Caldwell is a borough located in northwestern Essex County, New Jersey, about outside of New York City. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 7,822, reflecting an increase of 238 (+3.1%) from the 7,584 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 35 (+0.5%) from the 7,549 counted in the 1990 Census.
Caldwell was incorporated as a borough by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on February 10, 1892, from portions of Caldwell Township (now Fairfield Township), based on the results of a referendum held on the previous day. In 1981, the name was changed to the "Township of the Borough of Caldwell" to take advantage of federal revenue sharing policies. Effective January 26, 1995, it again became a borough.
Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, and the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, was born in Caldwell on March 18, 1837. His father, Rev. Richard Cleveland, was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. The Grover Cleveland birthplace — the church's former rectory — is now a museum and is open to the public.
Though today the Caldwell area is considered to be a suburb of both Newark and New York City, the area originally developed as its own individual, self-contained town and economy rather than as urban sprawl from a larger city. When it was formed, a few miles of woods separated downtown Caldwell from Newark or any of its developing suburbs.
New Jersey Monthly magazine ranked Caldwell as its 3rd best place to live in its 2010 rankings of the "Best Places To Live" in New Jersey.
In 1702, settlers purchased the Horseneck Tract from the Lenni Lenape Native Americans for goods equal to $325. This purchase encompassed much of western Essex County, from the First Mountain to the Passaic River. Caldwell is located in the center of the Horse Neck Tract. Settlement began about 1740 by Thomas Gould and Saunders Sanders.
The Horseneck Tract consisted of modern day Caldwell, West Caldwell, North Caldwell, Fairfield, Verona, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Roseland, and portions of Livingston and West Orange. This land was part of the larger purchase and referred to as the Horse Neck Tract until February 17, 1787, when the town congregation voted to change the name to Caldwell, in honor of the Reverend James Caldwell who pushed for their organization’s creation.
Caldwell Township contained what is today the towns of West Caldwell and Caldwell. Soon after, the area of Caldwell Township just to the east of Caldwell Borough between Caldwell Borough and Montclair (present-day Verona and Cedar Grove) decided to follow Caldwell's lead and incorporated itself as its own borough, Verona. Some of the already-developed eastern neighborhoods of Caldwell Township chose to become part of Montclair, as it was a rapidly-developing suburb of Newark and Paterson. At around the same time, the area north of Caldwell Borough became its own town, North Caldwell. The wooded area directly to the south of downtown Caldwell Borough became Essex Fells. Meanwhile, the farmland to the south of the western portion of Caldwell township attempted to become its own municipality known as South Caldwell. This failed, as much of developed sections of that area lied on its southernmost and easternmost borders, along the expanding Newark suburbs of Livingston and West Orange respectively. Those areas were engulfed by those two towns once they became incorporated municipalities of several small villages and developments.
This left only the most rural farmland south of Caldwell Borough and Essex Fells to become its own township, Roseland. At this point, all that remained of the original Caldwell Township was a large piece of undeveloped land in the northwestern-most part of Essex County. In 1963, Caldwell Township changed its name to Fairfield in order to avoid being confused with Caldwell Borough.
Immediately following the separation of the original Caldwell, the western part of Caldwell Borough generally remained less developed than downtown Caldwell Borough and contained several farms and a large area of undeveloped swampland known as Hatfield Swamp. However, two individual settlements, known as Franklin and Westville, soon formed in the western part of Caldwell Borough. As development increased and population grew in the western part of Caldwell, the town's more rural western population and more urban east often could not reconcile their differences. This led to the areas of Franklin and Westville consolidating into their own township known as West Caldwell in 1904, leaving only the one square mile of original downtown Horseneck development as the borough of Caldwell. Lewis G. Lockward was elected the first mayor of Caldwell. In 1929, a failed attempt to consolidate the three Caldwells was rejected by voters.