1700s: Tradesman Daniel Sayre built a home near what became known as Shallcross Pond, one of several local ponds that formed in gullies left behind by an Ice Age glacier. The other ponds – including Jackson’s Pond (located where David Brearley Middle/High School now stands), Hiller’s Pond (situated where St. Theresa’s School now is) and Station Pond (located in the northeast area of town) – no longer exist. Daniel Sayre used water from a nearby stream to cure leather. The home is believed to have later belonged to Sayre’s grandson, a soldier in the U.S. Continental Army. It is Kenilworth’s oldest surviving structure.
Another of the area’s pre-Revolutionary farmhouses, the Higgins home, was built on the old Galloping Hill Road. It was the birthplace of J. Wallace Higgins, who later designed Kenilworth’s original Master Plan. The home was demolished in the 1930s.
Tin Kettle Hill, a prominent 186-foot landmark located in the northeast area of Kenilworth, was designated by Gen. George Washington as a key beacon hill during the Revolutionary War for alerting soldiers in the heights above Springfield that the British were on the move. The Springfield troops would, in turn, fire a cannon signaling the militia to prepare for battle. Between 1903 and 1906, the soil from Tin Kettle Hill was removed and used to elevate the tracks for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
1850: The Chestnut Grove School House was constructed near Black Brook Park.
1894: A group of real estate developers from Elmira, N.Y., formed the New Orange Industrial Association with the intent of purchasing and developing farmland in and around the area now known as Kenilworth. They hired local engineer J. Wallace Higgins to design a Master Plan for their real estate project that included wide thoroughfares, industrial zones, and connections with mass transit via trolley lines and a railroad, which later became known as the Rahway Valley Railroad. They referred to the project as “New Orange.”
1897: The New York and New Orange Railroad was constructed. It ran from the Jersey Central at Roselle Park into New Orange (Kenilworth), along the base of Tin Kettle Hill, then west. The railroad station at North 31st Street served at the turn of the century as the hub of community activity and as a backdrop for many movies, particularly Westerns. By 1903, the railroad was carrying approximately 50,000 passengers. In 1905, the railroad reorganized as the Rahway Valley Railroad and began servicing Springfield and Summit.
1898: The building boom in Kenilworth drew to the area such tradesmen as James Arthur, who contracted to build “a hundred homes in a hundred days.” Around this time, other well-known family names such as Hoiles, Knudson, Hiller, Gow, Grippo, Vitale, Amorosa and Rego also became established in Kenilworth.
Upsala College of Brooklyn, N.Y., accepted the New Orange Industrial Association’s offer of free land to any institution of high education and constructed a campus on College Hill, north of Oak Street. The college was instrumental to the community’s growth.
1899: The U.S. government established the New Orange Post Office.
1902: Construction began on McKinley School, which opened in Fall 1903.
1903: Union House Hotel was moved and later named the Kenilworth Inn. The Kenilworth Inn attracted famous people to the area, among them several New Jersey governors who awaited election returns there. The Inn housed in its stables the acclaimed Kensington Riding Academy, which hosted many prominent horse shows and rodeos.
1904: Some members of the New Orange Industrial Association formed a new corporation – Kenilworth Realty – and began referring to their real estate venture as “Kenilworth.” They derived the name from a literary society to which they belonged, called the Kenilworth club in honor of Sir Walter Scott’s renowned novel Kenilworth. Published in 1821, the novel relates to England’s famous Kenilworth Castle, which in 1563 was gifted by Queen Elizabeth I to her favorite suitor, Robert Dudley.
The First Baptist Church was formed in 1904 under the leadership of Rev. William Hawes and incorporated in 1910. At that time, church services were held in a building on the west side of North 8th Street, just south of Washington Avenue. A new church building at 225 North 8th Street was completed and dedicated in 1972.
1905: The “New Orange” post office was renamed Kenilworth Post Office. After moving numerous times, it found a permanent home on the Boulevard in 1965.
1906: Public Service Trolley began operating. The trip from Kenilworth to Roselle Park cost 5 cents. Elmer Guy, the community’s popular trolley line operator in the early 1900s, was widely known for his good deeds and is said to be the prototype for the conductor in the renowned Toonerville Trolley comic strip.
James Arthur, founder of the New Orange Park project, moved the homes he constructed in 1898 north of the Boulevard to the area on the south side of town that comprised Newark Avenue and was intended to be the Borough’s exclusive residential section. The homes were moved on greased wooden rails. Arthur created the New Orange Park Light and Water Company to serve New Orange Park. One of the two pillars that marked the entrance to the area still exists.
1907: On June 18, 1907, the Bill of Incorporation creating the Borough of Kenilworth and establishing the boundaries of Kenilworth, Cranford and Union was signed into law by N.J. Governor Stokes. In July, a provisional government was elected to run the Borough until elections were held the following November. In November, Charles C. Boyd was elected as the Borough of Kenilworth’s first mayor.
1912: The Kenilworth Fire Department was incorporated and subsequently purchased a horse-drawn hose carriage. Andrew Ogden served as the department’s first fire chief.
Woodmen of the World Building, which later was called Kasbarian Hall, served as Kenilworth’s municipal building until 1962.
1914: Kenilworth’s first policeman, William Tieman, was hired. Several other officers were hired subsequently, including Alfred Vardalis, who joined the force in 1920 and later was named police chief.
Construction began on the Kenilworth Methodist Church near the corner of Monroe Ave. and North 20th Street. After the congregation moved to a new building on the Boulevard in 1953, the building was occupied by the Assembly of God. Some years later it was demolished, and homes were built at the site.
1918: On Oct. 21, 1918, an explosion at the American Can Company artillery shell loading facilities on Monroe Avenue killed seven people and injured 30. The day is referred to as “the blackest day in Kenilworth history.”
1919: Rahway Valley Railroad ended regular passenger service due to the use of motor transit.
1920: The Fire Department, which until 1919 had been storing fire equipment in the barn of the Kenilworth Inn, purchased land on Washington Avenue and built a Fire House.
1921: Due primarily to the efforts of then-Mayor Oswald J. Nitschke, Union County extended the Boulevard to Springfield Avenue, Cranford, giving Kenilworth its first major artery. Around this time, Kenilworth bus service to and from Cranford and Roselle Park was established.
The Union County Bandits were captured in Kenilworth by Alfred Vardalis on Feb. 26, 1921, ending a three-month crime wave in the county. Vardalis was cited for bravery by the state and county.
1922: Alfred Vardalis was appointed Kenilworth’s first police chief.
1923: Warren G. Harding School was constructed next to McKinley School. It initially comprised nine classrooms and an auditorium with a balcony. A number of additions were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s. The final wing was built to replace McKinley School, which was demolished in 1964.
1924: Upsala College moved from Kenilworth to East Orange, N.J.
1925: Union Baptist Church was constructed at the corner of North 13th Street and Sheridan Avenue. The church suffered two fires, one in the 1920s and a later more devastating one in 1965. Through the cooperation of Kenilworth business people and industrialists, principally the Rotary Club and Harold B. Snyder, Jr., a campaign was launched to rebuild the church. The new building, constructed on the foundation of the old one, was opened for worship in 1968.
Howard Anthony was appointed to the Kenilworth Board of Education. Anthony, a local coal dealer, was the first black man to serve on the Board of Education and reportedly was the first black member of any Board of Education in the history of Union County.
1927: The Kenilworth airfield that in 1925 was located across from Harding School and later was moved to the Boulevard near North 24th Street was officially declared a U.S. emergency landing field.
1928: Construction of St. Paul’s A.M.E. Church at 369 Monroe Avenue, which had begun in 1927, was completed.
1929: Famed aviator James Doolittle, who in 1942 won particular acclaim for his raid on Tokyo, crashed his plane on Faitoute Avenue in Kenilworth on the foggy night of March 14, 1929, while attempting an emergency landing at Kenilworth’s airfield. Doolittle credited the accident with reinforcing his commitment to finding a solution to all-weather flying. He later achieved this through the use of blind-landing instrumentation – a feat considered to be one of the aviator’s most notable aeronautical achievements.
1930: The sewer system was completed, aiding in the development of the Borough.
1936: The Kenilworth Public Library was constructed as a Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression.
The Arthur family was among many families to help construct the Kenilworth Gospel Hall on Arthur Terrace.
1939: The “Boomtown” housing development was started by the Blue Ridge Manor Development Company. The homes were designed to appeal to a lower price market.
1940: Disgruntled Kenilworth tax collector attempted to assassinate the Borough’s entire governing body on Jan. 1 1940. Former Mayor and Borough Clerk August Stahl was killed, and Kenilworth police officer Andrew Ruscansky was seriously wounded.
1942: St. Theresa’s Church opened on Washington Avenue. The site was sold and converted into a funeral home in the 1960s, when St. Theresa’s new house of worship at the corner of North 23rd Street and Washington Avenue was opened.
1955: Sir Cyril Davenport Siddeley, England’s Baron of Kenilworth, and his wife visited our Borough of Kenilworth.
1957: Kenilworth had a week-long 50th anniversary celebration in September.
The pharmaceutical firm Schering Corporation established operations in Kenilworth with the acquisition of White Laboratories Inc., a proprietary drug company that had occupied a site on Galloping Hill Road since the early 1950s. In 1971, Schering Corporation merged with the Memphis, Tenn.-based consumer products company Plough, Inc., to form Schering-Plough Corporation. Schering-Plough’s Kenilworth site serves as the corporate headquarters of this global science-based health care company, which is an active corporate citizen and a major supporter of the community.
1966: Newly constructed David Brearley High School opened as part of the Regional school system.
1974: Fire partially destroyed the Rahway Valley Railroad Station.
1982: Kenilworth celebrated its 75th anniversary, beginning in April and lasting through the summer.
1990: Honorary mayor of Kenilworth, England, Michael Coker and his wife, and Mr. and Mrs. John Wagstaff (also prominent citizens from the area) visited our Borough of Kenilworth.
1993: David Brearley Regional High School was closed by the Regional board.
1996: In May, Kenilworth residents voted to deregionalize, with the intent of reopening David Brearley as an independent school. The Union County Regional High School District subsequently was dissolved.
1997: David Brearley Middle/High School reopened.
2002: Kenilworth implemented a downtown beautification program and in June celebrated the 95th anniversary of the Borough’s incorporation.
2003: The Kenilworth Historical Society moved the 19th-century Nitschke House, former home of the late Mayor Oswald J. Nitschke, from its site at the corner of the Boulevard and South 21st Street to a piece of land next to the Kenilworth Veterans Center memorial park on South 21st Street. The Society intends to restore the home and transform it into a “living history” museum and cultural arts center.
2006: The Kenilworth VFW Post 2230 celebrated its 75th Anniversary on Oct. 7 with an extensive parade followed by dedication ceremonies for the redesigned and newly landscaped Memorial Park at the Kenilworth Veterans Center. Kenilworth Mayor Gregg David appointed a Centennial Committee to plan for the Borough’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2007.
2007: Kenilworth held a yearlong Centennial Celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the Borough’s incorporation. A full calendar of events, planned and coordinated by a Centennial Committee, included a Kickoff Dinner, Grand Centennial Parade and Community Picnic, Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration and many other festivities throughout the year.