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Short Hills, NJ History and Facts

by: Sue Adler
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Short Hills is located in the township of Millburn, in Essex County, New Jersey. It is a popular commuter town for those who work in New York City. This upper-class enclave features distinguished, older homes as well as newer construction.

History

Origins

The area that would become Short Hills was originally part of Springfield Township, Union County, New Jersey. Its hills are thought to have played a role in the movement of the Continental Army during the Battle of Springfield.

Short Hills initially began as a planned community, when Stewart Hartshorn, who became wealthy from developing and manufacturing the self-acting shade roller, purchased 13 acres of land in Millburn Township, near the current Hobart Avenue.

Hartshorn’s goal was to develop “a harmonious community for people who appreciated nature; where natural beauty would not be destroyed by real estate developments; and where people of congenial tastes could dwell together.” He later increased his land holdings to 1,552 acres for the entire village, with each plot not owned by Hartshorn being no larger than half an acre, and left only 56 acres for himself.

He chose the name “Short Hills” because it reflected the topography of the region and also because the local Lenape Native Americans used the name. One local resident suggested that he call his village “Hartshornville” but he humbly refused.

Railroad and postal connections

Hartshorn situated his “ideal town” close enough to a railroad to allow for an easy commute to Hoboken and, from there, to New York City. Then, in 1879, he built, at his own expense, a railroad station along the original Morris and Essex Railroad line. Hartshorn also persuaded the United States Post Office to open an office in his new railroad station in 1880, and to this day, there is still a post office branch in that locale with its own zip code.

Buffer zones

Hartshorn deliberately preserved strips of land along the railroad right-of-way from any development west of Old Short Hills road. They separated Hobart Avenue to the north and Chatham Road to the south, from the railway line. The railroad station is the only structure that has ever stood directly adjacent to that area.

He also established the Short Hills Park directly across Hobart Avenue from the station, which stands to this day. Hartshorn’s estate donated the park to Millburn Township in 1944, with the stipulation that it always remain open to the public.

Later events

Stewart Hartshorn died in 1937, at the age of 97. His daughter Cora wrote her own history of Short Hills and helped to develop the Arboretum that bears her name.

In conjunction with the American Bicentennial celebrations in 1975, the Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society was established.

The Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center opened in Short Hills in 2001.

In 2002, residents planted a memorial tree on the grounds of the railroad station to honor their neighbors who died in the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Present day

The opening of the Kearny Connection, which provided the first direct rail service to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan, has greatly enhanced the real estate in the area. Short Hills also has a business district along Chatham Road close to the railroad station, which includes a post office branch, a pharmacy and several small specialty shops.

Short Hills is home to many senior executives and controlling stockholders of some of the biggest corporations in America. The family median income exceeds $200,000.

Short Hills has a multitude of elementary schools for kindergarten through fifth grade. Most are part of the Millburn Township Public Schools: Deerfield, Glenwood, Hartshorn, Wyoming and South Mountain. Also, though the Pingry School has a lower school campus in Millburn, for kindergarten through fifth grade, its middle and upper school campus is located in Martinsville and is considered to be part of that district.

Students move on to complete their education at Millburn Middle School, sixth through eighth grade, and Millburn High School, ninth through twelfth grade, amongst others.

Though Short Hills has its own post office branch and railroad station, it does not have an independent government. Since its inception, it remains today part of the Township of Millburn.

 

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