Borough of Madison's downtown is a thriving central business district.
The earliest settlers of European descent arrived about 1715 and established "Bottle Hill" at the crossroads of Ridgedale Avenue and Kings Road. The Luke Miller house the oldest remaining home in the Borough, built around 1730. In 1834, the name of the village was changed to Madison, and in 1889, with a population of 3,250 persons, it seceded from Chatham Township and became a borough in order to develop a local water supply system.
Madison's growth accelerated after the Civil War. The railroad provided good transportation for its farm produce. Later it made possible the establishment of a flourishing rose growing industry, still commemorated in Madison's title as The Rose City. The Morris and Essex Line became one of America's first commuter railroads, attracting well-to-do families and contributing to the development of "Millionaire's Row," which stretched from downtown Madison to Morristown.
The rose industry and the large estates in the area attracted working class people of all kinds. As a result, Madison very early developed a varied population, both in terms of socio-economic status and ethnic background. The original settlers were of British stock; French settlers came after the Revolution; African-Americans have been members of the community from early in the 19th century; Irish came in mid century and then Germans and Italians around the turn of the century. To this day there is a substantial community of Italian descent in Madison.
An influx of millionaires from New York City moving into their newly built country estates here and nearby in the mid-1830s had it right: What better way to brighten up your mansion than with fresh flowers? That daily demand sparked the growth of individual greenhouses and hothouses and some two decades later, rose growing was big business. Soon, just before the turn of the last century, Madison was internationally known for its roses, with so many new varieties, and rose shows. Each year, many millions of cut roses were sent by train to New York. By 1896, there were 45 growers in business with 200 employees in Madison, which was aptly nicknamed “The Rose City.” In 1950, one business alone had 100,000 plants producing three million roses yearly with over 8,000 roses harvested daily. While the last of the greenhouses ceased operation in mid-1980, the rose growing history remains part of the local identity, with the nickname part of the borough’s logo and even the borough website.
Vanderbilt Mansion "Florham" at FDU