Freehold Borough, New Jersey
South Street in Downtown Freehold
Map of Freehold Borough in Monmouth County. Inset: Location of Monmouth County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
|Incorporated||March 25, 1869 (as town)|
|Reincorporated||April 15, 1919 (as borough)|
|• Body||Borough Council|
|• Mayor||J. Nolan Higgins (D, term ends December 31, 2019)|
|• Administrator||Joseph B. Bellina|
|• Municipal clerk||Traci L. DiBenedetto|
|• Total||1.952 sq mi (5.055 km2)|
|• Land||1.950 sq mi (5.050 km2)|
|• Water||0.002 sq mi (0.005 km2) 0.09%|
|Area rank||416th of 566 in state|
31st of 53 in county
|Elevation||171 ft (52 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Rank||204th of 566 in state|
17th of 53 in county
|• Density||6,180.8/sq mi (2,386.4/km2)|
|• Density rank||81st of 566 in state|
8th of 53 in county
|Time zone||UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-4 (Eastern (EDT))|
|GNIS feature ID||0885226|
Freehold is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. It is the county seat of Monmouth County. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 12,052, reflecting an increase of 1,076 (+9.8%) from the 10,976 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 234 (+2.2%) from the 10,742 counted in the 1990 Census.
What is now Freehold Borough was originally incorporated as a town by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 25, 1869, from portions within Freehold Township. The town became independent of the township in 1888. On April 15, 1919, Freehold was incorporated as a borough, including all of Freehold and additional portions of Freehold Township, based on the results of a referendum held on July 8, 1919. Additional portions of Freehold Township were annexed on September 7, 1926.
The Hispanic population is rapidly growing in Freehold Borough, making up 4.6% (0.2% Mexican) in the 1980 Census, 11.3% (2.8% Mexican) in the 1990 Census, 28.0% (17.3% Mexican) in 2000 and recently 42.9% (29.6% Mexican) in 2010. Meanwhile, the Black or African American population has decreased in recent decades: 17.1% in 1970, 19.8% in 1980, 18.2% in 1990, 15.8% in 2000 and 12.6% in 2010.
The Lenni Lenape Native Americans were the earliest known people to live in the area that became Freehold. The Lenape were a hunter-gatherer society. They were largely sedentary, changing campsites seasonally. They were prolific hunters of small game and birds. They were also skilled fisherman, and were known to harvest vast amounts of clams from the bays and inlets on the Jersey Shore. They also practiced some agriculture to augment their food supply. During this time, an important crossroad of two major Lenape trails was located in the area of Freehold.
In 1498, John Cabot became the first European to sight this land. The Dutch were the first to settle and develop the area. By the 17th century, the English had taken over the area. In 1664, the Duke of York (later James II & VII) granted a patent to Sir George Carteret to develop the area. In 1685, Scottish immigrants, fleeing religious persecution at home, became the first to settle the area. In 1693, Along with Middletown and Shrewsbury, Freehold was established by act of legislature as one of the three original townships in Monmouth County. The name of the borough comes from the word Freehold, an English legal term describing fee simple property ownership.
In 1714, when the colonial government was deciding where to locate the county seat and courthouse, Freeholder John Reid, the first Surveyor General of East Jersey, wanted the county seat located in Freehold Township. Reid sold land suitable for use as a courthouse to the Board of Chosen Freeholders at a bargain price, and this may have been the deciding factor why Freehold was selected over Middletown and Shrewsbury. In return for the heavily discounted price, Reid placed a restrictive covenant in the deed that, should the property ever cease being used as a courthouse, ownership would revert to the Reid family. Direct descendants of John Reid still reside in Freehold Township.
Freehold was officially designated as the seat of the Monmouth County government, and a court house was commissioned to be built on the land purchased from John Reid. The Monmouth Courthouse opened in 1715. A small village quickly began to develop around the courthouse. At first, the village was called Monmouth Courthouse. Over time, other government buildings opened near the courthouse, including a sheriff's office, a prison and a post office. A number of homes and commercial businesses also sprang up in the village, including a blacksmith, a general store, a bank, a hotel, and saloon.
In the area surrounding Monmouth Courthouse, many successful farms began to appear. The farms in Freehold were particularly well known for the production of potatoes, beans, and rye, which were sold in the markets of nearby cities. Freehold also became known for its excellent horse farms. The differences within Freehold between growing village around the courthouse and the surrounding farmland were the seeds for the eventual division of Freehold into two separate municipalities in the early 20th century.
As of 1745, the majority of families in Freehold were still Scottish immigrants. In modern Freehold today, many important streets bear the name of early colonial families, including Barkalow, Applegate, Rhea, Throckmorton, and Schanck.
Freehold was deeply impacted by the American Revolution. By the early 1770s, the Sons of Liberty were actively recruiting local members in Freehold, and were agitating the relationship between the British government and the colonists. In 1775, immediately after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Capt. Elias Longstreet recruited the first company of Freeholders to join the Continental Army. Freehold was a known center of patriot activity. The Declaration of Independence was publicly proclaimed, read aloud, from the steps of the Freehold Courthouse just a few days after being signed in Philadelphia.
However, after British success at the Battle of Long Island, Freehold and all of Monmouth County fell under the control of Loyalists. The British government continued to operate the Freehold Courthouse, and several people involved in revolutionary activism were arrested and tried for treason at the courthouse. The success of the Continental Army at the Battle of Trenton helped to weaken loyalist control of Freehold.
In June 1778, the British Army began a major strategic evacuation of the city of Philadelphia. They attempted to protect a long, slow moving column of loyalist families, equipment, and other supplies seized in Philadelphia, as they moved towards ships in New York Harbor. On June 28, 1778, the Continental Army intercepted the column in Freehold. The Battle of Monmouth was one of the largest battles of the Revolutionary War, involving over 25,000 soldiers combined in Continental, British, and Hessian forces. The Continental Army was able to repel the British forces, and hold their ground on the battlefield. However, the British forces were successful in completing their primary goal, the evacuation of Philadelphia. Both sides claimed victory in the battle.
Several famous figures from the Revolutionary War fought at the Battle of Monmouth. British forces were commanded by Sir Henry Clinton and Charles Cornwallis. The Continental Army was commanded by George Washington and Charles Lee. Charles Lee was court martialed by the Continental Army for his behavior at the Battle of Monmouth. Nathaniel Greene, Alexander Hamilton, the Marquis de Lafayette and Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben also fought for the Continental Army at the Battle of Monmouth. Another famous figure at the Battle of Monmouth was Molly Pitcher, who manned a cannon during the battle after her husband was wounded.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Monmouth, Loyalist control of Freehold faltered. The town ceased to have a functioning municipal government, and the courthouse was closed until the end of the war. Minor clashes between loyalists and continentals flared up in town, with the violence peaking around 1780. Colonel Tye, an escaped slave and leader of a prominent loyalist guerilla force, conducted several raids in and around Freehold. One famous incident was the capture and hanging of Joshua Huddy by British Loyalists under the direction of Richard Lippincott. Colonel Tye was killed during the raid on Huddy's home. Patriots later cut down Huddy's body hanging from the gallows and buried it in Freehold, at Old Tennent Church. At the end of the war, the community was deeply divided, and nearly 120 loyalist families left Freehold, fearing persecution from their neighbors. Most of these families re-settled in Canada.
During the early 1800s, Freehold steadily grew in size. The village around the courthouse was now called Freehold, along with the surrounding farmland. In 1852, when long distance railroad systems were first being developed, a railroad station, with trains making regular stops, was built near the courthouse in Freehold. Freehold soon had public sewers in the village and in some of the outlying farmland. By 1883, there was an electrical grid and a telephone switchboard, at a time when these inventions were still brand new. These public advancements caused rapid economic growth in Freehold. The village of Freehold became an important commercial and industrial hub in central New Jersey. The farms in the rest of Freehold benefitted greatly by being able to sell their products more easily in New York and Philadelphia. Both the village and the farms prospered together, however the public policies sought by the two different communities continued to grow further apart. The municipal government was increasingly divided between the villagers and farmers.
In 1824, the American Hotel opened on Main Street in Freehold. It is still standing today, and is one of the oldest buildings in Freehold. In 1853, the Freehold Raceway opened. Though the original grandstand burned down in a fire, the racetrack is still open today, and is one of the oldest harness racetracks in America. The Great Fire of Freehold happened on October 30, 1873. The fire reportedly began in a commercial building on Main Street. It soon spread to engulf a large section of the village, and many wooden buildings, including Monmouth Courthouse, were burned down.
Freehold also has a relatively forgotten but important place in the history of the bicycle. Cycling champion Arthur Augustus Zimmerman resided in the town during his racing career in the 1880s and 1890s, and from 1896–1899 operated the Zimmerman Bicycle Co.; the company's bicycles were known as the "Zimmy." Today, Freehold Borough is home to the Metz Bicycle Museum, where the only extant "Zimmy" can be seen.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Freehold was an increasingly divided community. The issue of local tax dollars, used as funding for public works and infrastructure projects, was the primary point of contention. The Freeholders living in the downtown area, around the courthouse had very different ideas about how to spend public money compared to the Freeholders living in the surrounding farmland. Tension within the community increased greatly in 1916 when a severe polio epidemic swept through Freehold. After contentious public debate, a referendum was held to on the future of Freehold, and voters overwhelmingly decided to split the town into two separate municipalities.
On April 15, 1919, Freehold Borough formally separated from Freehold Township. Freehold residents generally refer to the different municipalities simply as the Borough and the Township. The Borough, the downtown area around the courthouse, retained all the existing government buildings around Court Street and Main Street. The Borough also kept the designation as county seat. Freehold Township, the farming communities that surrounded the courthouse, set up a new city hall complex on Schanck Road. The Township completely encircles the Borough. On September 7, 1926, Freehold Borough annexed additional territory from the Township.
Freehold Borough initially prospered in the early 20th century. However, by mid-century, the Borough began to decline as downtown areas across the country shrank, and suburban areas began growing. In 1961, the A & M Karagheusian rug factory closed. This factory had long been the largest employer in the area, and its closure had a devastating effect on the economic stability of the Borough. The Borough managed to turn around its economic decline by establishing the downtown area as a center for restaurants and nightlife. Several well-known local restaurants on Main Street are now crowded every night of the week.
Freehold Borough was an important center of African American civil rights activity in New Jersey during the years leading up to the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. In 2007, Jaye Sims became the first African American official to be elected to office.
Bruce Springsteen grew up in the Borough and lived on South Street. In 1963, he graduated eighth grade from St. Rose of Lima School, and graduated from Freehold Borough High School in 1967. In 1973, he released his first album, and rocketed to international fame. Springsteen has always remained loyal to Freehold and makes reference to it in several of his famous songs, including "My Hometown". In 1996, he conducted a small benefit concert in Freehold for St. Rose of Lima.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 1.952 square miles (5.055 km2), including 1.950 square miles (5.050 km2) of land and 0.002 square miles (0.005 km2) of water (0.09%). It is situated in the heart of Monmouth County and is located approximately 40 miles (64 km) south of New York City and 65 miles (105 km) northeast of Philadelphia. Freehold is also about 16 miles (26 km) west of Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore.
Freehold has an elevation of 174 feet (53 m) above sea level at its center.
1930-1990 2000 2010
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 12,052 people, 4,006 households, and 2,659.984 families residing in the borough. The population density was 6,180.8 per square mile (2,386.4/km2). There were 4,249 housing units at an average density of 2,179.1 per square mile (841.4/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 65.72% (7,920) White, 12.57% (1,515) Black or African American, 0.52% (63) Native American, 2.89% (348) Asian, 0.07% (8) Pacific Islander, 15.35% (1,850) from other races, and 2.89% (348) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 42.87% (5,167) of the population.
There were 4,006 households out of which 33.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.3% were married couples living together, 13.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.6% were non-families. 26.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.98 and the average family size was 3.48.
In the borough, the population was spread out with 24.5% under the age of 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 32.4% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.3 years. For every 100 females there were 111.7 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 112.0 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $52,000 (with a margin of error of +/- $3,634) and the median family income was $60,471 (+/- $3,989). Males had a median income of $29,752 (+/- $8,068) versus $34,976 (+/- $8,305) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $23,331 (+/- $1,602). About 13.1% of families and 16.01% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.5% of those under age 18 and 14.2% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 United States Census there were 10,976 people, 3,695 households, and 2,571 families residing in the borough. The population density was 5,501.1 people per square mile (2,118.9/km2). There were 3,821 housing units at an average density of 1,915.1 per square mile (737.6/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 71.02% White, 15.83% Black, .55% Native American, 2.45% Asian, .02% Pacific Islander, 6.64% from other races, and 3.49% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 28.07% of the population.
There were 3,695 households out of which 32.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.4% were non-families. 24.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.96 and the average family size was 3.39.
In the borough the population was spread out with 24.8% under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 34.4% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.0 years. For every 100 females, there were 106.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.7 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $48,654, and the median income for a family was $53,374. Males had a median income of $35,855 versus $30,377 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $19,910. About 7.7% of families and 12% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.8% of those under age 18 and 9.2% of those age 65 or over.
Freehold is governed under the Borough form of New Jersey municipal government. The governing body consists of a Mayor and a Borough Council comprising six council members, with all positions elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election. A Mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office. The Borough Council consists of six members elected to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election each year in a three-year cycle. The Borough form of government used by Freehold, the most common system used in the state, is a "weak mayor / strong council" government in which council members act as the legislative body with the mayor presiding at meetings and voting only in the event of a tie. The mayor can veto ordinances subject to an override by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.
As of 2017[update], the Mayor of Freehold Borough is Democrat Nolan Higgins, whose term of office ends December 31, 2019. Members of the Freehold Borough Council are Council President George Schnurr (D, 2017), Michael DiBenedetto (D, 2017), Ronald Griffiths (D, 2018), Kevin A. Kane (D, 2019), Sharon Shutzer (D, 2018) and Jaye S. Sims (D, 2019).
Freehold Borough is located in the 4th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 11th state legislative district. Prior to the 2011 reapportionment following the 2010 Census, Freehold Borough had been in the 12th state legislative district.
For the 116th United States Congress, New Jersey's Fourth Congressional District is represented by Chris Smith (R, Hamilton Township). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Democrats Cory Booker (Newark, term ends 2021) and Bob Menendez (Paramus, term ends 2025).
For the 2018–2019 session (Senate, General Assembly), the 11th Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Vin Gopal (D, Long Branch) and in the General Assembly by Joann Downey (D, Freehold Township) and Eric Houghtaling (D, Neptune Township).
Monmouth County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders consisting of five members who are elected at-large to serve three year terms of office on a staggered basis, with either one or two seats up for election each year as part of the November general election. At an annual reorganization meeting held in the beginning of January, the board selects one of its members to serve as Director and another as Deputy Director. As of 2018[update], Monmouth County's Freeholders are Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone (R, Neptune City, term as freeholder ends December 31, 2019; term as freeholder director ends 2018), Freeholder Deputy Director Lillian G. Burry (R, Colts Neck Township, term as freeholder ends 2020; term as deputy director ends 2018), John P. Curley (R, Middletown Township, 2018), Patrick G. Impreveduto (R, Holmdel Township, 2020) and Dr. Gerry P. Scharfenberger (R, Middletown Township, 2019; appointed to serve an unexpired term). Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are County clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon (R, 2020; Ocean Township), Sheriff Shaun Golden (R, 2019; Howell Township) and Surrogate Rosemarie D. Peters (R, 2021; Middletown Township).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 5,108 registered voters in Freehold, of which 1,459 (28.6%) were registered as Democrats, 820 (16.1%) were registered as Republicans and 2,827 (55.3%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 2 voters registered to other parties.
In the 2016 presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton received 54.5% of the vote (1,958 cast), ahead of Republican Donald Trump with 41.8% (1,501 votes), and other candidates with 3.7% (134 votes), among the 3,593 cast by the borough's voters. In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 61.4% of the vote (2,182 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 37.3% (1,326 votes), and other candidates with 1.3% (48 votes), among the 3,591 ballots cast by the borough's 5,270 registered voters (35 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 68.1%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 57.7% of the vote (2,222 cast), ahead of Republican John McCain with 39.0% (1,500 votes) and other candidates with 1.4% (53 votes), among the 3,849 ballots cast by the borough's 5,390 registered voters, for a turnout of 71.4%. In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 52.3% of the vote (1,955 ballots cast), outpolling Republican George W. Bush with 45.6% (1,705 votes) and other candidates with 0.9% (50 votes), among the 3,737 ballots cast by the borough's 5,316 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 70.3.
In the 2017 gubernatorial election, Democrat Phil Murphy received 50.7% of the vote (1,064 cast), ahead of Republican Kim Guadagno with 46.2% of the vote (969 votes), and other candidates with 3.1% (64 votes), among the 2,097 cast by the borough's voters. In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 61.7% of the vote (1,264 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 36.6% (750 votes), and other candidates with 1.6% (33 votes), among the 2,093 ballots cast by the borough's 5,279 registered voters (46 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 39.6%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 55.0% of the vote (1,360 ballots cast), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 36.6% (906 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 6.9% (170 votes) and other candidates with 1.1% (26 votes), among the 2,474 ballots cast by the borough's 5,178 registered voters, yielding a 47.8% turnout.
Freehold Borough's public school students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade attend the Freehold Borough Schools. As of the 2014-15 school year, the district and its three schools had an enrollment of 2,258 students and 119.6 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 18.9:1. Schools in the district (with 2014-15 school enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are Freehold Learning Center (grades PreK-5, 585 students), Park Avenue Elementary School (PreK-5, 616) and Freehold Intermediate School (6-8, 427).
Students in public school for ninth through twelfth grades attend Freehold High School, as part of the Freehold Regional High School District or may apply to attend the district's specialized programs housed in other high schools in the FRHSD. As of the 2014-15 school year, Freehold Borough High School had an enrollment of 1,505 students and 108.7 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 13.8:1. The Freehold Regional High School District also serves students from Colts Neck Township, Englishtown, Farmingdale, Freehold Township (which also has some students at Freehold Borough High School), Howell Township, Manalapan Township and Marlboro Township.
The independent Freehold Public Library is one of the remaining Carnegie-funded libraries in the state and is believed to be the only one with the name "Carnegie Library" engraved on its front. It is not part of the Monmouth County Library system.
As of May 2010[update], the borough had a total of 31.31 miles (50.39 km) of roadways, of which 26.60 miles (42.81 km) were maintained by the municipality, 1.30 miles (2.09 km) by Monmouth County and 3.41 miles (5.49 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Freehold Circle was located near the western boundary of Freehold Borough near the Freehold Raceway. The circle carried traffic between US 9, Business Route 33 and Manalapan Avenue (CR 24); it was eliminated in the 1980s due to the increased traffic load caused by a boom in commercial and residential development. Most notable of the commercial development is the Freehold Raceway Mall, in Freehold Township just south of the old circle on US 9, whose development in the late 1980s was a major impetus to redesign the circle. The former circle now features several jughandles, and most Manalapan Avenue traffic must use a connector road to Business Route 33 to reach the main intersection, but it is still known by locals as Freehold Circle. In the early 1940s, the Freehold Circle was the planned terminus of highway that would funnel traffic from South Amboy to the Jersey Shore by way of Matawan and Marlboro Township.
The railroad that ran through Freehold was originally a Central Railroad of New Jersey branch connecting the still-active former Penn Central line from Jamesburg to CNJ's Seashore Branch and the New York and Long Branch line (now owned by NJ Transit) at Matawan. The Central Railroad of New Jersey went into bankruptcy in the early 1970s and entered into Conrail on April 1, 1976. Freight service on the rails from Freehold to Matawan was terminated in 1979 and the rails removed in 1980. Today, it is mostly a rail-trail . Freehold's former train station now serves as its central bus station. The Monmouth Ocean Middlesex Line is a New Jersey Transit proposal to restore passenger service to the region.
NJ Transit bus service connects Freehold with towns along U.S. Route 9, Newark Liberty International Airport and New York City, to Philadelphia (via transfer in Lakewood) and to Six Flags Great Adventure located in Jackson Township. The 131, 135 and 139 provide service to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan, on the 67 to Newark, on the 64 and 67 to Jersey City and local service on the 836 and 838 routes.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Freehold Borough include:
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