Plainfield has a rich history and legacy. It was settled in 1684 by Quakers and
incorporated as a city on April 21, 1869. The area of present day Plainfield was originally formed as Plainfield Township, from portions of Westfield Township while still a part of Essex County.
On March 19, 1857, Plainfield Township became a part of the newly
created Union County. The name Plainfield is derived from a local estate.
Formerly a bedroom suburb of the New York Metropolitan area it became an urban center of 10 closely allied municipalities with diverse industries including printing and manufacturing vehicular parts, clothing, electronic equipment and chemicals.
Several 18th century buildings still remain
The Nickname “The Queen City” came about in the second half of the 19th century, when Plainfield began developing a reputation for featuring a climate that was beneficial to respiratory ailments. It was then promoted as “Colorado of the East” and as Colorado was known as “the Queen City of the Plains”, the slogan for Plainfield was abbreviated to “The Queen City”.
The Swain Galleries were founded in 1868. The entity is the oldest privately owned art gallery in the state. The galleries are located in a Victorian structure in the Crescent Historic District.
The Plainfield Garden Club was founded in 1915. It has maintained the Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park since the garden's inception in 1927. Designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm, it is one of only 23 Shakespeare Gardens in the US. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a part of the state's Women's Heritage trail.
The Plainfield Symphony performs concerts at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. The orchestra was founded in 1919, making it one of the oldest continuously operating orchestras in the United States.
The League of Women Voters of Plainfield is one of the oldest active leagues in the United States. After a mass meeting on May 10, 1920 to form a Plainfield League.
Rotary Club was chartered on December 1, 1921 and, as such, is the oldest service club of the Plainfields.
The duCret School of Art was founded in 1926, making it the oldest art school in New Jersey. Founded by Marjorie Van Emburgh Chargois as the Van Emburgh School of Art, it was purchased in the 1960s by Dudley duCret. A 1933 exhibition of nudes by the school's artists once led to a controversy, according to The New York Times.
Plainfield is the birthplace of P-Funk. George Clinton founded Parliament Funkadelic while working in a local barber shop and went on to gain national renown and celebrity.
In sports history, Plainfield is the birthplace and/or home of several current and former athletes including Milt Campbell, the 1956 Olympic Decathlon gold medalist (the first African American to earn this title), Joe Black, the first African American pitcher to win a World Series game, Jeff Torborg, a former MLB player, coach and manager, and Vic Washington, NFL player.
Plainfield is also the home to Charles and Anna Booker who were responsible through the famous case of Booker vs the Board of Education, for the desegregation of Schools in Plainfield, in New Jersey and around the Country.
Plainfield’s history as a place to call home for the 19th and 20th century wealthy lead to a significant and preserved architectural legacy. An influx of Wall Street money led to the creation of “Millionaires Row” after the opening of the railway in the 19th century.
Plainfield is home to 10 historic districts which feature tree lined streets and distinctive architectural designs, most built during the first half of the 20th century.
Plainfield was affected by the Rebellion in July 1967. This civil disturbance occurred in the wake of the larger Newark riots. A Plainfield police officer was killed, 50 people were injured, and several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of property was damaged by looting and arson.
Plainfield was a regional shopping and entertainment center. Residents from nearby Union, Middlesex and Somerset counties would drive to shop and do business in Plainfield. Peak shopping times in Plainfield were Thursday night and Saturday, when Front Street and the surrounding areas would be bustling with business.