Victorian Resorts and Suburbs 1837 – 1920

Rapid industrial growth in the first half of the 19th century gave an emerging managerial class wealth and leisure time. Victorians idealized the rural life and city dwellers looked to the hills and farms of New Jersey for vacation accommodations.

In the 1880s, residents of New York City boarded trains to Plainfield, where they were guests at the city’s five resort hotels. Executives of the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey saw the opportunity for development and promoted housing subdivisions in Plainfield, Fanwood, Westfield, Cranford, Roselle and Roselle Park. Summertime vacationers became year-round residents with twenty-two daily trains carrying them to and from the city.

Watchung Mountain communities served by the Morris and Essex Railroad were especially attractive vacation destinations. Summit contained lavish hotels catering to affluent visitors and, a short distance away, Glenside Park offered a rustic retreat. Eventually many of these vacationers built substantial houses in the “Hill City” and a suburban community was born.

The long reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria influenced all facets of life and culture throughout the western world. The classical ideal gave way to the romantic. The picturesque and the complex replaced simplicity and balance. Passion, grandeur and lack of restraint were expressed in art, architecture and landscapes. Variety of color, material and design won favor.

Victorian architecture included a number of styles, each experiencing a short period of popularity during the forty-four years of the Queen’s reign. Many examples of such residential architecture may be found throughout Union County.

Garden and cemetery planning was also influenced by the Victorian aesthetic. Park-like cemeteries contained a variety of funerary stones and monuments, often decorated with statues and other sculptural embellishments.

Deserted Village of Feltville-Glenside Park

Cataract Hollow Road, Berkeley Heights

Deserted Village

  • Hands-on archaeological exercise
  • Restored church/store
  • Colonial cemetery

Litell-Lord Farmstead

31 Horseshoe Rd., Berkeley Heights

Litell Lord Farmstead

  • “Hands-on” replica of 19th century toys
  • Last stone springhouse in Union County
  • Pumphouse and corncrib

Crane-Philips House Museum

124 North Union Ave., Cranford

Crane Philips House

  • “Kate’s Room”
  • Gift Shop

Evergreen Cemetery

1137 North Broad St., Hillside

Evergreen House

  • 300-year-old white oak and copper beech
  • Historic Hebrew burial plot and areas devoted to ethnic groups, especially the Gypsy section
  • Graves of well-known writers including Stephen Crane, Mary Mapes Dodge and Edward Stratemeyer

Deacon Andrew Hetfield House

Constitution Plaza, Mountainside

  • 19th century Victorian era bay window
  • Recreated colonial kitchen
  • Victorian parlor furnished with antiques

Drake House Museum

602 West Front St., Plainfield

Drake House

  • 7′x9′ Civil War painting
  • The opulent Harberger library

Reeves Reed Arboretum

165 Hobart Ave., Summit

Reeves Reed Aboretum

  • Kettle created by the Wisconsin glacier
  • Recently restored Wisner House
  • Woodland trails and restored gardens
  • Garden Shop

Twin Maples

214 Maple Ave., Summit

Twin Maples

  • Imposing exterior with elaborate architectural details
  • Palladian window landings
  • Ornate interior moldings