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The City of Summit

Summit sits in the northwestern part of New Jersey's Union County, and included within its borders are elevations that rise to more than 500 feet. Long known for the beauty of its tree-lined streets, its vibrant downtown and the quality of its schools, the city's roots date to the years prior to the American Revolution. It is believed the first settlers began to arrive during the 30-year period between about 1726 and the 1750s, and built along or near established means of access: the Minisink Trail (Morris Turnpike, now Route 24), the road from Springfield to Turkey (now Springfield Avenue) and Stony Hill Road (Morris Avenue, Ashland Road and Mountain Avenue). By the early 1740s, Benjamin Carter had acquired land and built a house near the Passaic River.

Today, that house has been moved to 90 Butler Parkway, where it is owned and maintained as a headquarters and museum by the non-profit, all-volunteer Summit Historical Society. When the American Revolution broke out, Summit still was not a standalone community but remained a region of several farms with a few small clusters of development including some mills and forges along early roads and the river. In the 1830s the railroad made its way up "The Summit of the Short Hills," and present-day Summit was on its way to being created. By the mid-1800s, the easy commute to Newark and New York had helped forge the region's reputation as a summer resort for city dwellers, and over the years, many of those visitors built year-round homes in town. Today, a number of those Victorian "cottages" still exist, recalling the community's heyday as a spot beloved for its fresh air and cool breezes.

Three grand hotels and a number of small inns and rooming houses welcomed guests and future residents. In 1869, with a population of about 1,100, Summit Township was created, with the town center around Union Place and Maple Street growing. In 1899, the town incorporated as a city. In 1904 the present railroad station was constructed, and by then, Springfield Avenue had become the main commercial thoroughfare. As Summit continued to gain a reputation as a desirable commuter city, streets were lined with architect-designed houses in the eclectic styles of the period, including Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival. The landmark high school building, now the middle school, was constructed in 1923, and one historian noted that it "hinted to those just passing through of the architectural treasures tucked away in residential neighborhoods."

Following World War II, the city experienced its second great building boom. The mansions on New England Avenue were razed to make room for apartments, and the Canoe Brook Parkway neighborhood saw the construction of hundreds of split level houses for families who had decided to call Summit their home. Today, Summit remains a desirable residential community still known for its architectural beauty, the quality of its schools both public and private, its varied houses of worship, its attractive and successful retail district, and the ease of the commute from the city to New York.

 Copyright © 2004 Summit Historical Society - All Rights Reserved
90 Butler Parkway, Summit, NJ 07901 • (908) 277-1747