Suburban Essex County is beautiful. I supposed the burghers of Montclair and Short Hills are inurred to insults so often hurled at New Jersey by late night comedians. I can’t help but sneer at the provincial Manhattanite hipsters who denigrate the Garden State as is if it all looked like the ghastly stretch of the Jersey Turnpike from Secaucus to Perth Amboy.
Due to my constant travels and urban explorations of America’s wealthiest neighborhoods, I am often asked which ones are my favorites. By definition this is a very personal question and yet, I have never forgotten the first time I drove down Upper Mountain Avenue in Montclair, New Jersey. It was a clear, brisk, and beautiful day and as I gazed on the sweep of New York City from 450 feet up the side of the first of the Watchung Mountains, I’ll never forget the breathtaking vista in my minds eye. The fact that the avenue was lined with some of the most imposing and gracious mansions from the late 19th and early 20th Century only made me think of how lucky the owners of these homes were to have the privilege to gaze upon this panorama from the comforts of their living rooms. Yes, I rank Montclair, New Jersey right up there with my other two favorites Pacific Heights in San Francisco and Tuxedo Park, a subneighborhood of Buckhead in Atlanta. As there is a Census Block Group that corresponds to these lovely streets, I have named this neighborhood Upper Mountain Avenue-Highland Avenue (Higley 1000 #240; Mean Household Income $260,247).
Montclair is not the only beautiful suburb on the flanks of the Watchungs. Thomas Edison’s gated romantic era suburb of Llewellyn Park is located just to the south of Montclair in West Orange. Further south are three of the wealthiest neighborhoods in New Jersey, Old Short Hills Estates, Merrywood-Knollwood, and the Northside of Summit in adjacent Union County.
South Orange Village: An Unusual Example of Integration
As one drives from the troubled central city of Newark into the Arcadian suburb of South Orange Village, the contrast between rich and poor could hardly be more vivid. South Orange is the wealthiest of the four Oranges and not only has a large number of homeowners that are African-American, it is unusual in that its Black population is wealthier than it Non-Hispanic White population. In what must be a unique pattern of race and wealth, the small Asian population is the “poorest” of the four groups. A detailed portrait of South Orange will follow this essay.
Short Hills in Millburn Township
Millburn Township is home to no fewer than eight Higley 1000 neighborhoods. The most famous of these is known as Short Hills, created by Mr. Stewart Hartshorn in 1879. The upscale mall of the same name on Route 24 is not located in Mr. Hartshorn’s development, but is found up the highway next to the Canoe Brook Country Club . The eight neighborhoods of Millburn Township are nestled among the Watchung Mountains and feature large homes on heavily wooded lots. Merrywood-Knollwood is the wealthiest neighborhood in New Jersey and the 4th wealthiest Higley 1000 neighborhood in the entire country. The adjacent neighborhood, Old Short Hills Estates ranks third in New Jersey and 21st in the country.
Racial Integration in Essex County
With the exception of South Orange, none of the Higley 1000 neighborhoods are integrated to any significant degree. Montclair has a large African-American population in the Township (30.5%) but there is a dramatic gap between the mean household income of White and Black households ($142,600 vs. $65,926). There are few African-American’s found in the four Higley 1000 neighborhoods of Montclair. They make up just 4.9% of all households. Although I would not consider this to be a significant percentage, it is higher than the paltry showing for African-Americans in all Higley 1000 neighborhoods (1.0%).
Millburn Township’s 8 Higley 1000 neighborhoods show no significant minority populations. Asian’s make up 5.8% all households in the eight neighborhoods, a percentage that is modestly more than the 4.9% that Asians makeup of all of the Higley 1000 neighborhoods iin the United States.
Map of Essex County, New Jersey Higley 1000 Neighborhoods
View Larger Map of Higley 1000 Neighborhoods in the Essex County area