NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - With centuries of history, the Hub City is home to all sorts of best kept secrets and quirky facts. Some of them are hiding in plain site, while others take a bit of digging to find out.
We’ve put together a list of what we think are the Top 10 fun facts you might not have known about the city where you live or work. But don’t let us stop you; if there’s anything you didn’t find on the list, and we bet there is, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, How the City Get its Name?
The word “Brunswick” is derived from the German language. There’s the city of Braunschweig, located in the German state of Lower Saxony. There’s also the Duchy of Brunswick-Luneburg, which is located in modern-day northern Germany. A number of towns and states across the world bear the name “Brunswick,” such as the Canadian province of New Brunswick.
And, of course, who doesn't know East Brunswick?
The current version of New Jersey’s Constitution was drafted during a days-long convention in 1947 in the Rutgers College Avenue Gym. Delegates from New Jersey’s 21 counties met at the gym over the hot summer to hammer out of the details. Let's assume they were dodging basketballs.
Port New Brunswick?
Nearly a century ago, barges and small boats would drop off and pick up goods at the docks of New Brunswick, as they traversed the Delaware and Raritan Canal to go back and forth between the Delaware River and Raritan Bay. The canals were abandoned eventually, though a portion of them reopened as Boyd Park, and another portion as the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, with one of the trails starting at the Landing Lane Bridge.
What is a Middlesex?
The name Middlesex County, which New Brunswick is a part of, first started popping up in the English language over a thousand years ago, and referred to southeast England, where one of the first Middlesex Counties was founded.
“Middlesex” referred to the land of the Middle Saxons, while Essex referred to the land of the East Saxons, Sussex referred to the land of the South Saxons and Wessex referred to the land of the West Saxons.
Following the federal 2010 Census, state officials convened in the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick to draw up new lines for New Jersey’s congressional districts. The commission was tasked with reducing the number of districts from 13 to 12, somehow navigating New Jersey's famous political waters.
The Healthcare City
The Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceutical Company was founded by Robert Wood Johnson I, along with his brother, Edward Mead Johnson, in the mid-19th century. Years later, Robert Wood Johnson II took the reins of the company, becoming its president and chairman of the board. You’re right to think the name sounds downright ubiquitous, In 1986, for example, the Middlesex General Hospital was renamed the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, in the family’s honor.
Laughing Stock of the Town
The Stress Factory Comedy Club has been a hosted to a great many comedians, who’ve either started at New Brunswick or passed through the city. They include comedians like Jim Nortan, Andrew Dice Clay, Drew Carey and Chris Rock.
A Streetcar Named New Brunswick
Before the automobile took over, the city used to boast an impressive number of streetcar routes across the city, which were also known as trolleys. Rather than take a Rutgers or city bus, one might hop aboard a trolley, which traveled along rail lines laid down on the street itself. In their earlier days, the trolleys were powered by horses, but they became electrified later on.
Rutgers’ Own Observatory
At the corner of Hamilton and George Street, right by the Old Queens building, you might notice a peculiar eight-sided, white structure perched atop a small hill. That building is the Daniel S. Schanck Observatory, named after a New York City businessman of the same name. The building was erected in 1865 in the spitting image of the Tower of Winds, a marble clock-tower in Athens built thousands of years ago.
The observatory followed Greek and Roman revival architectural trend, which was common for buildings at the time. In its heyday, the observatory boasted an array of telescopes and astronomy equipment, though the structure hasn’t been used as an observatory in decades.
Weird New Brunswick?
Venture into the back parking lot of AMC Lowes in Route 1 and you might discover a strange site - a concrete block topped with a chain link fence and housing a tombstone, overlooking the Raritan River. The site is the resting place of Mary Ellis, whose sister owned the land in the years following the Revolutionary War.
As legend has it, Ellis had fallen in love with a sea captain and former Revolutionary War officer. One day, the captain set sail for the open sea and vowed to Ellis that he’d return. But as fate would have it, the captain never did. In this tragic tale, Ellis spent the remainder of her life on that property, looking out to the Raritan awaiting her lover’s return. Ellis passed away some years later, and was buried there, along with her family.
You can now visit her grave with a fresh bucket of movie popcorn.