If you take a drive up the Garden State Parkway, eventually you'll come across a small town called Winfield. This town is home to around 1500 people and is a very tight-knit community. Winfield Park is a great place to take a break from your travels. Located just off the northbound side exit 136 of the Garden State Parkway, Winfield Township surrounds a park, providing a peaceful and scenic respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Bordered on three sides by the Rahway River and Rahway River Park, the privacy of where Winfield Park was constructed makes this isolated community the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. The town was originally designed and built as housing for defense workers during World War II, but has since become permanent housing and nany of the residents are part of families who have lived here for generations. If you visit Winfield, you'll notice that the buildings are well-kept and look similar to modular homes. There's also a sense of permanence in the air.
Construction of Winfield Park began on June 23, 1941. The MacEvoy Company of Newark, New Jersey was contracted to build the park, which included 254 buildings on 110 acres. The company had previously built sections of the Newark subway and the Wanaque Reservoir. Winfield Park required 7500 gallons of paint; 2500 rolls of wallpaper; 5,500,000 board feet (13,000 m3) of lumber; and 1,223 construction workers for five months. Construction workers were hired from all over the country to build the park. Some workers even came from as far away as Europe.
Many American towns can trace their origins back to the years leading up to World War II. The defense workers of the Kearny Shipyards had realized early in 1940 that a great housing need was developing in the northern New Jersey area. A new report released in January of 1941 showed that the northern New Jersey area needed 1000 additional housing units immediately. Defense workers at the Kearny Shipyards were some of the earliest and most vocal supporters of the National Housing for Defense Act of 1940, also known as the Lanham Act. This act authorized the construction of 300 new housing units in the Newark/Harrison area, which was greatly appreciated by those in need.
In the early days of World War II, the United States government built a series of defense housing projects across the country. These projects were designed to provide housing for workers in the war effort. One of these projects was Winfield Park. The Federal Works Agency, created by the US government, was responsible for constructing housing developments that would be affordable for the large number of workers who were being hired by manufacturers and defense shipbuilders. These permanent dwellings would provide an opportunity for those who could not afford a down payment on a home. The government planned to sell these developments to resident-owned and operated housing corporations.
Winfield Park was different from other defense housing projects in that the homes were built just before the United States entered the war. Because of the timing, this project was one of the last permanent housing projects to be built for the defense housing program. The residents of Winfield Park are proud of their town and its history. They know that their town was built as temporary housing, but that its longevity is thanks to their own maintenance, repairs, and efforts.
The small town of Winfield has remained largely unchanged for many years, despite being surrounded by growth and development. While other areas around the original community have since been transformed by new residential construction and suburban sprawl, the residents of Winfield have resisted any change to their community. Developers have periodically approached community leaders with proposals for redevelopment, but the residents have always said no. It appears that they like where they live and who they live with.
Some well-known residents of Winfield Township include Tom Dugan, who grew up in the township and studied theater at Montclair State University. The area's tract houses also inspired famous architect Dan Graham to create his "Homes for America" project.
We hope you found this article to be an interesting read, and maybe next time you're on the parkway, you'll remember to pull off exit 136 to take a look at these historic homes and a small piece of WW2 history right under your nose.
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