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Summit Historical Society Offers Locals a Glimpse of the Past

by: Sue Adler
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Located in Union County, New Jersey, the beauty of Summit lies in its amazing history, whose scent can be felt all over the place. The town is located on an area that was owned by Native Americans, and its first European settlers arrived there in the early 18th century.

The first name given to the city was “Turkey Hill”, as a form of distinction between this city and the area known as Turkey was required. Then, the city’s name was changed into “Beacon Hill”, as a result of the American Revolutionary War period, when the militiamen of New Jersey used to be warned about British troops that were approaching by lighting bonfire beacons on the eastern ridge in Summit.

From late 18th century and mid-19th century, the town was known as the “Heights over Springfield”, and it was considered to be part of New Providence. On the other hand, during that period, Summit belonged to the Springfield Township, which was later divided into separate municipalities. In the end, the only cities that remained joined were New Providence and Summit.

James Kent, a respected Chancellor of New York State retired to this city in 1837, when he bought a home known as the Summit Lodge. His home was located on a boulevard which now carries his name, the Kent Place Boulevard. The area also hosts the Kent Place School, which is located on the opposite side of his home.

In 1837 the New Jersey Transit’s Morris and Essex Lines were built over “The Summit” hill. This railroad had previous names in the past, including the Morris and Essex Railroad. The railroad was very important to Summit, as it connected it to New Providence, a city who wasn’t provided with a train station at that time. One of the tragedies that took place throughout the years was a fire that destroyed the hotel called “The Summit House” in 1868. Soon, New Providence and Summit separated, the area of Summit being incorporated and named the “Township of Summit”.

Another important moment in the history of Summit was in late 19th century, when the area became more interested in wealthy estates than in farmland. The Brooklyn Bridge and The Times Building were built in 1892 by a famous architect named C. Abbott French and featured an amazing view of New York City.

Summit was also the home of Anthony Comstock, a famous antivice crusader who constructed its home on 35 Beekman Road, in 1892. New York City residents have always been attracted by Summit, as this area was calm, quiet, and filled with fresh air. The great majority of buildings have been erected in the 20th century, which is now known as one of the most important period of building activities, along with the period which came after the World War II. People have begun to commute in order to go to work, hence the urban development through which Summit went through.

All in all, Summit has managed to become a respected city over the years, and today it is inhabited by residents who are proud of their hometown’s history.

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