Accessible by land, air and sea, the city of Elizabeth is New Jersey’s fourth-largest city. With a population of more than 124,969 (2010 Census), Elizabeth serves as the Union County seat. This bedroom community is located 20 miles southwest of New York City, situated on Newark Bay, connected to Staten Island by the Goethals Bridge.
More than 50 countries and 37 language groups are represented within Elizabeth’s diverse community. The city is a regional center given its easy access to Newark Liberty International Airport, the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, Routes 1, 9, 22, and Manhattan. In addition, Elizabeth boasts two New Jersey transit train stations that travel to New York City and the rest of the state. Currently, plans are under way for a light rail link and a ferry service to New York.
The city of Elizabeth is considered the first English-speaking settlement in what is now New Jersey. In 1664, the Native Americans of Staten Island sold a large parcel of land cradled between the Raritan and the Passaic rivers, stretching westward from Newark Bay. The purchased land, about 500,000 acres, reached about 34 miles between the two rivers and 17 miles west of Newark Bay. A group of English settlers bought the land as a group called the Elizabethtown Associates. Elizabethtown is believed to be named in honor of the wife of Sir George Carteret in 1665. The town officially became Elizabeth in 1855 upon its incorporation. With a thriving population of 700, Elizabethtown became the first capital of the state of New Jersey. In 1665, Phillip Carteret (a relative of Sir George Carteret) was appointed the first governor of New Jersey. He resided in Elizabethtown.
A dispute over who actually owned the property of Elizabethtown’s location, Sir George Carteret or the Elizabethtown Associates, was not settled for years.
Elizabeth’s history is highlighted by a number of “firsts”: In 1746, the first charter to a college in the state of New Jersey was granted, now Princeton University; Dr. Paul Micheu is believed to be the first to teach medicine with lessons in anatomy, in 1794; in 1842, Elizabethtown had the first Jewish mayor in the nation, David Naar; and the first ice cream soda is claimed to have been made by Phillip Mohr at Fulton and First streets in Elizabethtown. One of the first car companies began in Elizabeth, the Electrobat, manufactured by Electric Carriage and Wagon Co. It was the nation's first successful electric car.
The first major industry in Elizabeth was the Singer Sewing Machine Co. Today Elizabeth’s economy is anchored in transportation, shipping, industrial and retail sales. The Port Newark/Elizabeth’s marina terminal spreads over 2,000 acres and provides more than 150,000 jobs. The marina terminal is reported to be the world’s largest container-ship port and the largest Foreign-Trade Zone in the nation.
Elizabeth’s Jersey Garden Mall (the state's largest shopping mall) has drawn more than 15 million visitors. The mall is home to Saks, Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and The Gap. Elizabeth is New Jersey’s largest Urban Enterprise Zone, an important plus for savvy shoppers. Stores that participate can charge half of the normal sales tax of New Jersey. And in New Jersey, there is no sales tax on clothing.
Elizabeth offers a number of interesting historical sites, from the soaring twin spires of Saint Patrick’s Church of Elizabeth, to the historic Art Deco Hersh Tower constructed during the peak of The Depression as Union County’s tallest skyscraper. Another Art Deco masterpiece is the beautifully restored Ritz Theatre, built in 1926. Other historical landmarks include Boxwood Hall, former residence of Elias Boudinot, president of the Continental Congress, and Jonathan Dayton, the Constitution’s youngest signer. The last remaining original Royal Governor’s mansion in the country, Belcher Ogden Mansion, former home of Royal Gov. Jonathan Belcher, is located in Elizabeth.
Hundreds of thousands are drawn annually to Elizabeth’s colorful