History of Belleville

Originally known as “Second River” or “Washington”, the inhabitants renamed the settlement “Belleville” in 1797.[23]Belleville was originally incorporated as a township by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 8, 1839, from portions of Bloomfield. Portions of the township were taken to create Woodside Township (March 24, 1869, now defunct) and Franklin Township (February 18, 1874, now known as Nutley). The independent municipality of Belleville city was created within the township on March 27, 1874, and was dissolved on February 22, 1876. On November 16, 1910, Belleville was reincorporated as a town, based on the results of a referendum held eight days earlier.[24]

In 1870, Belleville became the first Chinatown on the East Coast of the United States. While the country experienced strong anti-Chinese sentiment, the town welcomed a group of Chinese workers from the West Coast who had been involved in construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. This group of people eventually formed the basis for Chinatowns in Newark and New York City.[25]

In 1981, the town was one of seven Essex County municipalities to pass a referendum to become a township, joining four municipalities that had already made the change, of what would ultimately be more than a dozen Essex County municipalities to reclassify themselves as townships in order take advantage of federal revenue sharing policies that allocated townships a greater share of government aid to municipalities on a per capita basis.[26][27][28][29]

Frankie Valli and the band The Four Seasons formed in Belleville.[30]

Real Estate Prices and Overview

Median real estate price in the Town Center  is $315,909, which is more expensive than 46.2% of the neighborhoods in New Jersey and 73.0% of the neighborhoods in the U.S.

The average rental price in is currently $1,727, based on NeighborhoodScout’s exclusive analysis. Rents here are currently lower in price than 48.6% of New Jersey neighborhoods.

Real estate in the Town Center is primarily made up of small (studio to two bedrooms) to medium sized (three or four bedrooms) single-family homes and small apartment buildings. Most of the residential real estate is occupied by a mixture of owners and renters. Many of the residences in the Town Center neighborhood are older, well-established, built between 1940 and 1969. A number of residences were also built before 1940.

Home and apartment vacancy rates are 10.0%. A neighborhood scout analysis shows that this rate is lower than 45.1% of the neighborhoods in the nation, approximately near the middle range for vacancies.

Notable & Unique Neighborhood Characteristics

The way a neighborhood looks and feels when you walk or drive around it, from its setting, its buildings, and its flavor, can make all the difference. This neighborhood has some really cool things about the way it looks and feels as revealed by NeighborhoodScout’s exclusive research. This might include anything from the housing stock to the types of households living here to how people get around.

Notable & Unique: Diversity

Significantly, 5.4% of its residents five years old and above primarily speak Tagalog, which is the first language of the Philippine region, at home. While this may seem like a small percentage, it is higher than 98.2% of the neighborhoods in America.

Notable & Unique: People

With a nice mix of college students, safety from crime, and decent walkability, the Belleville Town Center neighborhood rates highly as a college student friendly place to live, and one that college students and their parents may want to consider. NeighborhoodScout’s analysis shows that it rates more highly for a good place for college students to live than 85.8% of the neighborhoods in NJ. This often also means that the area has certain amenities and services geared towards college students, from undergraduates to graduate students.

The Neighbors
The Neighbors: Income

How wealthy a neighborhood is, from very wealthy, to middle income, to low income is very formative with regard to the personality and character of a neighborhood. Equally important is the rate of people, particularly children, who live below the federal poverty line. In some wealthy gated communities, the areas immediately surrounding can have high rates of childhood poverty, which indicates other social issues. NeighborhoodScout’s analysis reveals both aspects of income and poverty for this neighborhood.

The neighbors are upper-middle income, making it an above average income neighborhood. NeighborhoodScout’s exclusive analysis reveals that this neighborhood has a higher income than 79.1% of the neighborhoods in America. In addition, 5.8% of the children seventeen and under living in this neighborhood are living below the federal poverty line, which is a lower rate of childhood poverty than is found in 75.2% of America’s neighborhoods.

The Neighbors: Occupations

The old saying “you are what you eat” is true. But it is also true that you are what you do for a living. The types of occupations your neighbors have shaped their character, and together as a group, their collective occupations shape the culture of a place.

In the Belleville Town Center neighborhood, 35.8% of the working population is employed in executive, management, and professional occupations. The second most important occupational group in this neighborhood is sales and service jobs, from major sales accounts to working in fast food restaurants, with 24.2% of the residents employed. Other residents here are employed in manufacturing and laborer occupations (22.4%), and 17.6% in clerical, assistant, and tech support occupations.

The Neighbors: Ethnicity / Ancestry

Culture is the shared learned behavior of peoples. Undeniably, different ethnicities and ancestries have different cultural traditions, and as a result, neighborhoods with concentrations of residents of one or another ethnicities or ancestries will express those cultures. It is what makes the North End in Boston so fun to visit for the Italian restaurants, bakeries, culture, and charm, and similarly, why people enjoy visiting Chinatown in San Francisco.

In the Town Center neighborhood in Belleville, NJ, residents most commonly identify their ethnicity or ancestry as Puerto Rican (19.9%). There are also a number of people of South American ancestry (17.2%), and residents who report Italian roots (12.6%), and some of the residents are also of Asian ancestry (5.6%), along with some Irish ancestry residents (4.1%), among others. In addition, 31.2% of the residents of this neighborhood were born in another country.


Places of Interest in Belleville

Places of interest

Military monument, Second River Dutch Church

  • Clara Maass Medical Center is a 469-bed teaching hospital that is part of the Barnabas Health system, founded in 1868 as Newark German Hospital, and named for Clara Maass, a nurse who died after volunteering for medical experiments to study yellow fever[112]
  • Reformed Dutch Church of Second River – The church’s original building was constructed in 1697 and replaced in 1725. A new structure was erected in 1807 after a tornado destroyed the previous church building, and the current church dates to 1853. More than 60 Continental Army soldiers are buried in the cemetery that adjoins the church.[113][114]

Locations in The Sopranos



Roads and highways

As of May 2010, the township had a total of 67.17 miles (108.10 km) of roadways, of which 57.22 miles (92.09 km) were maintained by the municipality, 6.21 miles (9.99 km) by Essex County and 3.74 miles (6.02 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.[105]

Route 7 and New Jersey Route 21 as well as County Route 506 all pass through Belleville. The  Turnpike Bridge (also known as the Rutgers Street Bridge) crosses the Passaic River, connecting Belleville to North Arlington. The bridge was formally renamed on July 4, 2013, as the “Lance Corporal Osbrany Montes de Oca Memorial Bridge” in memory of a United States Marine Corps soldier killed in February 2012 while serving in Afghanistan.[106][107]

Public transportation

The Silver Lake station[108] provides service to Newark Penn Station on the Newark City Subway.[109]

Until 1966, the Newark Branch of the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad (EL) provided stations at Belleville and Cleveland Street. The New York and Greenwood Lake Railway, later the Boonton Line, also served the township.[110]

NJ Transit bus service is available to and from Newark on the 13, 27, 72, 74, 90, 92, 93 and 94 bus lines.[111]

While industrialized early, its geography has included a mix of agriculture, housing, and manufacturing. From its incorporation in 1839 to the present, the Township has been in transition from an agriculturally-focused village to a manufacturing town to a residential community with an industrial base. A perspective on this diverse history is important to understanding the Township as presently developed, as well as in planning its future direction.

Jersey City, originally known as Bergen, was settled in 1633 by Dutch settlers.  The Dutch expansion soon led to other settlements, including one called the Second River. This settlement would later be known as Belleville.  The first landowner was probably Hendrick Spier, who arrived on the second vessel bringing settlers from Holland. He built his home near the present day SOHO section on a tract consisting of hundreds of acres of unbroken forest. His holdings extended from the house to the Passaic River, a distance of about two miles.

An early residence of note was the Van Cortlandt-Van Rensellear mansion, built in 1683. The mansion was destroyed long ago by fire. It was reputed to have escape tunnels in the basement for use during the Indian raids. The names of at least four Belleville streets are derived from the original owners and those who married into the family. These streets are Cortlandt, Schuyler, Bayard, and Van Rensellear.

During the Revolutionary War, the British sent many foraging parties into the Second River Colony. General Washington and his troops passed through Belleville on November 22, 1776. They came down Main Street, then known as River Road, with the British in hot pursuit. A bronze plaque at the front of the Dutch Reformed Church lists the names of sixty-two veterans of the Revolutionary War who are buried in the cemetery behind the church.  A major cleanup has made the Church’s cemetery more accommodating to visitors and increased interests in its historic value.


Its location at the junction of two rivers was an important factor in its successful development, as water power was a major resource in colonial days.  The Second River provided both water power and access to the Passaic River, where coal and other supplies could be brought by boat from New York.

A major marker of the coming industrial revolution was the first steam engine in the United States, brought by Josiah Hornblower in 1753 to pump out the Schuyler copper mines. In 1797 Hornblower also achieved notoriety with two associates for building the first steamboat in New Jersey.  Although slow, the steamboat probably assisted Fulton in perfecting his ideas, which led to the famous run of the Clermont in 1809.

Belleville is a medium-sized town located in the state of New Jersey. With a population of 36,354 people and eight constituent neighborhoods, its the 48th largest community in New Jersey.

Unlike some towns where white-collar or blue-collar occupations dominate the local economy, this town is neither predominantly one nor the other. Instead, it has a mixed workforce of both white- and blue-collar jobs. Overall, it’s a town of sales and office workers, professionals, and service providers. There are especially a lot of people who work in an office and administrative support (18.84%), sales jobs (9.65%), and management occupations (7.44%).

Although the majority of commuting trips in the town are by private automobile, it’s somewhat unusual for a town of its size for having a substantial number of people who use public transportation. For a lot of people, the bus helps to get to and from their jobs every morning, which benefits everyone in the Belleville area by reducing both traffic and air pollution.

The overall education level of Belleville is somewhat higher than in the average US city of 21.84%: 26.51% of adults 25 and older in the town have at least a bachelor’s degree.

The per capita income in 2010 was $28,881, which is lower middle-income relative to New Jersey, and upper middle income relative to the rest of the US. This equates to an annual income of $115,524 for a family of four. .

This is an extremely ethnically-diverse town. The people who call it home describe themselves as belonging to a variety of racial and ethnic groups. People of Hispanic or Latino origin are the most prevalent group, accounting for 44.81% of the town’s residents (people of Hispanic or Latino origin can be of any race). The greatest number of Belleville residents report their race to be White, followed by Asian. Important ancestries of people include Irish, German, Polish, and English.

It also has a high percentage of its population that was born in another country: 33.98%.

The most common language spoken is English. Other important languages spoken here include Spanish.

A powder works for the manufacture of gunpowder was established by Stephen Decatur in a former grist mill located on the Second River. The powder was produced for use in the War of 1812.  In 1814 an explosion caused extensive damage, killing several employees and injuring others. Nevertheless, the powder works continued production until about three decades ago.

The Eighteenth Century continued to be a time of industrialization for the Township. Belleville Engine Works was established in 1794. A New Jersey Cooper Mine Association was formed the same year. In 1798 the first ship building plant was established.

Industries operating here in the Nineteenth Century included an umbrella manufacturer founded 1816 by Thomas Uffinger, a clock company founded in 1845 by A.D. Cram, the manufacture of mordents and settling colors (founded in 1847 by John Eastwood), and the Riverside Rubber Co., founded in 1878.

Development of Municipal Government

On July 4, 1793, a section of Newark known as the Second River changed its name to Belleville, a meaning “Beautiful City.” Then, in 1812, it became part of the newly created Bloomfield Township. Belleville became a separate township in 1839, taking in about one-third of the area included within Bloomfield.  Its present geographic boundaries were set in 1869, when it absorbed the portion of Woodside north of the canal. This area is now known as the Soho section. Newark absorbed the balance of Woodside.

Belleville was formed as a township in 1839 with a population of only 500. It became a city in 1874, and again became a township in 1876. It became a town in 1910, but reverted to township status in 1981 to gain a larger share of federal revenue sharing funds.

The Township’s form of government has also changed several times.  It was divided into districts in 1871, with a commissioner appointed to each district.  A mayor and council were elected in 1874, serving until 1876. The commission form of government was established in 1914.  A council was adopted in the late 1960’s, but the Township returned to the commission form.  The Township reverted to the council form of government beginning July 1, 1990.

Police Protection

Initially Belleville had no provision for police protection beyond that noted in the Township Law of 1798, providing for the appointment of constables to insure peaceful procedure at the annual township meeting. The functions of these constables were gradually expanded to include serving warrants and collecting delinquent taxes.  A court room and a jail with three cells were authorized by the Township Committee in 1894.   A police department was finally established in 1907.

Fire Protection

In 1882 Belleville created a fire district covering only the more densely settled section. The system operated on a voluntary basis. Auto Chemical Company No. 1, established by town ordinance in May 1914, was the first decided break with the volunteer system. Special mention of it’s fire fighters was made in a resolution of thanks passed by the City of Newark after the great fire of October 28, 1936.  The fire “continued to rage for five hours, completely sweeping the whole square bounded by Market, Mechanic, and Broad Streets.”


In 1792 a school was erected on the lot of the Dutch Reformed Church. This church school became fully secularized in 1829, when State law provided for the election of school committees in each township. The school served until 1852. In the following year, the razed material from the old Dutch Reformed Church was used to construct a four-room school called the Academy at Academy and Stephen Street. The old school site was used for a new church building. A second school district was organized in the Montgomery, or Soho, section in 1838.

Under the Township School Act of 1890, the Academy became School No. 1.  The Montgomery School became School No. 2. The Act also provided for a board of education to replace the board of trustees for each school.

Silver Lake

Jasper Crane built a dam in 1730 where St. Anthony’s Church now stands.  A lake known as Silver Lake, 300 feet wide and a half-mile long, was formed. It existed for more than 150 years until a storm on July 30, 1889 caused floods that destroyed the dam and resulted in the lake draining.  All traces of the lake were gone by the 1920’s. Today the area known as Silver Lake is located on the southerly end of the Township. It is bordered by Newark Avenue in Bloomfield and Bloomfield Avenue in Newark.


White (non-hispanic) 17.0% 47.9%
Black 9.5% 16.4%
Hispanic 63.3% 26.1%
Asian Or Pacific Islander 9.9% 9.5%
American Indian Or Native Of Alaska 0.3% 0.1%


Instructional Expenditures $9,339 $40,167,039 51.5%
Support Expenditures
Student $1,600 $6,881,600 8.8%
Staff $100 $430,100 0.6%
General Administration $392 $1,685,992 2.2%
School Administration $1,213 $5,217,113 6.7%
Operation $1,771 $7,617,071 9.8%
Transportation $509 $2,189,209 2.8%
Other $300 $1,290,300 1.7%
Total Support $5,884 $25,307,084 32.5%
Non-instructional Expenditures $2,908 $12,507,308 16.0%
Total Expenditures $18,131 $77,981,431 100.0%
Instructional Expenditures $10,077 $14,106,790,054 50.2%
Support Expenditures
Student $1,835 $2,568,964,694 9.1%
Staff $551 $771,687,884 2.7%
General Administration $390 $545,394,661 1.9%
School Administration $883 $1,235,650,841 4.4%
Operation $1,874 $2,623,408,040 9.3%
Transportation $711 $995,607,882 3.5%
Other $440 $615,718,470 2.2%
Total Support $6,684 $9,356,361,788 33.3%
Non-instructional Expenditures $3,321 $4,649,519,921 16.5%
Total Expenditures $20,083 $28,112,743,157 100.0%
Instructional Expenditures $6,487 $324,898,990,964 51.7%
Support Expenditures
Student $587 $29,383,130,681 4.7%
Staff $483 $24,167,878,083 3.8%
General Administration $205 $10,285,419,511 1.6%
School Administration $601 $30,113,641,000 4.8%
Operation $1,035 $51,821,442,969 8.2%
Transportation $475 $23,793,258,876 3.8%
Other $376 $18,849,723,887 3.0%
Total Support $3,762 $188,414,761,533 30.0%
Non-instructional Expenditures $2,296 $114,973,102,384 18.3%
Total Expenditures $12,545 $628,286,465,973 100.0%