Will The Good Times Last?
Many may not think that much can occur in a
0.9 square mile Borough, yet in Jamesburg, in the year 2003, there has not been so much news and
changes since the time of James Buckelew. By comparing Jamesburg now to the Jamesburg of
yesteryear (late 1800s and all the years in between), it is fairly easy to determine, through
careful analysis, that Jamesburg is on the upswing and once again becoming a hub of activity,
volunteerism, and ingenuity. 2003 is one of Jamesburg's first shining years that will continue
Before we begin looking at what is happening right now, we must fully understand how Jamesburg
has achieved its present day status. To help you understand, it would be helpful to read
The History of Jamesburg. This web site
demonstrates both Jamesburg's history and present day status. The years between them are
somewhat blurry and unclear, also demonstrating some of Jamesburg's lowest and dreadful years.
It is here that a brief, but more complete history of Jamesburg will be examined. At the end,
some of the most recent events will also be identified and explained.
During the time of Mr. James Buckelew (1800s), Jamesburg went from a sleepy stop on the railroad
and was transformed into a bustling railroad, industrial, educational, and commerical hub for
central New Jersey. This transformation was made possible by investment and risks. The
investment turned out to be successful. Jamesburg was known for having some of the best mules,
the largest manufaturer of shirts, a stable National Bank, a railroad stop, and a school open
to ALL children. Jamesburg continued to prosper after Mr. Buckelew's death. However, near
the end of the ninteenth century, fires,
a changing economy, and the rise of the automobile led to a slowdown in the number of trains
coming through town daily. Jamesburg began to lose its economic importance and once again
transformed itself into a sleepy village with a main street and ocassional trains running
Jamesburg remained quiet through most of the early 1900s. It was thought that Jamesburg had
all it needed to survive. Jamesburg began offering high school classes in 1906 and built its
first high school building in 1911 (and a second in 1931). By 1909 Jamesburg was the hub of
high school education hub, serving Helmetta, Spotswood, Cranbury, Monroe, Madison (Old Bridge),
East Brunswick and South Brunswick Townships in southern Middlesex County, and Manalapan Township
in Monmouth County. New schools were built
in 1959 and 1968 to help modernize and replace the superb educational facilities at Jamesburg.
However, racial problems and "ghetto sections" developed in the late 1960s. Problems
escalated when the state police had to be called in to control the escalating tension between
white and African American residents. The town was barricaded and at some places, use of heavy
weaponry was threatened by locals. These were some of the darkest and less talked about times
in Jamesburg history. It was if Jamesburg had hit bottom and there was no immediate
improvement in sight.
Conditions in Jamesburg slowly improved during the 1970s and 1980s. Jamesburg was once again a quiet,
no frills community. In 1979, the Jamesburg High School closed due to low enrollment, further
demonstrating the decline in Jamesburg's importance. Many more houses appeared in Jameburg during this time.
Beaver Brook Run, Jamesburg's first townhouse development, was built and attracted many young
families, increasing the elementary school population dramatically. It was not enough to keep
the Jamesburg High School open however.
During the 1990s, a stronger economy and decreased inflation led to the beginning of
improvements. East and West Railroad Avenues were revitalized through a grant that was obtained
by Mayor Joe Tonkery. Despite the revitalization, Jamesburg lost many of its mom
and pop stores; Holman's and Jamesburg Pharmacies, Intravatolo's market, Perrine's Pontiac,
Baker's Office Supply, Leetronic's Video Store, Jamesburg Music, All Ocassions, the Kerwin
Agency, and other fine establishments over the years.
More recently, those empty storefronts have found new owners, eager to start a new business
in Jamesburg. Buildings have gone under total transformations in order to look clean
and modern. Perrine's Pontiac was transformed into an inviting "strip mall" featuring
a Dunkin' Donuts. Holman's Pharmacy is now home to Lisco's Country Cafe. The outside is
quaint and the inside is filled with history: the original tin ceilings and hardwood floors.
Although, with new times comes new problems. Jamesburg was 99% built up in 1990. One of the
last pieces of open space, across from Beaver Brook met its demise in 2002 when plans
were unveiled for another strip mall and office complex known as Renaissance Commons.
The historic 1910 Stoffler home was demolished earlier this year to make way for a CVS on the
corner of Forsgate Drive and Perrineville Road.
The Borough has seen many changes recently too. A new Borough Hall, another West Railroad
Avenue streetscape project, a cell phone ban, a much needed addition to the John F. Kennedy
Elementary School, a Borough Skate Park, and Jamesburg's first and second stoplights (third one
coming soon!) have all been established within the past five years. New traditions have also
begun under the cooperation of new and revived community groups. Jamesburg is once again
becoming a leader.
If one closely examines the current Borough status, it can be paralleled with the Buckelew era.
Jamesburg is once again prospering and enjoying a good economy. There is a renewed interest in
keeping Jamesburg alive well into the twenty-first century. The local government is
proactive in keeping Jamesburg moving in a positive direction. By examining the trends of
development over the years in Jamesburg, one may notice a pattern, or cycle begin. Originally, Jamesburg
went from being nothing but a tract of land with a grist mill to becoming very prosperous and important to the economy of central New
Jersey. Then came the age of the automonile and decline of the railroads. Jamesburg fell into a slump,
becoming a sleepy town and losing its status as a major
leader. More recently, Jamesburg has once again been moving towards renewal and rebirth.
This sense of renaissance is comprable to the status of Jamesburg in the 1800s. Yet, after
seeing this wave of activity, can we be sure that Jamesburg will remain like this? Will the
economy falter, taxes rise out of control, or politicians go corrupt? The future is uncertain.
By studying history, it can be seen that a cycle exists. There is a possibility that twenty
years from now, or even ten, Jamesburg may experience the wrath of the cycle again and fall
silently into the background of society. According to the research and trends, it is
inevitable. Yet, it can be slowed by smart planning, spending, and new initiatives. These
new initiatives are beginning now and can be seen throughout the Borough. Here are some of the
most recent projects:
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