In 1696, George Willocks, a Scottish land speculator, purchased a tract of land known as Willock's Patent, which included most of modern-day Totowa, Woodland Park (formerly West Paterson) and Little Falls. Located in the western part of Manchester Township, Willock's Patent was resold to Anthony Brockholls and the Van Houten family. The land was retitled the "Totowa Patent", and divided into three parcels, and more land was acquired through the "Garret Mountain Purchase".
In 1895, residents of the southern section of Manchester Township began to become disenchanted with governing officials, and following the election of 1896, many independent municipalities were formed. The formation of the Borough of Totowa was discussed at the Willard Park Hotel on Totowa Avenue, and headed by brothers Joseph and Robert Boyle. On March 15, 1898, the Borough of Totowa was officially incorporated under Chapter 56 of the Laws of New Jersey, signed by Governor John Griggs. On April 12, 1898, the first election of the Borough of Totowa was held at the Willard Park Hotel, which would become the unofficial town hall until the municipal building was completed in 1910.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 4.08 square miles (10.56 km2), including 4.00 square miles (10.36 km2) of land and 0.08 square miles (0.20 km2) of water (1.86%).
Of the 3,783 households, 28.9% had children under the age of 18; 58.8% were married couples living together; 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present and 25.3% were non-families. Of all households, 21.8% were made up of individuals and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.19.
20.1% of the population were under the age of 18, 7.3% from 18 to 24, 25.2% from 25 to 44, 29.4% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43.3 years. For every 100 females, the population had 94.7 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 90.8 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $72,568 (with a margin of error of +/− $11,834) and the median family income was $82,750 (+/− $13,865). Males had a median income of $58,750 (+/− $10,202) versus $42,641 (+/− $10,936) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $35,978 (+/− $4,380). About 4.3% of families and 9.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.8% of those under age 18 and 7.7% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 Census, 37.2% of town residents were of Italian ancestry, the seventh-highest percentage of any municipality in the United States, and second-highest in New Jersey (behind Hammonton, at 45.9%), among all places with more than 1,000 residents identifying their ancestry.
There were 3,539 households, out of which 26.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.3% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.3% were non-families. Of all households 21.8% were made up of individuals, and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the borough the population was spread out, with 18.3% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 28.3% from 25 to 44, 25.1% from 45 to 64, and 21.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.6 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $60,408, and the median income for a family was $69,354. Males had a median income of $44,462 versus $33,869 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $26,561. About 0.8% of families and 4.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including none of those under age 18 and 5.3% of those age 65 or over.
The Totowa Police Athletic League (PAL) is a volunteer organization that offers several sports to the children of Totowa from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. Established in 1952, the PAL strives to provide children throughout the borough with the fellowship of sports. These include baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, football, hockey, and cheerleading. Although the Totowa PAL is independent from the Borough of Totowa, it uses fields and facilities owned by the municipality. Meetings, registrations, and events are held at the PAL building, built in 1963 and located on Chamberlain Avenue.
In 1961–1962, the New York Gladiators of the short-lived National Bowling League rolled its home matches at "Gladiator Arena", a converted movie theater in Totowa.
Totowa 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 a mayor and a 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 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 council's advice and consent.
As of 2022[update], the Mayor of Totowa is Republican John Coiro, whose term of office ends December 31, 2022. Members of the Totowa Borough Council are Council President Lou D'Angelo (R, 2022), Debbie Andriani (R, 2023), William Bucher Jr. (R, 2023), John F. Capo (R, 2022), Patrick Fierro (R, 2024) and Anthony L. Picarelli (R, 2024).
Councilmember John Waryas resigned from office in June 2014, citing personal issues. That month, the Borough Council selected Brendan Murphy from three candidates nominated by the Republican municipal committee to fill Waryas' vacant seat on an interim basis. In the November 2014 general election, Phil Puglise was elected to serve the balance of the term of office.
Passaic County is governed by Board of County Commissioners, comprised of seven members who are elected at-large to staggered three-year terms office on a partisan basis, with two or three seats coming up for election each year as part of the November general election in a three-year cycle. At a reorganization meeting held in January, the board selects a Director and Deputy Director from among its members to serve for a one-year term.
As of 2022[update], Passaic County's Commissioners are
Director Bruce James (D, Clifton, term as commissioner ends December 31, 2023; term as director ends 2022),
Deputy Director Cassandra "Sandi" Lazzara (D, Little Falls, term as commissioner ends 2024; term as deputy director ends 2022),
John W. Bartlett (D, Wayne, 2024),
Theodore O. "T.J." Best Jr. (D, Paterson, 2023),
Terry Duffy (D, West Milford, 2022),
Nicolino Gallo (R, Totowa, 2024) and
Pasquale "Pat" Lepore (D, Woodland Park, 2022).
Constitutional officers, elected on a countywide basis are
County Clerk Danielle Ireland-Imhof (D, Hawthorne, 2023),
Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik (D, Clifton, 2022) and
Surrogate Zoila S. Cassanova (D, Wayne, 2026).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 6,950 registered voters in Totowa, of which 1,355 (19.5% vs. 31.0% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 2,562 (36.9% vs. 18.7%) were registered as Republicans and 3,030 (43.6% vs. 50.3%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 3 voters registered as Libertarians or Greens. Among the borough's 2010 Census population, 64.3% (vs. 53.2% in Passaic County) were registered to vote, including 80.5% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 70.8% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney received 57.2% of the vote (2,834 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 42.1% (2,083 votes), and other candidates with 0.7% (35 votes), among the 5,004 ballots cast by the borough's 7,265 registered voters (52 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 68.9%. In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 3,118 votes (58.0% vs. 37.7% countywide), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 2,026 votes (37.7% vs. 58.8%) and other candidates with 63 votes (1.2% vs. 0.8%), among the 5,375 ballots cast by the borough's 7,013 registered voters, for a turnout of 76.6% (vs. 70.4% in Passaic County). In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 2,981 votes (57.1% vs. 42.7% countywide), ahead of Democrat John Kerry with 2,029 votes (38.8% vs. 53.9%) and other candidates with 24 votes (0.5% vs. 0.7%), among the 5,224 ballots cast by the borough's 6,686 registered voters, for a turnout of 78.1% (vs. 69.3% in the whole county).
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 68.2% of the vote (2,201 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 31.3% (1,009 votes), and other candidates with 0.5% (15 votes), among the 3,338 ballots cast by the borough's 7,323 registered voters (113 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 45.6%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 2,299 votes (60.3% vs. 43.2% countywide), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 1,236 votes (32.4% vs. 50.8%), Independent Chris Daggett with 142 votes (3.7% vs. 3.8%) and other candidates with 29 votes (0.8% vs. 0.9%), among the 3,811 ballots cast by the borough's 6,967 registered voters, yielding a 54.7% turnout (vs. 42.7% in the county).
The Borough of Totowa Police Department, located within the Totowa Municipal Building on Totowa Road, is responsible for law enforcement.
The Totowa Fire Department (TFD) is an entirely volunteer fire department and was established in April 1908. The TFD consists of four "companies:" Volunteer Fire Company #1 (1908), Lincoln Fire Company (1908), Riverview Fire Company #3 (1925), and Fire Rescue Company #4 (1955). The TFD consists of 98 volunteer firefighters.
The Borough of Totowa First Aid Squad was founded in 1951 to provide a free, volunteer based service to the residents of Totowa. The Borough of Totowa First Aid Squad Auxiliary was also formed to help raise funds to support and benefit the first aid squad. During the day, between the hours of 6:00 am and 6:00 pm, the emergency services are provided by mutual aid agreements with surrounding municipalities or private ambulance companies.
Office of Emergency Management
The Borough of Totowa OEM is responsible for organizing, aiding, and providing emergency response units in the case of a "state of local disaster emergency". The OEM recruits volunteers of various disciplines to respond to local disasters and collaborates with both county and state officials in the event of a disaster.
Students going into high school also have the ability to apply for Passaic County Technical Institute, a high school in Wayne that is available to most children living within Passaic County. Students apply for different trades within the application for the school. The school itself is free but does require acceptance to attend. An estimated 80 students from Totowa attend PCTI (Passaic County Technical Institute) as of 2018.
As of May 2010[update], the borough had a total of 44.88 miles (72.23 km) of roadways, of which 30.30 miles (48.76 km) were maintained by the municipality, 10.75 miles (17.30 km) by Passaic County and 3.83 miles (6.16 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Annie's Road is a section of Riverview Drive between Totowa Road and Union Boulevard, which is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman killed in an accident.
Totowa was home to the North Jersey Developmental Center, which serves 400 developmentally disabled citizens on its 188-acre (0.76 km2) campus. The state announced a plan that would close the center in Totowa and another in Woodbridge Township, as part of a plan in which residents of the centers would be dispersed to smaller, community-based housing programs.
A segment of the April 12, 2013, episode of the American version of the reality television series Undercover Boss was filmed in Totowa. In the segment, Tony Wells, the CMO for the home security provider ADT, visits Totowa to pose as a new employee being trained as a local sales representative.
^Cohen, Saul Bernard. "Totowa", The Columbia Gazetteer of the World: P to Z, p. 3923. Columbia University Press, 2008. ISBN0231145543. Accessed January 15, 2013. "Totowa (TO-tuh-wuh), borough (2006 population 10,634), Passaic county, NE New Jersey"
^Nelson, William; and Shriner, Charles Anthony. History of Paterson and its Environs (The Silk City), p. 116. Lewis Historical Pub. Co., 1920. "The Totowa Patent embraced nearly all of what is now the First Ward of Paterson, all of what is now the Second Ward of Paterson and a great deal of what was afterwards Manchester township."
^Borough of Totowa: 100th Anniversary 1898–1998, 1998.
^Staff. "Valley National Bancorp to Acquire Greater Community Bancorp", Reuters, March 19, 2008. Accessed August 11, 2013. "Greater Community is a financial holding company headquartered in Totowa,New Jersey. Greater Community operates 16 full-service branches in thenorthern New Jersey counties of Bergen, Passaic and Morris through its state-chartered commercial bank subsidiary Greater Community Bank."
^Kadosh, Matthew. "Six-term Totowa councilman steps down, cites personal reasons", Passaic Valley Today, June 12, 2014. Accessed August 16, 2015. "John Waryas resigned from the council this week after serving on the council for 15 years. He cited personal reasons for leaving and was praised by his fellow council members at this week's council meeting."
^Kadosh, Matthew. "Accountant with deep Republican ties chosen to fill vacant Totowa council seat", Passaic Valley Today, June 25, 2014. Accessed August 16, 2015. "Brendan Murphy, who is the son of Peter Murphy, chairman of the Totowa Borough Republican Club, was chosen on Tuesday night to fill seat left vacant by Councilman John Waryas and is set to be sworn into his new position at the July 8 council meeting."
^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.."
^ abBoard of County Commissioners, Passaic County, New Jersey. Accessed June 21, 2022. "Passaic County is governed by a seven-member Board of County Commissioners. Each County Commissioner is elected at large for a three-year term. The board is headed by a director, who is selected for a one-year term at the board's annual reorganization meeting (at the first meeting of the year in January)."
^Bruce James, Passaic County, New Jersey. Accessed June 21, 2022.
^District InformationArchived February 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Passaic Valley High School. Accessed January 27, 2015. "The regional district which is served by Passaic Valley High School is comprised of the communities of Little Falls, Totowa Borough and Woodland Park."
^Mt. Nebo Cemetery, Barnert Temple. Accessed June 25, 2017. "Our Mt. Nebo Cemetery was established in 1866 to provide a final resting place for future generations It is located a short drive south of the Barnert Temple, just off Route 80 in Totowa."
^Caldera, Pete. "Sniffen Has His Act Together after Football", The Record. Accessed October 8, 2018. "This wasn't the career that Jeff Chase envisioned at Passaic Valley in the mid '80s. But here he is, in the company of Tom Cruise, shooting a scene with Paul Giamatti, standing on a red carpet with Donald Sutherland. Back in West Paterson and Totowa, he was Jeff Sniffen, a high school tight end and basketball player growing into an agile and affable 6-foot-7, 300 pound man."
^Beckerman, Jim. "Ex-Totowa resident a shaper of Star Trek", The Record, September 8, 2016. Accessed September 12, 2016. "'That was kind of the only way at the time,' says Fontana, who was born in Sussex, moved to Totowa a year later, and lived there for the next 19 years."
^D'Uva. Nancy. "Boys' Soccer: Totowa's Gurrieri working with U.S. Team", Wayne Today, September 11, 2013. Accessed October 12, 2015. "Totowa's Kyle Gurrieri played soccer at Passaic Valley High School his freshman year before accepting the invitation to the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Men's Residency Program for the 2013 fall semester."
^BiographyArchived October 15, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, A Taste of Clover Honey. Accessed October 12, 2015. "Born as Kevin Clover Welsh in Totowa, New Jersey, a suburban town a few miles west of Manhattan, Clover eventually found her way across the Hudson River to become a sweet blossom in the New York City social and nightlife swirl."
^Ortiz, Keldy; and Kanzler, Kaitlyn. "Rapper Juelz Santana will remain in jail on weapons charges", The Record, March 12, 2018. Accessed March 15, 2018. "Rapper Juelz Santana will likely remain in jail for the next two weeks, after he turned himself in to Port Authority police early Monday on charges he brought a loaded gun to Newark Liberty International Airport.The Totowa resident, whose birth name is LaRon James, allegedly fled the airport Friday after the gun was found in his carry-on luggage."
^Gleason, Kevin. "Sullivan’s roots suit Giants", Times Herald-Record, March 5, 2004, updated December 16, 2010. Accessed September 26, 2018. "Sullivan is laid-back with an easy, genuine smile. He will talk football all day if you want. But he still has a healthy glow that began taking shape on April 4, when wife Julie gave birth to Carmen Enriqueta. They are living in Totowa, N.J., a 15-minute drive, sans traffic, to Giants Stadium."