Some of the restaurants are owned by longtime Madison residents, some who came to be restaurateurs serendipitously. On Waverly Place there’s Poor Herbie’s, a town gathering place owned by active Madison residents enjoying a second career, Dennis and Judy Mullins. Shanghai Jazz is known throughout the New York/New Jersey area for great live jazz and Chinese food.
You don’t have to leave town for groceries either. You’ll be amazed at the great selection â€“ there’s a large Whole Foods, a Stop and Shop, and a really special shop for alcohol and good food, Gary’s Wine and Marketplace (another homegrown business, this one in a former car dealership).
There are about 5500 households in the village. While most families live in single-family homes, there are also apartments and condominiums, especially close to the downtown and the colleges.
There are a handful of streets that run through the town, north to south, or east to west. These are the streets with sidewalks. Most of the residential streets have more of a country feel, with no sidewalks, gentle hills and curves. The Bottle Hill Historic District includes Ridgedale Avenue, the town’s oldest street and home to some of the most historic homes in town. There are apartment buildings at one end of the street and Madison High School is at the other.
Madison and Park Avenues start as a V, bracketing a park, and fan out to form the front and back of Fairleigh Dickenson University. There’s a mix of older and newer homes in this, northwest, part of town including a large condominium community, Madison Commons. It is also right near the Jets training camp (formerly an Exxon campus).
The southeast area of town has many homes built in the 40s, 50s and 60s. It’s an easy walk to Memorial Park, home of the town pool and ball field. The southwest part of town, where the old orchards stood, is adjacent to open land in bordering Harding Township.
Heading west on Madison Avenue is Drew University, a 186 acre campus with stately brick buildings including historic Mead Hall, a former home that became a seminary and eventually grew into the present day university. A little further along is Fairleigh Dickenson University, similar in size to Drew. Here another historic home, this one with a pedigree, sits at the center of the campus. The Twombly family (she was a Vanderbilt, granddaughter of the world’s richest man) built their country estate here in the late 1800s. Designed by Stanford White with landscaping by Frederick Law Olmsted, the house had 100 rooms. They named it Florham and, later, the neighboring town became Florham Park (much of the campus is in Florham Park). Adjacent to Fairleigh is The College of St. Elizabeth, in the town of Convent Station.
Another former resident has left her mark in Madison. Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge lived in the community; her estate is now a corporate campus on Madison Avenue. She built the town hall, Hartley Dodge, in honor of her son who died in France. She gave many gifts to the town and also created an animal sanctuary, St. Hubert’s Giralda, which remains.
Madison has had its share of the rich and famous in its storied past. Current notable residents include: Andy Breckman, Princess Marie Louise of Bulgaria and JoJo Starbuck.
Two elementary schools that closed many years ago remain educational hubs for the town. The former Lucy D. Anthony School is now The F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA and the Green Village Road School is home to Playwrights Theatre which offers programs for the schools.
Right on Main Street is the former high school, now Madison Junior School for grades 6, 7 and 8.
Madison High School serves both Madison students and those from Harding Township, a small affluent community to the south. The school was ranked 6th in the state in the 2012 NJ Monthly ratings.
St. Vincent Martyr School is located near the center of town and includes Pre-kindergarten to 7th grade.
The Academy of Saint Elizabeth is a private, girls high school on the campus of the College of St. Elizabeth just over the border in Convent Station. Drew University and Fairleigh Dickinson University are in Madison.
The new Library (now almost 50 years old) is an excellent community service, with a great children’s room and a vast collection of books, movies and more. Just across the street is the Madison Area YMCA. You can’t get any more family friendly than the Y!
There’s also Plaza Lanes Bowling in the shopping center on the eastern end of Main Street.
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is located on the Drew campus. Clearview Cinemas is a four screen theatre just across from the train station.
Bottle Hill Day is a great annual festival on the first Saturday in October that attracts everyone from Madison and neighboring communities for live music, auto show, food, vendors and fun.
Madison has a very vibrant downtown with specialty stores and everything you need to complete your Saturday morning to-do list, from Blue Ridge Mountain Sports for clothing and outdoor gear to Cambridge Street Papers for fine stationary and gifts. The Suburban Shop has been providing the town’s shoes for generations.
Interestingly, Madison has long had a reputation for fine shops for used goods! Time After Time is a first-class vintage clothing store. The Chatham Bookseller is a quaint used book store that could keep you browsing for a day. Several stores sell consignment clothing and decorative items.