Summit has over 21,000 residents comprised of an international group speaking 39 languages with a broad economic and ethnic cross-section, largely mirroring the makeup of the nation as a whole. Housing is available to all levels of income including subsidized housing for senior citizens, and low- and middle-income families. Read the 2010 census information.
The region passed from Indian to Colonial possession by purchase on October 28, 1664 for "twenty fathoms of trading cloth, two made coats, two guns, two kettles, ten bars of lead and twenty handfuls of powder."
Summit's earliest settlers came here around 1710. Most of the founding fathers brought Puritan heritage from the British Isles, and from neighboring New England and Long Island. Finding a true paradise, the Summit area was abundant in timber for building cabins, rabbits for food and pelts, plentiful turkey, and a fertile valley for growing wheat and corn. The Passaic River was full of fish to eat and used to facilitate transportation and trade.
Where did Summit get its name?
In 1837, the railroad came over the "The Summit" hill, whose name was later shortened to Summit. During the Revolutionary period and for some time afterwards Summit was called the "Heights over Springfield" and was considered a part of New Providence. The original name of Summit was "Turkey Hill" to mark it apart from "Turkey," as New Providence was known until 1750.
In 1869, Summit separated itself from New Providence and became the "Township of Summit". Thirty years later on April 11, 1899, the City of Summit was incorporated. Read the City of Summit Charter (PDF).
From then to now
Originally, Summit was a cozy farming community populated by about 300 people until 1837. The community began to change from rural farming and milling to quasi-commercial. After the Civil War, Summit became a summer resort area because of its crisp, clean mountain air and convenient proximity to New York City. Summit attracted extremely wealthy people who built extensive summer estates.
The landscape has had a definite influence in the development of Summit. This tree-dense suburban community is nestled in the hills of the Watchung Reservation with six square miles of broken hills at a 450-foot elevation. Summit sits above Springfield, to the west of Millburn, and to the northwest, Chatham joins Summit to pinch the broad valley of the Passaic River.
Summit is a family-oriented residential community with light industry. Many Summit settlers and current residents have attributed significantly to the world's business, industrial, and government affairs. More importantly, their relentless dedication for volunteerism has made the Summit community a leader in civic mindedness. The governing body has sought out experts on economics, communications, education, government administration, physical and mental health, recreation, social planning, transportation and safety; all adding to the great growth of Summit, then and now.
Major transportation hub
Summit boasts numerous rail and bus links to Newark and Manhattan, Routes 24 and 78, the Garden State Parkway, and Newark-Liberty International Airport. Commuters find this thriving community a perfect place to settle. The Midtown Direct train is a 30-minute express ride to Penn Station. The City of Summit has numerous parking garages and ample parking for resident commuters and downtown employees.
Summit grows with the times
In 1925, way ahead of its time, Summit was the first city to bury utility wires underground. In 2000, the city's downtown business district underwent a complete utility infrastructure and beautification project. Upgrades were made to the underground utility wiring, pedestrian sidewalks were widened, street and sidewalk lighting was improved, and festive spaces for markets and special events with street-lined trees and seasonal plantings were created. Summit recognizes the importance of the downtown business district to the overall quality of life in the community and has implemented a Think Local First program to help keep Summit's local economy strong.
Summit's downtown business district is a tapestry of retail and commercial businesses with an abundance of specialty and gift shops, clothing stores, home furnishings, restaurants, bakeries, fine wine outlets, and ample parking all within short walking distances. Please be sure to visit and enjoy our downtown Summit. Visit the Summit Downtown, Inc. website for more information.
Education is a priority for Summit
Summit's schools - public, private, and parochial - have continually molded good and able young people with 92% of students going onto college, contributing a great deal to the community's development. Just recently, Summit High School was ranked the 6th best high school in the State of New Jersey. Many students return to live and raise a family in their home town of Summit.
Summit's public education system includes two (2) kindergarten primary centers and five (5) first through fifth grade elementary schools, Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School for grades six to eight, and Summit High School for grades nine through 12.
Arts, Environment, Recreational, & Cultural Enrichment
Summit offers a range of arts, environment, recreation and cultural programs, facilities, and events to engage and educate the community.
The Summit Boards of Recreation and Education, the Summit YMCA, the Connection, and many other non-profit organizations enable residents of all ages to participate in leisure and health-related programs. Summit has numerous playing fields to include baseball, football, soccer, basketball, tennis, running track and a 9-par golf course and a municipal pool.
Artistic and cultural traditions are strong in Summit, with its roots in the visual arts dating back to Worthington Whittredge, a painter of the Hudson River School who lived in Summit from 1880 to 1910. The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is a commitment to the arts offering cultural activities, ranging from art exhibits and jazz concerts to courses for budding artists. The Summit Free Public Library offers a diverse array of cultural readings, movies, special events, and free internet access for all ages.
For nature lovers, the Reeves-Reed Arboretum is a great place to visit with formal gardens and woodlands on its 12.5 acres site and is on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. Nature classes and seasonal events are available for both children and adults.
Summit is also diverse with an array of houses of worship providing churches for all and a definite spiritual life in the Summit community.
Overlook Hospital was founded in 1906 as a 30-bed private hospital on its present site. In 1914, Overlook became a public institution and now serves as one of the leading hospitals in the New York metropolitan area and a very integral public service to the Summit area.
The Grand Summit Hotel, originally known as the Blackburn, played an important role in drawing people to Summit for summer retreats in Summit's early years and continues to be a preferred dining and hotel destination.
The Summit Historical Society is housed in the town's oldest house built in 1747 located at 90 Butler Parkway which is also the home of the town archives.
The Summit Opera House was erected in 1894 as a "dry entertainment" hall and currently functions as multiple purpose business and entertainment venue.
Thanks for visiting Summit!
The "History of Summit" was formulated from the following sources:
E. Robin Little, Summit's Story (A Chronicle for the City of Summit on the Occasion of its Fiftieth Anniversary), City of Summit, April 11, 1949.
Edward S. Olcott, 20th Century Summit 1899 - 1999, Howell and Williams, Summit New Jersey, 1998.