The earliest residents of the area were the Raritan people of the LenapeNative Americans, who lived in the area and travelled through it to the shore. In 1646, Chief Matouchin was part of a group that included 1,200 warriors.
Until 1870, what is now Metuchen was part of Woodbridge Township. Because the settlers in the western part of the township were so far removed from the main settlement of Woodbridge, they early-on developed a separate identity. The name "Metuchen" first appeared in 1688/1689, and its name was derived from the name of a Native American chief, known as Matouchin or Matochshegan. In 1701, an overseer of roads was appointed for "Metuchen district". In 1705, Main Street was laid out at the same time as the road from Metuchen to Woodbridge, which one source calls a "reworking of the original road".
Sometime between 1717 and 1730, a meeting house was constructed for weekday meetings conducted by the pastor of the Woodbridge Presbyterian Church. In 1756, Metuchen Presbyterians succeeded in forming their own congregation, attesting to their growing numbers. In 1770, the congregations merged, with Metuchen getting 2/5 of the pastor's services and Woodbridge 3/5; by 1772, Metuchen had grown sufficiently to warrant half of his time. In 1793, the two churches again separated.
From the late 18th to the early 19th century Metuchen grew little. A map of 1799 shows ten buildings in the center of town along Main Street. By 1834, a Presbyterian church, a store, two taverns and about a dozen dwellings could be found. The opening of the Middlesex and Essex Turnpike (now Middlesex Avenue, portions in concurrency with Route 27) in 1806, and the Perth Amboy and Bound Brook Turnpike in 1808 seem not to have spurred growth to any appreciable extent. Not until the beginning of the railroad era did commercial and residential development surge.
In 1836, the New Jersey Railroad was completed to New Brunswick. The construction of a station at Main Street made it inevitable that this would develop as the principal street. A business section soon began to appear between Middlesex Avenue and the railroad tracks, and commercial and service establishments gradually began to assume a more modern aspect (the typical 18th century tavern, for example, was replaced by the equally typical 19th century hotel).
The second half of the 19th century was a period of social, cultural and religious diversification in Metuchen. Between 1859 and 1866 the Reformed Church was organized, the first Catholic mass was celebrated and St. Luke's Episcopal Church was founded. In 1870 both the Building and Loan Association and the library opened, the same year that Raritan Township was incorporated. As the largest village in the new township, Metuchen naturally became its commercial and cultural center and acquired substantial political control. In 1873, the town hosted Howard Newton Fuller and the Rutgers College Glee Club in the first-ever performance of their alma mater. In 1879, the literary and debating society was formed, and in 1883 the Village Improvement Society. By 1882, Metuchen School #15 had an enrollment of 256 pupils, and by 1885 the New Jersey Gazette listed 37 businesses.
The decade of the 1890s was a period of expansion for public utilities. In 1894, telegraph service was begun and in 1897 telephone service begun by the N.Y. and N.J. Telephone Company. In the same year the Midland Water Company began operation and supplied hydrants for "newly formed" volunteer fire companies. In 1899, a new street lighting system was installed. At about the same time a bicycling organization was formed, the Metuchen Wheelmen, which lobbied for improved roads. Trolley service began in 1900. In addition, commerce had grown to such an extent that the New Brunswick Directory listed 91 businesses in 1899.
Metuchen attracted an influx of artists, literary figures and noted intellectuals during this time, acquiring the nickname "the Brainy Boro". One of the Borough's two post offices is named Brainy Boro Station.
The new century began with the borough's incorporation, in 1900.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 2.85 square miles (7.39 km2), including 2.85 square miles (7.38 km2) of land and <0.01 square miles (0.01 km2) of water (0.07%).
The Borough of Metuchen is completely surrounded by Edison, making it part of 21 pairs of "doughnut towns" in the state, where one municipality entirely surrounds another.
Metuchen has been a state-designated "town center" since 1996 and "transit village" in 2001. The borough has been recognized for its smart growth development. Plans to build a residential and commercial center with 700 parking spaces on a parking lot adjacent to the train station were announced in July 2014.
Of the 5,243 households, 33.6% had children under the age of 18; 58.3% were married couples living together; 10.1% had a female householder with no husband present and 28.6% were non-families. Of all households, 23.9% were made up of individuals and 9.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.10.
24.2% of the population were under the age of 18, 5.4% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 29.7% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41.1 years. For every 100 females, the population had 93.1 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 88.2 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $94,410 (with a margin of error of +/- $10,474) and the median family income was $126,123 (+/- $7,549). Males had a median income of $78,974 (+/- $8,613) versus $57,271 (+/- $5,731) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $46,949 (+/- $3,227). About 1.9% of families and 2.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.8% of those under age 18 and 5.7% of those age 65 or over.
There were 4,992 households, out of which 32.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.8% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.2% were non-families. 23.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the borough the population was spread out, with 23.3% under the age of 18, 5.3% from 18 to 24, 31.3% from 25 to 44, 25.2% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.1 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $75,546, and the median income for a family was $85,022. Males had a median income of $58,125 versus $43,097 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $36,749. About 3.4% of families and 3.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.6% of those under age 18 and 4.9% of those age 65 or over.
Parks and recreation
Woodwild Park entrance and forest area
Metuchen includes a variety of public spaces, historical sites, a war memorial, and a greenway.
Covering 13 acres (5.3 ha), Centennial Park is Metuchen's largest park and is accessible from Grove Avenue. The park includes Beacon Hill, which at 169 feet (52 m) is the highest point in the borough.
Metuchen Memorial Park is a war memorial that was created starting in 1925 to honor those who served during World War I and has been updated since then to honor those Metuchen residents who served in other of the nation's wars. For 90 years, the park has been the planned destination of the borough's annual Memorial Day Parade.
Tommy's Pond, on a 1.8-acre (0.73 ha) site donated to the borough in 1929, includes a 0.4-acre (0.16 ha) pond that is used for an annual fishing derby.
The Dismal Swamp is a nearby natural area known as the "Everglades of Central New Jersey."
Metuchen is governed under the Borough form of New Jersey municipal government, which is used in 218 municipalities (of the 565) statewide, making it the most common form of government in New Jersey. The governing body is comprised of the mayor and the borough council, with all positions elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election. A mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office. The borough council is comprised of six members elected to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election each year in a three-year cycle. The Borough form of government used by Metuchen is a "weak mayor / strong council" government in which council members act as the legislative body with the mayor presiding at meetings and voting only in the event of a tie. The mayor can veto ordinances subject to an override by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.
As of 2021[update], the Mayor of Metuchen is Democrat Jonathan Busch, whose term of office ends December 31, 2023; Busch took office as mayor when he was appointed in December 2017 to fill the balance of the four-year term that had been held by Peter Cammarano ending December 31, 2019, and was elected in November 2018 to serve the balance of the term of office. Members of the borough council are Jason Delia (D, 2021), Daniel Hirsch (D, 2023); Linda Koskoski (D, 2022), Tyler Kandel (D, 2023), Dorothy Rasmussen (D, 2022) and Sheri-Rose Rubin (D, 2021).
In January 2019, the borough council unanimously selected Daniel Hirsch from a list of three candidates nominated by the Democratic municipal committee to fill the seat expiring in December 2020 that became vacant following the resignation of Reed Leibfried. Hirsch served on an interim basis until the November 2019 general election, when he was elected to serve the balance of the term of office.
In December 2017, Jonathan Busch was selected from three names submitted by the Democratic municipal committee to fill the seat expiring in December 2019 that had been held by Peter Cammarano until he resigned from office to become the chief of staff for Governor of New JerseyPhil Murphy.
Federal, state and county representation
Metuchen is located in the 6th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 18th state legislative district.
Middlesex County is governed by a Board of Commissioners, whose seven members are elected at-large on a partisan basis to serve three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with either two or three seats coming up for election each year as part of the November general election. At an annual reorganization meeting held in January, the board selects from among its members a Commissioner Director and Deputy Director. As of 2021[update], Middlesex County's Commissioners (with party affiliation, term-end year, and residence listed in parentheses) are Commissioner Director Ronald G. Rios (D, term ends December 31, 2021, Carteret; Ex-officio on all committees),Commissioner Deputy Director Shanti Narra (D, 2021; North Brunswick),
Claribel A. Azcona-Barber (D, 2022, New Brunswick),
Charles Kenny (D, 2022, Woodbridge Township),
Leslie Koppel (D, 2023, Monroe),
Charles E. Tomaro (D, 2023, Edison) and
Chanelle Scott McCullum (D, 2021, Piscataway).
Constitutional officers are County Clerk Nancy J. Pinkin (D, 2025, East Brunswick), Sheriff Mildred S. Scott (D, 2022, Piscataway) and Surrogate Claribel Cortes (D, 2021; North Brunswick).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 9,520 registered voters in Metuchen, of which 4,120 (43.3%) were registered as Democrats, 1,528 (16.1%) were registered as Republicans and 3,858 (40.5%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 14 voters registered to other parties.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 61.3% of the vote (4,286 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 37.4% (2,618 votes), and other candidates with 1.3% (90 votes), among the 7,049 ballots cast by the borough's 9,779 registered voters (55 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 72.1%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 60.1% of the vote (4,554 cast), ahead of Republican John McCain with 38.3% (2,900 votes) and other candidates with 1.0% (74 votes), among the 7,579 ballots cast by the borough's 9,809 registered voters, for a turnout of 77.3%. In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 57.9% of the vote (4,152 ballots cast), outpolling Republican George W. Bush with 40.6% (2,914 votes) and other candidates with 0.9% (80 votes), among the 7,170 ballots cast by the borough's 9,348 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 76.7.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 50.1% of the vote (2,397 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 48.5% (2,319 votes), and other candidates with 1.4% (69 votes), among the 4,844 ballots cast by the borough's 9,822 registered voters (59 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 49.3%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 47.0% of the vote (2,440 ballots cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 43.4% (2,256 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 8.2% (425 votes) and other candidates with 0.8% (43 votes), among the 5,197 ballots cast by the borough's 9,479 registered voters, yielding a 54.8% turnout.
There have been two historical schools named for Benjamin Franklin. The Old Franklin Schoolhouse is a one-room school on Route 27 (Middlesex Avenue) near Main Street built in 1807 and used until 1870. In 1906, it was acquired and restored by the Borough Improvement League and is currently used as a community music venue. A larger Franklin School, built in 1906, once stood at the intersection of Middlesex and Lake Avenues but fell into disrepair in the mid-1980s. It has since been demolished to make way for a residential development called Franklin Square.
Commuting had become a way of life for Metuchen residents by the start of the 20th century. Daily commuters numbered 400 out of a population of 1,786 by the year 1900. Accessibility to New York City and New Brunswick enhanced the borough's reputation as a place to live, and the modern suburban ideal of small-town life where tired businessmen could escape the pace of the city grew in popularity.
Roads and highways
View northbound along I-287 on the south edge of Metuchen
As of May 2010[update], the borough had a total of 47.06 miles (75.74 km) of roadways, of which 38.91 miles (62.62 km) were maintained by the municipality, 5.73 miles (9.22 km) by Middlesex County and 2.42 miles (3.89 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
The biggest change to affect Metuchen between the World Wars was the rise of the automobile. In the 1920s, service stations were built, and the construction of U.S. Route 1 just south of Metuchen in 1930 diverted traffic away from Middlesex Avenue, helping the borough retain its residential character.
^Chang, Kathy. "Metuchen used its smarts to claim the title of The Brainy Borough", Sentinel-EDM News, December 3, 2015. Accessed July 12, 2016. "How did Metuchen attain the reputation 'The Brainy Borough?' That is what the Metuchen Historic Preservation Committee, with the help of historians Linda McTeague, Dennis Bertland and Margaret Newman, unveiled in a booklet titled Metuchen, The Brainy Borough that was recently released. 'This year is the 100th anniversary of the battle for the Brainy Borough title between Glen Ridge (in Essex County) and Metuchen,' said Councilman Jay Muldoon, liaison to the Historic Preservation Committee."
^ abMayor, Borough of Metuchen. Accessed May 10, 2020. "Described by The Metuchen Mirror as 'a man on a mission', Jonathan M. Busch was selected as the 36th Mayor of the Borough of Metuchen on December 18, 2017, was elected to the unexpired term on November 6, 2018, and was re-elected to a full four-year term on November 5, 2019."
^History of Metuchen, Federal Writers' Project of the Works Project Administration, 1941. Accessed December 3, 2019. "The local natives were doubtless a group of the Raritans who belonged to the Unami tribe. Philhower, an expert on New Jersey’s Indians, describes them as 'a quickwitted, modest, fine looking people, black-haired and of a dark copper color' who spoke the Lenape dialect. In 1646 the tribe consisted of 1200 warriors and twenty chiefs, among whom tradition has it was Matouchin, chief of the Indians in this section."
^Cheslow, Jerry. "If You're Thinking of Living in: Metuchen", The New York Times, August 5, 1990. Accessed April 6, 2015. "Named for the Raritan Indian chief Matouchin, who lived in the area in the late 17th century, Metuchen is one of the oldest settlements in New Jersey. Deeds in the area date to the 1680s, when it was part of Woodbridge Township, chartered by Lord Carteret in 1688."
^Metuchen Borough Hall, Metuchen Edison History. Accessed November 25, 2012. "The Metuchen Borough Hall is locally significant under National Register Criterion A for its association with Metuchen's development as an independent municipality, and its representation of the national City Beautiful Movement effort to improve communities."
^Centennial Park, Borough of Metuchen. Accessed December 5, 2019. "Centennial Park, a 13 acre tract extending from Grove Avenue to Wakefield Avenue, is the largest natural open space in Metuchen. The Grove Avenue service road grants access to the area. Centennial Park includes Beacon Hill, Metuchen’s highest point, with an elevation of 169 feet."
^About the Park, Woowild Park Association. Accessed December 5, 2019. "Woodwild Park is a 3.5-acre park in Metuchen, New Jersey located between Middlesex Avenue, Oak Avenue, and East Chestnut Avenue."
^Hatala, Greg. "Glimpse of History: A 90-year tradition in Metuchen", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, May 25, 2017, updated January 16, 2019. Accessed December 5, 2019. "Metuchen will hold its 90th annual Memorial Day Parade May 29 starting at 10 a.m. The parade will begin at New and Pearl streets and travel to Memorial Park for an 11:30 a.m. ceremony."
^Metuchen Hosts 90th Annual Memorial Day Parade & Ceremony on May 29, Metuchen Area Chamber of Commerce. Accessed December 5, 2019. "Located at the intersection of Lake and Essex Avenues, the park was constructed in 1925-1926 to honor residents who served in World War I. Since that time, the park has been redesigned with new monuments to honor those who have served in more recent wars and conflicts."
^Tommy's Pond, Borough of Metuchen. Accessed December 5, 2019. "Thomas Park was donated to the Borough of Metuchen in 1929 by the grandchildren of David Graham Thomas. This beautiful 1.8 acre property includes a 0.4 acre pond."
^Borough Council Meeting Minutes for January 14, 2019, Borough of Metuchen. Accessed December 5, 2019. "Receive and Accept Resignation of Councilman Reed Leibfried – Effective Immediately... Mayor Busch asked for a discussion concerning the three candidates that has been recommended to fill the vacant council seat created by the resignation of Councilman Leibfried. Mayor Busch stated that nominations will be taken... Resolution carried, 5-0. Mayor Busch congratulated newly appointed Councilman Hirsch and asked him and his family to come forward to be sworn in by Denis Murphy, Borough Attorney."
^Loyer, Susan. "Metuchen names mayor to replace Cammarano", Courier News, December 19, 2017. Accessed January 27, 2018. "Borough resident Jonathan Busch was appointed by the Borough Council at Monday's meeting to fill the remainder of Peter Cammarano's term, which expires Dec. 31, 2019. Cammarano announced his plans to resign at the Dec. 4 borough council meeting, following his appointment to serve as Governor-elect Phil Murphy's chief of staff. Busch, who was sworn in at the meeting, was among three whose names were submitted by the Metuchen Democratic Organization as possible candidates for mayor."
^Biography of Bob Menendez, United States Senate, January 26, 2015. "Menendez, who started his political career in Union City, moved in September from Paramus to one of Harrison's new apartment buildings near the town's PATH station.."
^Metuchen Board of Education District Policy 0110 - Identification, Metuchen School District. Accessed January 5, 2022. "Purpose: The Board of Education exists for the purpose of providing a thorough and efficient system of free public education in grades K through 12 and preschool handicapped in the Metuchen School District. Composition: The Metuchen School District is comprised of all the area within the municipal boundaries of Borough of Metuchen."
^Heyboer, Kelly. "How to get your kid a seat in one of N.J.'s hardest-to-get-into high schools", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, May 2017. Accessed November 18, 2019. "Middlesex County has two stand-alone career academies for high-achieving students: the Academy for Science, Math and Engineering Technology, located on the campus of Middlesex County College in Edison, and the Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences in Woodbridge. How to apply: Students must attend a mandatory information session and submit an application by November of their 8th grade year."
^ abGardner, Amanda. "Theater; Tony Awards' New Jersey Ties", The New York Times, June 3, 2001. Accessed May 5, 2012. "Lonny Price (best book of a musical, A Class Act) grew up in Metuchen. Charles Brown (best performance by a featured actor in a play, King Hedley II), grew up and still lives in Metuchen."
^"Henry T. Brown", The History Makers. Accessed May 22, 2020. "In 1967, Brown moved to Metuchen, New Jersey to work as a development engineer for the Squibb Institute for Medical Research."
^Witchel, Alex. "A Maestro of the Magic Arts Returns to His Roots", The New York Times, November 24, 1996. Accessed July 28, 2013. "David Seth Kotkin was born in Metuchen, N.J., 40 years ago; David Copperfield was born when David Kotkin turned 18, at the suggestion of the wife of a New York Post reporter. Which is why his passport reads David Kotkin, a.k.a. David Copperfield."
^Woo, Elaine. "Paula Danziger, 59; Wrote Novels for Teens", Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2004. Accessed February 19, 2018. "Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Metuchen, N.J., Danziger was the daughter of a garment worker and a nurse who often told interviewers that she grew up in an unhappy family and turned to books 'to escape all the yelling.'"
^Staff. "B. J. Dwyer, New Jersey Congressman, 77", The New York Times, November 5, 1998. Accessed August 4, 2019. "Bernard James Dwyer, a former Representative from New Jersey, died Saturday in Edison, N.J., at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, which he had served as a trustee. He was 77 and, a longtime Edison resident, had lived in Metuchen, N.J., for the last few years."
^Holland, Cecelia. The Firedrake, p. 245. Atheneum Books, 1966. Accessed May 5, 2012. "Cecelia Holland was born on New Year's Eve, 1943, in Henderson, Nevada, and was raised in Metuchen, New Jersey, and Woodbridge, Connecticut."
^"Ed Kalegi To Serve As In-house Voice Of The Ironmen", Our Sports Central, November 27, 2007. Accessed July 4, 2018. "Outside of the sports world, Kalegi serves as the voice of Weather Phone in New York City, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. The Metuchen native has also worked as a voice actor, appearing in commercials, narrations and audio books."
^"To Cast a Freedman's Vote", Metuchen-Edison Historical Society, Accessed February 24, 2020. "The story of Peterson’s childhood is sketchy at best, though not for want of trying by local historians. He was born in what is now Metuchen (then part of Woodbridge) and local historians Tyreen Reuter and Walter Stochel have been researching that part of his life. His parents were Thomas and Lucy, and their story is something of a muddle if you go by the various subsequent articles and histories that mention them."
^Stewart, Sara. "This 22-year-old director wrote her screenplay in high school", New York Post, January 4, 2018. Accessed May 31, 2018. "'I got made fun of for being weird and artsy,' says Quinn Shephard, who wrote, directed and stars in the drama Blame, out in theaters Friday.... The Metuchen, NJ, native graduated from public high school early and went on to a role in the CBS drama Hostages."
^Araton, Harvey. "Remembering Marvin Webster, Once a Knicks Savior", The New York Times, April 8, 2009. Accessed June 27, 2011. "I had an address for him at a condominium development in Metuchen, N.J., where he was said to be working in real estate. A few months after Marvin Jr.'s death, I slipped a note under his door, with my telephone number, which went uncalled. A neighbor told me that Webster was not seen very often and generally kept to himself."