Monroe Township is a township in Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 39,132, reflecting an increase of 11,133 (+39.8%) from the 27,999 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 5,744 (+25.8%) from the 22,255 counted in the 1990 Census.
Monroe Township was incorporated as a township by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 9, 1838, from portions of South Amboy Township, based on the results of a referendum held that same day. Portions of the township were taken to form East Brunswick Township (February 28, 1860), Cranbury Township (March 7, 1872) and Jamesburg (March 19, 1887).
Clearbrook Park (with a 2010 population of 2,667), Concordia (3,092 in 2010), Rossmoor (2,666 as of 2010) and Whittingham (2,476 in 2010) are census-designated places and unincorporated communities located within Monroe Township.
There are several age-restricted communities in the township. Despite major senior citizen growth, the median age in Monroe has changed from 52.5 in 1990, 58.9 in 2000 to 53.2 in 2010, meaning that more growth has been from single family homes in those 10 years, than with senior citizen developments.
Monroe Township was founded in 1838 and named in honor of the President of the United States James Monroe. For many decades, it was largely a farming community. After parts of the township grew into the more densely packed neighborhoods of Helmetta, Jamesburg, and Spotswood in the late 19th century, they seceded. Railroads came into Monroe from just about the very beginning, starting with the Camden and Amboy Rail Road in the 1830s and 1840s.
In 1905, Bernarr Macfadden, the proponent of physical culture, came to the part of Monroe near Helmetta and Spotswood, and attempted to set up a camp called "Physical Culture City", where he could teach his beliefs in relative peace. However, in 1907, Macfadden was arrested for distribution of what was in those times considered pornography and the camp dissolved. The area of this camp became the Outcalt neighborhood.
The New Jersey State Home for Boys, later the Training School for Boys, and now the New Jersey Training School for Boys was established near Jamesburg. It was opened in 1867 as a home for troubled youth; however, by the mid-20th century, its purpose was to incarcerate juvenile delinquents. One of the more famous residents of The State Home was Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band was a social worker there for many years during the 1960s before he found fame as a sax player with Springsteen.
The township became more suburban between 1960 and 1968, when the New Jersey Turnpike opened up Exit 8A in the western part of Monroe, in conjunction with the effort to develop the Leisure World age-restricted community of Rossmoor. Since then, at least five more communities for senior citizens have joined Rossmoor: Concordia, Clearbrook, Greenbriar at Whittingham, The Ponds, Encore, and the Regency at Monroe. More are under development.
At the same time, and over the next few decades, suburbs for people of all ages spread into the northern parts of Monroe Township, prompting the expansion of several schools and the construction of new ones. Since 1980, in addition to the age restricted communities, Monroe has added shopping centers, a synagogue, a recreation center, and a new library
Circa 1980 it was found that the Superfund Landfill which was located at the corner of what is now Spotswood Gravel Hill Road and Carnegie Street, contaminated the ground water which forced Outcalt residents to get municipal-supplied water.On March 22, 2006, ten residents of Monroe Township, from The Ponds retirement community, were killed in a tour bus accident in the Andes mountains in northern Chile. The tour had been arranged by the Jewish organization, B'nai B'rith. As Governor of New Jersey Jon Corzine put it,
"Today, all of New Jersey is stunned and saddened by the tragic accident in Chile that took the lives of lifelong friends — vibrant and beloved residents of a community in Monroe Township who chose to share the adventure of their twilight years together" (NY Times).Of the 12 people killed, one couple was from Stamford, Connecticut. The bodies that were recovered were flown back to Monroe Township for funerals on Sunday March 26, 2006.
Over the past years, Monroe has had a surge in residential development. New communities are being erected, usually around the Turnpike. Portions of Monroe's farmland are receiving commercial zoning. Roads have been widened to allow for the extra vehicular volume. Warehouses are being/have been constructed in the last few years along CR 535, located near the 8A toll gate. The northern section of the township is already developed, with developers heading further south in Monroe to start new communities. New adult communities have set ground in central Monroe, along Route 33, and on CR 615. While these new senior citizen housing units are being built, luxury homes are also being constructed. However, many senior citizens are opposed to these new construction plans since new homes would bring in more children, and therefore raise their school taxes.There is an ongoing expansion of the Monroe Township High School that is relocating it onto portions of Thompson Park. This project slowly received approval after an archaeological study concluded that the land was not historically significant, except about of land. The controversy that led to the study involved a Lenape settlement, Bethel Indian Town, which protesters contended existed on the site, whereas supporters of the move of the high school claimed that Bethel Indian Town was a half-mile away. In late April 2008, construction started of the new high school.
"By early 2008, the State Preservation Office and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection gave full sanction to the de-accession of the land as a protected park. Ground breaking began immediately, only to be halted in June of 2008 when additional remains were found. The consultant identified these stone foundation remains as a 19th-century farmstead, with no earlier association."The new high school opened in September 2011. The old high school building is now being reused as the middle school.
Monroe is planning on developing the area of land along Route 33 (Route 33 Land Development Task Force) all the way from the town line in East Windsor Township to Millstone Township. This proposal would include the construction of new luxury houses, a new grocery store, a baseball park, a performing arts center, a bus stop, new restaurants, and new businesses.
Along County Route 619, new developments are beginning to surge forward. This surge has led 619 to be widened as an avenue in anticipation for the future traffic. A proposed grocery store is planned to be built at the corner of Applegarth Road, and Halsey Reed Road/Federal Road (Extension). Along Federal Road, new luxury houses are being built and will extend south towards the village of Applegarth. Along the Millstone River will be a new high class development, called the Millstone Preserve. These new developments are under construction.