The area that is now Harrison was the southernmost part of the 15,308-acre (23.919 sq mi; 61.95 km2) land grant awarded to William Sandford in 1668. When that grant was divided in 1671 between Sandford and his uncle, Nathaniel Kingsland of Barbados, Sandford's 5,000-acre (7.8 square mile) share included Harrison. While Sandford and his family established a plantation on the northern portion of his tract, there is no evidence they developed any significant part of Harrison. Upon his death in 1691, Sandford's land passed to his wife, Sarah Sandford (née Whartman). Upon her death about 1719, she passed most of the land, including Harrison, to her son William (about 1670-1733). In 1729, William transferred the southern parts of his upland to three of his sons, John, Robert and Peter, each receiving a 300-acre (120 ha) lot that included a portion of Harrison's upland. John and Robert sold their lots to members of the Schuyler family in 1733 and 1736, respectively, and migrated westward, John to Newark and Robert to Pine Brook. The disposition of Peter's lot is not known, but no further record of him is found in or near Harrison.
A road to the Hudson Waterfront was completed in 1750, named for Douwe's Ferry which it met at its eastern end to cross the Hackensack River. In 1790 the state legislature decided that "public good would be served by a 64-foot road from Paulus Hook to Newark Courthouse". By 1795, a bridge over the Hackensack 950 feet (290 m) long and another over the Passaic 492 feet (150 m) long (at the site of the Bridge Street Bridge) were built creating an uninterrupted toll road connection. It is now known as the Newark Turnpike.
In 1840, the inhabitants of Lodi Township joined with present-day Secaucus, Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, and Union City and petitioned for the creation of a new county due to the great distance which the petitioners had to travel to reach the county seat in Hackensack. This appeal resulted in the creation of Hudson County and the first mention of Harrison occurs in the law which was passed on April 13, 1840. Harrison Township was thereby established.
The first committee meeting of the Township of Harrison was held on April 16, 1840, and it is widely accepted that Harrison was named for President William Henry Harrison, who was elected that year.
1850s – present day
Union Township (now Lyndhurst) was created as of February 19, 1852, from portions of the township and became part of Bergen County.
General N. N. Halstead succeeded in getting the necessary laws passed in Trenton and April 8, 1867, Kearny became a separate Township from land that was a part of Harrison, which included East Newark at the time; East Newark later seceded from Kearny, establishing their own Borough.
On March 25, 1869, Harrison town was incorporated, replacing the township.
While campaigning for re-election in 1912, President William Howard Taft told residents gathered for a rally that "you have reason to be proud of this Hive of Industry", from which was coined the town's motto, "The Beehive of Industry", which is still used today.
As the U.S. moved into the 20th century, these facilities played a major role in the development of new products for both the private and public sector, peaking during World War II. The small town of about only 14,000 residents had more than 90,000 workers commuting into it on a daily basis. In the 21st century the town is undergoing a transformation from a manufacturing center to a residential and service sector town.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town had a total area of 1.319 square miles (3.416 km2), including 1.203 square miles (3.116 km2) of land and 0.116 square miles (0.299 km2) of water (8.76%).
The 4,869 households accounted 31.8% with children under the age of 18 living with them; 44.2% were married couples living together; 15.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.0% were non-families. Of all households, 22.1% were made up of individuals, and 7.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.80 and the average family size was 3.23.
In the town, the population age was spread out with 20.8% under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 35.0% from 25 to 44, 24.0% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.0 years. For every 100 females, the population had 105.7 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 105.7 males.
As of the 2000 Census, 7.22% of Harrison's residents identified themselves as being of Chinese ancestry. This was the fifth-highest percentage of people with Chinese ancestry in any place in New Jersey with 1,000 or more residents identifying their ancestry.
There were 5,136 households out of which 33.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.8% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.2% were non-families. 22.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.81 and the average family size was 3.27.
In the town, the population was spread out with 21.5% under the age of 18, 10.6% from 18 to 24, 36.8% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 104.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.2 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $41,350, and the median income for a family was $48,489. Males had a median income of $33,069 versus $26,858 for females. The per capita income for the town was $18,490. About 10.1% of families and 12.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.5% of those under age 18 and 10.8% of those age 65 or over.
Harrison is governed under the Town form of New Jersey municipal government, one of 9 of 565 municipalities statewide that use this form. The governing body consists of the mayor and Town Council, all of whom are elected on a partisan basis as part of the November general elections. A mayor is elected directly by the voters at-large to a four-year term of office. The Town Council comprises eight members who are elected to serve four-year terms on a staggered basis, with one seat from each of the four wards up for vote one year, one seat from each of the four wards up the next year and then two years with no elections.
The town is divided into four electoral wards, with each ward represented by two council members, with a total of eight council members on the Town Council. Each ward is divided into three districts (except for the 1st Ward, which has two districts), for a total of 11 electoral districts. The head of the government is the mayor. The mayor chairs the Town Council and heads the municipal government. The Mayor may both vote on legislation before the Council and veto ordinances. The Mayor's veto can be overruled by ¾ of the Town Council voting to overrule the veto. Town Council meetings are held on the first Tuesday of the month at 7:00 pm (except in July and August, when no meetings are held, at the call of the chairman), in Council Chambers, which is located on the second floor of the Town Hall at 318 Harrison Avenue. Public Caucus Meetings are held at 6:30 pm.
As of 2020[update], the Mayor of Harrison is Democrat James A. Fife, who is serving a term of office ending December 31, 2022. Members of the Harrison Town Council are Laurence M. Bennett (D, 2020; Ward 3), Maria J. Camano (D, 2023; Ward 1), Michael T. Dolaghan (D, 2023; Ward 4), James P. Doran (D, 2020; Ward 4), Jesus R. Huaranga (D, 2020; Ward 1), Ellen Mendoza (D, 2020; Ward 2), Francisco Nascimento (D, 2023; Ward 3) and Eleanor Villalta (D, 2023; Ward 2).
While serving a term scheduled to end on December 31, 2014, longtime Mayor Raymond McDonough died on February 12, 2014, after suffering a heart attack at town hall. Later that month, the town council selected James Fife, a former Harrison High School principal, to complete term of McDonough's seat as mayor, which he had held since 1995.
Harrison had one of the longest-serving mayors in American history, Frank E. Rodgers, who was first elected in 1946, defeating incumbent Frederick J. Gassert who had served for 16 years, and served for 48 years, from 1947 to 1995, being elected to 24 two-year terms. He also served two terms in the New Jersey State Senate, from 1978 to 1984.
In 2018, the town had an average property tax bill of $11,109, the highest in the county, compared to an average bill of $8,767 statewide.
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 5,454 registered voters in Harrison, of which 3,207 (58.8%) were registered as Democrats, 312 (5.7%) were registered as Republicans and 1,934 (35.5%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There was one voter registered to another party.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 78.4% of the vote (2,699 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 20.0% (689 votes), and other candidates with 1.6% (54 votes), among the 3,473 ballots cast by the town's 5,940 registered voters (31 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 58.5%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 68.0% of the vote (2,347 cast), ahead of Republican John McCain with 30.0% (1,036 votes) and other candidates with 1.1% (38 votes), among the 3,453 ballots cast by the town's 5,827 registered voters, for a turnout of 59.3%. In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 64.8% of the vote (2,142 ballots cast), outpolling Republican George W. Bush with 34.1% (1,128 votes) and other candidates with 0.3% (16 votes), among the 3,306 ballots cast by the town's 5,411 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 61.1.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 53.2% of the vote (896 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 45.2% (762 votes), and other candidates with 1.6% (27 votes), among the 1,718 ballots cast by the town's 6,032 registered voters (33 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 28.5%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 69.0% of the vote (1,542 ballots cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 24.8% (554 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 3.9% (87 votes) and other candidates with 1.3% (30 votes), among the 2,234 ballots cast by the town's 5,225 registered voters, yielding a 42.8% turnout.
Initially, in the 1870s, the township was patrolled by Phillip Mulligan and four constables. In 1878, Mulligan was eventually appointed "Police Justice" and in 1885, an ordinance was passed to regulate and establish a police department. In 1891, the first police officers were appointed under the 1895 ordinance. Michael Rodgers (father of Mayor Frank E. Rodgers) was among those appointed. He eventually became the first chief of police.
On March 28, 1897, Officer John J. Clark was electrocuted while investigating a downed power line, becoming the first Harrison police officer to die in the line of duty. A plaque at police headquarters is dedicated in his memory.
The Harrison Police Department is presently led by Chief of Police David Strumolo, who was sworn-in March 2018. The department currently consists of 39 members, down from a one-time high of 67 officers in the 1990s. The department consists of several divisions; Administrative, Patrol, Detective, Traffic Safety, Street Crimes, and Community Policing. The department participates in National Night Out, and various cultural and civic events, as well as "meet and greets."
The department was among the many Hudson County agencies that responded to the January 2009 crash of Flight 1549, for which they received accolades from the survivors.
The Harrison Police Department is recognized as an "accredited police agency" by the New Jersey Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission and the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Harrison Fire Department operates out of a fire station located at 634 Sussex Street and operates a fire apparatus fleet of three engines, one ladder, and several support units and spares. Due to cutbacks, the HFD usually is able to staff one engine with three members and one ladder with three members and one tour commander on duty. The HFD has a table of organization of 29 firefighters. In April 2013, officials from neighboring municipalities and fire departments expressed their frustration at the stresses placed on their firefighters in covering fires in Harrison.
Battalion Chief 2019 Ford Explorer Interceptor •Deputy Chief 2013 Ford Expedition
As of January 1, 2014, Monmouth Ocean Hospital Service Corporation (MONOC) EMS provides 9-1-1 ambulance service to the city of Harrison and nearby East Newark. As part of the agreement, MONOC pays a $1,500 monthly fee for its use of the firehouse on Cleveland Avenue that had previously been used by Harrison Emergency Management Services.
In September 2007, Harrison realigned the grades being housed in each of the school buildings in town. The new Harrison High School located on Hamilton Street between Kingsland and Schuyler Avenues opened to students in grades 9–12. As a result, the old Harrison High School building, located on 1 North 5th Street, was renamed as Washington Middle School. The old Washington Middle School, in turn, located on Hamilton Street between North 2nd and North 3rd Streets, has been renamed Hamilton School and now houses the 4th and 5th grades that formerly used the top floors of Holy Cross School. Holy Cross School has since been vacated by the Harrison Public School district.
The Harrison Public School District participates in the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program. For the 2005–06. school year parents can request to transfer a child from the Washington School, designated by the State of New Jersey as a Category I School, to another school which is not a Category I School. Since there is only one elementary school in Harrison, parents can request a transfer to the Hoboken Public Schools under the Choice program. A transfer request will depend upon the capacity of the selected Hoboken school.
In 2000, the then Harrison High School building (now Washington Middle School) was used as the location of an open casting call by HBO for the series The Sopranos, which brought 15,000-plus TV star hopefuls to the town, doubling the town's population and bringing traffic to a standstill.
Harrison Lions Club was chartered on July 25, 1951. The Harrison Club is part of Multiple District 16 (New Jersey) which is part of Lions Clubs International (LCI), the world's largest service organization. The club supports and provides financial aid to the district, state, and international sight projects and is also involved in community programs.
As of May 2010[update], the town had a total of 18.15 miles (29.21 km) of roadways, of which 15.23 miles (24.51 km) were maintained by the municipality, 1.57 miles (2.53 km) by Hudson County and 1.35 miles (2.17 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Replacement of Interstate 280's partial access in central Harrison with service roads, a new interchange, and an overpass (to improve access to Harrison Avenue, the PATH station, and Red Bull Arena, and to give north–south passage to local street traffic) is in the planning stages.
The Harrison station on the PATHrapid transit system offers service to Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken and New York City. The station was built in 1913 and relocated to its present location in 1936. A major reconstruction for the Harrison Station was approved on March 28, 2012, and construction started in January 2013. The completion target, originally scheduled for April 2017, was tentatively moved to 2018; the expansion of the station was completed on June 15, 2019.
The Northeast Corridor, built in the 19th century by the Pennsylvania Railroad and now owned by Amtrak, carries NJ Transit trains, and passes through the city on the same alignment as the PATH. There was a stop on the Northeast Corridor in Harrison, but it was eliminated due to the ease of picking up trains in Newark at Penn Station.
The Harrison Waterfront Redevelopment Plan invited developers to submit plans that capitalize on the presence of the Harrison PATH Station and the Passaic River within a 275-acre (1.11 km2) area that covers 35% of the whole town. The Plan seeks to unite the developers' proposals with a design theme that includes motifs from Harrison's industrial, cultural, and environmental history as a means of fostering a new identity for Harrison that provides a variety of mixed-use, transit-oriented, pedestrian-scale development that will make Harrison a regional destination.
Red Bull Arena
The waterfront across from Newark has been cleared of industrial buildings and is being redeveloped
Harrison is the location of the Red Bull Arena soccer stadium, home of the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer. After years of construction delays, the arena opened on March 20, 2010, with an exhibition game against the Brazilian club Santos FC. The soccer-specific stadium (SSS) was constructed at a cost of $200 million and has a capacity of approximately 25,000, with a natural grass field, featuring a full wavy translucent European-style roof that covers all of the seats in the stadium but not the field. The stadium sits alongside the Passaic River with a view of the Newark skyline, and is accessible via public transportation at the PATH train stop in Harrison. The stadium is owned and operated by Red Bull GmbH.
Kevin Gilmore (1949–1970), college football player who was a member of the 1970 Marshall University football team and died in the crash of Southern Airways Flight 932. His body was not identified and he is buried with five other unidentified players in the Springhill Cemetery.
Frank E. Rodgers (1909-2000), politician who as Mayor of Harrison for 48 years from 1946 to 1995, having been elected to 24 consecutive two-year terms in office and placing him among the longest-serving mayors in U.S. history.
^Bergen County New Jersey Municipalities, Dutch Door Genealogy. Accessed December 15, 2011. "Lodi Township was formed March 1, 1826 from area taken from New Barbadoes Township. In 1840 a part of its area was transferred to Harrison Township in Hudson County."
^Staff. "Kearny EMS out, MONOC in at Harrison", The Observer Online, January 8, 2014. Accessed February 23, 2014. "Kearny Emergency Management Services (EMS) has vacated the space and, as of New Year's Day, it's been replaced by Monmouth- Ocean Hospital Service Corp. (MONOC) EMS, based in Wall Township.Mayor Ray McDonough and the Harrison Town Council voted Dec. 19 to accept the bid submitted by MONOC to provide emergency medical service coverage – basic life support provided by EMTs – for Harrison and East Newark."
^Mallozzi, Vincent M. "A Big Crowd That Aspires To Be a Mob", The New York Times, July 23, 2000. Accessed September 11, 2013. "I was one of thousands who showed up at Harrison High School today for a much-publicized casting call for those interested in auditioning for parts in the hit HBO series The Sopranos, which happens to be my favorite.... By that time, Lt. Charles Trucillo of the Harrison Police Department estimated, 4,000 or 5,000 people were already in line."
^Dell'Apa, Frank. "New Era Dawning In Dallas", The Boston Globe, August 13, 2005. Accessed October 11, 2007. "When Dave D'Errico was growing up in the '60s, he played on the hardscrabble soccer fields of Harrison, N.J., then for the US national team and in the North American Soccer League."
^Staff. "Obituaries: Bernard Epstein College Mathematics Professor"The Washington Post, April 4, 2005. Accessed January 31, 2008. Accessed January 31, 2018. "Bernard Epstein, 84, a physicist on the Manhattan Project who was a visiting professor of mathematics at George Mason University and the University of Maryland, died March 30 at Summerville Assisted Living in Potomac. He had Alzheimer's disease.Dr. Epstein was born in Harrison, N.J."
^Holroyd, Steve. "The Year in American Soccer - 1925"Archived 2015-11-02 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed January 31, 2018. "Providence also acquired wing forward Tommy Florie prior to the season. Born in Harrison, New Jersey, Florie had played three games with the hometown ASL club in 1922 before earning stardom in local semipro leagues."
^Ashford, Michael. "'One I won't forget'", The Emporia Gazette, December 22, 2006. Accessed August 26, 2015. "Thirty-eight years ago, in 1968, Kevin Gilmore joined the football program at McCook Junior College in McCook, Neb. A native of Harrison, N.J., Gilmore was recruited by several Division I schools out of high school, but his grades weren't quite good enough, so he made the more-than 1,500-mile trek from New Jersey to Nebraska to play football and improve his academic standing at McCook."
^McGee, David. "'The Cry of Anguished Protest, The First of Many Wrought From Me'", TheBluegrassSpecial.com, April 2011. Accessed September 4, 2011. "Beverly Kenney was born in Harrison, New Jersey, on January 29, 1932, the oldest of nine children (four boys, four girls, and a brother, Charles, who died in infancy; the Kenney parents divorced after Beverly was on her own, and two of her brothers are actually from her mother's second marriage) in a blue collar Catholic family."
^Obituary, The Lowell Sun, September 14, 1938, "Paddy McGuigan of Ring Fame Dies", November 4, 2010.
^Cotter, Kelly Jane. "Playing His Picks", Asbury Park Press, August 10, 2008. Accessed February 13, 2011. "On weekdays Pinfield gets up at the unrockin hour of 4 a.m. at his home in Harrison and is in the RXP studio by 520 a.m."
^Mifflin, Lawrie. "Doing a Star Turn for the Home Team, at Last", The New York Times, August 18, 1996. Accessed September 11, 2013. "Giants Stadium is a short trip up the turnpike from Old Bridge, where Mr. Ramos lives with his wife, Amy – a former North Carolina State University soccer player like her husband – and their 16-month-old son, Alex. And it's just a few miles from where he grew up, in Harrison and Kearny, towns that have been soccer hotbeds for generations."