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The History of Essex County begins in 1666, when Robert Treat led 30 Connecticut families to establish a settlement along the banks of the Passaic River in what is now the City of Newark. In 1667 the settlers purchased the land from the Lenni Lenape Indians for $800.00. The County was officially established in 1682 by the East Jersey Legislature.

In 1895, Essex County created the first Countywide park system in the United States. That year 60 acres of land were acquired from the City of Newark by the Governor of New Jersey when he signed a legislation creating the Essex County Parks Commission. This act led to the beginning of Branch Brook Park. The Parks Commissioners had the foresight to retain Frederick Law Olmsted, the creator of New York's Central Park, to design 20 of Essex County's 25 parks and reservations. Those first 60 acres have grown into 5,745 acres of greenspace which include vast reservations, developed parks, golf courses, tennis courts, ice and roller skating complexes and a zoo.

The stock market crash of 1929, along with the enforcement of prohibition, temporarily crippled the thriving economy of Essex. Essex began to grow once again with the reopening of many major breweries and the gradual national recovery. The central section of the County, once known as the "trolley car suburbs", grew rapidly after the turn of the century when trolley lines were built to carry workers from industrial Newark to the less crowded outlying towns of Irvington, East Orange, Orange and Bloomfield. Commuter railroads which passed through Newark carried commuters to Manhattan from suburban towns such as South Orange, Maplewood, Millburn, Glen Ridge and Montclair.

Since its inception, Essex County has been the industrial and financial hub of New Jersey. Countywide, total real property values now exceed $36 billion with an annual growth in 1996 of $78 million. In 1997 the opening of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, Essex rivaled New York City as a cultural center for music and dance showcasing the nation's and the world's best artists.


 

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