The first European settlers arrived around 1675, and were primarily English, Dutch, and French Puritans who had earlier settled Hempstead, Long Island, and Stamford, Connecticut. They acquired most of today’s Essex County from the Native Americans and followed three trails from Newark and Elizabeth that roughly correspond to South Orange Avenue, Springfield Avenue, and Ridgewood Road. These three routes resulted in three separate communities that merged into Maplewood and South Orange.
Today, Maplewood is a diverse and family-friendly community. The township has a downtown area alternatively known as "the village" or "Maplewood Center" with a movie theater, several upscale and mid-scale restaurants, a small supermarket, independent cafés and shops, a toy store and an independent bookstore. The structure of the downtown is largely unchanged since the 1950s.
At the turn of the twentieth century only a few main streets existed amongst the farmlands and open space in Maplewood, but during the first three decades of the century new streets were created. Between 1920 and 1930, Maplewood experienced approximately a 300% population increase from 5,283 to 21,321; the population has stayed around this number, plus or minus a few thousand, ever since. To support the rapidly growing population, schools were constructed, parks were laid out, and a commercial center developed.
Maplewood won New Jersey Monthly magazine's Downtown Showdown in 2015, with the editor's noting the community's "myriad boutiques, art galleries and notable restaurants".
Maplewood has seven parks, 2 community center, and a town pool providing residents with many recreational activities. In addition, the South Mountain Reservation on the edge of town has 2,000 acres of woods and trails perfect for hiking and enjoying nature.
Maplewood is around 20 miles west of lower Manhattan and the drive to the city is 35 to 45 minutes, traffic permitting, via Interstate 78 and the Holland Tunnel. New Jersey Transit trains go directly to New York’s Penn Station in about 35 to 40 minutes, or switch in Newark, taking about 45 minutes. During rush hours there is a jitney to take commuters to and from the train station. There are also New Jersey Transit buses that run direct to Port Authority in about 50 minutes.