The List: 10 New Jersey Towns that keep the ‘small’ in ‘small-town’ life

Maya Chung | September 30, 2013 | The List
Thinking small takes on a whole new meaning in municipalities with as few as five residents

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New Jersey is the country’s fourth-smallest state by land mass but its most densely populated, with approximately 1,200 inhabitants per square mile. Averaging about 15 square miles each, the state’s 565 municipalities sit fairly close to one another. Some are relatively huge: Newark has about 277,000 inhabitant and Jersey City, 247,000. But as you’ll see from this list, there are some very tiny municipalities with unusual provenance. Entries are ordered by population.

5, Tavistock Borough, Camden County

Tavistock Borough was formed in 1921 when a group of golfers from neighboring Haddonfield bought some land to evade blue laws that prohibited sporting activities on Sundays. Some speculate the golfers also wanted a drink or two, tough to do in their home town, which still bans alcohol sales. Tavistick Borough takes up exactly 0.3-square-miles of land and has a total of four houses — and don’t forget the clubhouse.

12, Pine Valley Borough, Camden County

In 1912, golf lover and visionary George Arthur Crump bought 184 acres of land to build the Pine Valley Golf Course, which in 1929 became the Borough of Pine Valley. Only twice since 1985 has the course not been ranked No. 1 in the nation by Golf Digest magazine. The borough contains 23 houses (three on the golf course), and the owner of each must be a member of the club and sell the land back to it when he or she moves on. The borough’s 12 year-round residents are protected by one lone police car.

14, Walpack Township, Sussex

Back in 1731, when it was part of Hunterdon County, Walpack Township was much larger than it is today. The same holds true for 1739, when it was part of Morris County. By 1824, after splitting from several other townships, it came closer to its current size. With only 14 residents, the township — which runs along the Delaware Watergap National Recreational Area — is home to only one business, the Walpack Inn. According to the census, Walpack lost 27 residents in the past decade, which may be due to the fact that the federal government purchased property to build a dam on the Delaware River — a project that opposition effectively blocked. The tiny township was ranked as the 18th-best place to live in the state by New Jersey Monthly in 2008.

65, Teterboro Borough, Bergen

Patched together with land taken from the boroughs of Moonachie and Little Ferry and Lodi Township, the Borough of Teterboro was incorporated in 1917 and bought by New York investment banker Walter C. Teter to build a racetrack. What the borough eventually got was an airport, the oldest continually operating one in the major metropolitan area and the second-largest in New Jersey, encompassing some of Teterboro and neighboring boroughs Moonachie and Hasbrouck Heights. During World War II, the airport was operated by the Army Air Force. Although 15,000 workers come in and out every day, Teterboro has only 65 residents. Outside of a single street of houses and one apartment complex, it’s strictly business.

194, Loch Arbour Village, Monmouth

Loch Arbour traces it history back to 1957, when it was created from Ocean Township acreage by residents who were unhappy with efforts to build condominiums in the area. Loch Arbour used the village form of government until 2011, and was the last in the state to do so. The beachfront village located on Deal Lake between Allenhurst and Asbury Park is only two blocks wide, five blocks long, and contains 142 houses, but many of them are summer beach rentals.

291, Cape May Point, Cape May

Cape May Point, the southernmost town in New Jersey, was first founded as the religious community of “Seagrove” in 1875. In 1878 it officially became Cape May Point. With a year-round population of 291, it’s mostly trees, houses, and a single general store — and no restaurants or commercial lodgings of any kind. Because of the town’s size, the post office doesn’t deliver mail: Residents walk or bike to pick up their letters and parcels.

296, Mantoloking Borough, Ocean

Incorporated in 1911 after a split from neighboring Brick Township, Mantoloking may be small but it’s definitely on the map. The Mantoloking Golf and Yacht Club, which actually predates the town, is home to 10 Olympians. Another reason to pay attention to the diminutive borough is that the 2000 census said its 521 houses were home to New Jersey’s wealthiest community. Some of the borough’s old cottages were designed by world-renowned architect Stanford White. Sadly, the borough is rebuilding after it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and all houses were either damaged or completely destroyed.

337, Harvey Cedars Borough, Ocean

Named for the trees that used to cover the area, Harvey Cedars became a borough in 1894 after it separated by referendum from what is now Barnegat Township. The majority of the 1.185-square-mile borough is given over to residential (seasonal) housing, which is assessed at over $1.3 billion. There are no hotels. In summer, the population swells to about 2,000.

418, Millstone Borough, Somerset

Millstone Borough takes up 0.760-square-miles and contains 58 buildings, but it’s full of history. The borough, which was officially established in 1894, is one of the only places in Somerset County that was occupied by all major belligerent forces in the Revolutionary War. Many of the houses date back to the mid-1800s. Millstone was listed seventh on the 2008 rankings of “Best Places To Live” by New Jersey Monthly.

492, Corbin City, Atlantic

The smallest city in New Jersey, Corbin City, was incorporated in 1922. More than 70 percent of its 5,063 acres is preserved open space, and a river winds along its southern border. It does not contain a school district and has only 12 businesses. There have been recent talks about joining with another township because the tax burden on residents is too high, but many of the people who call Corbin City home have themselves objected.