When I first visited Montclair I fell in love with the houses. Driving down the tree-lined streets, seeing house after house, I was immediately charmed with every Colonial, Victorian, and Craftsman detail. The diversity, charm, and history of the homes in Montclair make this town unique. Each its own size and style, many updated, and some preserved, all with care and pride of ownership. Once I finally became the owner of my very own Montclair home, built in 1934, I became curious about what it looked like when it was built, how people lived in it, and who lived in it. I have often wondered if there was a way to dig into my home’s past. So when my wife told me she signed us up to learn about our home’s history, I was thrilled.
It turns out, there are dozens of online and in person resources available to Montclair residents, to help you uncover your home’s history. You may have heard of places like the Montclair History Center, but maybe didn’t know where or how to begin. I didn’t either, which is why I was so excited to attend a class led by the Montclair Public Library, Montclair Historic Preservation Commission, and Montclair History Center.
During the class we learned how to search the library for photos, old deeds, old maps, and files. And if you are like me, and love looking at old archival photos, you will be as amazed as I was to check out this exciting online resource. The Montclair Public library has a “Historic Image Database” that anyone can access on the internet by going to http://www.montclairlibrary.org/. The key is typing your search in quotes. So if you live on Grove St, be sure to type in “Grove St.” Not every home is in the database, but there are plenty of other resources to find your home’s history. There is an entire history room in the library dedicated to Montclair and the librarians are happy to help. One interesting fact I learned about my home was that the original property it sat on was much larger and was eventually subdivided to build two more homes. I discovered this fact by looking at the Sanborn insurance maps (photographed below) from 1934, which happens to be the exact year my home was built. It was thrilling in a nerdy way. I was also able to look into the land and home’s original owners through deeds and I was able to look through files by name to research the “social history” of the home. Whatever your questions may be, there are an abundance of resources and people who are available to help. And if you don’t feel like playing detective, you can put in a research request with the Montclair History Center and have a researcher do it for you. There are photos, maps, and records of your Montclair home that are accessible to anyone with curiosity.
I am truly amazed by the efforts, care, and time that the Montclair Public Library, Montclair Historic Preservation Commission, and Montclair History Center have taken to preserve the history of our homes and continue to help us uncover and document the history of the land, structures, and those who occupy them. This is one more reason why I love Montclair.
Montclair Resource Guide (provided by the presenters)
Montclair Historic Preservation Commission
•Interactive map of Montclair’s historic house inventory is available.
•Historic Preservation Element of the
Master Plan of Montclair.
Montclair Public Library
•Local History Room, which includes historic deed abstracts,
tax and county maps.
•Historic image database online at
Montclair History Center
•Collection of tax and county maps,
photographs, Dudley Van Antwerp photograph collection, and telephone directories
.• Finding Aids available online for browsing parts of our collections
Helpful Brochure on Researching:
I can’t think of a better way to start a Montclair 4th of July weekend than a retro bake-off hosted by Montclair Bread Co. It’s no secret that the Montclair Bread Company bakes and sells amazing breads, muffins, croissants, and last but not least, their famous, delicious, and decadent doughnuts. But part of what makes this company special to me is their involvement in our town and their passion for community events. Whether it’s hosting their annual doughnut run, a sidewalk story time, or a Mom’s Night Out, owner Rachel Crampsey continues to make valuable contributions to this community. So when I saw an event in my Facebook feed that had the words, “Montclair Bread” and “Retro Bake-off” I got so excited! Not to mention, all of the event proceeds were benefitting Tony’s Kitchen. I asked Rachel how she came up with the idea and her response was so fitting and completely in the spirit of the Montclair Bread Company. I hope she doesn’t mind if I quote her word for word, because I love this story. “So…do you remember that Mom’s Night Out thing that I hosted for Mother’s Day? Marissa Rothkopf Bates was one of the moms selected. She and I started talking about our childhoods and the desserts we grew up with. Mine was Strawberry Pretzel Salad…I actually had it at my wedding!! She had never heard of it. The next day, I made some and delivered it to her doorstep. She showed me her collection of vintage cookbooks. Then we thought it would be really funny to introduce all these crazy old recipes to Montclair (home of organic, all-natural everything!). We both have connections to Toni’s Kitchen. Just like that…the contest was born.” So there you have it, the first annual Retro Bake Off back story. The entry form for the contest included 6 categories:
1. Made with Jello – includes molded desserts & sweet salads
2. Cakes – classic layers, poke, dump & ice box
3. Buckles, Bettys & Pies – if it’s baked with fruit, it probably goes here
4. Candies/Fudge – you don’t have to leave out the marshmallow fluff or Velveeta!
5. Red, White & Blue – it’s not the 4th of July without a Jello Berry flag!!!
6. Kid’s Competition – open to aspiring bakers aged twelve and under
I decided to enter Chocolate ice box pie into the contest. I grew up in Texas and my siblings and I would love going to Luby’s Cafeteria. The most exciting part of the experience was choosing our own dessert (and the fact that we were allowed to get dessert every time). While the restaurant doesn’t call their desserts retro, they are the one menu item that hasn’t changed in at least 30 years. I adapted it straight from the Luby’s Cafeteria recipe. I thought it fit both the retro theme (especially since marshmallows are an ingredient) and had sentimental meaning. This meant it would be fun to not only bake, but introduce to this part of the country. I documented some of the process for your viewing pleasure.
On Saturday July 2nd, I showed up at Montclair Bread’s Label Street Bakery (early as instructed) where crowds were already gathering to purchase a taste (10 tasting spoons could be purchased for $5).
When I took my pie inside I was delighted to see so many delicious desserts displayed with pride and care. Seeing all of the bakers in their vintage dresses and aprons, setting up their desserts was a most beautiful sight. Rachel told me there were approximately 50 entries in the contest.
After a few minutes of oohing and ahhing over the treats, we were asked to step outside so that the judging could begin. Until that moment, I only cared about the fun of participating. But everyone was talking about the judging and I got a bit nervous and competitive. Especially since my 5-year-old (who wouldn’t even taste my pie) kept saying, “I want you to win Momma.” The judges included Rachel’s grandmother (who tasted every entry), Liz, a representative from the historical society, Hani from Haniela’s – a baking blog and YouTube channel, Amy from Toast, and Montclair Bread’s own pastry chef, Carolyn. Marissa & Rachel oversaw the process and stepped in to break a tie.
While the judging took place, spectators and contestants were are able to purchase treats from Montclair Bread Company, including ambrosia salad and pistachio jello salad. They also had retro jar desserts with layered jello. And of course, no Montclair Bread Company event would be complete without doughnuts. The Creativity Caravan was there making “Montclair Sunsets” a fruity minty punch and Toast was selling root beer on tap with an optional scoop of ice cream.
After each category Rachel Crampsey would emerge from the judging area to announce the winners and hand out prizes. By this point there was a large lively crowd and participants were anxiously awaiting to hear results and taste the entries. I was on the outskirts of the crowd and all of the sudden heard my name. My wonderful friend who came to support me was probably more thrilled than I was. It was an honor to be named first place pie! I must say, I got pretty into holding the title.
There was also a grand prize winner, Lindsey Wormald who won for her very cherry coke cupcakes and was crowned (with an actual crown) retro baking queen. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a photograph, but you can see the retro baking queen, here.
The following is a list of all the contest winners:
1. Granny’s Haystacks – Alice Magdziak
2. Cheesecake Fudge Brownies – Sara Carmona
3. 4th of July Crack – Kim ranges
Buckles & Pies
1. Chocolate Icebox Pie – Amber Haas
2. Oatmeal Cream Pie – Lindsay Jones
3. Key Lime Pie – Danielle Raymond Neff
1. Cousin Isabel’s Secret Recipe Cake- Liz Githens Coyle
2. My Mother’s Chocolate Cake – Jill Raleigh
3. Vera’s Orange Layer Cake- Hillary Walter
Made with Jello:
1. Pistachio Fluff – Judy O’Rourke
2. Strawberry Pretzel Salad – Laura Ellman
3. Green Jello Mold – Lindsay Wormald
1. Lemon Almond Cake: Ava Chickering
2. Tropicups: Jarrett Chickering
3. Wacky Crazy Cake: Kids at Toni’s Kitchen
After the judging was finished, the crowds were let it to taste.
Now I have one more thing to add to my list of Montclair 4th of July events to look forward to. Rachel also told me that plans are already in the works for next year and they will be adding a band and including a people’s choice portion of the judging.
Thank you Montclair Bread Company! I am happy and proud to live in a town where our business owners are inventive, involved, and inspiring. It is companies like this one that make this town unique and make this large and ever growing town of Montclair, keep it’s small town feel.
Hello Why I Love Montclair followers. Here is another peice of my story. If you’d like to continue reading, you can subscribe at www.whyilovemontclairrealestate.com
I’m excited to announce my spinoff blog, Why I Love Montclair Real Estate.
Source: My Real Estate Journey Bloomfield to Montclair
Mary Sobers-Levitt you won a box of local Montclair treats!
Now you can enjoy cooking a gourmet dinner with olive oil and artisianal salts, eating your chocolates and a Montclair Bread doughnut with a mug of something hot, while redesigning your home and having photos taken of it 😉
And “Walnut Street Welcomes Montclair” won favorite Montclair article. Thank you for all the votes, shares and comments!
Almost one year and 29 posts later, I am so grateful for my readers and friends who encouraged me to keep this blog going. It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I want to show you all how much I appreciate you and how much I love being a part of this community. So let’s play a game! Here’s how to play. There are 2 ways to enter your name, but only one winner.
How to Play:
1. I have chosen 11 articles and pasted links below. Vote for your favorite article by writing the name of the article in the comments section and you will be entered into a drawing to win.
2. Share this contest on Facebook and you will be entered a second time.
The winner will be announced on Valentine’s day and will receive a goodie bag filled with all kinds of local treats from Olive That and More and Montclair Bread Co, and gift certificates from Photography by Jennifer and Adriana Smyth Interiors.
A very special thank you to all my readers!
As we approach the New Year, I’m sad to see the holiday season come to an end. It’s such a beautiful sight to see all our neighborhoods lit up and decorated to celebrate this season. One Montclair block in particular, the cul-de-sac of Potter Ct, where the homes (mostly 1940s side hall colonials) are as quaint as the block itself, embraces the season with their very own tradition. Each year the residents of Potter Ct replace their flagpole (in the center circle of their cul-de-sac) with a tree. The neighbors come out and join together to trim and light the tree and have a little party. There is food, fun, and hot cocoa. Kids play in the street and all are reminded of neighborhood friendships and the beginning of the holiday season. It’s a celebration of Hanukkah, Christmas, and most of all, neighbors.
Stories like this one are why I really love Montclair. As a mother it’s incredibly important to know my neighbors and expose my children to the people around us, people we may not otherwise have the opportunity to know. Getting outside of our homes builds a stronger, safer, and happier community. And I’m happy to live in a place where the residents are not only friendly, but a place where they reach out and come together to establish new traditions. Thank you Potter Ct for sharing your story, your photos, and most of all, for making our town and our holiday a little bit brighter. I hope everyone reading has a wonderful New Year!
Last year I read about a program through the Montclair police department where Santa visits the homes of Montclair residents and delivers gifts. It’s meant as a toy drive and it is a huge bonus to the residents of our town, as well as the beneficiaries of the donated toys. I dropped off one gift for each of my children and one gift from each of my children, as a donation to another child. I’m not sure what I expected, but I knew it would be exciting for my kids to see Santa a bit early and receive a toy. So when Santa pulled up on a police truck, escorted by a glowing, glittery, musical, holiday SWAT truck and 2 other vehicles, the entire experience greatly exceeded my expectations. I think it’s probably just best to check out the videos to see what happened next.
After much success in 2014, we participated once again in the MPD Santa toy drive this year. Since we knew what to expect, we gave our friends and neighbors some warning this time and were able to enjoy the experience with them too. It wasn’t raining, so no one came inside, but we had plenty of time to check out the parade of vehicles. And it was quite a sight to see.
Like many working families, the day to day for our household is quite busy. There are careers and housework, school work, school functions, birthday parties, and the list goes on. Time really seems to be moving faster and faster and the seasons are changing before my eyes. But one thing I can always count on to get me out of my rut is my town, my community, and my friends. The decor in Montclair center, the town events, the social engagements, the local shops, the performing arts, the visual arts, the music, and the generosity make my chores and to do lists feel exciting and fun as the seasons change (especially around this time of year) and remind me why I love life in this town we call home. I can count on the wreaths and menorahs to go up, the parties to happen, the food drives, the coat drives, the giddy children, and Santa on a Police truck. I am so very grateful for the people of this community. I personally love this time of year, but I think that even the grinchiest of Grinches would not be able to help smiling about what is going on right here in Montclair.