Bernardsville is the northernmost borough in Somerset County, in the U.S. state of New Jersey. The borough is nestled in the heart of the Raritan Valley region. As of the 2020 United States census, the borough's population was 7,893, an increase of 186 (+2.4%) from the 2010 census count of 7,707, which in turn reflected an increase of 362 (+4.9%) from the 7,345 counted in the 2000 census. Bernardsville is often mispronounced as "Ber-NARDS-ville" as opposed to the correct pronunciation "BER-nards-ville".
Bernardsville was incorporated as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 6, 1924, from portions of Bernards Township, based on the results of a referendum held on April 29, 1924. The borough was named for Sir Francis Bernard, 1st Baronet, who served as governor of the Province of New Jersey before the Revolutionary War. In 2009, part of the borough was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Olcott Avenue Historic District.
In 2000, Bernardsville had the 10th-highest per capita income in the state. Based on data from the 2006–2010 American Community Survey, the borough had a per-capita income of $70,141, ranked 27th in the state. In 2019, the borough was ranked by Bloomberg News as 64th on its 2019 list of Bloomberg Richest Places, one of 18 in the state included on the list.
Bernardsville was originally a section of Bernards Township known as Vealtown. In 1840, Vealtown became Bernardsville, named after Sir Francis Bernard, Colonial governor of New Jersey from 1758 to 1760. Located in the northernmost part of Somerset County, just 12 miles (19 km) south of Morristown, the borough includes some of the last vestiges of the Great Eastern Forest.
During the Revolutionary War, General Charles Lee rested his troops in Vealtown around the night of December 12 to 13, 1776. General Lee and some of his guard spent the night about 3 miles (5 km) southeast at White's Inn on the southeast side of Basking Ridge, near the manor house of Continental Army general William Alexander, Lord Stirling. On the morning of December 13, General Lee was captured by the British and removed to New York. The Vealtown Tavern, now known as the John Parker Tavern, was a regular stop during the 1779–1780 winter encampment at Morristown.
After the Civil War, many wealthy and prominent New Yorkers moved into the area, first as summer visitors, then later as permanent residents of the Bernardsville Mountain. For most, the men worked in New York City while the women and children spent summers in Bernardsville. The Gladstone Branch of the existing railroad line was built through Bernardsville in 1872 and played an important role in the borough's development. The Gladstone line, whose five o'clock train was appropriately nicknamed "the millionaire's special," as it was direct route to Penn Station, allowed the men who built grand estates in Bernardsville to commute to the city on a daily basis rather than only visit their families on weekends. Bernardsville did not become an independent municipality until 1924, when it split from Bernards Township.
On November 4, 2020, The Bernardsville Library announced that it would join the MAIN Library System, which has member libraries in all of Morris County, all of Hunterdon County and parts of Somerset and Warren counties. The Bernardsville Library is the second library from Somerset County to join the MAIN System, after the Bernards Township Library in neighboring Bernards Township. The library joined the MAIN System on January 11, 2021
On January 15, 2021, Kings Food Markets announced that it would close their Bernardsville location on Morristown Road, officially closing on January 23, 2021.
The New Jersey State Review Board for Historic Sites recommended the creation of the Olcott Avenue historic district on February 10, 2009. While the Olcott Avenue School is but one historic structure within Bernardsville's first historic district area, the area's appeal and historic significance is part of the story of the rise of the middle class in Bernardsville and how this particular location impacted the entire region, from the downtown, Little Italy, and the Mountain Colony areas.
The Olcott Avenue Historic District is a 28-acre (11 ha) historic district located along portions of Olcott, Childsworth, and Highview Avenues, and Church Street that recognizes a neighborhood developed in the early 20th century. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 20, 2009, for its significance in architecture, community planning and development, and education.
According to the National Park Service:
Olcott Avenue is named after Frederic P. Olcott, a New York banker, politician, and philanthropist, who lived here. The street was originally named after Stewart Wolfe. In 1905, Olcott financed the construction of a high school, the first in the township, and donated it to the Bernards Township Board of Education. The stone building features Tudor Revival style and was designed by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, who also lived here. Hardenbergh also designed the Bernardsville United Methodist Church and the parish house at St. Bernard's Church. The district includes several houses designed with Colonial Revival style.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 12.91 square miles (33.44 km), including 12.84 square miles (33.24 km2) of land and 0.08 square miles (0.19 km) of water (0.58%).
Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the borough include Blazuers Corner, Mine Brook and Somerseten.
The borough borders Bernards Township to the east, Far Hills to the southwest, and Peapack-Gladstone to the west in Somerset County, Harding Township to the northeast and both Mendham Borough and Mendham Township to the northwest in Morris County.
Bernardsville has a climate that borders between Humid continental and Humid subtropical with cool sometimes cold winters and warm to hot, humid summers on average. High elevations of the town have a warm summer humid continental climate with more snow during the winter and more orographic precipitation. Summer is the wettest season with frequent afternoon thunderstorms while Winter is the driest season.
Some of Bernardsville's Latino population are made up of residents of "Little Paraguay" located on the Basking Ridge side of the train tracks.
The 2010 United States census counted 7,707 people, 2,685 households, and 2,086 families in the borough. The population density was 597.2 per square mile (230.6/km). There were 2,871 housing units at an average density of 222.5 per square mile (85.9/km2). The racial makeup was 91.38% (7,043) White, 0.88% (68) Black or African American, 0.14% (11) Native American, 3.27% (252) Asian, 0.06% (5) Pacific Islander, 2.18% (168) from other races, and 2.08% (160) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.72% (903) of the population.
Of the 2,685 households, 40.6% had children under the age of 18; 67.2% were married couples living together; 7.5% had a female householder with no husband present and 22.3% were non-families. Of all households, 19.1% were made up of individuals and 7.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.87 and the average family size was 3.27.
28.6% of the population were under the age of 18, 5.5% from 18 to 24, 22.7% from 25 to 44, 31.0% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41.1 years. For every 100 females, the population had 98.3 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 95.3 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $128,333 (with a margin of error of +/− $12,233) and the median family income was $141,510 (+/− $17,179). Males had a median income of $87,500 (+/− $36,816) versus $73,250 (+/− $10,725) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $70,141 (+/− $9,890). About 1.9% of families and 2.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.2% of those under age 18 and 5.2% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 United States census there were 7,345 people, 2,723 households, and 2,050 families residing in the borough. The population density was 568.1 inhabitants per square mile (219.3/km2). There were 2,807 housing units at an average density of 217.1 per square mile (83.8/km). The racial makeup of the borough was 93.94% White, 0.25% African American, 0.15% Native American, 2.64% Asian, 1.55% from other races, and 1.47% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.98% of the population.
There were 2,723 households, out of which 35.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 67.2% were married couples living together, 6.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.7% were non-families. 21.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.12.
In the borough the population was spread out, with 26.1% under the age of 18, 4.5% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 28.0% from 45 to 64, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.3 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $104,162, and the median income for a family was $126,601. Males had a median income of $91,842 versus $50,732 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $69,854. About 1.6% of families and 2.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.3% of those under age 18 and 2.5% of those age 65 or over.
Bernardsville is governed under the borough form of New Jersey municipal government, which is used in 218 municipalities (of the 564) statewide, making it the most common form of government in New Jersey. The governing body is comprised of the mayor and the borough council, with all positions elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election. A mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office. The borough council is comprised of six members elected to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election each year in a three-year cycle. The borough form of government used by Bernardsville is a "weak mayor / strong council" government in which council members act as the legislative body with the mayor presiding at meetings and voting only in the event of a tie. The mayor can veto ordinances subject to an override by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.
As of 2022, the mayor of Bernardsville is Republican Mary Jane Canose, whose term of office ends December 31, 2022. Members of the Borough Council are Council President Chad McQueen (R, 2022), Jay Ambelang (R, 2024), Diane Greenfield (R, 2023; elected to serve an unexpired term), Jena McCredie (R, 2022), Albert Ribeiro (R, 2024) and Christine Zamarra (D, 2023).
In June 2021, Democrat Thomas O'Dea Jr. resigned from office from a seat expiring on December 2023. In July 2021, the borough council selected Matthew Marino from a list of three candidates nominated by the Democratic municipal committee to fill the vacant seat on an interim basis. In November 2021, Republican Diane Greenfield was elected to serve the balance of the term of office.
In December 2018, the borough council selected Diane Greenfield from a list of three candidates nominated by the Republican municipal committee to fill the balance of the unexpired term of office ending in December 2019 that had been held by Michael C. Sullivan until he resigned from office earlier that month.
In February 2018, Republican John Donahue was selected by the borough council from three candidates nominated by the local party committee and appointed to fill the seat expiring in December 2018 that had been held by Michael dePoortere until he resigned from office earlier that month; Donohue will serve on an interim basis until the November 2018 general election.
In March 2018, Mayor Kevin Sooy, elected as a Republican, announced that he was switching parties and would run for re-election as a Democrat, saying that he was in sync with the platform of the local Democratic Party on issues facing the town. He would be defeated in the primary by Thomas O'Dea Jr. who was defeated in the general election by Republican Mary Jane Canose.
In 2018, the borough had an average property tax bill of $15,362, the highest in the county, compared to an average bill of $8,767 statewide.
Bernardsville is located in the 7th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 25th state legislative district. Prior to the 2011 reapportionment following the 2010 Census, Bernardsville had been in the 16th state legislative district.
For the 118th United States Congress. New Jersey's Seventh Congressional District is represented by Thomas Kean Jr. (R, Westfield). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Democrats Cory Booker (Newark, term ends 2027) and Bob Menendez (Harrison, term ends 2025).
For the 2022–2023 session, the 25th Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Anthony M. Bucco (R, Boonton Township) and in the General Assembly by Brian Bergen (R, Denville Township) and Aura K. Dunn (R, Mendham Borough).
Somerset County is governed by a five-member Board of County Commissioners, whose members are elected at-large to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with one or two seats coming up for election each year. At an annual reorganization meeting held on the first Friday of January, the board selects a Director and Deputy Director from among its members. As of 2022
Paul Drake (D, Hillsborough Township, 2023),
Douglas Singleterry (D, North Plainfield, 2023) and
Sara Sooy (D, Basking Ridge in Bernards Township, 2024).
Pursuant to Article VII Section II of the New Jersey State Constitution, each county in New Jersey is required to have three elected administrative officials known as constitutional officers. These officers are the County Clerk and County Surrogate (both elected for five-year terms of office) and the County Sheriff (elected for a three-year term). Constitutional officers, elected on a countywide basis are
County Clerk Steve Peter (D, Somerville, 2022),
Sheriff Darrin Russo (D, Franklin Township, 2022) and
Surrogate Bernice "Tina" Jalloh (D, Franklin Township, 2025)
, Somerset County's County Commissioners are
Director Shanel Robinson (D, Franklin Township, term as commissioner ends December 31, 2024; term as director ends 2022),
Deputy Director Melonie Marano (D, Green Brook Township, term as commissioner and as deputy director ends 2022),
As of March 2011, there were a total of 5,341 registered voters in Bernardsville, of which 955 (17.9% vs. 26.0% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 2,472 (46.3% vs. 25.7%) were registered as Republicans and 1,913 (35.8% vs. 48.2%) were registered as unaffiliated. There was one voter registered to another party. Among the borough's 2010 Census population, 69.3% (vs. 60.4% in Somerset County) were registered to vote, including 97.1% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 80.4% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney received 61.5% of the vote (2,318 cast), ahead of incumbent President Barack Obama, a Democrat, with 37.3% (1,408 votes), and other candidates with 1.2% (44 votes), among the 3,788 ballots cast by the borough's 5,673 registered voters (18 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 66.8%. In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 2,295 votes (55.8% vs. 46.1% countywide), ahead of Democrat Obama with 1,753 votes (42.6% vs. 52.1%) and other candidates with 41 votes (1.0% vs. 1.1%), among the 4,113 ballots cast by the borough's 5,208 registered voters, for a turnout of 79.0% (vs. 78.7% in Somerset County). In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 2,495 votes (61.0% vs. 51.5% countywide), ahead of Democrat John Kerry with 1,543 votes (37.7% vs. 47.2%) and other candidates with 37 votes (0.9% vs. 0.9%), among the 4,093 ballots cast by the borough's 4,909 registered voters, for a turnout of 83.4% (vs. 81.7% in the whole county).
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 77.9% of the vote (2,118 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 20.7% (564 votes), and other candidates with 1.4% (37 votes), among the 2,762 ballots cast by the borough's 5,728 registered voters (43 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 48.2%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Christie received 1,867 votes (60.2% vs. 55.8% countywide), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 747 votes (24.1% vs. 34.1%), Independent Chris Daggett with 463 votes (14.9% vs. 8.7%) and other candidates with 13 votes (0.4% vs. 0.7%), among the 3,099 ballots cast by the borough's 5,304 registered voters, yielding a 58.4% turnout (vs. 52.5% in the county).
Public school students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade attend the schools of the Somerset Hills Regional School District, a regional school district serving students from Bernardsville, Far Hills and Peapack-Gladstone, along with students from Bedminster who are sent to the district's high school as part of a sending/receiving relationship. As of the 2020–21 school year, the district, comprised of three schools, had an enrollment of 1,797 students and 155.3 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 11.6:1. Schools in the district (with 2020–21 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are
Marion T. Bedwell Elementary School with 471 students in grades Pre-K–4,
Bernardsville Middle School with 474 students in grades 5–8 and
Bernards High School with 819 students in grades 9–12. The district's board of education is comprised of nine elected members (plus one appointed member representing Bedminster) who set policy and oversee the fiscal and educational operation of the district through its administration. The nine elected seats on the board are allocated to the constituent municipalities based on population, with six seats allocated to Bernardsville.
The School of Saint Elizabeth, established in 1916, is a parochial school serving students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade that operates under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen.
As of May 2010, the borough had a total of 67.80 miles (109.11 km) of roadways, of which 53.28 miles (85.75 km) were maintained by the municipality, 10.50 miles (16.90 km) by Somerset County and 4.02 miles (6.47 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
The most prominent roads directly serving Bernardsville are U.S. Route 202 and County Route 525. Interstate 287 passes by just outside the borough.
NJ Transit train service is offered at the Bernardsville station on the Gladstone Branch and Morristown Line of the Morris & Essex Lines, with service to Hoboken Terminal, Newark Broad Street station Secaucus Junction and to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan.
Lakeland Bus Lines provides Route 78 rush-hour service from Bedminster to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Bernardsville include: