Tradition holds that it was at the Middlebrook encampment the first official flag of the United States was unfurled, after law to adopt a national flag had been passed by Congress on June 14, 1777. By special order of Congress, a Thirteen Star Flag is flown 24 hours a day at the Washington Camp Ground, part of the former Middlebrook encampment, in Bridgewater. Since 1889, the first hoisting of the flag is commemorated annually each July 4 with a changing of the flag, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and the delivery of a historical address.
Until the 1960s, Bridgewater was largely known as a farming community. In the 1970s its population began to grow when residents of larger cities such as Plainfield and Newark started to migrate into Bridgewater as a result of the 1967 Plainfield Riots and 1967 Newark riots. Subsequently, Bridgewater started to receive an influx of residents who worked in the strong pharmaceutical, telecommunications, and financial industries in Bridgewater and the Raritan Valley. More recently, there has also been growth as Bridgewater has become more popular with New York City commuters who use the Bridgewater Station on New Jersey Transit's Raritan Valley Line or Interstate 78 East to commute to New York City. Bridgewater is now a fairly developed suburban community, with only a few traces of its rural past still evident in the town (particularly in its northwestern section). Bridgewater is now Somerset County's second-most populous municipality, after Franklin Township.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 32.36 square miles (83.81 km2), including 31.89 square miles (82.59 km2) of land and 0.47 square miles (1.23 km2) of water (1.46%).
While much of Bridgewater has a relatively flat terrain, the northeastern portion of the township is very hilly, with the First Ridge of the Watchung Mountains (sometimes known as the First Watchung Mountain) passing through the township. Additionally, the Second Ridge (Second Mountain) passes north of the township border.
The Raritan River and its branches and tributaries form much of Bridgewater's borders with other municipalities and a number of smaller rivers and streams run through Bridgewater. The Raritan itself runs along Bridgewater's southern border (except where Somerville and Raritan were carved out as separate boroughs) and the North Branch of the Raritan River forms the township's western border with Branchburg. The North Branch and South Branch of the Raritan River meet at the extreme southwestern corner of Bridgewater at the border with both Branchburg Township and Hillsborough Township, and this point is known as the Raritan River Confluence was once intended to be a major reservoir.
Bridgewater Township's ZIP Code is 08807, with 08836 used in the community of Martinsville, and 08805 used in the Thomae Park section (mailing address of Bound Brook). Bridgewater's area codes are 908 and 732/848. Bridgewater is in Raritan Valley (a line of cities in Central New Jersey). Bridgewater lies in the western division of the Raritan Valley along with Branchburg and Raritan.
Duke Island Park in the Bradley Gardens section
Post office off of N. Bridge St.
Bridgewater contains a number of communities and sections, many of which do not have officially defined boundaries. They include:
Bradley Gardens: Located in southwestern Bridgewater, bordered on the east by Raritan and Branchburg to the west. This is one of Bridgewater's older residential areas but also includes some newer developments as well as a commercial area along Old York Road.
North Branch (eastern portion): Most of North Branch is in Branchburg, but a portion lies to the east of the North Branch of the Raritan River, in Bridgewater Township.
Finderne: Located in southeastern Bridgewater between Bound Brook and Somerville. This is a diverse area with older neighborhoods bordering Foothill Road, newer developments, multi-unit housing near the Raritan River/Manville border, as well as commercial and industrial areas. The Middlebrook Crossing industrial park, the Promenade shopping center, and TD Bank Ballpark, home to the Somerset Patriots, are located here.
Thomae Park: In the extreme eastern portion of Bridgewater, bordering Bound Brook and Middlesex. Residents there have a Bound Brook ZIP Code. One of their main attractions is Thomae Park, which has a playground, basketball court, baseball field, and hiking trail.
Country Club/Meadow Road Area: This area is referred to by some as the "Country Club-Meadow Road area" or similar names, after the major north–south streets there. Some also refer to it as "the Van Holten area" after the elementary school located there. It borders Bedminster and Branchburg.
Milltown/Vanderveer Road Area: This area is known to some as the "Milltown-Vanderveer" area. The area is northeast of Bradley Gardens bordering Raritan and Branchburg. It is mainly a residential community with many new homes. Due to the large Asian American community living in the Vanderveer Road area, this area is sometimes known as "Chindia."
Martinsville: Located in northeastern Bridgewater near Warren Township and Bernards Township. This is an affluent, predominantly residential area, though it does have its own commercial center along Washington Valley Road, and its own post office and ZIP Code. This also is a very hilly area; it is the portion of Bridgewater through which the Watchung Mountains pass.
Sunset Lake: Built around a man-made lake in the extreme northern part of Bridgewater, near the interchange of Interstate 287 and Interstate 78. Some of its residents have the Basking Ridge ZIP Code 07920.
Of the 16,111 households, 38.3% had children under the age of 18; 64.1% were married couples living together; 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present and 25.3% were non-families. Of all households, 21.8% were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.21.
25.5% of the population were under the age of 18, 5.6% from 18 to 24, 23.7% from 25 to 44, 30.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42.2 years. For every 100 females, the population had 91.8 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 87.8 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $108,680 (with a margin of error of +/- $5,095) and the median family income was $130,594 (+/- $6,507). Males had a median income of $90,875 (+/- $4,851) versus $65,501 (+/- $4,264) for females. The per capita income for the township was $46,994 (+/- $1,811). About 1.6% of families and 2.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.1% of those under age 18 and 5.4% of those age 65 or over.
There were 15,561 households, of which 38.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.6% were married couples living together, 7.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.6% were non-families. 19.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.71 and the average family size was 3.14.
25.7% of the population were under the age of 18, 4.9% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.4 males.
The median household income was $88,308 and the median family income was $99,832. Males had a median income of $67,089 versus $49,096 for females. The per capita income for the township was $39,555. About 1.6% of families and 2.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.7% of those under age 18 and 3.7% of those age 65 or over.
The township has long been a hub for pharmaceutical companies including Valeant, Allergan, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, many small, and mid-size ones. Sanofi's US headquarters are in Bridgewater. Bridgewater is also home to many Fortune 500 companies across various industries from software to financial services.
Washington Camp Ground (also known as Middlebrook encampment), north of Bound Brook, is a preserved portion of the land on which the army of George Washington encamped during the winter of 1778–79, though the general himself stayed in a house in Somerville.
Bridgewater Township is governed within the Faulkner Act (formally known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law), under the Mayor-Council system of municipal government plan 2, as implemented on January 1, 1984, based on actions of the Township Committee. The township is one of 71 municipalities (of the 565) statewide that use this form of government. The governing body is comprised of the Mayor and the five-member Township Council. All members of the governing body are chosen at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election in odd-numbered years. The mayoral seat comes up for vote every four years and council members are elected to serve four-terms of office on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election every other year. At a reorganization meeting held in January after each election, the committee selects a council president from among its members.
As of 2020[update], the mayor of Bridgewater Township is Republican Matthew C. Moench, whose term of office ends December 31, 2023. Members of the Bridgewater Township Council are Council President Howard Norgalis (R, 2021), Council Vice President Filipe Pedroso (R, 2021), Michael Kirsh (R, 2023), Allen F. Kurdyla (R, 2021) and Timothy Ring (R, 2023).
Since January 2020, the Township Administrator is Michael Pappas, a former member of Congress.
Somerset County is governed by a five-member Board of Chosen Freeholders, whose members are elected at-large to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with one or two seats coming up for election each year. At an annual reorganization meeting held in the beginning of January, the board selects a Director and Deputy Director from among its members. As of 2020, Somerset County's Freeholders are
Freeholder Director Shanel Robinson (D, Franklin Township, term as freeholder ends 2021; term as freeholder director ends 2020), Freeholder Deputy Director Sara Sooy (D, Basking Ridge in Bernards Township, term as freeholder ends 2021; term as freeholder deputy director ends 2020)), and Freeholders Brian G. Gallagher (R, Somerville, 2020), Brian D. Levine (R, Franklin Township, term as freeholder ends 2020), and Melonie Marano (D, Green Brook Township).
Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are
County Clerk Steve Peter (D, Somerville, 2022),
Sheriff Darrin J. Russo (D, Franklin Township, 2022) and
Surrogate Frank Bruno (R, Branchburg, 2020).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 28,049 registered voters in Bridgewater Township, of which 6,468 (23.1% vs. 26.0% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 7,618 (27.2% vs. 25.7%) were registered as Republicans and 13,947 (49.7% vs. 48.2%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 16 voters registered to other parties. Among the township's 2010 Census population, 63.1% (vs. 60.4% in Somerset County) were registered to vote, including 84.7% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 80.4% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney received 52.1% of the vote (10,664 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 46.7% (9,561 votes), and other candidates with 1.1% (227 votes), among the 20,592 ballots cast by the township's 29,510 registered voters (140 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 69.8%. In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 11,346 votes (51.3% vs. 46.1% countywide), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 10,357 votes (46.8% vs. 52.1%) and other candidates with 267 votes (1.2% vs. 1.1%), among the 22,110 ballots cast by the township's 27,378 registered voters, for a turnout of 80.8% (vs. 78.7% in Somerset County). In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 11,641 votes (55.5% vs. 51.5% countywide), ahead of Democrat John Kerry with 9,104 votes (43.4% vs. 47.2%) and other candidates with 170 votes (0.8% vs. 0.9%), among the 20,985 ballots cast by the township's 25,218 registered voters, for a turnout of 83.2% (vs. 81.7% in the whole county).
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 72.7% of the vote (9,213 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 25.7% (3,261 votes), and other candidates with 1.5% (193 votes), among the 12,834 ballots cast by the township's 29,774 registered voters (167 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 43.1%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 9,542 votes (61.7% vs. 55.8% countywide), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 4,491 votes (29.0% vs. 34.1%), Independent Chris Daggett with 1,238 votes (8.0% vs. 8.7%) and other candidates with 89 votes (0.6% vs. 0.7%), among the 15,462 ballots cast by the township's 27,822 registered voters, yielding a 55.6% turnout (vs. 52.5% in the county).
The headquarters of the Somerset County Library System is located in Bridgewater.
Interstate 78 in Bridgewater Township
Roads and highways
As of May 2010[update], the township had a total of 239.75 miles (385.84 km) of roadways, of which 189.03 miles (304.21 km) were maintained by the municipality, 23.49 miles (37.80 km) by Somerset County and 27.23 miles (43.82 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Bridgewater Township is serviced by three local airports, Solberg-Hunterdon Airport to the west in Readington, Somerset Airport to the north in Bedminster Township, and Central Jersey Regional Airport to the south in Manville. These airports are open to the public and offer charter flight services as well as flight training and other aviation-related services. They operate in all weather conditions and have instrument approaches available for use by pilots in bad weather.
The township's Communications Center handles all emergency calls with 11 full-time dispatchers and five part-time dispatchers. The Bridgewater emergency dispatch is being transitioned to Somerset County at an unknown time frame, joining nine other county municipalities that have emergency calls handled centrally and dispatched to each individual police department. The move is expected to save the township $4.5 million over 10 years, saving $4.50 on the average tax bill.
Bridgewater has 75 officers who are a part of the Bridgewater Township Police Department, which includes a patrol division, a detective bureau, a traffic unit, a communications bureau, a youth services bureau, and other divisions.
Country Hills Fire Department
Bridgewater has six all-volunteer fire companies, which provide fire suppression and assist in vehicle extrication and rescue attempts:
Bridgewater is served by five volunteer BLS rescue squads, which provide EMS coverage as well as vehicle extrication, water rescue, and other rescue services. ALS (paramedics) are dispatched from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital - Somerset. During daytime hours, RWJ - Somerset also provides Basic Life Support coverage for a portion of the township.
The Van Veghten House was built c. 1725 and served as the headquarters for Quartermaster GeneralNathanael Greene during the second Middlebrook encampment. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and noted as representing "one of the few remaining Raritan River mansions".
Places of worship in Bridgewater include churches for a number of Christian denominations; Temple Sholom, a Conservative Jewish synagogue formed in 1966; Sri Venkateswara Temple, a Hindu temple inaugurated in 1998; and the Garden State Sikh Association Gurudwara, a Sikh temple.
It was one of the filming locations for the Columbia Pictures 1994 comedy film North, which used the Bridgewater Commons Mall as the setting for a discussion between characters.
Superfund cleanup site
In August 2011, Hurricane Irene submerged the former American CyanamidSuperfund site, causing chemicals to leak into the nearby Raritan River. It could cost Pfizer up to $205 million and take a decade to clean up nearly all of the contaminated American Cyanamid site in Bridgewater—of which 560 acres (230 ha) are in the township and 10 acres (4.0 ha) are in Bound Brook—according to a company study awaiting federal approval.
In early 2011, the application was made to turn the former inn/reception center, the Redwood Inn, into a mosque, the town's first. The township council passed an ordinance that required houses of worship, country clubs, and other such businesses only be built on locations with access to major roads, which would directly impact the application by the mosque. The planning board immediately dismissed the application, averting state statute that would become effective on May 5 that would have made rejection much more difficult. The applicant, Al Falah Center, then filed a lawsuit against the township.
In December 2014, the case was settled out of court, with the township agreeing to purchase a 15-acre (6.1 ha) lot between Routes 202-206 and Route 287 for $2.75 million and give it to the organization to build a mosque, as well as provide $5 million paid by its insurer for reimbursement for legal fees and alleged damages. In return, the case was dropped and the township was given ownership of the original Mountaintop Road property, with the zoning ordinance law left intact.
Barbara Cohen (1932–1992), author of children's literature who wrote more than thirty books in a range of genres, from picture books (The Carp in the Bathtub, 1972) to retellings of Biblical stories (e.g., The Binding of Isaac, 1978; David, 1995) to classical literature (Four Canterbury Tales, 1987) to young adult dystopias (Unicorns in the Rain, 1980).
^Staff. "Patriotic Reading Again Saves Site", The New York Times, July 4, 1970. "Middlebrook Heights, N. J., July 3 (UPI) A reading of the Declaration of Independence tomorrow will preserve for another year the historic campsite here where George Washington is believed to have first flown the 13-star flag officially before his troops."
^Raum, John O. The History of New Jersey: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume 1, p. 259, J. E. Potter and company, 1877. Accessed February 11, 2013. "Bridgewater township contained a population in 1850 of 4,070; in 1860, 4,947; and in 1870, 5,884. Somerville, the county seat, is in this township and contained in 1850, 1,300 inhabitants. This village is of modern date. Martinsville and Bound Brook are also villages in this township."
^Board of Education, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District. Accessed March 21, 2020. "Welcome to the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District Board of Education. We are a 9-member board with 8 members elected from Bridgewater and one member elected from Raritan. Members are elected to three-year terms on the November general election day."
^"CIBA cited as one of the best by Education Department", Journal Inquirer, November 16, 2006. "The Blue Ribbon award is given only to schools that reach the top 10 percent of their state's testing scores over several years or show significant gains in student achievement. It is considered the highest honor a school can achieve."
^"Viers Mill School Wins Blue Ribbon; School Scored High on Statewide Test" The Washington Post, September 29, 2005. "For their accomplishments, all three schools this month earned the status of Blue Ribbon School, the highest honor the U.S. Education Department can bestow upon a school."
^Who We Are, Temple Sholom. Accessed September 12, 2017. "The mission of Temple Sholom is to foster a warm, vibrant, and egalitarian Conservative Jewish community in the heart of Somerset County.... In 1966, Temple Beth Israel merged with congregation Anshe Chesed and Temple Sholom was born."
^Temple GuideArchived October 13, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, Sri Venkateswara Temple (Balaji Mandir) and Community Center. Accessed September 12, 2017. "Our Temple was designed by Indian Temple Architects (Sthapati) according to ancient Indian Temple building codes and was inaugurated (Kumbabhishekam) in 1998."
^Home Page, Garden State Sikh Association Gurudwara. Accessed September 12, 2017.
^Levine, Audrey. "Plans Being Shared on Cyanamid Remediation; Pfizer is working on plans for remediation of the American Cyanamid Superfund Site.", Bridgewater Patch, December 7, 2011. Accessed January 8, 2015. "Nestled in the southeast section of Bridgewater, and crossing into Bound Brook, is a 570-acre superfund site—and its owner, Pfizer, is moving forward with remediation and future plans to ensure it becomes a useful property for the residents and Raritan Valley community as a whole.... The plan, if approved, will cost $155 million for design and construction, and a total of $205 million once completed with the inclusion of maintenance and monitoring."
^"Former Philadelphia Warriors player Hank Beenders dies at 87", Burlington County Times, October 27, 2003. "born in Haarlem, Holland, he lived in Brooklyn, and in Scotch Plains before moving to Bridgewater 36 years ago."
^Duncan, Russell. "Tunis Campbell (1812-1891)", New Georgia Encyclopedia. Accessed July 23, 2020. "Tunis Campbell was the highest-ranking and most influential African American politician in nineteenth-century Georgia. Born on April 1, 1812, in Middlebrook, New Jersey, he was the eighth of ten children of free Black parents."
^Staff. "Terrapins land the top class", ESPN College Soccer News, July 31, 2008. Accessed June 5, 2011. "The eight-member class features Parade All-American midfielders Kaoru Forbess from Benton, Arkansas, and Matt Kassel from Bridgewater, New Jersey, forward Casey Townsend from Traverse City, Michigan, and goalkeeper Zach MacMath from St. Petersburg, Florida."
^William O'Brien, Driver Database. Accessed September 4, 2019. "Hometown Bridgewater, New Jersey"
^"Youth icon Varun Sandesh talks about his movies and his cricket", IdleBrain.com, November 28, 2007. Accessed January 28, 2014. "He acted the scene to the best of his ability but did not stop with that - he sang the song and danced to the tune of 'Apudo Ipudo Epudo' from Bommarillu in front of a video camera that was mounted on the steps of his Bridgewater home."
^David Wiesner, Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, backed up by the Internet Archive as of March 29, 2007. Accessed April 16, 2007. "David Wiesner was born and raised in Bridgewater, New Jersey, and graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration."
^Goodnough, Abby. "In Person; So What Will He Do After November?", The New York Times, September 28, 1997. Accessed September 4, 2019. "Mr. Wilson, who grew up in Bridgewater and left New Jersey only to attend college at the University of Vermont, said that knowing so many people makes his job harder than that of Mr. McGreevey's campaign manager, Doug Heyl, who is from South Carolina."