The North, South, Central Jersey Debate – How I got interested
You may wonder how a fellow from Staten Island has become so intrigued by the differences between regions of New Jersey and this long running Jersey debate. I guess it started early in my life since we could see much of Monmouth County from our dining room window. Just across Raritan Bay were Sandy Hook, Atlantic Highlands, the ammunition pier in Leonardo and water tanks in Keyport and Keansburg. My grandparents had a summer home along a lagoon in the Shore Acres section of Brick Township. Occasionally, we shopped in Perth Amboy or Menlo Park, usually getting there via the Outerbridge Crossing but occasionally taking a small ferry that ran between Perth Amboy and Tottenville on Staten Island.
Later I attended Rutgers College (which now goes by some other designation) in New Brunswick. Within my first month at Rutgers, I took a bus ride to Princeton to witness Rutgers beat the Tigers in the traditional football rivalry. At that time, there wasn’t much development on Route 1 between the Route 130 traffic circle in North Brunswick and the turn on Washington Road to Princeton. I did, however, see signs for Walker-Gordon Farm where my dad had occasionally taken us to see the cows getting milked on the rotolactor.
I spent many hours rowing up and down the Raritan River past portions of New Brunswick, Highland Park, Edison, East Brunswick, South River, Sayreville and Piscataway. As Rutgers was then an all men’s college, I had time to ponder questions such as “Why is North Brunswick south of New Brunswick?” and “How did the Delaware and Raritan Canal get from New Brunswick to Trenton?” Now I wonder “Why did the government spend millions of dollars to build a marina on the Raritan River in New Brunswick where there is very little water at low tide?”
Having worked through the summers with land surveyors, I developed an interest in old maps. This interest continued after my graduation from Rutgers when I took a job as Assistant Engineer for Freehold Township. As the development of this area of Monmouth County had just started to escalate, the Engineering Department consisted of the Township Engineer, William B. Dickerson and me. As low man in the organization, I was introduced to the Hall of Records to research the deeds, maps and road returns necessary to perform property surveys.
In doing my research for a new roadway in the southern portion of Freehold Township, I was required to trace the chain of title back for over 100 years. I found two pieces of information that intrigued me. The first was that Monmouth County originally consisted of only three municipalities -Shrewsbury, Freehold and Middletown. The second fact was that there were, even in the 1970’s, parcels of land that had never been conveyed from the original grants from the King of England. Acquisition of these parcels for the Freehold area needed to come from the Proprietors of East Jersey. That name struck a chord. I remembered a white building in Perth Amboy that said something about Surveyor General or some such thing.
I then took a job with a consulting engineering firm, Charles J. Kupper, Inc., who assigned me to construction projects in Ocean, Middlesex and Monmouth Counties spanning from Tuckerton to Edison. The first week that I worked for them I found myself looking at a sewer installation in front of my grandparents old summer home. It made me feel connected to New Jersey.
There were some things that seemed odd about working in Ocean County. First, they didn’t have 7-11 convenience stores, they only had these places called WaWas. Also, I had now crossed the line into the 609 area code.
I then took a job as Municipal Engineer for Princeton Borough and the North versus South Jersey issues cropped up more frequently. The most popular place in Princeton that made sandwiches on long Italian Bread was called Hoagie Haven, not Tastee or Edison Subs as I was accustomed to. Furthermore, I couldn’t get decent reception on my favorite New York based FM radio station – this was never a problem in New Brunswick or Edison. I even heard rumors that Princeton University had been known as the northern most southern university in the United States. I new as a Rutgers graduate that I had venturied into enemy territory by taking a job just down the street from Nassau Hall, but had I strayed into a completely different culture?
The author, Carl E. Peters is one of fewer than 10 people licensed by the State of New Jersey as a Professional Engineer, Professional Land Surveyor, Professional Planner, Construction Official, Building Subcode Official and Plumbing Subcode Official. He is also a Certified Municipal Engineer and Mediator and founder of Carl E. Peters, LLC