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:
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Happy Monday! As we feast on leftover candy (yuck), eyes blurry from parties and falling back in time, bellies bloated from too much pizza and beer and sweets, I will leave you with some images from around town this Halloween weekend. If anyone has some great photos, I will be happy to update this post. There was too much spookiness and fun to capture all that this town had to offer this Halloween weekend. Festive doesn’t even begin to explain how much we love our holidays. And a holiday for children of any age, is simply the best, and it’s another reason why I love Montclair!
There is no question that the town of Montclair is filled with beautiful homes. These homes are a reflection of the town’s history, charm, pride, and personality. But with the majority of Montclair’s homes built in the early 1900s (some even date back to the 17 and 1800s), home renovations have become part of our culture and a form of art and creative expression. That’s a nice way of saying Montclairians are proud of our homes and obsessed with home renovations and decorating. I personally believe this is because we have such interesting and beautiful homes to begin with. Our homes may be older, but they are filled with charm and unique features. So with a little sweat, paint, and decor, you have a space that is beautiful, unique, and makes you want to spend time in it. And in such a sought-after town like Montclair, a well thought out home renovation can be a very smart investment.
The home in this renovation story is a 1919 Center Hall Colonial located on a quiet street just steps from Brookdale park and blocks from Watchung Plaza. The home is in an ideal location for anyone who wants to take advantage of Montclair, without getting in their car. By putting money into their home, this family not only invested in a Master Bathroom, they invested in a tree-lined street, a walkable neighborhood, and a one of a kind town.
When I shop for homes with my clients, most of them want something that is already updated. But there are some people, like this family, who wanted to customize their home to meet their specific taste and needs. They are creative by nature and profession, so buying a home with more dated features gave them a chance to get creative and update the home in exactly their style. The original master bath in this home had a lot going for it. The space and layout were quite good for an older home, but the tile, tub, vanity, and fixtures were in need of an update.
Master Bath Before the Renovation:
Master Bath After the Renovation:
Claw Foot Tub with black underside and gold faucet
Black and White Painted Cement Tile
More Gold Fixtures & Accesories
With cement tiles and gold fixtures, this renovated Upper Montclair bathroom is truly custom and one of a kind. It blends old and new and makes me want to take a long soak (alone and kid free) in the claw foot tub (glass of wine in hand).
One thing I love about this area is the history, charm, and craftsmanship of our houses. The mix of old and new is a constant theme among our town and our homes. While we find ways to make traditional homes with formal dining rooms more open and modern, more and more homeowners are integrating original features of their homes with modern design. Adriana Smyth of Adriana Smyth Interiors put it perfectly when she told me, she appreciates this mix of old and new because ” it makes a house feel more like a home and less like a showroom.”
I personally love that these appliances are still in working order and I wonder if our modern day refrigerators will last half as long. And while something built in 1950 may not be as energy efficient, the construction of these solid items holds up enough to give them another life. Adriana pointed out that “there’s been a huge trend in using reclaimed materials to built anything from kitchen cabinets, to dining room tables, to light fixtures. ” So now I’m kind of obsessed with this idea and even found a pinterest board of ideas, because I too own vintage appliances.
My first home in Bloomfield came with this 1940s GE refrigerator that I fell instantly in love with.
I have no idea how it ended up in the basement of my home and I am actually quite convinced our basement was built around this monster of a fridge, but it is still in working condition and makes me long for the days when products were built to last .
My latest listing, a side hall colonial in the City of Clifton (a city which borders Upper Montclair) boasts this stunning vintage range, also in working order.
I never thought I would call a home from the late 1940s “newer,” but around here they are, and many of them are full of hidden gems such as this.
We’d love to see photos of the treasures in your homes. Feel free to post them in the comments.
Getting to know the side streets and neighborhoods of Montclair is one of my favorite things about working in real estate. But my love for Stanford Place began even before my clients purchased a home there. It began years ago when my wife and I were driving home from dinner and I decided to make a right turn off Grove. We ended up back tracking when we saw a pair of large red lips hanging from the exterior of a home. We laughed and thought it was cool. We snapped photos on our phones and drove away. But it was definitely intriguing. I wondered who lived in the home and where the lips came from. So, for the Montclairians that have always wondered, I finally got some answers from one of the lovely homeowners of “the lips house.”
The owners purchased the home in 2008. The homeowner told me he enjoys life in Montclair, “especially because it’s a community that embraces diversity and celebrates creativity.” When I asked him where they got the lips, he told me, “we got the lips on a whim while browsing a store that specializes in fiberglass sculptures…. They were a lot more affordable than the life-size giraffe that first caught our eye as we were driving by.” “We like quirky accessories because they’re fun. The lips gave our home a face, transforming the 2nd floor windows into eyes. It’s like our house is watching benevolently over the street. One added bonus is that the lips make a lot of people smile. ” This is so true, I know I smile every time I drive by the home. I’ve always been an art lover and I’ve always loved the touches of art and inspiration in this town. Among the well manicured lawns and pristine homes, there are flags and scarecrows and sculptures. For every 5 homes that blend into the background, there is a home painted purple or turquoise. This is a town with personality and heart. Our town is a reflection of our community and what a beautiful place it is. I am truly grateful for “the lips” and I sincerely thank the homeowners who were creative enough to give their house a face.
In case you haven’t had the privilege of seeing them in person, here are some photographs.
One thing we all love about Montclair is it’s close proximity and easy commute to New York City, so it’s no wonder that many of it’s residents are transplants from Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. And many of these transplants choose to rent homes and try out the area before they commit to the suburbs. I get a lot of questions from clients about the rental market here in town and one thing pretty much remains consistent; there usually aren’t very many rentals on the market and even fewer single family rentals. Every once in a while there are furnished and short term rentals (usually 3-6 months), like this fully furnished single family home on Grove Street that is available until the end of August.
As I’ve gotten to know and love this community I believe this may be a trend that stays consistent for years to come. First off, many of Montclair’s residents work in Manhattan for bi-coastal companies. This creates the opportunity to work and travel for long periods of time. Many residents are also in Entertainment and Journalism, which give way to a more adventurous way of living and opportunity for travel. And in order to keep their mortgage paid and their homes warm, residents are renting out their houses for the short term. Tamima Friedman, a colleague of mine at Keller Williams NJ Metro Group recently helped a client rent her condo in the Siena that is fully furnished, for over list price. Tamima said, the landlord (owner of the condo) was taking a few months to test out another city and be foot loose and fancy free. The cost of doing that and maintaining her condo was high, so she decided to see if she could rent it out for a few months and cover her costs. The family that rented it were being relocated to another city and needed a short term furnished situation while they shipped their belongings south. I also had a client last year that rented her home to a woman who needed to stay local while doing renovations to her own home.
Whether it’s a decision to stay local during a renovation or a chance to get a taste of life in Montclair, short term rentals can be a great opportunity for both landlord and tenant. It’s a wonderful way for residents who want to spread their wings to come back to this town and community they love and call home.