Phillipsburg was incorporated as a town by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 8, 1861, from portions of Phillipsburg Township (now Lopatcong Township). The town was named for William Phillips, an early settler of the area.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town had a total area of 3.311 square miles (8.575 km2), including 3.193 square miles (8.270 km2) of land and 0.118 square miles (0.305 km2) of water (3.56%).
Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the town include Andover Furnace, Delaware Park, Lopatcong Heights, Shirmers and Warren Heights.
There were 5,925 households out of which 30.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.0% were married couples living together, 19.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.1% were non-families. 29.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.12.
In the town, the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 25.8% from 45 to 64, and 13.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37.1 years. For every 100 females there were 92.7 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 87.0 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $42,825 (with a margin of error of +/- $3,386) and the median family income was $51,334 (+/- $3,243). Males had a median income of $44,311 (+/- $2,090) versus $37,673 (+/- $6,847) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $21,291 (+/- $1,061). About 16.5% of families and 18.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.1% of those under age 18 and 6.5% of those age 65 or over.
There were 6,044 households out of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.4% were married couples living together, 16.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.7% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.08.
In the town, the population was spread out with 26.6% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 30.1% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 15.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.5 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $37,368, and the median income for a family was $46,925. Males had a median income of $37,446 versus $25,228 for females. The per capita income for the town was $18,452. About 9.9% of families and 13.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.6% of those under age 18 and 11.1% of those age 65 or over.
Phillipsburg had historically benefited from being a major transportation hub, situated at the confluence of the Delaware and Lehigh rivers. Phillipsburg served as the western terminus of the Morris Canal for approximately 100 years from the 1820s to 1920s, which connected the city by water to the industrial and consumer centers of the New York City area, with connections westward via the Lehigh Canal and Delaware Canal across the Delaware. Long gone is the era of canal shipping and many of the important freight railways that served the area have gone bankrupt or bypass the city on long distance routes.
Most of the manufacturing jobs have left Warren County's largest city. Portions of the town are part of an Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ), one of 32 zones covering 37 municipalities statewide. The city was selected in 1994 as one of a group of 10 zones added to participate in the program. In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the UEZ, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3.3125% sales tax rate (half of the 65⁄8% rate charged statewide) at eligible merchants. Established in November 1994, the town's Urban Enterprise Zone status expires in October 2025.
In recent years, some businesses have begun to move into the center of the city. Rising real estate prices indicate that these legislative stimulants have been somewhat effective. Phillipsburg has been selected as a site for the New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Heritage Center (jointly with Netcong), a museum designed to help preserve and showcase the state's transportation history.
Since 2007, NJ Transit has been conducting a study to determine if re-establishing a commuter rail extension of the Raritan Valley Line to Phillipsburg is economically feasible.
Phillipsburg also is home to the Phillipsburg Railroad Historians museum. They display railroad memorabilia inside the museum, an "N" scale diorama, two Lehigh & Hudson River cabooses (one of which is currently being restored) and a Jersey Central caboose. There is a L&HR snow flanger, Tidewater tank car, a CNJ box car owned by the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society, a 1922 Chestnut Ridge Mack railbus owned by the Lehigh Valley NRHS, a Public Service trolley owned by the North Jersey Electric Railway Historical Society, a 44-ton GE locomotive and a 25-ton GE locomotive. They operate a miniature railroad, the Centerville & Southwestern, that formerly ran in Roseland, New Jersey.
Phillipsburg is governed under the Mayor-Council system of municipal government within the Faulkner Act, formally known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law, by a mayor and a five-member Town Council. Councilmembers are elected at-large in partisan elections to four-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with either three seats or two seats and the mayoral seat up for election in odd-numbered years.
As of 2016[update], the Mayor of Phillipsburg is Democrat Stephen R. Ellis Jr., whose term of office ends December 31, 2019. Town Council members are Council President Robert 'Bobby' Fulper (R, 2021), Council Vice President Danielle DeGerolamo (R, 2021), Joshua Davis (D, 2019), Mark Lutz (D, 2019), and Frank McVey (R, 2021).
In 2018, the town had an average property tax bill of $4,387, the lowest in the county, compared to an average bill of $6,982 in Warren County and $8,767 statewide.
Warren County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders whose three members are chosen at-large on a staggered basis in partisan elections with one seat coming 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 Freeholder Director and other as Deputy Director. As of 2014[update], Warren County's Freeholders are
Freeholder Director Edward J. Smith (R, Asbury / Franklin Township, 2015),
Freeholder Deputy Director Richard D. Gardner (R, Asbury / Franklin Township, 2014) and
Freeholder Jason Sarnoski (R, Lopatcong Township, 2016). Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are
County Clerk Patricia J. Kolb (Blairstown Township),
Sheriff David Gallant (Blairstown Township) and
Surrogate Kevin O'Neill (Hackettstown). The County Administrator, Steve Marvin, is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operation of the county and its departments.
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 7,681 registered voters in Phillipsburg, of which 2,496 (32.5% vs. 21.5% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 1,510 (19.7% vs. 35.3%) were registered as Republicans and 3,665 (47.7% vs. 43.1%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 10 voters registered to other parties. Among the town's 2010 Census population, 51.4% (vs. 62.3% in Warren County) were registered to vote, including 69.2% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 81.5% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 2,487 votes (56.6% vs. 40.8% countywide), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 1,751 votes (39.8% vs. 56.0%) and other candidates with 88 votes (2.0% vs. 1.7%), among the 4,394 ballots cast by the town's 7,730 registered voters, for a turnout of 56.8% (vs. 66.7% in Warren County). In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 2,673 votes (54.8% vs. 41.4% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 1,983 votes (40.6% vs. 55.2%) and other candidates with 116 votes (2.4% vs. 1.6%), among the 4,879 ballots cast by the town's 7,636 registered voters, for a turnout of 63.9% (vs. 73.4% in Warren County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 2,412 votes (49.8% vs. 37.2% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 2,324 votes (48.0% vs. 61.0%) and other candidates with 66 votes (1.4% vs. 1.3%), among the 4,842 ballots cast by the town's 7,176 registered voters, for a turnout of 67.5% (vs. 76.3% in the whole county).
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 63.8% of the vote (1,667 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 33.6% (879 votes), and other candidates with 2.6% (68 votes), among the 2,694 ballots cast by the town's 7,909 registered voters (80 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 34.1%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 1,321 votes (44.1% vs. 61.3% countywide), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 1,159 votes (38.7% vs. 25.7%), Independent Chris Daggett with 365 votes (12.2% vs. 9.8%) and other candidates with 77 votes (2.6% vs. 1.5%), among the 2,994 ballots cast by the town's 7,437 registered voters, yielding a 40.3% turnout (vs. 49.6% in the county).
As of the 2014-15 school year, the district and its seven schools had an enrollment of 3,008 students and 323.0 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 9.3:1. Schools in the district (with 2014-15 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are
Early Childhood Learning Center (Grades PreK-K; 501 students),
Phillipsburg Primary School (1-2; consolidated from Barber with 216 and Freeman with 208),
Phillipsburg Elementary School (3-5; consolidated from Andover with 259 and Green with 360),
Phillipsburg Middle School (6-8; 548) and
Phillipsburg High School (9-12; 1,631). The Phillipsburg High School Stateliners have an athletic rivalry with neighboring Easton, Pennsylvania's Easton Area High School, which celebrated its 100th anniversary game on Thanksgiving Day 2006. In 2009, the 1993 teams from the Easton P-Burg Game met again for the Gatorade REPLAY Game to resolve the game, which ended in a 7-7 tie, with more than 13,000 fans watching as Phillipsburg won by a score of 27-12.
^Raum, John O. The History of New Jersey: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume 1, p. 272, J. E. Potter and company, 1877. Accessed June 13, 2013. "Phillipsburg is on the Delaware directly opposite Easton in Pennsylvania. The city of the same name is divided into three wards. The population in 1860 was 3,741 and in 1870 5,932." Note that the 1860 population is for Phillipsburg Township, which was renamed to Lopatcong Township.
^Phillipsburg / Easton Transportation Hub Early 20th Century, Morris Canal Greenway. Accessed December 7, 2015. "The real impetus for the industrial development of Warren County was the construction of the railroads... As all of these railroads passed through Phillipsburg, the town became a gateway to the west."
^Urban Enterprise Zone Tax Questions and Answers, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, May 2009. Accessed October 28, 2019. "In 1994 the legislation was amended and ten more zones were added to this successful economic development program. Of the ten new zones, six were predetermined: Paterson, Passaic, Perth Amboy, Phillipsburg, Lakewood, Asbury Park/Long Branch (joint zone). The four remaining zones were selected on a competitive basis. They are Carteret, Pleasantville, Union City and Mount Holly."
^ abAbout PSD, Phillipsburg School District. Accessed June 1, 2016. "The district serves students from the Town of Phillipsburg and five sending communities at the secondary level: Alpha, Bloomsbury, Greenwich, Lopatcong and Pohatcong Townships."
^Patrick, Dick. "High school rivals are like family", USA Today, September 21, 2005. Accessed August 17, 2012. "Phillipsburg (N.J.)-Easton (Pa.): The game, played on Thanksgiving morning at Lafayette College in Easton, will celebrate 100 years in 2006."
^Conover, Allan. "Phillipsburg beats Easton in Gatorade Replay football", Warren Reporter, April 29, 2009. Accessed August 17, 2012. "For almost three toasty hours earlier in the day, however, Wargo had been among the most prominent Phillipsburg football players in Lafayette College's Fisher Stadium and was a key performer in the Stateliners' 27-12 triumph over Easton as 13,350 sun-baked spectators looked on. Wargo, a tackle, was selected as the game's 'Outstanding Defensive Player,' an honor he never gave a thought to while helping the 'Exliners' win the rematch of the 1993 Thanksgiving Day battle which ended in a 7-7 stalemate."
^F.A.Q., Ridge and Valley Charter School. Accessed November 14, 2016. "Enrollment is open, on a space available basis, to all K-8 students residing in N.J. with priority given to students residing in the districts of Blairstown, Hardwick, Knowlton, Frelinghuysen, and North Warren Regional School."
^Cummins, George Wyckoff. Did You Know?, Phillipsburg Area Historical Society. Accessed August 8, 2016. " The first important growth began with the building of the New Jersey Central railroad, which was completed on July 1st, 1852. On July 2nd the first passenger train of eight cars arrived amid great rejoicing."
^Head Coach Tom Brennan, University of Vermont, backed up by the Internet Archive as of September 7, 2008. Accessed March 14, 2011. "The 54-year old Brennan is a native of Phillipsburg, NJ who graduated as the all-time leading scorer at Phillipsburg Catholic High School."
^Kelly, Dennis. "Mayor Dislikes Phillipsburg Becoming Part Of N.Y. Area", The Morning Call, February 4, 1993. Accessed March 27, 2016. "Being counted as a New Yorker is fine with some in Warren County, but Phillipsburg's mayor cannot see the benefit. 'I was disappointed when I saw it,' Mayor Gloria Decker said of the federal government moving Warren County into the New York metropolitan area."
^Bell, Bill. "Long Live The Duke", New York Daily News, April 30, 1999. Accessed March 14, 2011. "He was born in Phillipsburg, N.J., where his father was a mill worker and his mother a waitress. He majored in journalism at New York University, and except for a brief flirtation with the Episcopal priesthood as a seminarian at the New York General Theological Seminary, he has worked as a writer and editor for about 25 years."
^Staff. "Life in the fast lane", Home News Tribune, March 14, 2003. Accessed March 14, 2011. Terry Kitchen's easy tuneful and contemplative folk sounds are sure to make for a warm evening of music wherever he plays. The Phillipsburg native is based in Boston these days and he's set to perform at the Mine Street Coffeehouse in New Brunswick tomorrow night..."
^Terry Kitchen's Home Page, accessed April 13, 2007. "Born in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Kitchen grew up first in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania..."
^Wojcik, Sarah M. "Phillipsburg honors posthumous Medal of Honor recipient, hometown hero Martin O. May", The Express-Times, May 2, 2009. Accessed March 14, 2011. "A decorated World War II hero from Phillipsburg will not be forgotten in his hometown after a ceremony officially dedicated a memorial in his name this afternoon. Martin O. May, Purple Heart and Medal of Honor recipient, died in April 1945 after a three-day standoff on an island near Japan's Okinawa. His courage inspired the Chapter 700 Military Order of the Purple Heart to install a memorial in his honor at Phillipsburg High School, where he attended as a member of the class of 1941."
^Robert B. Meyner, The Robert B. & Helen S. Meyner Center for the Study of State & Local Government, Lafayette College. Accessed March 14, 2011. "During his early childhood, Robert Meyner's family moved to Pennsylvania, and then to Phillipsburg and Paterson, New Jersey, and finally settled back in Phillipsburg in 1922, where the family lived in the house on Lincoln Avenue built by Robert Meyner's grandfather, Robert B. Meyner.... Robert Meyner was graduated from Phillipsburg High School in 1926, where he was class valedictorian and a member of the debating team."
^Jones, Joyce. "Creating Postcards Not Just for Tourists", The New York Times, July 12, 1992. Accessed October 28, 2007. "In his efforts to satisfy the public's penchant for nostalgia, Mr. Scheller met with a collector of Civil War memorabilia, Lou Reda of Phillipsburg, who introduced him to the Charles Fifer collection of photo plates, hand-colored by Currier & Ives in 1876."
^Longsdorf, Amy. "Valley actors have a hand in new DVDs", The Morning Call, April 11, 2012. Accessed June 14, 2012. "As a three-course meal is served, Chappell meets a struggling actor ("Friday Night Lights" star Jesse Plemons), entertains financial backers and flirts with the hat check girl (Phillipsburg native Yvonne Zima). Zima, 23, has no more than a dozen lines but she works wonders with them, managing to create a sparky, indelible character."