Church as well, founded by French-speaking immigrants, and an Academy, or private school, to promote the education of the area’s young men. The school was called the “Madison Academy,” after James Madison, the 4th president of the United States and a man of considerable learning and erudition. Locals began to chafe at the intemperate and rustic-sounding name “Bottle Hill” and a movement to rename the community “Madison” for both the former president and the Academy was successful by 1834.

Almost as momentous as the change of name to something more genteel was the construction of the Morris and Essex Railroad, and the opening of a railroad station in Madison in 1837. Railroads were the new technology of the day, and the notion of a “commuter” – someone who lived in the country but made their living by daily work in the commercial centers of the city – was a brand new one. With the arrival of the railroad, Madison changed from being a village outside the county seat of Morristown to a vibrant commuter suburb of Newark and New York.

Commercial & Residential Development

Madison’s natural beauty, with low rolling hills combined with access to a railroad link to the metropolis, brought an evolution to a residentially-oriented, suburban-style development from the mid-19th century onward. Commercial development concentrated near the railroad station, defining a core downtown, and large-scale industry never took hold here as it did in many other New Jersey communities. The tight concentration of surviving buildings from the 19th century reflects the fact of the pedestrian-orientation of the town, with neighborhoods established within easy walking distance to the town center and the railroad station. Spread out from the core were the great estates that characterized the Madison-Morristown area at the turn of the 20th century. These were often one residence of many owned by titans of industry who were focused on business in New York City, and spent weekends or a season in a “country house” in Morris County.

Millionaire's Row

The presence of Millionaire’s Row, as Madison Avenue between Madison and Morristown was called in the latter 19th century required not only wealthy owners but legions of staff to run the houses. Immigrants, particularly from Italy, were attracted to Madison for the opportunities to ply traditional skills in landscape gardening and masonry at the estates. They clustered in Madison, and in other nearby towns, adding a vibrant new cultural overlay to the town.

Madison Town Page

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