Township of Winfield

About Winfield Township

General Information

Winfield Township is located in Union County. Winfield Township was incorporated as a township by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on August 6, 1941, from portions of Clark and Linden. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township population is 1,471. Winfield Park is located immediately off of exit 136 of the Garden State Parkway. Winfield and Linden share the same ZIP code (07036).

History

The Winfield Park Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Project (Project No. 28071) is a 700 unit development of 254 buildings that was originally planned and developed by and built for the defense workers of the Kearny, New Jersey, shipyards. At earlier stages Winfield Park was also known as the Rahway River Park Project; John T. Rowland served as the architect of the project. The Township is bordered on three sides by the Rahway River and Rahway River Park (which adds substantially to the park-like setting envisioned by the planners). Units range in size and type from single family homes to two story, two- and three-bedroom apartments; to one story two-bedroom apartments; and one-bedroom apartments, better known to residents as "bachelors." Within the town are located a Pre-K through 8th grade school, two-store shopping center and Senior Citizen Hall, Community Center, Mutual Housing Office and Garage, Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Squad Building, and Municipal Building/Police Office.

On June 30, 1941 – six days after the construction of Winfield Park had begun – Union County Assemblyman Pascoe presented a bill to the New Jersey Assembly establishing Winfield Township, New Jersey (originally the bill called for the establishment of Lindark, New Jersey). After presenting the bill Pascoe asked for, and received, a suspension of the rules so that the vote on the bill could follow its first reading. The bill passed the assembly 35 to 20, and was sent immediately on to the New Jersey State Senate, which also suspended its rules, and voted the bill through 14 to 0 on July 14, 1941. On July 21, 1941, Governor Charles Edison vetoed the bill returning it to the legislature with a letter chastising the members for approving a bill, which he believed was counter to the needs of the national defense program. In his view it was discriminatory towards defense workers; it did not consider the important passage of Title II of the Lanham Act by the Congress on June 28, 1941; it created an unprecedented "Federal Island" in the State of New Jersey; it failed to consider that the State's constitution would not permit Winfield's new residents to elect local governmental officials until they had resided in the town for at least one year; and ignored the fact that the passage of the bill violated the New Jersey's Constitution's specific guidelines concerning public announcements and opening hearings before a bill could be passed. Governor Edison's letter was read before the Legislature on July 28, 1941. At the reading's conclusion there was no debate; Assemblyman Pascoe once again asked for a suspension of the rules, and the veto was immediately overturned by a vote of 33 to 24. The bill was immediately sent to the Senate, which on the same afternoon also suspended its rules and overturned the Governor's veto by a vote of 11 to 5. Thus on July 28, 1941 Winfield Township, New Jersey was established. Forty Clark Township opposition leaders were present in Trenton, New Jersey on July 28, 1941 and celebrated Winfield's establishment in the halls of Capital building.

Winfield Township, New Jersey was a unique municipality in the United States. No other defense housing project had been established as a separate municipality. This unique status also created a number of unique problems. As the Elizabeth Daily Journal reported:

"Now Uncle Sam owns a town. Uncle Sam cannot tax himself or vote for himself. The occupants of houses cannot be taxed like a regular home owner and he has promised them low monthly charges, but with all the benefits of life in town."

But contrary to the opposition's hopes the construction of Winfield continued unabated, and in fact the establishment of Winfield Township resulted in the unforeseen positive effect of permitting the projects residents to control their own future and the eventual destiny of their community. Winfield's new residents would at first feel like second-class citizens, surrounded by hostile enemies. In what would seem to be a deliberately snide article entitled "County Clerk Places Winfield On His List," a local newspaper reported:

"Winfield has attained a modicum of recognition in these days of rebuffs and snubs among the powers. On all lists of municipalities required for records of official business in the office of County Clerk Henry G. Nulton it now appears with its rebellious neighbors, Clark and Linden, the other towns. The fact that it is at the bottom of the list, insisted Abraham Grosman, in charge of revising the list, is that it alphabetically falls there, wrestling last position from Westfield."

Winfield's official history, written in 1976, even begins with the following:

"Winfield, Winfield Park, Winfield Township, is a big title for the 'baby of Union County.' Most of us use the plain 'Winfield' address, simply because it is the quickest to write. People still say, 'Where's that?' However, after thirty-five years of the same question, we are accustomed to the remark. Sometimes the remarks that are given to our town, when a person knows where Winfield is are far harder to swallow than when he is ignorant of its location. Some of the milder titles are, 'barracks', or 'oh, those places.' We are so tiny, that even state and county cartographers sometimes forget to put us on their maps. Sure, we feel a bit miffed at times, but we then look across our 'Green Acres' and realize our blessing."

But this local community pressure also had the positive effect of forcing Winfield's residents to work together more closely, and form a more tightly knit community than could ever have been anticipated in the original site plan.

Historical Pictures

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