Plainfield was incorporated as a city by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 21, 1869, from portions of Plainfield Township, based on the results of a referendum held that same day. The city and township coexisted until March 6, 1878, when Plainfield Township was dissolved and parts were absorbed by Plainfield city, with the remainder becoming Fanwood Township (now known as Scotch Plains).
The "Queen City" moniker arose in the second half of the 19th century. Plainfield had been developing a reputation during this period as featuring a climate that was beneficial for respiratory ailments. In 1886, in an effort to publicize the climate, local newspaper publisher Thomas W. Morrison began to use the slogan "Colorado of the East" to promote Plainfield. As Denver, Colorado, was known as the "Queen City of the Plains," the slogan for Plainfield eventually became abbreviated to "The Queen City."
In 1902, the New Jersey Legislature approved measures that would have allowed the borough of North Plainfield to become part of Union County (a measure repealed in 1903) and to allow for a merger of North Plainfield with the City of Plainfield subject to the approval of a referendum by voters in both municipalities.
In sports history, Plainfield is the birthplace and/or home of several current and former athletes, including professionals and well-known amateurs. Included in their number are Milt Campbell, the 1956 OlympicDecathlon gold medalist (the first African-American to earn this title), Joe Black, the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game, Jeff Torborg, former MLB player, coach and manager, former Duke University and Chicago Bull basketball player Jay Williams, and Vic Washington, NFL player.
Plainfield's history as a place to call home for the 19th and 20th century wealthy has led to a significant and preserved suburban architectural legacy. An influx of Wall Street money led to the creation of what was called Millionaires' Row after the opening of the railway in the 19th century.
Plainfield's wealthy northeast corner, known as the "Sleepy Hollow" section of the city, was and still is characterized by its array of finely landscaped streets and neighborhoods with homes defined by a broad array of architectural styles, most built during the first half of the twentieth century. From the tree-lines neighborhoods, it can be seen that the lot sizes vary, but the stateliness and distinction of each house is evident, whether a stately Queen Anne mansion or gingerbread cottage. Most lots are nicely landscaped and semi or fully private.
Plainfield was affected by the Plainfield Rebellion in July 1967. This civil disturbance occurred in the wake of the larger Newark riots. A Plainfield police officer was killed, about fifty people were injured, and several hundred thousand dollars of property was damaged by looting and arson. The New Jersey National Guard restored order after three days of unrest. This civil unrest caused a massive white flight, characterized by the percentage of Black residents rising from 40% in 1970 to 60% a decade later.
Author and Plainfield native Isaiah Tremaine published Insurrection in 2017 as a mournful accounting of the Plainfield riots—and subsequent racial tensions at Plainfield High School—from his perspective as a Black teenager living in the city with both white and Black friends at the time. Prior to the rebellion, Plainfield was a regional shopping and entertainment center. Residents of nearby Union, Middlesex and Somerset counties would drive to shop and explore the business districts of Plainfield. Other than during the holidays, peak shopping times Plainfield were Thursday nights and Saturday, when Front Street and the areas around it bustled.
Plainfield had several entertainment venues at that time. At the peak, there were four operating movie theaters: the Strand, the Liberty, the Paramount and the Oxford theaters.
Manufacturers of heavy goods included Chelsea Fan Corp., Mack Truck and National Starch and Chemical Corp. Plainfield Iron and Metal maintained a large scrapyard in the West End.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city had a total area of 5.97 square miles (15.46 km2), including 5.96 square miles (15.43 km2) of land and 0.01 square miles (0.02 km2) of water (0.15%).
Plainfield has a humid continental climate, characterized by brisk to cold winters and hot, muggy summers. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −17 °F (−27 °C) on February 9, 1934, and the highest temperature ever recorded was 106 °F (41 °C) on July 10, 1936, and August 11, 1949. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Plainfield has a humid subtropical climate, which is abbreviated as "Cfa" on climate maps.
Climate data for Plainfield, New Jersey (1981–2010 normals)
Of the 15,180 households, 35.2% had children under the age of 18; 37.9% were married couples living together; 24.1% had a female householder with no husband present and 28.3% were non-families. Of all households, 21.3% were made up of individuals and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.23 and the average family size was 3.60.
25.8% of the population were under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.3 years. For every 100 females, the population had 101.3 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 100.4 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $52,056 (with a margin of error of +/− $3,048) and the median family income was $58,942 (+/− $4,261). Males had a median income of $33,306 (+/− $4,132) versus $37,265 (+/− $3,034) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $23,767 (+/− $1,013). About 12.2% of families and 16.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.5% of those under age 18 and 16.0% of those age 65 or over.
There were 15,137 households, out of which 35.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.3% were married couples living together, 24.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.0% were non-families. 21.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.10 and the average family size was 3.49.
In the city the population was spread out, with 27.5% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $46,683, and the median income for a family was $50,774. Males had a median income of $33,460 versus $30,408 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,052. About 12.2% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.3% of those under age 18 and 12.6% of those age 65 or over.
Portions of Plainfield are part of an Urban Enterprise Zone. The city was selected in 1983 as one of the initial group of 10 zones chosen to participate in the program. In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the Zone, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3.3125% sales tax rate (half of the 6+5⁄8% rate charged statewide) at eligible merchants. Established in January 1986, the city's Urban Enterprise Zone status expires in December 2023.
The UEZ program in Plainfield and four other original UEZ cities had been allowed to lapse as of January 1, 2017, after Governor Chris Christie, who called the program an "abject failure", vetoed a compromise bill that would have extended the status for two years. In May 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law that reinstated the program in these five cities and extended the expiration date in other zones.
The North Avenue Commercial District features the Downtown train station, post office, and Plainfield National Bank (now PNC Bank). The architecture of the district reflects original exterior 19th and early 20th century façade architecture.
The Plainfield Civic District features architecture reflective of the turn-of-the-century City Beautiful Movement, including the City Hall building, YMCA, City Hall Annex, and World War I monument on Watchung Avenue.
Events such as the Christmas Tree Lighting, the Queen City 5k, Fire Safety Fair, and Mayor's Wellness Walk take place in the Downtown each year.
Downtown Plainfield Alliance (DPA) is a "nonpolitical, nonprofit grassroots group that supports the improvement of Downtown Plainfield through beautification, volunteerism, economic development, marketing, community development, and activism."
The restoration of large 19th century-era Plainfield estates to their original glory, such as the Craig Marsh home, has been featured in various home design magazine coverage.
Residential districts include:
Van Wyck Brooks Historic District, which includes more than 150 properties, was listed in This Old House magazine's 2012 list of "Best Old House Neighborhoods." Roughly bounded by Plainfield Avenue, West Eighth Street, Park Avenue, West Ninth Street and Madison Avenue, and Randolph Road, it was named for literary critic and native son Van Wyck Brooks. In addition to the above-mentioned Craig Marsh home, it also contains the largest residence in Plainfield (The Coriell Mansion) and a wide variety of other historically and architecturally notable homes. The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District is the largest of the six residential Historic Districts in Plainfield, its oldest structure the Manning Stelle Farmhouse, parts of which date back to 1803. It has been a designated historic district by the City of Plainfield since 1982, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
Netherwood Heights Historic District is named for the Netherwood Hotel which stood at what is now the blocks bordered by Denmark Road, Park Terrace, Belvidere Avenue, Berkeley Avenue. This district is located near the Netherwood Train Station
Sleepy Hollow is, as of 2018, a section of stately homes on winding roads on the northeast side of the city. Some have pushed to formalize its boundaries.
The West End
While the more affluent eastern part of the city has been relatively integrated over the decades, with both Black and white upper-middle-class-to-wealthy families, the West End of Plainfield is the historically middle-class and working-class Black district in the city and features a close-knit African-American community.
Part of the West End is known to locals as Soulville.
Mount Olive Baptist Church has been serving the West End as a community of faith since 1870. It is considered Plainfield's first Black church. As the Black community grew, other congregations branched off from Mount Olive.
Calvary Baptist Church began in 1897 among a group of Black congregants from Mount Olive, and celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2017 with a series of events.
Nearby, Shiloh Baptist Church was founded in 1908, also by Mount Olive congregants, and offers many faith-based events to the community, including its Jazz for Jesus program.
The West End has been eyed recently for redevelopment.
The White Star, a diner in the West End on West Front Street near Green Brook Park, has been an area meeting spot and landmark for over half a century.
The West End has grown more Latin in recent years. As of the 2010 census, 40% of all people living in Plainfield were of Hispanic origin. This was up from 25% ten years earlier.
In his book Insurrection, Isaiah Tremaine, a Black Plainfield native, credits the influx of Latinos for breathing new life and energy into a city hurting from racism and racial strife in the 1970s.
The West End was once home to the Silk Palace, a barbershop at 216 Plainfield Avenue owned in part by funk music legend George Clinton, staffed by various members of Parliament-Funkadelic, and known as the "hangout for all the local singers and musicians" in Plainfield's 1950s and 1960s doo-wop, soul, rock and proto-funk music scene.
A sizable and diverse LGBTQ+ community contributes to the long-time perception of Plainfield as a stronghold of gay life and gay community in the suburbs of New Jersey.
Plainfield has one of the highest percentage of same-sex householders in the state of New Jersey. The First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, the oldest such congregation in the United States, is certified as LGBTQ welcoming.
In 1986, The New York Times reported on what was termed at the time as the "growing homosexual population in Plainfield" drawn to the stock of aging Victorian, Tudor and colonial homes, and featured interviews with various gay men who lived in Plainfield and worked in Manhattan.
One of the Queen City's elected leaders, former Councilwoman Rebecca Williams (who now represents all of Union County as chair of the county commissioners), is openly lesbian. In 2017, as Council President, Williams organized and hosted the city's first-ever Pride flag-raising to honor its LGBTQ community and to commemorate the victims of the Pulse Orlando massacre during Pride Month.
Plainfield has also been recently described as part of some newly formed Catholic gay outreach, ministry, and acceptance efforts in New Jersey.
In 2015, an openly gay Plainfielder ran for state Assemblyman.
Plainfield has been home to openly gay former New Jersey governor James McGreevey and his longtime partner, an Australian-American business executive.
Plainfield is also at the center of gay life in Union County, which hosts LGBTQ family events and opened the state's first county-wide office of LGBTQ services in 2018.
The Plainfield Cultural Center, which opened in 2019, is an arts center inside a former church built in 1892. Formerly All Souls Church, it was the home of the LGBT-welcoming First Unitarian Society of Plainfield which donated the former church to become the Plainfield Cultural Center and moved its weekly services to a Fanwood church.
Tëmike Park is an LGBTQ+ welcoming space in Plainfield between Stelle Avenue and Randolph Road. It is named for a Lenape-language expression of welcome.
Arts and culture
The recently inaugurated Queen City Film Festival is held in the city every fall to honor independently produced film.
Plainfield is the birthplace of Bill Evans, the famous jazz piano artist.
Acclaimed soul singer Lee Fields resides with his family in Plainfield and moved to the city as a teen in the 1960s.
The Plainfield Symphony performs concerts at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. The orchestra was founded in 1919, making it one of the oldest continuously operating orchestras in the United States.
The duCret School of Art was founded in 1926, making it the oldest art school in New Jersey. Founded by Marjorie Van Emburgh Chargois as the Van Emburgh School of Art, it was purchased in the 1960s by Dudley duCret. A 1933 exhibition of nudes by the school's artists once led to a controversy, according to The New York Times. Plainfield native Onyx Keesha, prior to her relocation to Atlanta, and members of the arts collective and production team M. PoWeR Arts have offered classes in filmmaking, acting, dance, writing and theater to Plainfield citizens at the duCret School of Art.
The Swain Galleries were founded in 1868. The entity is the oldest privately owned art gallery in the state. The galleries are located in a Victorian structure in the Crescent Historic District of Plainfield
Music in the Park is an annual summertime community concert event featuring the Plainfield Idol competition.
The Parish Hall Theater at the Plainfield Cultural Center is a proscenium theater that seats approximately 125 people. Available for theatrical productions and musical performances, it features theatrical lighting, a spot light, separate lighting booth, an upright piano and a sound system.
The historic Sanctuary at the Plainfield Cultural Center offers prime acoustics for recordings by bands and vocalists. The Sanctuary seats approximately 140 people. It is available for rehearsals, concerts, recording sessions, spoken word events, recitals and meetings.
The Plainfield Music Store was founded in 1951 and offers a vast archive of sheet music.
The French School of Music offers music lessons and was founded in 1927 by Yvonne Comme, a pupil of Gabriel Fauré who performed for Debussy.
Begun in 1980, the annual Crescent Concerts series at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church brings high-end vocal, instrumental, choral and orchestral music performances to the residents of the City of Plainfield and surrounding areas.
The Queen City October Music Festival is an annual music festival that is spearheaded by the Plainfield Arts Council.
The Shiloh Baptist Church, which has been worshiping together as a Plainfield community of faith since 1908, hosts Jazz In The Sanctuary as part of the Queen City October Music Festival as well as its Jazz for Jesus program.
DreamHouse Theater Company is a theater company operated in partnership with the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield (FUSP). DreamHouse performs one-act and original plays, readings, spoken word and musical offerings.
J.M. Benjamin is a Plainfield author and filmmaker whose short film, Moves We Make, was filmed in Plainfield and won the Paul Robeson Award at the Newark Black Film Festival.
Plainfield media includes:
TAPinto Plainfield is an online news site devoted to Plainfield.
Union News Daily. A news outlet covering Union County news, it has a dedicated Plainfield section. It is part of LocalSource and published by Worrall Community Newspapers of Union.
PCTV. Plainfield also has its own channel, Plainfield Community Television (PCTV), which is available to Comcast and Verizon FiOS television subscribers on Comcast Cable Channel 96/Verizon FIOS Channel 34.
Remaining multi-community newspapers include the Courier News, a daily newspaper based in Bridgewater Township, and The Star-Ledger based in Newark.
The Courier News is a consolidation of The Evening News (founded in 1884), the Plainfield Daily Press (founded in 1887) and the Plainfield Courier (founded in 1891). The paper was based in the city and called the Plainfield Courier News until 1972, when it moved westward to Bridgewater.
Other Plainfield coverage
Local civic reporting includes:
And My Point Is: A Progressive Vision for Union County is a countywide civic blog written by elected Union County Commissioner Rebecca Williams, Plainfield resident and English professor at Essex County College.
Cory Storch for Good Government is a local civic blog focused on good government, written by Ward 2 Councilman Cory Storch, CEO of Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, a not-for-profit mental health service organization.
Plainfield View is another hyperlocal blog, published by David Marcus Rutherford.
Plainfield Vision is a blog dedicated to improving Plainfield, written by Plainfield Democratic City Committee member Sean McKenna.
Queen City Pride is a local news and events blog.
As of 2017, local media in New Jersey has undergone dramatic shrinkage.
C L I P S was a daily online news round-up dedicated to local Plainfield news by the late Dan Damon, former City of Plainfield information officer, who passed in 2020. "Begun in 2003 as an email newsletter to Plainfield city council members. it was later offered to the general public by email and had been available as a blog since 2007."Plainfield Today was a city opinion blog also published by Damon.
Plainfield Plaintalker (2005–2010) and Plaintalker II (2010–2017) were two local blogs published by longtime local reporter Bernice Paglia.
From 1961 to 1997, Plainfield was home to WERA at 1590 on the AM dial with studios at 120 West 7th Street.
Grace Church Founded in 1852, and registered a national historic site, Grace Church is an example of late 19th-century Gothic Revival architecture. A very active parish, with a large community outreach program (After-School care, Community Garden, E.S.L., Soup Kitchen, 12-Step Programs, a Robust Music Program, Zumba, etc).
First Park Baptist.
Albaseerah Islamic Center is a mosque in the Sleepy Hollow district.
First Unitarian Society of Plainfield was founded in the 1880s. It is the oldest Unitarian congregation in the country. All Souls Church, which hosts First Unitarian was completed in the early 1890s. Magician and architect Oscar Teale designed the church in 1892. With a history of involvement in the LGBTQ community and support for Black Lives Matter, it is certified as a Unitarian Universalist LGBTQ Welcoming Congregation.
Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. A Gilbert F. Adams organ undergirds the church's musical programming.
The Plainfield Garden Club was founded in 1915. It has maintained the Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park since the garden's inception in 1927. Designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm, it is one of only 23 Shakespeare Gardens in the US. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a part of the state's Women's Heritage trail.
Plainfield Skatepark at Madison Park offers skateboarding and other wheeled activity. In 2017, this state-of-the-art public skateboarding area opened inside Madison Park. It is the first public skatepark in the city. Its modern California-style design was deemed by some skateboarders as a first in New Jersey.
Milt Campbell Field in the East End, named for Plainfield legend and Olympic gold medalist Milt Campbell offers sports and nature walks.
Hannah Atkins Center Pool, Rushmore Playground Pool, and Seidler Field Pool offer swimming, sports and other recreation.
Plainfield is governed under a Special Charter granted by the New Jersey Legislature. The city is one of 11 (of the 564) municipalities statewide governed under a special charter. The governing body is comprised of a mayor and a seven-member City Council, all of whom serve four-year terms in office. The city is divided into four wards, with one ward seat up for election each year. There are three at-large seats: one from the First and Fourth Wards; one from the Second and Third Wards; and one from the city as a whole. The three at-large seats and mayoral seat operate in a four-year cycle, with one seat up for election each year.
As of 2022[update], the Mayor of the City of Plainfield is Democrat Adrian O. Mapp, whose term of office ends December 31, 2025. Members of the Plainfield City Council are Council President Barry N. Goode (At Large Wards 1 and 4; D, 2023), Council Vice President Charles McRae (Ward 3; D, 2024), Terri Briggs-Jones (Ward 4; D, 2025), Ashley Davis (Ward 1; D, 2022), Steve G. Hockaday (At Large All Wards; D, 2024), Sean McKenna (Ward 2; D, 2023) and Joylette Mills-Ransome (At Large Wards 2 and 3; D, 2022).
In June 2018, the City Council appointed Elton Armady to fill the at-large seat expiring in December 2020 that became vacant after Rebecca Williams resigned to take a seat on the Union County Board of chosen freeholders. Armady served on an interim basis until the November 2018 general election, when he was elected to serve the balance of the term of office.
Union County is governed by a Board of County Commissioners, whose nine members are elected at-large to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis with three seats coming up for election each year, with an appointed County Manager overseeing the day-to-day operations of the county. At an annual reorganization meeting held in the beginning of January, the board selects a Chair and Vice Chair from among its members. As of 2022[update], Union County's County Commissioners are
Chair Rebecca Williams (D, Plainfield, term as commissioner and as chair ends December 31, 2022),
Vice Chair Christopher Hudak (D, Linden, term as commissioner ends 2023; term as vice chair ends 2022),
James E. Baker Jr. (D, Rahway, 2024),
Angela R. Garretson (D, Hillside, 2023),
Sergio Granados (D, Elizabeth, 2022),
Bette Jane Kowalski (D, Cranford, 2022),
Lourdes M. Leon (D, Elizabeth, 2023),
Alexander Mirabella (D, Fanwood, 2024) and
Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded (D, Westfield, 2024).
Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are
County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi (D, Union Township, 2025),
Sheriff Peter Corvelli (D, Kenilworth, 2023) and
Surrogate Susan Dinardo (acting).
The County Manager is Edward Oatman.
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 20,722 registered voters in Plainfield, of which 12,078 (58.3% vs. 41.8% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 947 (4.6% vs. 15.3%) were registered as Republicans and 7,693 (37.1% vs. 42.9%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 4 voters registered to other parties. Among the city's 2010 Census population, 41.6% (vs. 53.3% in Union County) were registered to vote, including 56.1% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 70.6% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 14,640 votes (93.3% vs. 66.0% countywide), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 909 votes (5.8% vs. 32.3%) and other candidates with 46 votes (0.3% vs. 0.8%), among the 15,683 ballots cast by the city's 22,555 registered voters, for a turnout of 69.5% (vs. 68.8% in Union County). In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 15,280 votes (92.3% vs. 63.1% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 1,110 votes (6.7% vs. 35.2%) and other candidates with 56 votes (0.3% vs. 0.9%), among the 16,548 ballots cast by the city's 22,516 registered voters, for a turnout of 73.5% (vs. 74.7% in Union County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 11,508 votes (85.4% vs. 58.3% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 1,773 votes (13.2% vs. 40.3%) and other candidates with 88 votes (0.7% vs. 0.7%), among the 13,480 ballots cast by the city's 20,445 registered voters, for a turnout of 65.9% (vs. 72.3% in the whole county).
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Democrat Barbara Buono received 75.9% of the vote (5,757 cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 22.7% (1,723 votes), and other candidates with 1.4% (104 votes), among the 8,174 ballots cast by the city's 21,996 registered voters (590 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 37.2%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 7,140 ballots cast (81.3% vs. 50.6% countywide), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 1,057 votes (12.0% vs. 41.7%), Independent Chris Daggett with 355 votes (4.0% vs. 5.9%) and other candidates with 84 votes (1.0% vs. 0.8%), among the 8,786 ballots cast by the city's 21,738 registered voters, yielding a 40.4% turnout (vs. 46.5% in the county).
The district's main high school was the 318th-ranked public high school in New Jersey out of 339 schools statewide in New Jersey Monthly magazine's September 2014 cover story on the state's "Top Public High Schools", using a new ranking methodology. The school had been ranked 280th in the state of 328 schools in 2012, after being ranked 307th in 2010 out of 322 schools listed. The school was removed in 2009 from the list of persistently dangerous schools in New Jersey.
As of May 2010[update], the city had a total of 101.79 miles (163.82 km) of roadways, of which 87.58 miles (140.95 km) were maintained by the municipality, 14.21 miles (22.87 km) by Union County.
Plainfield is one of the few large suburban cities in central New Jersey to have no federal highway within it. The only major thoroughfare through Plainfield is New Jersey Route 28, connecting Somerville with Elizabeth and New Jersey Route 27. U.S. Route 22, a mecca for highway shopping and dining, is accessible from Plainfield through North Plainfield, Dunellen and Fanwood. In the early 1960s, Interstate highways were completed near, but not through Plainfield. Interstate 287 is accessible through South Plainfield and Piscataway, while Interstate 78 is accessible through Watchung / Warren Township and neighboring communities. The busiest connecting thoroughfares are Park Avenue (north-south), traversing from U.S. 22 to and into South Plainfield and Edison; Front Street (east-west), connecting Scotch Plains with Dunellen; South Avenue and 7th Street, both of which parallel Front Street, connecting Scotch Plains/Fanwood with Piscataway, South Plainfield and the Middlesex County border.
Plainfield Station, c. 1910
Plainfield has two NJ Transit rail stations on the Raritan Valley Line, formerly the mainline of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The main Plainfield station is in the downtown and a second, smaller Netherwood station is in the Netherwood section, east of downtown and within a mile of the Fanwood border. A third station, located in the west end of town, was closed long ago. The New Brunswick train station is approximately 15 minutes away.
The Central Railroad of New Jersey first offered service to Plainfield in 1839. At the height of popularity, the Plainfield "Jersey Central" train station, with its main station building constructed in 1902, was a hub for commuting to Newark and New York. (The Central Railroad of New Jersey terminal was in Jersey City, where ferries would take the rail passengers to New York City.) The station was located near the main post office and downtown stores. The station was serviced by the now defunct Railway Express postal carrier company.
In years past, Plainfield was serviced by the Somerset Bus Company with service from Union County to Essex and New York City, the Public Service Bus Company with similar service and Plainfield Transit, providing local service.
Solaris Health System, the nonprofit company that owns Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, asked for permission to close the hospital. This request has been opposed by People's Organization for Progress, an advocacy group based in Newark, New Jersey. The closing has been attributed to the large number of uninsured patients served by the hospital.
At the height of popularity in the 1950s through the 1970s, Plainfield was a hub for medical practices. Park Avenue was lined with doctors and medical offices and was nicknamed "Doctors Row".
Plainfield Teacher's College hoax
Plainfield Teacher's College was a mythical institution created as a hoax by a duo of college football fans in 1941. The phony college's equally nonexistent football team had its scores carried by major newspapers including The New York Times before the hoax was discovered.
^Dudley, William L. "Friendly Families: The Shotwells", in The Story of the Friends in Plainfield Including A History of Early Quaker Families, Rahway & Plainfield Friends (Quaker) Meeting, March 29, 1929. Accessed May 21, 2013.
^Nutt, Bill. "Plainfield places"[permanent dead link], Courier-News, September 3, 2003. Accessed July 11, 2013. "The Society of Friends Meeting House, an apparently unassuming structure on Watchung Avenue in the North Avenue Commercial Historic District, is the oldest continuously used house of worship in the city."
^Nathaniel Drake HouseArchived February 26, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects. Accessed July 11, 2013. "The Nathaniel Drake House was constructed for Nathaniel Drake and his new wife circa 1746, and remained in the Drake family until c. 1860 when Daniel Drake sold the property to John S. Harberger of New York City.... The Nathaniel Drake House is significant for its architecture and how the evolution of the building reflects the changes within Plainfield from an early colonial settlement to a modern suburb, its association with the Drake family, who were prominent early settlers in the region, as well as its association with General George Washington during the Battle of Short Hills."
^Home Page, Drake House Museum. Accessed July 11, 2013. "It was at the Drake House that George Washington consulted with his officers during and after the Battle of Short Hills fought over the entire Plainfield area on June 25–27, 1777."
^ ab"Field Day in Plainfield", Time, July 13, 1953, accessed April 26, 2007. "In Helsinki last summer, a big (6 ft. 3 in., 210 lbs.) Negro high-school boy from Plainfield, NJ trudged wearily into a locker room in the Olympic stadium. Worn down by the two-day competition in the Olympics' most demanding test, Decathlon Man Milton Campbell gave World Champion Bob Mathias a congratulatory backslap, then flopped on a cot."
^The Plainfield ArmoryArchived November 19, 2002, at the Wayback Machine, The New Jersey Naval Militia Foundation. Accessed July 11, 2013. "The armory at Plainfield was constructed between 1931 and 1932 to house the Headquarters Company of the 44th Division."
^Cheslow, Jerry. "If You're Thinking of Living in: Plainfield", The New York Times, May 9, 1993. Accessed July 29, 2016. "Although some neighborhoods, such as the Sleepy Hollow area on the east side of town, with its winding, tree-lined streets and large, custom houses, remain well-manicured, many formerly gracious streets near the center of town, like West Fourth, are blighted, with boarded-up buildings and shards of auto glass on the streets."
^"Plainfield Burning: Black Rebellion in the Suburban North", Thomas J. Sugrue and Andrew M. Goodman, Journal of Urban History, vol. 33 (May 2007), pp. 368–401.
^Dreier, Peter. "Riot and Reunion: Forty Years Later", The Nation, July 30, 2007. Accessed April 10, 2012. "In 1971, after more protests and litigation, the school district initiated a desegregation plan. But because white flight had dramatically accelerated, real school integration between Blacks and whites was difficult to achieve. Between 1970 and 1980, blacks' share of Plainfield's population grew from 40 percent to 60 percent."
^Racioppi, Dustin. "Christie vetoes urban enterprise zone extension", The Record, February 10, 2017. Accessed November 19, 2019. "Gov. Chris Christie on Friday conditionally vetoed the Legislature's attempt to extend the Urban Enterprise Zone status for its five charter communities, calling the economic revitalization program an 'abject failure' with a 'devastating impact' on state revenue.... The Legislature returned with what it called a compromise bill, A-4189, to extend the designation for two years instead of 10 for the first five UEZs -- Bridgeton, Camden, Newark, Plainfield and Trenton -- which expired on Jan. 1."
^Our History, The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District. Accessed April 25, 2021. "Van Wyck Brooks Historic District is the largest of the six residential Historic Districts in Plainfield and encompasses 152 properties.... In 1982 the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District was designated by the City of Plainfield as a Historic District and placed on the National Register in 1986."
^Mount Olive Baptist Church, Plainfield Public Library. Accessed March 3, 2020. "Mount Olive Baptist Church was organized in 1870 and groundbreaking for what was to be Plainfield's first Black church occurred on March 1, 1871 at the intersection of Third and Liberty streets."
^Sammy Campbell and the Del Larks - Classic Urban Harmony. classicurbanharmony.net/wp-content/uploads/.../Sammy-Campbell-The-Del-Larks.pdf by T Ashley. The story of the Del Larks revolves around the extensive music careers of two individuals; Sammy. Campbell and Ron Taylor.
^Calefati, Jessica. "Plainfield residents attempt to break world record for largest gospel choir", The Star-Ledger, October 2, 2010. Accessed April 10, 2012. "Residents of the Queen City who gathered yesterday at City Hall to try and break the Guinness World Record for the largest gospel choir were unsuccessful, but the day was still touted as a positive step toward peace in this community, which has been rocked by more than 20 violent crimes since May raised. Yesterday's event drew 755 singers, about 250 people shy of the record."
^Sagara, Eric. "Plainfield art school celebrates 85th anniversary", The Star-Ledger, March 26, 2012. Accessed December 22, 2016. "DuCret was founded in 1926 by Marjorie Van Emburgh, a local artist and teacher who wanted to create an art school comparable to what was found in major metropolitan areas such as New York City or Philadelphia."
^Biryukov, Nikita. "New Plainfield councilman worked for Green, Lautenberg; Elton Armady replaces Rebecca Williams", New Jersey Globe, June 20, 2018. Accessed May 13, 2020. "Plainfield's new councilman is something of a political veteran, even though his appointment to fill a seat left vacant by former councilwoman Rebecca Williams' ascension to the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Elton Armady, former legislative director to the late Assemblyman Jerry Green, whose death started off the chain of appointments that left the at-large Plainfield council seat vacant, also worked as a capitol hill intern for a number of Democrats, including late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi."
^Biography, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. Accessed January 3, 2019. "Watson Coleman and her husband William reside in Ewing Township and are blessed to have three sons; William, Troy, and Jared and three grandchildren; William, Kamryn and Ashanee."
^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.."
^What We Do: History, New Jersey Schools Development Authority. Accessed March 1, 2022. "In 1998, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in the Abbott v. Burke case that the State must provide 100 percent funding for all school renovation and construction projects in special-needs school districts. According to the Court, aging, unsafe and overcrowded buildings prevented children from receiving the "thorough and efficient" education required under the New Jersey Constitution.... Full funding for approved projects was authorized for the 31 special-needs districts, known as 'Abbott Districts'."
^Hatala, Greg. "Glimpse of History: The rails run through Plainfield", The Star-Ledger, November 26, 2012. Accessed November 16, 2015. "According to the Elizabeth Historical Society, the Elizabeth and Somerville Railroad, later the Central Railroad of New Jersey, established regular passenger service to Plainfield in 1839, making interior farmland accessible for development. The Drake House Museum in Plainfield notes that the main station building was designed and built in 1902 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style by noted railroad architect Bradford Gilbert."
^Staff. "Byrne Drops Plan For Rail Extension", The New York Times, June 2, 1978. Accessed February 4, 2018. "Governor Byrne today dropped his proposal for an extension of the PATH rail system to Plainfield and instead endorsed a $600 million plan to improve other rail and bus service in New Jersey."
^"Acute-care hospital facility to close. Solaris Health Systems, the nonprofit parent company of Muhlenberg and the JFK Medical Center in Edison, will file a certificate of need...". Asbury Park Press. February 24, 2008.
^"They rally to save Muhlenberg center Sixty or so people, many from the Plainfield area, gathered in front of the Statehouse Thursday to protest the planned closing of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center...". Asbury Park Press. May 9, 2008.
^Jukaku, Mariam. "Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center shutting its doors", The Star-Ledger, February 23, 2008. Accessed June 15, 2014. "Faced with mounting deficits caused mainly by insufficient state aid to cover all its uninsured patients, officials at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield plan to close the 130-year-old facility later this year."
^Staff. "Muhlenberg Hospital to close", Plainfield Today, February 22, 2008. Accessed June 3, 2015. "Without a hospital, what incentive will doctors have to have large offices in Plainfield, particularly along the Park Avenue 'Doctor's Row'?"
^Johnson, Bruce. "Plainfield State and Chung Were Too Good to Be True", Westfield Leader, October 13, 2005. Accessed May 13, 2007. "Never heard of Plainfield State? Well, that's because neither Plainfield State Teachers College nor Johnny Chung actually existed... On the spur of the moment, he decided to call The New York Times and said, 'I want to report a score... Plainfield Teachers 21 (his secretary was from Plainfield) ... Regency 12.' The next morning, there was the score in The New York Times!"
^Christine, Bill. "The Greatest Hoax in Sports Agate History (Yes, The Times Fell for It, Too)", The New York Times, January 15, 2016. Accessed January 15, 2016. "Harold Rosenthal, who worked on the rewrite desk at The Herald Tribune, answered the phone. Mr. Newburger told him that Plainfield Teachers College had beaten Winona, 27-3. 'Plainfield Teachers?' Mr. Rosenthal said. 'That a New Jersey school?' Mr. Newburger said yes. The name had settled in his mind because his secretary was from Plainfield, N.J."
^Erika Amato - BiographyArchived February 2, 2019, at the Wayback Machine, Velvet Chain. Accessed September 12, 2013. "Erika was born in Plainfield, NJ, and grew up in the small, rather upscale town of Summit (she actually lived in Mountainside, one of the smaller, adjoining towns), about 25 minutes from Manhattan."
^Symons, Michael. "Transition team: Rich Bagger", Asbury Park Press, November 20, 2009. Accessed April 10, 2012. "Bagger, who was born in Plainfield and lives in Westfield, holds degrees from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Rutgers Law School."
^"Obituaries: The Rt. Rev. G. P. Mellick Belshaw", Town Topics, March 4, 2020. Accessed December 3, 2020. "He was 91 years of age, born July 14, 1928 in Plainfield, NJ, the only child of Edith Mellick of Plainfield and New York and the Rev. Harold Belshaw, who immigrated to America from Wigan, England when a teen."
^Staff. "Charles 'Buddy' Bicknell", The Star-Ledger, December 1, 2013. Accessed September 21, 2015. "Charles 'Buddy' Bicknell, 85, passed away on Nov. 24, 2013, in Livingston, Mont. A private service will be held. Buddy was born in Plainfield, N.J., to Charles Bicknell and Ann (Blazo) Bicknell in 1928."
^Goldblatt, Jennifer. "Blume's Day", The New York Times, November 14, 2004. Accessed February 5, 2008. "It wasn't until after Ms. Blume had gotten her bachelor's degree in education from New York University in 1961, was married and raising her son, Larry, and her daughter, Randy, and living in Plainfield and later Scotch Plains, that she started to commit her stories and characters to paper, cramming writing sessions in while the children were at preschool and at play."
^Schermer, Victor L. "Anthony Branker: Jazz Dialogics", All About Jazz, June 13, 2011. Accessed September 21, 2015. "AAJ: Let's go now to your early background and influences. You grew up in Piscataway and Plainfield, NJ. I believe that pianist Bill Evans grew up in that area. AB: Yes, in Plainfield."
^The New York Red Book, p. 63. Williams Press, 1977. Accessed November 9, 2017. "Jack E. Bronston 5th District (8th, 9th and 10th Assembly districts of Queens county) Jack E. Bronston, Democrat-Liberal, was born in Plainfield, NJ, on January 10, 1922. He attended Plainfield High School and was graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. degree from Harvard College in 1942."
^AboutArchived September 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Diane Chamberlain. Accessed September 21, 2015. "I grew up in Plainfield, NJ and spent my summers at the Jersey Shore, two settings that have found their way into my novels."
^About DJ CheeseArchived January 12, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, King Kut DJ Cheese. Accessed September 21, 2015. "DJ Cheese has a long history in this thing We call the 'Hip Hop' He was born in W. Virginia then raised in Potters Crossing – Edison, NJ and Later Move To Plainfield, NJ when he was 8Yrs Old."
^Staff. "John Chironna", The Star-Ledger, October 19, 2010. Accessed September 21, 2015. "Mr. Chironna was born on July 4, 1928, in Plainfield, NJ, and graduated from Westfield High School in 1946."
^Fried, Jonathan. "Jersey Footlights; A Funkmaster Comes Home", The New York Times, October 17, 1999. Accessed April 10, 2012. "The Mothership landed on October 6 when George Clinton, Plainfield native and funkmaster, brought his band to the Community Theater in Morristown for the second night of a monthlong national tour."
^"Richard Guy Condon (1952-1995)", Arctic, Vol. 49, No. 3, September 1996. Accessed September 21, 2015. "Rick was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, and received his bachelor's degree with honors in anthropology from Rutgers College (1974) and his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh (1981)."
^Boyer, Zac. "After four years, Davis ready to move on", Rivals.com. November 17, 2007. Accessed November 9, 2017. "Davis' hard-hitting mentality was rooted deep within him as a child growing up in Plainfield, NJ, a city of approximately 50,000 located a half-hour southwest of Newark.... According to Davis, many of those who attended Plainfield High School with him failed to move on to college and instead ended up involved either in jail or, worse, dead."
^Slotnik, Daniel E. "Pat DiNizio, Singer and Songwriter for the Smithereens, Dies at 62", The New York Times, December 13, 2017. Accessed July 23, 2019. "Patrick Michael DiNizio was born in Plainfield, NJ, on Oct. 12, 1955, to Nicholas DiNizio, who ran a waste management business, and the former Antoinette Gallo. He grew up nearby in Scotch Plains and graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School before attending several colleges, including Union County College in Cranford, NJ; Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.; and New York University."
^Jarvis, Gail. "The Dunning School", LewRockwell.com, February 2, 2004. Accessed September 21, 2015. "William Archibald Dunning was born in Plainfield, NJ, in 1857, the son of a wealthy manufacturer with an intellectual bent and a strong interest in American history."
^Makin, Bob. "Parliament-Funkadelic: From doo-wop to hip-hop", Courier News, March 27, 2016. Accessed July 23, 2019. "Plainfield guitarist-vocalist Glenn Goins, who earlier joined the collective, now known as Parliament-Funkadelic or P-Funk, helped end each show by calling on the Mothership, a prop from the classic 1951 sci-fi movie The Day the Earth Stood Still."
^Strauss, Robert. "New Jersey & Co.; All Eyes Are on Fort Lee", The New York Times, April 23, 2000. Accessed April 10, 2012. "Alerted by a viewer, Mr. Haines -- a Plainfield native who now lives in Monmouth County -- researched tapes and noted that when Mr. Greenspan, the head of the Federal Reserve, carried a fat briefcase to the meetings, interest rates rose; a thin briefcase indicated lower rates."
^Staff. "Union County Tech Gives 29 Diplomas", Courier News, June 14, 1963. Accessed July 23, 2019. "'Challenge of Change' was the subject of an address last night by William Hazell of Plainfield before the 29-student graduating class of the Union County Technical Institute."
^Skelly, Richard. "Richard X. Heyman and the Owls playing the Record Collector", Asbury Park Press, December 11, 2015. Accessed July 23, 2019. "In 2002, Heyman self-published a book documenting his life and musical times growing up in and around Plainfield, and his time with the Doughboys, who became one of the Garden State's most popular rock 'n' roll bands when the musical genre was still emerging."
^Staff. "Former NFL wide receiver Donald Jones works out with Somerset Patriots", The Messenger-Gazette, April 18, 2014. Accessed October 18, 2015. "Former NFL wide receiver and Plainfield native Donald Jones will be working out with the Somerset Patriots during Spring Training.... Now Jones is looking to make a return to the baseball diamond, where he last played for Plainfield High School."
^Scott, Don. "A Place In History: Florence LaRue, The Fifth Dimension created music of joy", Montgomery News, September 10, 2015. Accessed July 23, 2019. "Born Feb. 4, 1942, in Plainfield, NJ, as World War II raged, LaRue and her family "moved to Glenside, Pa., where she began studying dance and violin," according to www.thehistorymakers.com, as well as attended Abington Senior High School, where she was inducted in 1988 to the school's Hall of Fame, likely indicative of her keen intelligence, social sensibilities and immense spirituality passed down by her African-American elders."
^Laurie, Artiss. "Liske Recalls Vivid Hoax", The Leader-Post, September 22, 1967. Accessed April 10, 2012. "They should be indebted then, as I am, to The Globe and Mail's Dick Beddoes for revealing the hoax surrounding Peter Liske. That is, if you consider his hometown - Plainfield, NJ - as sufficient evidence for guilt by association."
^Randolph Manning, Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society. Accessed May 21, 2013. "Randolph Manning was born in Plainfield, NJ, on May 19, 1804."
^Staff. "Queena Mario Sings to Students", The New York Times, May 26, 1927. Accessed August 26, 2018. "Queena Mario of the Metropolitan Opera Company, formerly of this city, was a guest of the Plainfield High School today where she sang a group of four numbers to the student body.... The opera star whose family name was Tillotson is a graduate of the local high school and has been a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Albert L. Coddington of Sheridan Avenue."
^Faber, Charles F. "Jack Martin", Society for American Baseball Research. Accessed November 9, 2017. "John Christopher Martin was born in Plainfield, NJ, in the central part of the state, on April 19, 1887. The son of Adeline and James B. Martin, a trolley conductor, Jack played baseball at Plainfield High School and for the town's amateur clubs."
^Kuras, Amy. "Mom Bridget Mary McCormack Lays Down the Law", Metro Parent for Southeast Michigan, August 27, 2012. Accessed March 17, 2021. "She grew up in Plainfield, N.J., with a mom who went back to school to be a social worker when her kids were nearly grown – and a dad who was a Marine and a small business owner who worked seven days a week his entire life."
^Remembering Gail O'Day, Wake Forest University. Accessed September 1, 2019. "Gail Radcliffe O'Day was born on December 2, 1954, in Muhlenberg, New Jersey, where her mother, Sally Wilcox O'Day, was living while her father, Arthur F. O'Day, was serving in the Korean War."
^McCall, Tris. "Garry Shider of P-Funk fame dies at 56", The Star-Ledger, June 16, 2010. Accessed January 12, 2011. "The Plainfield native and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, best known as the musical director of George Clinton's Parliament and Funkadelic bands, died today at the age of 56, from complications arising from brain and lung cancer."
^Gracyk, Tim. Fred Van Eps -- BanjoistArchived May 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Tims Phonographs & Old Records. Accessed 'July 23, 2019. "Van Eps moved with his family to nearby Plainfield in 1892 and in 1893, as he reported later in life, heard his first Vess L. Ossman cylinder, 'The White Star Line March."
^Staff. "Comics wait to see who'll be standing ", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 5, 2003. Accessed November 21, 2008. "Two grizzled veteran comics with minimal name recognition until a few weeks ago -- Dave Mordal of Elk River, MN, and Rich Vos of Plainfield, NJ -- have found a higher level of fame thanks to NBC's moderately successful reality show 'Last Comic Standing'."
^"Rev. Albert C. Wyckoff", The New York Times, January 13, 1953. Accessed October 29, 2019. "Elizabeth, NJ, Jan. 12--The Rev. Albert Capwell Wyckoff, formerly of this city who served the Presbyterian Church in the South for more than two decades as missionary and pastor died Saturday at Columbia, KY, after a brief illness... Born in near-by Plainfield, he was ordained in 1928."