Glen Ridge traces its beginning to 1666 when 64 Connecticut families led by Robert Treat bought land from the Lenni Lenape Native Americans and named it New Ark to reflect a covenant to worship freely without persecution. The territory included the future towns of Bloomfield, Montclair, Belleville and Nutley. When Bloomfield was established in 1812, Glen Ridge was a section "on the hill" composed mostly of farms and woodlands with the exception of a thriving industrial area along the Toney's brook in the Glen. For most of the nineteenth century, three water-powered mills produced lumber, calico, pasteboard boxes and brass fittings. A copper mine and asandstone quarry were nearby.
With the arrival of the Newark and Bloomfield Railroad in 1856, and the construction of the Glen Ridge Train Station, and also the New York and Greenwood Lake Railway in 1872, Glen Ridge began its transition to a suburban residential community. Stately homes slowly replaced orchards and wooded fields.
In 1891 Mountainside Hospital, a local hospital with more than 300 beds, was founded.
Residents "on the hill" became unhappy with their representation on the Bloomfield Council. In spite of repeated requests to Bloomfield officials, roads remained unpaved, water and sewer systems were nonexistent, and schools were miles away. Area residents marked out the boundaries of a 1.45-square-mile area to secede from the adjoining town. At the election held on February 12, 1895, the decision to secede passed by only 23 votes. Robert Rudd was elected the first mayor of Glen Ridge.
In 1989, athletes from the high school were involved in the sexual assault of a mentally handicapped student. Three teenagers were found guilty of first-degree aggravated sexual assault; a fourth was convicted of third-degree conspiracy. Author Bernard Lefkowitz wrote about the incident in the 1997 book Our Guys: The Glen Ridge Rape and the Secret Life of the Perfect Suburb. Lefkowitz's book was adapted into the 1999 TV movie Our Guys: Outrage at Glen Ridge.
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