31 December 2013

"The Key to Your Future..."? Move to Hillsborough

"The key to your future health and happiness lies in answering this advertisement."  So begins the 1912 sales pitch by the Equator Realty & Imp. Co. for $50 (and up!) lots in Flagtown.  Who could honestly say that they "...prefer the noise, the heat and ceaseless grind of the city to the calm healthful life of the country"?

Ad from the Brooklyn Standard Union, April 13, 1912

I'm not sure how successful this company was, as the earliest Flagtown homes still existing today seem to date from the 1920s and 30s.  Maybe the fact that another realty group was offering free excursions at the same time to visit their $75 lots at the site of the still building Johns Manville plant at the other end of Hillsborough tipped the scales in favor of an easy commute.  The lasting legacy of Equator Realty appears to be the name they attached to Flagtown's "Main Street".

New York Times, June 5, 1910

Somewhat more intriguing is the 80 acre Somerville suburb which was to be called Aten Estates.  Both the brief New York Times article and the advertisement from the Evening Telegram tout the development's proximity to the 3000 acre Duke's Park, the Hillsborough home of tobacco and power magnate J.B. Duke.  Project manager George L. Wheeler promised a plan similar to Duke's, with "winding avenues, concrete walks, and plenty of shade trees and ornamental plants."  A scheme made all the more plausible by the fact the landscape architect employed was Charles W. Leavitt who performed a similar function for Duke.

New York Evening Telegram, May 27, 1910
I am not sure if any lots were ever sold or homes built, nor can I find the exact location of this tract.  The only good clues are the aforementioned proximity to the Duke estate, and the description of the location as midway between the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and the Lehigh Valley Line.  And, of course, the fact that it was planned to be built in the area of Hillsborough where there are no mosquitoes!


  1. Having lived in Flagtown for the past 42 years, I have to say the place kind of grows on you. There's something nice about how the houses don't match, and a lot of the trees grew in during my lifetime. There are still ditches and swampy vacant lots, and streets that were never completed due to wetland designation.

    I love the well water too. I heard a hydrologist say the water under Flagtown predates the dinosaurs!

    In fact, you would know more about how to research this, but I think, based on a geological map I saw, the hill at 9th and Clawson is a tiny piece of an earthquake fault line. I think it's a branch of a branch of something that continues up into NY. Any way to find out for sure?

    1. Hi BD - The Hopewell Fault runs north-south through New Jersey and passes just to the West of Flagtown. There is also another north-south fault line in Hillsborough (part of the same system I guess?) which runs right through the Rohill development west of Beekman Lane. Check out this link and zoom in on the map. http://www.state.nj.us/dep/njgs/pricelst/gmseries/gms03-2.pdf

  2. The 1912 location of Equator Realty, 140 Liberty Street, now has a high rise with a major investment firm, and a giant cube sculpture, "Astor Place Cube" by Yves Gagné
    I was staring at it the day I was shooting video in a conference room a few floors up from that spot. I'm told that a scene from "Wolf of Wall Street" was shot there as well!
    Now that's some trivial trivia. There's a giant red cube on the spot in NYC where my street was named.