26 August 2017

Hillsborough Township Postwar Residential Development Part 1: 1955-1971

Readers who follow the Gillette on Hillsborough Facebook Page are participating in a year-long house-hunting expedition through the real estate ads of yesteryear. In the first 16 weeks, represented by the brief excerpts below, we have taken a look at residential development in the township between the first major postwar development in 1955 and the eve of the Planned Unit Development era in 1971. 

Enjoy the recap below, and be sure to follow the Gillette on Hillsborough page by clicking the link here, and "liking" the page. Thanks!

Are you ready to go house hunting in Hillsborough? Beginning today and continuing for the next 52 weeks we will take a Saturday morning trip back through the real estate ads of yesteryear. First up is Hillsborough's first major post-war development from the spring of 1955 - Green Hills, located at Duke's Parkway East and Route 206. 

One year after the success of the Green Hills development, Country Club Homes debuted at the northwest corner of Route 206 and New Amwell Road. Unlike Green Hills, which spelled the name of our town two different ways in their 1955 ads, Country Club Homes ads avoid any mention of Hillsborough, opting instead for "at Somerville" and "Somerset Hills". LOL.

Just one ad this week - August 1958 from the Franklin News Record for Claremont Homes. There are a number of developments in Hillsborough with "Claremont" in the name - this is the one off of Millstone River Road north of Millstone Boro. While Green Hills and Country Club Homes could boast about "city sewers" in their ads, Claremont Homes included septic systems on their 1/2 acre lots - which was a major concern 50 years later! No worries, the streets were paved!
Last week our Saturday morning house-hunting took us to Claremont Homes. This week we are visiting the other side of Millstone River Road and taking a look at Sunnyside Acres. Like Claremont, the development is divided up into half acre lots, and bus service is a unique selling point. The ad is from the August 25, 1961 Courier News.

The handful of circa 1940 homes on Route 206 near Partridge Rd. were originally envisioned as part of a large development named Hillsborough Village. Three homes were built on 1/2 acre lots and streets were planned east of the highway, but construction did not continue. Before Partridge Run could be built in 1961, the paper streets for this ghost development had to be vacated. These Partridge Run ads ran in the summer of 1961. Selling points included GE appliances and "9 full closets".

Hillsborough house-hunters in the summer of 1962 looking for new construction had two distinct choices. They could look at Village Green - New Jersey's first "cluster" development (more on that next week), or Claremont Hills which featured traditional one-acre lots. Claremont Hills is one of three Hillsborough developments using the name Claremont. These are the homes along Amwell Road between Raider Boulevard and Pleasantview Road, and on the east side of Pleasantview heading toward Ann Van Middlesworth Park. Originally envisioned as a 300 home development, my armchair survey (Google Earth!) counts less than 25.

Before we visit Village Green, located on either side of Brooks Blvd. near Route 206, you need to learn about "cluster zoning". Up until now we have been visiting traditional single-family-home residential developments of the 50s and early 60s. At that time Hillsborough's zoning ordinance required, for the most part, that homes be built on one-acre lots. The same was true all over suburban New Jersey. In fact, cluster zoning hadn't been tried in New Jersey since the 1920s. So what is it? Cluster zoning allows all of the homes - and sewer lines, roads, etc. - to be clustered in one section of a tract, leaving the rest as open space. So, the same amount of homes can be built as in traditional zoning, but each on a smaller lot. This saves money for the developer, but actually costs the municipality because residents expect the open space - including ball fields, parks, and the like - to be maintained. In fact, the amendment to Hillsborough's zoning ordinance that allowed for Village Green was promptly rescinded after the plan was approved!

If you turned down Triangle Road in the fall of 1962 you would have seen the first phase of Banor Park just going up. All you needed was a $2100 down payment for these homes on one-acre lots with city sewer and paneled rec rooms! The brand new school mentioned in the ad was Triangle Road School which had just opened on South Triangle Road.

 It's March 1964, and we are going to break the rules just this once (I think!) by venturing outside the city limits - barely. Millstone Manor is north of the village off the east side of Millstone River Road. You'll know you've arrived when you see two beautiful late 19th century homes directly opposite each other.

It's the summer of '63 and we are once again spending a Saturday morning house hunting in Hillsborough! Today we find ourselves on Township Line Road at Westbrook Farms. This is one of those developments where the name was so unfamiliar to me that I had to do a "drive by" to confirm the location. Sure enough there are still a few examples of the homes shown in the ads - in pristine original condition. These are some of the earliest homes I've come across thus far that advertise the ability to install central air conditioning. 

Imagine a day when Manhattan will be just 60 minutes away - or less! According to these ads for Homestead Village, that day was 1965. This development is on the north side of Valley Road on Warner, Wolfe, and Ebert Drives. I love how the ad is suggesting that A/C will be included - but it's really only a humidifier and filter for your forced -air heat.

Are you ready to "find your thrill"? Maybe you already did if you bought your new home in 1965 at Strawberry Hill. There's a lot going on in this ad describing the development off of Millstone River Road in the southeastern portion of the township, including renderings of the nine different models to choose from. We are still in the era of one-acre residential zoning, so nice big yards. But don't worry - TAXES ARE LOW IN HILLSBOROUGH. It says so right in the ad.

Most Hillsborough people think of Frankfort Point Heights - the development off of Amwell Road on Starview and Murray Drives - as one of our town's most desirable places to have a home. And there is no doubt that is true today. But from the time the development started building in 1965 through at least 1978 this development had issue after issue - most related to the fact that it is built on the rise of the Sourland Mountain. At the start there were no sewers, no storm-water drainage, and a difficult 12% grade going up Starview Drive. Neighbors living on East Mountain Road saw parts of their properties literally washed away as rainwater raged down the mountain. Ultimately the development survived the death of the original developer and held on until the extension of sewers into the area in the late 70s. 

Just one ad this week from 1967 - and its deja vu all over again as we kind of sort of head back to Banor Park. Yet this 33-home development on Lindstrom Drive is actually called Deer Run. So - where is the dividing line? Is the Deer Run name just a re-branding of the Banor Park project? Or is it a whole new development? We demand answers. LOL.

It's 1970 and developers are starting to think about proposals for the coming Planned Unit Development. But in the meantime, there are still a few traditional developments already in the works, including this one "in the heart of scenic Hillsborough.". What is interesting to me about these ads for Riveredge Homes from 1970-72 is the absence of the "one-acre-lot". That's because this is one of the first developments where we see the downward-creep of lot size - Just about all of these homes are on 0.81 acre lots!

In 1970, Pine Grove received approval to build 32 homes on wooded lots south of Hillsborough Road near the Strawberry Hill subdivision. Initially, Strawberry Hill residents were worried that access to Pine Grove would be solely through their development - but during construction Riverview Terrace was connected to Hillsborough Rd.

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