Living In: Long Valley, N.J.: Verdant and Occupationally Diverse
Long Valley, N.J.: Verdant and Occupationally Diverse
Where does New Jersey feel like the Garden State? In a part of Morris County where you’ll find historic buildings, wooded trails and an eclectic community.
Living In … Long Valley, N.J.
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There is a place in New Jersey with rolling farmland and waterfalls, where foxes trot and black bears lumber. Where stone buildings date to the Revolutionary War and locals cry out in anguish at the arrival of Dunkin’ Donuts.
That place is Long Valley. A census-designated area with about 2,000 people in the municipality of Washington Township in Morris County, Long Valley feels like it belongs in something called the Garden State.
This came as a surprise to Catherine and James Klaassen. When the couple moved to New Jersey from Ohio 14 years ago, they associated it with dense cities like Trenton and Newark. Pulled east by Mr. Klaassen’s job transfer to Bell Labs in Whippany, N.J., the last thing they expected to find was a fresh green landscape with goat cheese. An added bonus was a highly rated public school system for their four children.
They paid $695,000 for a four-bedroom colonial in Long Valley, with a conservatory, an office and a walkout basement. Part of an early-2000s Toll Brothers development, the house was on 0.62 acres and had a wooded hiking path in back. In the spring and summer, Long Valley is “majestic,” Ms. Claassen, 56, said. “All beautiful shades of green and filled with flowering trees, bushes and vines. No one from outside the region would believe they were in New Jersey.”
Nearby pharmaceutical, telecom and candy corporations (Mars has offices just up the road in Hackettstown) have brought a number of businesspeople to these green acres, making for a population that is occupationally, if not racially, diverse. Your neighbor might be a farmer, a line cook, a vice president of marketing or a member of Donald J. Trump’s Secret Service detail (the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster is 20 minutes south).
Or she might be Michelle Hoff, 27, a public-school counselor who grew up in Long Valley and returned to live there as a newlywed. “I’m probably the one millennial who actually moved back to their hometown,” she said.
A year ago, Ms. Hoff and her husband, Ethan, a project manager for a commercial construction company, paid less than $300,000 for a three-bedroom clapboard house on West Maple Avenue in Long Valley’s historic center. From there, it is five minutes on foot to the Columbia Trail, a 15-mile scenic path. A favorite rest stop just off the trail is the Coffee Potter, a cafe whose mission, according to its website, is to “unite the community and connect its people.”
Ms. Hoff pointed out that Long Valley offers other comforts, as well. A 2019 study by the National Council for Home Safety and Security, a trade organization composed of alarm installers and related professionals, ranked Washington Township in Morris County the third-safest area in New Jersey. The report tallied 45 total crimes in 2016-17, 42 of which were “property crimes.”
Previously known as German Valley — the name was changed in response to World War I-era anti-Teutonic sentiment — Long Valley has deep roots and wonderful antique buildings. In 1983, 69 acres were designated as the German Valley Historic District, “a microcosm of vernacular architectural styles found in New Jersey,” from early Pennsylvania-German to Victorian shingle style, notes the nomination for protected status.
But there is an undeniable look of dishevelment. Several of the old stone and frame buildings in the historic district are rundown, and not in the poetic way of a New Jersey acropolis. The husk of a 19th-century blacksmith shop sits at the edge of the South Branch Raritan River, near the shored-up ruins of the 1774 Old Union Church. The 1832 schoolhouse that is now the Washington Township Historical Society museum is intact, but has been closed for months because winter cold overpowered the heating system. On the cheerier side, several spiffy vintage buildings operate with contemporary commercial uses, like the Long Valley Pub and Brewery, housed in an 18th-century stone barn that is part of a complex of four restaurants on Fairmount Road.
What You’ll Find
Its name notwithstanding, Long Valley occupies different altitudes in Washington Township. It rises from an actual valley to the top of Schooley’s Mountain, a 1,200-foot-high ridge to the north whose mineral springs made it a fashionable resort destination in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The community’s boundaries are commonly identified with the 07853 ZIP code.
Currently on the market are historic houses, like a former dairy farm on Naughright Road listed for $995,000; it has a dining room that dates to the 18th century and a stone cottage immersed in a spring-fed pond, where it was originally placed to keep milk cold.
Long Valley is also studded with midcentury ranches and bi-levels, as well as spacious properties that sprang up in the 1980s and later for executives at companies like AT&T and Warner-Lambert, said David Salmon, an agent with Keller Williams Towne Square Realty, in Basking Ridge, N.J. “The eight-room, four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom colonial became the most common home in the area,” he said.
Those who live in the area have access to parks, streams, fresh produce and cozy independent businesses. They get their nails done, their vision tested, their pumpkins picked and their hardware needs supplied locally. Even Long Valley Village, a strip mall on East Mill Road, is filled mainly with mom-and-pop ventures (as well as the Dunkin’, to which residents have appeared to come around).
But not all demands can be met in the immediate vicinity. The only clothing store in town is a thrift boutique called Racks, operated by the Long Valley Junior Women’s Club, with the proceeds donated to community organizations. Big-box retailers are 10 minutes away in Chester and 15 minutes away in Hackettstown. Residents drive 20 miles east to Morristown for the food and entertainment, or continue on to New York City.
What You’ll Pay
Long Valley is dominated by single-family houses. The median sale price in the 12 months preceding Feb. 19 was $456,000, a year-over-year increase of 5 percent, according to Trulia. The median monthly price of rentals in that period was $2,900.
As of Mar. 2, 70 houses in Long Valley were posted on the Garden State Multiple Listing Service website. The least expensive in good condition was a 1965 ranch house with three bedrooms on 1.1 acres; it was listed on Feb. 9 for $295,000, with property taxes of $6,018. The most expensive was a 25-acre equestrian estate with a four-bedroom house and three horse barns, also built in 1965. This property was listed at $1.55 million, with unusually low taxes (for its size) of about $13,000; it has been on and off the market since 2009 and was last put up for sale in June 2018.
According to the Klaassens, the Ohio transplants, Long Valley’s real estate has not fully recovered from the recession of a decade ago. After becoming empty nesters last year, the couple put their home on Schooley’s Mountain on the market and ultimately sold it for $582,000, or 16 percent less than they paid in late 2005, smack in the boom years.
But Deborah Herridge, of Sotheby’s International Realty in Summit, N.J., who sold the Klaassens that house, disagrees about the market’s health. During the boom, she said, “Long Valley’s housing prices increased at a much greater rate than other areas, because developers were able to build new homes and the taxes were relatively cheap.” As big stretches of farmland were transformed into subdivisions to meet a surge in demand, she said, housing values were inflated, and the market had more ground to recover. She added that several foreclosed properties have only now come up for sale because of a New Jersey state-mandated judicial process that can take up to seven years to complete.
Ms. Herridge confirmed that there has been an accumulation of Long Valley housing inventory and that there is a tendency for expensive homes to languish on the market, but said it owed to the departure of older residents for warmer locales, where tax burdens are lower (of particular importance given the recent tax-code revision) and a fixed income goes further.
At the same time, she said, fewer young families are filling the void. Couples in their 30s and 40s tend to seek out smaller houses more convenient to New York. “They’re not looking for five-acre properties,” Ms. Herridge said. “They don’t need a three- to four-car garage.”
Residents describe a warm community that bands together, especially to support neighbors in distress. And then there are the stars.
“My clients like that you can see them at night,” Ms. Herridge said. “I know that sounds silly, but being able to sit out at night and really see the moon and stars, like most people could when they were kids — they find that really appealing.”
The highly regarded Washington Township school district includes three elementary schools in Long Valley serving different parts of the district, and one middle school in Long Valley. Students in ninth through 12th grade attend West Morris Central High School in nearby Chester, N.J.
Benedict A. Cucinella Elementary School enrolls about 490 students in kindergarten through fifth grade and has a prekindergarten program for 15 disabled students. In 2016-17 state assessments, 66 percent of students met standards in English versus 56 percent statewide; 67 percent met standards in math versus 49 percent statewide.
Flocktown-Kossmann Elementary School comprises two buildings, one serving about 215 students in prekindergarten through second grade, the other about 250 students in third through fifth grade. On 2016-17 state assessments, 72 percent of students met standards in English versus 56 percent statewide; 69 percent met standards in math versus 49 statewide.
Old Farmers Road Elementary School enrolls about 335 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. On 2016-17 state assessments, 77 percent of students met standards in English versus 56 percent statewide; 76 percent met standards in math versus 49 statewide.
Long Valley Middle School enrolls about 800 students in sixth through eighth grade. On 2016-17 state assessments, 77 percent of students met standards in English versus 57 percent statewide; 61 percent met standards in math versus 37 statewide.
West Morris Central High School, which is part of the West Morris Regional High School District and has an International Baccalaureate program, enrolls about 1,300 students in ninth through 12th grade. Average 2016-17 SAT scores were 601 reading and writing and 612 math, versus 551 and 552 statewide.
The most efficient way to get to New York City, about 60 miles east, is by car. The trip to Midtown on Interstates 80 or 78 takes between one and two hours, depending on traffic. Another option is to drive to Dover, N.J., half an hour east of Long Valley, and take a direct train to Pennsylvania Station on New Jersey Transit’s Morris and Essex Line. Travel time is less than an hour and a half, and the fare is $15.25 one way, or $445 for a monthly ticket.
An article on summer health resorts published in an 1891 American medical journal recommended Schooley’s Mountain for its location on a high plateau covered in pitch pine trees, “a region of exceptional healthfulness, especially for those inclined to consumptive troubles.” The article went on to point out: “On the west side of the mountain is a mineral spring containing muriate of soda and lime, etc., beneficial in dyspepsia and bladder troubles.”
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An earlier version of this article misstated the sale price of the home sold by the Klaassen family in Long Valley, N.J. It was sold for $582,000, or 16 percent less than they paid in late 2005, not $575,000 or 17 percent less.
Published at Wed, 06 Mar 2019 20:52:32 +0000