When it comes to terms used to refer to an agglomeration of towns or cities adjacent to each other, this ranks right up there as one of the best, much better than “the Bay Area,” and even better than “the Quad Cities.” Seen on guide signs on the Garden State Parkway and Interstate 78, as well as occasionally in the mass media serving northern New Jersey, this term refers to Orange, East Orange, West Orange, and South Orange.
Originally part of Newark, Orange broke off in 1806, but wasn’t officially incorporated as a city until 1860. Nobody could agree on who was going to pay for the police and fire departments, so various sections of Orange seceded: South Orange in 1861, a portion of what would become West Orange in 1862, and both East Orange and the rest of West Orange in 1863. Unfortunately, the remaining portion of Orange never took the obvious step to complete the compass rose by changing its name to North Orange.
Located on the main road to Newark, and later on the main railroad to Newark and Hoboken, the Oranges became a part of the haze of industry of northern New Jersey, with hat makers, breweries, and the United States Radium Company all calling the area home, although the most famous factory complex was that of Thomas Edison in West Orange, a portion of which survives as the Edison National Historic Site.
Today, with almost all of the industry gone, the Oranges are part post-industrial wasteland cleanup project (Orange and East Orange in particular), part bedroom community from which commuters travel to New York City via NJ Transit trains and buses every day (West Orange and South Orange in particular). South Orange also gets the occasional mention during college basketball season for being the home of Seton Hall University.
For the record, the Oranges are named for Orange as in William of Orange, not for the citrus fruit.