South Orange is one of only a few towns in New Jersey to retain gas light street illumination. The gaslight has long been the symbol of South Orange (together with the distinctive Village Hall); a local tavern, the Gaslight, is named for them. Many of the major roads in town do have modern mercury vapor streetlights (built into gaslight frames), but most of the residential sections of the town are still gaslit. Some believe that South Orange has more operating gaslights than any other community in the United States.
Architecture is extremely varied. Most of the town is single-family wood framed houses, but there are a few apartment buildings from various eras as well as townhouse-style condominiums of mostly more recent vintage. Houses cover a range that includes every common style of the Mid-Atlantic United States since the late nineteenth century, and in sizes that range from brick English Cottages to giant Mansard-roofed mansions. Tudor, Victorian, Colonial, Ranch, Modern, and many others are all to be found. Most municipal government structures date from the 1920s, with a few being of more modern construction.
Many residents commute to New York City, but others work locally or in other parts of New Jersey. South Orange has a central business district with restaurants, banks, and other retail and professional services. There are a few small office buildings, but no large-scale enterprise other than Seton Hall University.
South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) is located at 1 SOPAC Way, nestled right next to the NJ Transit South Orange station. The performance venue is a 415-seat proscenium theater, with a 5-screen Clearview Cinemas movie theater, and a dance studio/rental space in the same complex.
SOPAC presents music, family, dance, theater, and comedy programs throughout the year. Notable artists and companies who have performed at SOPAC include Paquito D'Rivera, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Olympia Dukakis, Richie Havens, Yo-Yo Ma, Eddie Palmieri, Madeleine Peyroux, Paula Poundstone, Anoushka Shankar, Phoebe Snow, Angie Stone, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Dionne Warwick, and Nancy Wilson.
The plans for SOPAC were first spoken of during the mid-1990s, and in the early 2000s the project was set into motion, with Seton Hall University partnering with SOPAC and construction in August 2004. The complex opened on November 3, 2006 to the general public.
SOPAC is still relatively young for an arts organization, but is making big strides in programming, arts education, and reaching out to the community. Partnerships with NJ-based companies like Lydia Johnson Dance and Battery Factory Theater have expanded their arts education initiative. SOPAC also partners with Seton Hall University to present Seton Hall Arts Council events throughout the year. These events include the Classical Concert Series, Jazz 'n the Hall, and Seton Hall Theatre--student theater productions.