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Essex Fells is a borough in Essex County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 2,113, reflecting a decline of 49 (-2.3%) from the 2,162 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 23 (+1.1%) from the 2,139 counted in the 1990 Census.
Essex Fells was incorporated as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 31, 1902, from portions of Caldwell Township (now Fairfield Township). In 1981, the borough was one of seven Essex County municipalities to pass a referendum to become a township, joining four municipalities that had already made the change, of what would ultimately be more than a dozen Essex County municipalities to reclassify themselves as townships in order take advantage of federal revenue sharing policies that allocated townships a greater share of government aid to municipalities on a per capita basis. Effective January 1, 1992, it again became a borough.
New Jersey Family magazine ranked Essex Fells as the best town for families in its 2016 rankings of "New Jersey's Best Towns for Families". New Jersey Monthly magazine ranked Essex Fells as its 10th best place to live in its 2008 rankings of the "Best Places To Live" in New Jersey.
Essex Fells was part of the Horseneck Tract, which was an area that consisted of what are now the municipalities of Caldwell, West Caldwell, North Caldwell, Fairfield, Verona, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Roseland, and portions of Livingston and West Orange.
In 1702, settlers purchased the 14,000 acres (57 km2) Horseneck Tract — so-called because of its irregular shape that suggested a horse's neck and head — from the Lenni Lenape Native Americans for goods equal to $325. This purchase encompassed much of western Essex County, from the Orange, or First Mountain in the Watchung Mountain range to the Passaic River.
In the late 1800s, Philadelphia developer Anthony S. Drexel realized the impact of train travel on residential development and sent Charles W. Leavitt to the northern New Jersey area near the end of the Caldwell line. Leavitt, Drexel and Drexel's son-in-law John F. Fell formed the Suburban Land Company and purchased 1,000 acres of land from the estate of Revolutionary War General William J. Gould. In order to create their residential development the group commissioned noted architect Ernest W. Bowditch. The community's name was derived by taking "Essex" from the name of the county and adding "Fells" from the name of John F. Fell which also means hill or down.
Based on an ordinance passed in 1928, commercial activity in the borough is limited to a single three-story building constructed to look like a house and two small workshops on a dead end.
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