Montrose Park History
This research was written and compiled by Ulana D. Zakalak, Historic Preservation Consultant, for the historic district's nomination to the NJ State and National Historic Registers.
Ulana D. Zakalak
Historic Preservation Consultant
57 Cayuga Avenue
Oceanport, NJ 07757
Montrose Park is primarily a residential neighborhood, located in the northeast corner of the Township of South Orange Village, Essex County, New Jersey. General geographic boundaries include the Morris and Essex Railroad on the west, the municipal boundary between the City of Orange and the Village of South Orange on the north, the municipal boundary with the City of Newark on the east, and South Orange Avenue on the south. The neighborhood is characterized by elegant, large-scale homes, dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century through the 1930s. These architecturally imposing houses are set on large, landscaped lots, outlined by bluestone sidewalks and curbs, framed by mature trees and shrubbery, and lit by Victorian gaslight.
The significance of the Montrose Park Historic District is both historical and architectural. Several of the streets were originally developed by John Gorham Vose and Henry A. Page between 1867 and 1874 as part of a residential development called Montrose, intended to attract wealthy New York businessmen to rural South Orange, only recently made accessible to the city by train. Other streets were originally developed after 1891 by Thomas A. Kingman (as Montrose Park), who insisted that lots measure no less than 100 x 200. This and other restrictions resulted in the formation of an enclave of wealthy residents and a concentration of large historical revival houses.
Although the Montrose area has changed somewhat since John Vose and Thomas Kingman first envisioned their suburban developments, the area has retained a significant degree of integrity. The careful placement of deed restrictions by both developers insured a uniform appearance to the area. These guidelines resulted in the comfortable spacing and complementary landscaping that reflect the character of the community. The buildings are arranged with uniform setbacks, are predominantly 2 1/2 stories in height, two to five bays wide, wood-frame, brick, stone, or a combination, and most have porches or porticoes. Lot sizes vary, but are usually consistent within the blocks, with larger lots located on the corners. The wide, curved streets are lined with bluestone sidewalks and curbs, Belgian block gutters, mature trees, and generous front yards. The general condition of the buildings within the district ranges from good to excellent. Although some alteration has occurred within the district, usually in the form of vinyl or aluminum siding, the district has retained a significant degree of architectural integrity. The convenient location of Montrose to corridors of mass transit as well as a varied pool of quality housing stock continues to attract professionals to the area.
There are a total of 1,129 buildings and one site (Grove Park) within the boundaries of the Montrose Park Historic District. Of these 1,129 buildings, 708 are primary buildings and 421 are secondary (detached carriage houses, garages and miscellaneous outbuildings). Of the primary buildings, 40 are key, 511 are contributing, and 157 are non-contributing. Of the key buildings, two, the Old Stone House and the Mountain Station, are already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Of the secondary buildings, there are 39 contributing carriage houses, 310 contributing garages and outbuildings and 72 non-contributing garages or other outbuildings. Except for two synagogues and one school, most of the primary buildings are residential. There are a handful of former residential buildings converted to commercial/office buildings along South Orange Avenue, and three apartment buildings, also along or near South Orange Avenue.
Architectural Overview of Montrose Park
The Montrose Park Historic District contains an excellent collection of Victorian and period revival architecture, dating from 1870 to 1930, with some earlier exceptions. When Montrose Park's impressive architecture is combined with its winding, tree-lined streets, and landscaped boulevards, the feeling of a late nineteenth to early twentieth century suburban, residential enclave is readily conveyed. The most commonly represented styles include the Colonial Revival, with Georgian, Adam and Dutch Colonial influences the most dominant, followed by the Shingle Style. The following styles are also represented, in descending order of frequency: Tudor Revival, Queen Anne, Italian Renaissance Revival, Italianate, French Second Empire, Mission, Romanesque Revival, French eclectic, medievalizing, Art Deco and Gothic Revival.
The oldest structure in the district is the Old Stone House, followed by the Abel Ward house, at 497 South Orange Avenue, and the Benjamin Baldwin house at 311 Centre Street (also known as the House with the White Chimneys). These buildings date to the earliest history of the Village of South Orange and were some of the few houses present when John Graham Vose first moved to the area in 1859. By the time Vose's lands were surveyed in 1873, more homes had been built in the Montrose area (Taylor 1873). One of these Vose-era homes is the Italianate-influenced, 140 Montrose Avenue, the home of the Thayer family. Another is 169 Charlton Avenue, an example of the French Second Empire style, and part of the estate of J. Mitchell Gould.
The 1880s were dominated by the construction of Shingle style and Queen Anne style homes. Some good examples of the Shingle style include 584 Hamilton Road; 322 and 358 Hartford Road; 218 Irving Avenue; 45 Kingman Road; 349, 358, 379 Montrose Avenue; 61,62, 66, 70 and 147 Ralston Avenue; 112, 128, 158 and 251 Raymond Avenue; 102, 281, 314, 361, and 425 Scotland Road; 139, 217 and 240 Turrell Avenue; 269 and 425 Vose Avenue. The Queen Anne style is represented by 351 Hartford Road, 44 Kingman Road; 406 Montrose Avenue; 71 and 163 Ralston Avenue; 378 Turrell Avenue; and 204 Vose Avenue. The period of the 1890s is well represented in the area developed by Thomas Kingman and his real estate syndicate. The design of homes east of Centre Street is influenced by the Shingle (45 Kingman Road, 584 Hamilton Road) and the Colonial Revival (18, 28 and 40 Kingman Road, 578 and 583 Hamilton Road) styles. The residences along Hartford Road, also developed by Kingman, are predominantly Colonial Revival. The later, Tudor Revival influence is predominant in the development of Centre Street, Grove Road, Charlton Avenue and Irving Avenue. Some examples of the Tudor Revival include 152, 176, 363 and 394 Charlton Avenue; 423 Centre Street; 302 and 366 Grove Road; 138, 151 and 162 Irving Avenue; and 135 Turrell Avenue.
The 1894, National Register-listed, Village Hall, designed by Rossiter and Wright, is an outstanding example of the Tudor Revival style used on an institutional building. The use of a historical revival style on the most important civic structure in the Village complemented and reflected the existing residential architecture of the area, an aesthetic sensitivity often missing in today's community planning. Village Hall is immediately outside the boundaries of the historic district. The original public library building, the Connett Memorial Library, at 59 Scotland Road, is a fine example of the Romanesque Revival, with its full-arched entryway and masonry window muntins. Although not complementary to the surrounding architecture, the glazed tile-clad United States Post Office, on Vose Avenue, is an excellent example of the Art Deco style on a civic structure; the post office is on the New Jersey State Register of Historic Places. The Post Office is one block south of the historic district.
Many of the homes within the Montrose area were designed by architects; some of these were published in the architectural periodicals of the day. The American Architect and Building News published the home of A. B. Leach, Esq. in their December 7, 1901 issue (G.W. Maher, architect). American Architect published the house of Mrs. N.V. L'Hommedieu on September 2, 1914 (Dillon, McLellan and Beadel, architects); the houses of Clarence Bonynge and John McElroy, Esq. (Davis, McGrath and Kiessling, architects) on April 5, 1916; the Marshall School on May 7, 1924 (Guilbert and Betelle, architects); and the House of A.L. Browne, on August 20, 1928 (Stanley and Wheeler, architects).
The boundaries of the Montrose Park Historic District were drawn to reflect the history of the neighborhood as well as extant architectural remains of its various periods of development. One of the most striking features of the area is the immediately apparent harmony of the neighborhood: the complementary building sizes and scales, the width and curve of the streets and the pleasant environment. The district's geographic location along the slope of the first ridge of the Watchung Mountains contributes to the environmental appeal of the neighborhood. The Montrose Park Historic District has the largest concentration of architecturally imposing houses in the Village of South Orange. It is also neatly cordoned off from the Village by the physically imposing barriers of the railroad on the west and South Orange Avenue on the south. The north and east boundaries are formed by municipal boundaries with the City of Orange and East Orange, and the City of Newark, respectively. These boundaries are strong, defensible edges for the historic district. Around the perimeter of the historic district, however, some recent incursions of incompatible architecture have occurred. These include the Henderson Drive subdivision as well as recent houses along Vose Avenue. The district boundaries were drawn to exclude them. Post World War II-era commercial properties on South Orange, south of the Stone House Brook were also excluded.