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.
Hillside was incorporated shortly after the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1910, and for that reason, the team nickname of Hillside High School is the "Comets." Several local businesses take the name "Comet" for the same reason.
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%).
Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the township include Lyons Farms and Saybrooke.
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.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Hillside has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.
The 2010 United States Census counted 21,404 people, 7,112 households, and 5,533 families residing in the township. The population density was 7,784.0 per square mile (3,005.4/km2). The township contained 7,536 housing units at an average density of 2,740.6 per square mile (1,058.2/km2). The racial makeup of the township was 34.75% (7,438) White, 53.19% (11,384) Black or African American, 0.22% (47) Native American, 2.73% (585) Asian, 0.03% (7) Pacific Islander, 6.22% (1,332) from other races, and 2.85% (611) from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 17.63% (3,774) of the population.
Out of a total of 7,112 households, 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, 23.7% of the population were 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 the census counted 86.8 males, but for 100 females at least 18 years old, it was 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 that was one of seven established by legislation in 1996. In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the zone, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3½% sales tax rate (versus the 7% rate charged statewide) at eligible merchants.
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 2016, the Mayor of Hillside is Angela R. Garretson, whose term of office ends December 31, 2017. Members of the Township Council are Council President Don DeAugustine (Ward 3, 2019), Council Vice President Andrea L. Hyatt (Ward 1, 2019), George "Tony" Alston Jr. (At-large, 2017), Gerald Pateesh Freedman (Ward 4, 2015), Christopher D. Mobley (Ward 2, 2019), Diane L. Murray (At-large, 2017; elected to serve an unexpired term) and Sip T. Whitaker (At-large, 2017).
In April 2014, Frank Deo resigned from a term of office expiring in December 2017, after having served 13 years on the Township Council. In the November 2014 general election, Murray was elected to serve the balance of Deo's term of office.
In the December 2013 runoff election, Angela Garretson was elected as mayor, while the three at-large seats were won by George Alston Jr., Frank Deo and Sip Whitaker.
Hillside is located in the 10th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 20th state legislative district. Prior to the 2011 reapportionment following the 2010 Census, Hillside had been in the 29th state legislative district.
New Jersey's Tenth Congressional District is represented by Donald Payne Jr. (D, Newark). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Cory Booker (D, Newark, term ends 2021) and Bob Menendez (D, Paramus, 2019).
For the 2016–2017 session (Senate, General Assembly), the 20th Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Raymond Lesniak (D, Elizabeth) and in the General Assembly by Jamel Holley (D, Roselle) and Annette Quijano (D, Elizabeth). The Governor of New Jersey is Chris Christie (R, Mendham Township). The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Kim Guadagno (R, Monmouth Beach).
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, 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.
A portion of Kean University is located in the Westminster section of Hillside, on the grounds of the former Pingry School.
As of May 2010, the township had a total of 48.48 miles (78.02 km) of roadways, of which 38.72 miles (62.31 km) were maintained by the municipality, 5.57 miles (8.96 km) by Union County, 3.47 miles (5.58 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and 0.72 miles (1.16 km) by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
Garden State Parkway, U.S. Route 22, and Interstate 78 are located in Hillside. A toll gate is located on the northbound lanes of the parkway, approaching the interchange for 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.
NJ Transit offers bus service to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan on the 114 route and to other New Jersey points. There is one train line that passes through the township but there are no stations. The Irvington Branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad breaks off of the mainline. The closest train stations are Union Station in Union, and North Elizabeth Station in Elizabeth.
Newark Liberty International Airport is approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Hillside.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Hillside include:William Bendix (1908–1964), actor (Lifeboat, Life of Riley), lived here in the 1930s.
Blanks 77, street punk band.
Marquis Cunningham (born 1989), finalist on So You Think You Can Dance.
Michael V. Gazzo (1923–1995), playwright (A Hatful of Rain) and Academy Award-nominated film actor (The Godfather Part II).
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.
Rollie Massimino (born 1934), college basketball coach, led Villanova to 1985 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship.
Jerron McMillian (born 1989), NFL safety for the Green Bay Packers.
Mr. Len (Leonard "Lenny" Smythe), hip-hop artist, former member of underground group Company Flow, current member Roosevelt Franklin.
Xavier Munford (born 1992), professional basketball player for the Memphis Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association.
Kendall Ogle (born 1976), 1999 draft pick of NFL's Cleveland Browns.
Robert Parham (born 1966), kickboxing former World Kickboxing Champion and actor.
Ralph H. Spanjer (1920–1999), U.S. Marine Corps Major General.
Tab Ramos (born 1966), footballer and member of the United States' 1990 and 1994 World Cup teams; Hillside was childhood home.
Phil Rizzuto (1917–2007), Hall of Fame baseball player and broadcaster; longtime Hillside resident.
Arthur Seale (born 1946), serving life sentence for 1980s kidnapping, murder of Exxon oil executive Sidney Reso.
Tame One (Rahem Brown), hip-hop artist, member of supergroup The Weathermen.
Zygi Wilf (born 1950), real estate developer, principal owner of NFL's Minnesota Vikings, and younger brother Mark Wilf, president of the Vikings.
Hela Young (1949–2002), Miss New Jersey 1971, New Jersey Pick 6 television host.
Dick Zimmer (born 1944), former member of the United States House of Representatives, Republican candidate for United States Senate in 1996 and 2008 (childhood home)
Hillside is the site of Evergreen Cemetery, known locally as the burial site of many Roma (or Gypsy) families and a number of notable writers, including:Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage
Mary Mapes Dodge, author of Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates
Edward Stratemeyer, creator of the Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Rover Boys, and Tom Swift series, among others
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."