At 12 square miles, sprawled across a hilly terrain, and bifurcated by I-280, West Orange is the biggest, most diverse and hardest to pin down of the Baristaville suburbs. It is home to some of Essex County’s most well-known recreational destinations — Turtle Back Zoo, Eagle Rock Reservation, Codey Arena and the Essex County Mini Golf Safari — and hosts one of New Jersey’s biggest annual St. Patrick’s Day parades. It also hosts many emerging arts organizations, as well as Luna Stage, in its Valley Arts District. The town’s most famous citizen was Thomas Edison, and oversized lightbulbs, painted by artists, are a visual homage to the techno wizard. But while Edison’s main factory on Main Street is still open for Park Service tours, a stalled plan to redevelop some Edison buildings into luxury apartments has left the area an eyesore.
In addition to large black, Latino and Asian populations, the area is home to many religious Jews, and there is an eruv, which allows observant Jews to carry objects to synagogue on sabbath. Despite shopping alternatives ranging from Macy’s to Whole Foods, West Orange lacks the kind of downtown that characterizes towns like Montclair and Maplewood, and has a more suburban feel. It also lacks train service, although Keller Williams realtor Roberta Baldwin, who sells many houses there, says many NYC commuters take I-280 to Harrison’s Park and Ride and jump on the PATH.
Housing stock in West Orange is truly varied, ranging from modest split-levels and bungalows to brand new luxury houses, and a large supply of condos and townhouses truly opens the market up to both budding families and empty nesters. Llewellyn Park, the country’s first gated community, where Edison made his home, is a true parklike oasis, filled with one-of-a-kind homes, mostly mansions.
On the market
Home prices range from $79,000 to $2,950,000, with a good deal of selection between $249,000 and $499,000. About 320 homes are on the market currently. “The West Orange market has had strong activity throughout all price ranges. The hottest price range percentage wise is between $700,000 and $799,999, where 37 percent of the properties in that range sold and closed in the last twelve months,” says Blossom Vernon, vice president, Jordan Baris, Inc., Realtors.
46,207 people (2010 Census data)
Demographics: 44.6% white, 26.6% black, 8.0% Asian, 16.2% Latino, 1.2% other.
Income: The median income for a household was $93,561 (based on 2000-2009 U.S. Census data, plus inflation), and the median income for a family was $105,722.
Voted in 2008 Election: Obama 69.49%, McCain 29.58%
NJ Monthly High School Ranking: West Orange: 128 (2010); 114 (2008)
Schools: Gregory Elementary School, Hazel Elementary School, Mount Pleasant Elementary School, Pleasantdale Elementary School, Redwood Elementary School, St. Cloud Elementary School, Washington Elementary School, Thomas A. Edison Central Six Middle School, Roosevelt Middle School, Liberty Middle School, West Orange High School, Seton Hall Preparatory School, Golda Och Academy (formerly Solomon Schechter Day School), Blessed Pope John XXIII Academy, Mount Carmel Guild Academy.