New Jersey: So Close, But So Far

Excitement rippled through northern New Jersey in December 1945 and January 1946, as United Nations site inspectors arrived in the United States to look for headquarters locations in the suburban areas of Boston and New York City. The UN team had already determined to look at just two New Jersey communities: Princeton as a potential permanent site and Atlantic City as a hotel-ready temporary location. But with the diplomats making their home base at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, boosters in nearby New Jersey could not resist leaping into the race to become the Capital of the World.

An opportunity to speak at the New Jersey State Library this week led me back into my research files and reminded me of this wave of interest that followed the UN’s decision to focus on sites in the Northeast.  The New Jersey hopefuls included these, among others:

Asbury Park. Mayor George A Smock II wrote to the UN Preparatory Commission on December 20, 1945, to promote Asbury Park as a wholesome community free of racial discrimination, with “a cosmopolitan understanding of the world’s people, their customs, and habits based on 75 years of entertaining visitors from all sections of the globe in our resort city.” The local Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis club joined in appealing to the UN while its representatives visited the United States in January 1946, but UN staff members declined to add Asbury Park to the site inspection itinerary.

Central Region. A consulting engineer, H.E. Kuntz, wrote to the Governor of New Jersey on January 11, 1946, to suggest an 11,000-acre site southeast of Princeton that he had surveyed in 1911 for a proposed “great capitol of aviation” and University of the Air. He offered to reproduce his layout for a town and university as a headquarters for the United Nations.

Hawthorne. W.E. Fairhurst, a resident of Hawthorne, created a sketch to show how a UN headquarters at this location “would be a beacon light to approaching ships at sea … as well as a guide to all planes, from all the world.” His plan, sent on January 8, 1946, to the UN site inspection group then in New York, proposed buildings dedicated to Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, “whose leadership certainly brought the nations closer together.

See the List of Contenders for a list of known world capital hopefuls in New Jersey (does anyone know of more?).  My thanks to the staff and audience at the New Jersey State Library for the opportunity to share some of the stories of the Capital of the World competition and for the report on the event already posted on the library’s website.

Related: Why Not Morristown? (It Was Good Enough for George Washington)