07 May 2020

Suburban Somerville, New Jersey (1891 - 1909)

Somerville is one of Central New Jersey's great original suburban towns. Beginning in the last quarter of the 19th century right up through the middle of the 20th, the Somerset County boro was promoted as ideal for the New York commuter.



Besides feature stories in the daily and weekly newspapers, four publications sought to increase the migration of  "city folk" to Somerville. These were the booklets "The Towns of Somerville and Raritan, Illustrated" (1891) and "Somerville As It Really Is" (1909); the newspaper supplement "Illustrated Somerville" (1907), and the monthly publication "The Suburbanite" (1903-1913).


Altamont Place Looking West -
Towns of Somerville and Raritan (1891)

Articles extolling the virtues of suburban living featured alongside photos of the streets and homes (and churches, schools, and businesses) that one could expect to find in Somerville. Please enjoy this look at residential Somerville from more than a century ago, first from the booklet "Towns of Somerville and Raritan" which focused on the newly opened Altamont Place.

The Captain G S Cook Residence, Altamont Place -
Towns of Somerville and Raritan (1891)

The Colonel John T Van Cleef Residence, Altamont Place -
Towns of Somerville and Raritan (1891)

The Edwin Scott, Esq. Residence, Altamont Place -
Towns of Somerville and Raritan (1891)

The J H Mattison, Esq. Residence, Altamont Place -
Towns of Somerville and Raritan (1891)

The J Harper Smith Residence, Altamont Place -
Towns of Somerville and Raritan (1891)

In 1907 the Unionist Gazette published a "Business Souvenir Supplement" titled "Illustrated Somerville". Some of the photos therein were reprints of houses pictured in the 1891 "Towns of Somerville and Raritan", but many appeared for the first time.

The Clara Lindsley Residence, West End Avenue -
Illustrated Somerville (1907)

The H N Hartwell Residence, location unknown -
Illustrated Somerville (1907)

The Joseph W Ballantine Residence, location unknown -
Illustrated Somerville (1907)

The Mrs. D K Craig Residence, North Bridge Street -
Illustrated Somerville (1907)

The W H Long Residence, possibly Mountain Avenue -
Illustrated Somerville (1907)

The Alvah A Clark Residence, Mountain Avenue -
Illustrated Somerville (1907)


"Somerville As It Really Is" contributes two photos of suburban Somerville to our collection. We wonder what influence W J Kirby had with the publishers for his house to be the only private residence featured!

Mountain Avenue Looking South from High Street -
Somerville As It Really Is (1909)

The W J Kirby Residence, East Main Street -
Somerville As It Really Is (1909)


High Street -
Somerville As It Really Is (1909)


"The Suburbanite" was published monthly from 1903 to 1913 by the Central Railroad of New Jersey. One of their obvious goals was to encourage development in the towns along their main and branch lines by featuring the joys of suburban living in Westfield, Plainfield, Bound Brook, and Somerville, among others. The country along the Flemington Branch (South Branch) through Hillsborough and Branchburg even got a few mentions over the years. Here are the streets and homes photographed for "The Suburbanite".


Unknown Location -
The Suburbanite (July 1904)

Altamont Place -
The Suburbanite (October 1905)

A Typical Country Home, West Summit Street  -
The Suburbanite (April 1907)

Unknown Location -
The Suburbanite (April 1907)

A Typical Somerville Residence, West Summit Street -
The Suburbanite (September 1909)

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