A History of Maplewood NJ
The much of today’s street layout in Maplewood NJ was derived from the trails of the Leni-Lanapi tribes of Algonquin Native Americans. The first European settlers were predominantly made up from English, Dutch and French who settled the area around 1675. By this time, they had acquired most of what would become Essex County from the Leni-Lanapi tribes and in fact the trails from back then are still in evidence in the form of South Orange Avenue, Springfield Avenue, and Ridgewood Road. The land bisected by these routes would merge into Maplewood NJ and South Orange.
Those who came from Newark on the trail that now corresponds to South Orange Avenue settled the area that became South Orange Village.
Maplewood NJ’s current downtown evolved from being centrally located in relation to the surrounding farms. Originally call Jefferson Village, after Thomas Jefferson. The village had strong ties then to Springfield and was known for its orchards, cider mills, distilleries, honey and some livestock. In fact the apple harvest was a highlight of the agricultural year.
Today’s Hilton section of town developed along Springfield Avenue was first named North Farms and grew through being a stage coach stop between Newark, Jersey City and Morristown and became a trade and manufacturing center.
In 1802, Jefferson Village and North Farms were named as districts under the Township of Newark.
Jefferson Village, Hilton and North Farms were communities independent of each other. Each community formed its own school system. However in 1817 the State of New Jersey merged the three separate entities into what would become the South Orange-Maplewood NJ School District.
Roosevelt Road and Kermit Place were the summer location for Theodore Roosevelt who would visit his uncle . In the early 1900s, a tree bearing an inscription by Teddy Roosevelt was cut down from the front lawn of 36 Roosevelt Road.
Jefferson Village finally became Maplewood NJ in 1838 when the developer, John Shedden built a railroad station to utilize the new extended Morris and Essex Railroad. Maplewood NJ would come to encompass Hilton Jefferson and part of Springfield. With the railroad came a greater need for residential housing and the farmland was subdivided in 1868. A great proportion of development occurred during the 1920’s.
Many renowned architects of the day have left their mark on the town today. Guilbert & Batelle built the majority of the schools as well as the municipal building and Memorial Park was the work of the Olmsted Brothers. The brothers are also responsible for landscaping at the Ward Home, Winchester Gardens, located on Elmwood Avenue, South Mountain Reservation and William E. Lehman designed the Maplewood NJ Theatre
Many of the most recognizable buildings and spaces were the work of famous architects and landscape designers. Most of the schools and the Municipal Building were the work of Guilbert & Betelle. The center of town is dominated by Memorial Park, a design of the Olmsted Brothers. The Olmsted firm was also responsible for the landscaping at the Ward Home, designed by John Russell Pope, and now known as Winchester Gardens, located on Elmwood Avenue. On the opposite side of town is another Olmsted work, South Mountain Reservation. The Maplewood NJ Theater, where Cheryl Crawford first revived Porgy and Bess, was designed by William E. Lehman.