How did this confusing turn of events happen to be?
As you might have guessed from the name, Victory Gardens was born during World War II as housing for workers who were employed at nearby Picatinny Arsenal and other private defense contractors manufacturing war goods. It was built quickly: the Federal government determined the need shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and within six months, it had constructed 300 housing units, streets and supporting infrastructure on about 90 acres of land in Randolph. The community was named for the victory gardens that loyal Americans were planting on their own property to free up farmers' crops for the war effort.
The influx of new people in Randolph seems to have caused some discomfort among longtime residents, which was allayed somewhat by the Federal subsidies that came to the town in exchange for the new construction. However, the climate changed after the government payments ended along with the war. A great many Victory Gardens residents were Democrats in what was otherwise a very Republican area, which made some Randolphers uneasy. Looking toward separating the newer community from its host, Randolph officials held a referendum in September 1951, and voters narrowly agreed that Victory Gardens should be spun off.
|This has to be the most cost- and space-efficient|
war memorial out there.
Victory Gardens continues, looking a lot like a housing development off of South Salem Street, not far from Route 10. Its compact homes are clustered on streets named after a few presidents, most of whom are predictable (Washington, Roosevelt) and a few that aren't (Polk, Garfield). A condo complex was added to the town in the late 80's, but the community remains small, at around 1500 residents.
In researching, I found three other defense-related communities in New Jersey -- Audubon Park and Bellmawr Park in Camden County, and Winfield Park in Union County. They differ from Victory Gardens in that they were created by the Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division of the Federal Works Agency. All still exist today. We'll be taking a look at Winfield, specifically, in a future Hidden New Jersey report.