The Manville Homes (revisited)

A while back I did a write up on “the Manville Homes” which, after a healthy conversation with some of the folks on here, and one fantastic map of the area, we discovered was a Goverment Housing Project used to house war workers. Today I was checking out the New York Times archives and they had a little write up about them, so I figured I’d share.





Ok. First of all, to everyone who read the intro section of this site, I said this was meant to be an interactive project. A lot of people are participating in this and I just want to take the time to say thank you… it’s coming along amazingly. In the last post I showed you some photos of the Manville (row) homes that formerly existed on Brooks Blvd on the present site of the High School. Well, Joanne Pignatore was kind enough to share this little treasure with us. It’s a map of what is described as “The Manville Plaza” from 1917. This is interesting since the name Manville wasn’t officially bestowed upon the town yet. The map looks like a map of the row homes… you can see that Brooks Blvd and Dukes Parkway are on either side. You can also see on the map that each block has a corresponding number and within each number are more numbers, which I’m assuming represent plots of land. The photos I posted last time are from the 40s… so this map suggests there must’ve been many more homes  in 1917 than there are in the previous pictures i posted, or at least that there were meant to be more built. Im still not 100% on what these houses were originally built for. Im told they were originally owned by the government and used as military homes until they were reliquished to the town and used as a temporary residence for Johns Manville workers. At the moment though it’s all just hearsay, and I intend to do some more research on it… so I’ll keep you all hot and informed on what I discover. Again if there is anyone out there with any difinitive insight into these things please contact me at In the meantime though here are clickable more close-up versions of the map broken into left and right halves.




All photos will expand if you click on them!

Back in before there was the current version of Manville High School the area consisted of Military style row homes, which according to this The New York Times blurb was used to cheaply house war industry workers from Belle Mead and Somerville after around 1943. I know a lot of people reading this site briefly lived there as well. (check out the comments section!) If you look at the photos above, you can see that the houses form an “L” shape… the open area is where the High School was constructed.

From what I’ve learned from folks on this site… it was owned by the government who then released the land to the town and construction on the new high school began. The school was completed in 1955 and some of the families and houses lingered until the late 50’s when the homes were finally torn down. Some people say the folks who lived there were forcibly pushed out, but I guess that is still a matter of debate.

Before we continue to a pile of photos I wanted to share this reader comment, which I think paints a great picture of life here…

“Great pictures and they brought back a lot of fond memories. My knowledge of the The Manville Homes was also referred to as the “projects” is as follows. I spent my first 8 years growing up there from 1948- 56, before my parents bought a house in the Weston section of town. I believe the facility was initially built to house Jamaican workers who were brought to supplement the work force for area factories during WWII. After the war there was a shortage of housing, low income or otherwise for returning veterans who were getting married in groves and starting the very large “Baby Boomer” generation that I am a member of. As I remember it, there was both a white and black section with the majority of tenants being white. There was also a three room school house for grades 1-3 and it was integrated. I attended the third grade in the “project school” taught by a “Miss Collins who was also the school Principal – imagine that!

The high school kids attended the Somerville, Bound Brook and Dunellen high schools. Given the small apartments I’m sure it was depressing for adults until they could buy a home of their own but for a kid it was heaven. All your buddies lived only doors away and we played in the woods where the Christ the King school is now. We went swimming at the “Dukes Parkway” children’s pool which was filled in many years ago and we lived close enough to walk to “Poni’s” general store on the corner of Brooks Blvd and 7th ave, with the big glass candy counter. You could also buy a sling shot and a bag of marbles but that is another story and a different subject. The construction of the high school was started in 1955/56 and it forced the remaining families to move to another apartment within the project, where the athletic fields are now, out of the way of the construction or leave. Eventually all the families left by 1957 and the remaining row houses were torn down. As stated in a previous comment, the project school and the connecting administration building, which was located approximately where the home team stands are now, remained standing until the 70’s.”

I’d really like to know some more info about this place if anyone has any, as many other residents recall the area fondly. For now though here are some more great photos by Neal Ranauro! A reader also submitted this great development plan MAP!





Being born after these existed it’s so wild to look at the photos, but in a way a few still exist on the high school properly if you look through the correct set of lenses…