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Hillside was incorporated as a township on April 3, 1913, from portions of Union Township, based on the results of a referendum held on April 29, 1913. The township was named for the surrounding hills.
The township is split between area codes 908 and 973.
Hillside was created from parcels of land carved out of neighboring Newark, Elizabeth, and Union. It originally contained the farms of Woodruff, Conant and Saybrook. Local streets still bear their names.
The Hillside Historical Society was established in the 1980s in the Woodruff home on Conant Street, perhaps the township's oldest. The Woodruff House and Eaton Store Museum is operated and maintained by the Hillside Historical Society. Purchased by the Society in 1978, the house has been faithfully restored to its original grandeur. The Woodruff House spans three centuries in one structure, including the original 1735 building, the 1790 addition, the 1890s kitchen and the 1900s store. The society has also added to the grounds an authentic post and beam barn, a Phil Rizzuto and All Sports Museum honoring the Hillside legend as well as an archive to house the many documents the society has obtained over the years.
Jean-Ray Turner, a reporter for the Elizabeth Daily Journal, wrote Along the Upper Road in the 1970s, a book of the history of Hillside.
Hillside has been the home of Bristol-Myers Squibb. Lionel Trains were manufactured from 1929 to 1974 at a factory located in Hillside that employed as many as 2,000 employees. The town thrived for decades and reached an economic peak in the 1960s. Blue collar workers who lived primarily in the central part of town were employed in local manufacturing concerns. White collar workers established the neighborhood known as Westminster where Yankee shortstop and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto lived for most of his adult life, until his death. That section of town also included the private Pingry School for boys (which left the township) and is now the East Campus of Kean University.
In the 1950s and 1960s the township was approximately one-half Jewish, many of whom lived either in Westminster or in the area of Hillside near Chancellor Avenue, adjacent to the Weequahic section of Newark, which was the early home of comedian Jerry Lewis and writer Philip Roth (Portnoy's Complaint).
In the early 1950s the township established Conant Park, its largest. The park is bounded by the Elizabeth River and Conant Street. At the rear area of the park near Pingry School was the boundary of the Kean Estate, the boyhood home of Governor Thomas Kean (1982-1990). The wealthy Kean family also donated the land on Morris Avenue and helped to establish Newark Normal College in 1885, which was renamed Kean College, and later Kean University, in the family's honor. Also in the 1950s the Town Hall, Police Headquarters and Municipal Library were constructed at the corner of Liberty and Hillside Avenues.
Township organizations include Rotary International, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Elks, the Hillside Industrial Association, the Hillside Business and Professional Women's Club, the Republican Club and the Democratic Club, as well as a number of ethnic clubs and associations.
In 1991, police from both Hillside and Newark fired nearly 40 shots at a van that had rammed a Hillside police vehicle after a high-speed chase. The pursuit had started after the van had been reported stolen at gunpoint in Newark and was being followed by three Newark police cars before crossing into Hillside. Two of the people inside the vehicle were killed and four of the five other passengers were wounded, though the Union County Prosecutor indicated that there was no clear explanation for why the police had started shooting. The Reverend Al Sharpton held a rally outside Town Hall on Hillside Avenue demanding that the police officers involved in the shootings should be prosecuted for their actions.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 2.761 square miles (7.150 km2), including 2.750 square miles (7.122 km2) of land and 0.011 square miles (0.028 km2) of water (0.39%).
The township is located on the northern edge of Union County and is bordered to the northwest by Irvington and to the north and northeast by Newark, both in Essex County. Elizabeth borders Hillside to the east and southeast, while Union borders to the west.
There were 7,112 households out of which 33.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.7% were married couples living together, 22.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.2% were non-families. 18.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.01 and the average family size was 3.41.
In the township, the population was spread out with 23.7% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 27.9% from 45 to 64, and 11.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.0 years. For every 100 females there were 86.8 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 84.3 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $55,520 (with a margin of error of +/- $5,760) and the median family income was $67,492 (+/- $5,643). Males had a median income of $44,421 (+/- $3,088) versus $42,927 (+/- $4,392) for females. The per capita income for the township was $35,486 (+/- $3,349). About 9.4% of families and 11.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.7% of those under age 18 and 13.3% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 United States Census there were 21,747 people, 7,161 households, and 5,578 families residing in the township. The population density was 7,793.6 people per square mile (3,009.5/km2). There were 7,388 housing units at an average density of 2,647.7 per square mile (1,022.4/km2). The racial makeup of the township was 40.03% White, 46.54% African American, 0.23% Native American, 3.45% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 5.26% from other races, and 4.41% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.50% of the population. As of the 2000 Census, an adjusted 11.2% of residents listed themselves as being of Portuguese ancestry, the third-highest in New Jersey among communities in which more than 1,000 residents recorded an ancestry group.
There were 7,161 households out of which 36.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.5% were married couples living together, 18.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.1% were non-families. 18.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.04 and the average family size was 3.45.
In the township the population was spread out with 25.6% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 30.3% from 25 to 44, 24.1% from 45 to 64, and 11.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.2 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $59,136, and the median income for a family was $64,635. Males had a median income of $39,439 versus $31,817 for females. The per capita income for the township was $21,724. About 3.2% of families and 5.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.4% of those under age 18 and 9.1% of those age 65 or over.
Portions of Hillside are part of an Urban Enterprise Zone, one of 27 zones in the state. In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the zone, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3.3125% sales tax rate (versus the 6.625% rate charged statewide, effective January 1, 2018) at eligible merchants. Established in 1996, the township's Urban Enterprise Zone status expires in August 2027.
Hillside is governed by the Faulkner Act (formally known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law), under Mayor-Council form of New Jersey municipal government (plan 4), as implemented as of July 1, 1997. The township is governed by a mayor and a seven-member Township Council. Four council members come from wards and three are elected at large, all elected to four-year terms in office on a staggered basis in non-partisan elections. The ward seats all come up for election together and the mayoral and at-large seats come up for vote together two years later. The council voted in August 2010 to shift municipal elections from May to November, to be held in conjunction with the general election.
As of 2018[update], the Mayor of Hillside is Dahlia O. Vertreese, whose term of office ends December 31, 2021. Members of the Township Council are Council President Andrea Hyatt (Ward 1, 2019), Council Vice President Gerald Pateesh Freedman (Ward 4, 2019), George L. Cook III (At-large, 2021), Nancy Mondella (At-large 2021), Craig Epps (At-large, 2021), Donald DeAugustine (Ward 3, 2019), and Christopher D. Mobley (Ward 2, 2019), 
Union County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders, whose nine members are elected at-large to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis with three seats coming up for election each year, with an appointed County Manager overseeing the day-to-day operations of the county. At an annual reorganization meeting held in the beginning of January, the board selects a Chairman and Vice Chairman from among its members. As of 2014[update], Union County's Freeholders are
Chairman Christopher Hudak (D, Linden, term ends December 31, 2014),
Vice Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh (D, Roselle, 2015),
Bruce Bergen (D, Springfield Township, 2015),
Linda Carter (D, Plainfield, 2016),
Angel G. Estrada (D, Elizabeth, 2014),
Sergio Granados (D, Elizabeth, 2016),
Bette Jane Kowalski (D, Cranford, 2016),
Alexander Mirabella (D, Fanwood, 2015) and
Vernell Wright (D, Union, 2014). Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are
County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi (D, Union, 2015),
Sheriff Ralph Froehlich (D, Union, 2016) and
Surrogate James S. LaCorte (D, Springfield Township, 2014). The County Manager is Alfred Faella.
On March 23, 2011, there were 11,991 registered voters in Hillside Township, of whom 6,196 (51.7% vs. 41.8% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 685 (5.7% vs. 15.3%) were registered as Republicans and 5,109 (42.6% vs. 42.9%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There was one voter registered to other parties. Among the township's 2010 Census population, 56.0% (vs. 53.3% in Union County) were registered to vote, including 73.4% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 70.6% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 8,059 votes (86.4% vs. 66.0% countywide), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 1,186 votes (12.7% vs. 32.3%) and other candidates with 23 votes (0.2% vs. 0.8%), among the 9,323 ballots cast by the township's 12,982 registered voters, for a turnout of 71.8% (vs. 68.8% in Union County). In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 7,908 votes (83.3% vs. 63.1% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 1,491 votes (15.7% vs. 35.2%) and other candidates with 33 votes (0.3% vs. 0.9%), among the 9,492 ballots cast by the township's 12,766 registered voters, for a turnout of 74.4% (vs. 74.7% in Union County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 6,415 votes (77.7% vs. 58.3% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 1,737 votes (21.0% vs. 40.3%) and other candidates with 41 votes (0.5% vs. 0.7%), among the 8,257 ballots cast by the township's 11,702 registered voters, for a turnout of 70.6% (vs. 72.3% in the whole county).
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Democrat Barbara Buono received 67.8% of the vote (3,362 cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 31.6% (1,564 votes), and other candidates with 0.6% (31 votes), among the 5,370 ballots cast by the township's 12,816 registered voters (413 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 41.9%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 4,236 ballots cast (77.1% vs. 50.6% countywide), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 1,085 votes (19.8% vs. 41.7%), Independent Chris Daggett with 102 votes (1.9% vs. 5.9%) and other candidates with 32 votes (0.6% vs. 0.8%), among the 5,492 ballots cast by the township's 12,413 registered voters, yielding a 44.2% turnout (vs. 46.5% in the county).
The Hillside Public Schools serve students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. As of the 2011-12 school year, the district's six schools had an enrollment of 3,100 students and 259.7 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student-teacher ratio of 11.94:1. Schools in the district (with 2011-12 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are
A.P. Morris Early Childhood Center (grades PreK-1; 642 students),
Calvin Coolidge Elementary School (grade 2; 199),
Hurden Looker School (grades 3-4; 494),
George Washington School (grade 5; 245),
Walter O. Krumbiegel Middle School (grades 6-8; 659) and
Hillside High School (grades 9-12; 861). Hillside High School on Liberty Avenue was originally constructed in 1941, replacing the Coe Avenue (A.P. Morris) School which became a grammar school. Additions were later added to accommodate the baby-boomers of the 1950s and 1960s. In the mid-sixties the high school held some 1,500 students.
Catholic grammar schools included Christ the King on Columbia Avenue and St. Catherine of Siena School in Elizabeth on North Broad Street until the two were merged in 2004 to form Hillside Catholic Academy with the students from both schools together at the facility on Bloy Street. The school was one of eight closed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark at the end of the 2011-12 school year, in the face of declining enrollment and rising expenses, part of a long-term reduction in the number of schools in the archdiocese, which had dropped to 112 from the 176 schools systemwide a decade earlier.
The Garden State Parkway, U.S. Route 22, and Interstate 78 pass through Hillside. A toll gate is located on the northbound lanes of the parkway, approaching the interchange for I-78. The New Jersey Department of Transportation finished a project that added previously unavailable connections with the 2010 completion of a ramp that lets vehicles heading south on the Parkway connect to Interstate 78 heading east, which followed a project completed in 2009 that allowed drivers heading north on the Parkway to access Interstate 78.
Marc Leepson (born 1945), journalist and historian, author of Saving Monticello, Flag: An American Biography and Desperate Engagement; editor of The Webster's New World Dictionary of the Vietnam War.
The Evergreen Cemetery was mentioned in Weird NJ for an incident in 1902, when after a downpour, bodies were found on the streets.
Hip hop artist Lauryn Hill mentions Hillside on her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. In the song "Every Ghetto, Every City," in which she describes her experiences growing up in New Jersey, she raps, "Hillside brings beef with the cops."
^Hatala, Greg. "Made in Jersey: Lionel trains - chuggin' around the Christmas tree", The Star-Ledger, December 24, 2013. Accessed December 24, 2013. "A plant was built in Hillside in 1929 exclusively to manufacture toy trains; business grew so much that the factory was expanded in 1940, 1941, 1950 and again in 1952. At its peak, the factory employed more than 2,000. Lionel Trains were produced independently from 1901 to 1969, when the rights to the product line were sold to General Mills following Lionel's bankruptcy. Continuing financial difficulties led to the closing of the Hillside plant in 1974."
^Business & Meetings, Kean University. Accessed October 12, 2013.Located in the renovated East Campus building, formerly the Pingry School, featuring a small kitchen and views of the Butterfly Garden."
^de Vries, Karl. "Hillside mayor starts campaign to force referendum on local elections", The Star-Ledger, September 15, 2010. Accessed May 14, 2013. "After Hillside's council voted last month to move the township's local election from May to November, Mayor Joseph Menza is determined to put the measure to a public vote.... The council's decision to eliminate the spring election, which was first established as part of a 1996 referendum that also created the township's current form of government, shows a lack of respect for Hillside's residents, Menza said."
^Elizabeth Through the Ages, Elizabeth Historical Society. Accessed May 14, 2013. "In 1953 the school moved to North Avenue, a location now serving Kean University as its East campus. In 1983 Pingry School moved once more to a 193 acre site in Martinsville, New Jersey, where it continues today."
^Levy, Clifford J."Rizzuto's the Talk of the Town", The New York Times, July 30, 1994. Accessed December 13, 2018. "'This is a small town, who else we got?' asked Charlie Decker, 61, a drinking mate of Mr. Ciesla's who disagreed with his views on Mr. Rizzuto. 'Him, and we had William Bendix, the actor, and that woman who picks the numbers from the bucket in the New Jersey lottery.'"
^Bolick, Clint. "Remedial Education (Clint Bolick)", Center for Education Reform. Accessed July 5, 2017. "I grew up in Hillside, a suburb of Newark, in a single-parent, working-class family. In 1975, Hillside High School graduated me with enough skills to secure a scholarship at an excellent college and go on to a successful career in law and public policy."
^Staff. "A great day in Newark: Who's who", The Star-Ledger, November 22, 2000. Accessed May 14, 2013. "DJ Mr. Len (Leonard Smythe): Smythe, of Hillside is a member of the avant-garde New York group Company Flow, whose best-known release is 1997's Funcrusher Plus.".
^Murphy, Austin. "On the Periphery: Xavier Munford", Popgates, December 17, 2015. Accessed February 8, 2016. "Point guard by way of Hillside, New Jersey, Munford played for St. Benedict's Prep before making his way through the junior college system at Miami-Dade College and Iowa Western College, eventually landing at Rhode Island as a junior."
^Staff. "Nicholas Reade, 62", Courier News, November 20, 1984. Accessed January 8, 2018. "Nicholas Reale, a distinguished water colorist who was named New Jersey Artist of the Year in 1969, died Sunday (Nov. 18, 1984) at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.... Mr. Reale was born in Newark and had lived in Hillside for the past 35 years."
^Staff. "Studeny Most Outstanding Comet Athlete In Years", The Hillside Times, July 2, 1959. Accessed January 8, 2018. "Hillside High School's most outstanding athlete in many years, who graduated last month, was Dan Studney, and he can prove it.... Participating in three sports -- track, football and wrestling -- Studeny climaxed a brilliant track career in his senior year."
^Staff. "People in the News: School will honor Wilf", Hillside Leader, December 12, 1991. Accessed December 27, 2017. "Hillside resident Harry Wilf will be awarded in honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Yeshiva University's 67th annual Hanukkah Convocation and Dinner Dec. 15 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York."
^"The Hillside Cemetery Spill of 1902", Weird NJ. Accessed May 14, 2013. "A torrential downpour in August of 1902 caused the Spring Garden Brook in Madison to overflow, having enough momentum to break up the drainage ditches the flash flood ran through Hillside Cemetery on Main Street and washed out 59 graves."