South Orange, NJ is composed of many pocket neighborhoods, one of which is the desirable Montrose Historic District. While many residents of Montrose enjoy the conveniences of working in bustling NYC, which is just a short train ride away, they also enjoy living in unique historic homes on quiet streets illuminated by gas street lamps that were installed in the early 1800’s and fueled by whale oil.
Today, South Orange and particularly Montrose, retains much of its original character. Montrose, a residential neighborhood that is characterized by elegant, large-scale homes, dates from the last quarter of the nineteenth century through the 1930’s. The area is significant both historically and architecturally. Streets in this area were developed between 1867 and 1874 in an effort to attract wealthy New York businessmen to rural South Orange. When Montrose’s impressive architecture is combined with its winding, tree-lined streets, the overall impression is one of a beautiful, peaceful, family friendly community.
I had the pleasure of speaking recently with Jessica Kessler who has lived in Montrose for the last four years. She told me that when she was house hunting four years ago, she was looking for a larger home on a quiet street. She and her husband found exactly what they were looking for in Montrose – a beautiful home on a dead end street in a quiet, family friendly community. Jessica tells me, “The community is wonderful. There are great people living in Montrose.”
If you visit Montrose, you will immediately be impressed by the large lot sizes and varied architecture. This area has the largest concentration of architecturally imposing houses within the Village of South Orange and features approximately 550 homes. Represented are classic Victorian, Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, Tudor and Shingle Style homes. Many of the homes in the area were designed by renowned architects of the time. They tend to be complementary in size and scale which brings a tranquil feel to the neighborhood.
“These homes are full of character and charm, and are one-of-a-kind buildings,” Jessica says. “They are solid homes, and this can be seen in the craftsmanship and choice of wood used in each building. These homes were built during a time when people took great pride in their workmanship.”
According to the Montrose Park Historic District Association (MPHDA), a neighborhood group of homeowners that was established in 1994, “The historic homes offer visitors an “armchair trip” back in time, where they can “see” how early residents lived – after the Civil War, nearly fifty years before women could vote, when electricity was a new-fangled idea and just before the telephone was invented.”
The mission of the MPHDA “is to promote, preserve and beautify the Montrose Park Historic District, maintain its integrity and enhance the quality of life for all residents.” In 1997, Montrose was designated a historic district and is listed on both the State of New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. The MPHDA engages in community beautification projects such as cleanup and planting around Mountain Station and the Connett Memorial Library. They also sponsor an annual picnic for members to meet and socialize with fellow residents. Every spring, the MPHDA sponsors a “Montrose in May” festival with a historic home and garden tour. And every other year, the South Orange Historical and Preservation Society presents “Gems of South Orange” which features a wide variety of distinctive homes spanning several centuries. If you are a lover of historic homes, attending either of these events is a real treat.
Jessica told me she “loves the history of the neighborhood and the effort to preserve the historical value of the properties.” She enjoys walking and driving around the neighborhood to look at all the homes from the 1800’s. She loves taking the kids to Grove Park which is maintained by the MPHDA. And she appreciates the efforts of the MPHDA to fund and beautify the area and to be the voice of preservation for the neighborhood. “Montrose is a great community that wants to preserve this beautiful historic neighborhood,” says Jessica.
Montrose is well served by access to both the Mountain and South Orange train stations. And it is walkable to the South Orange Village Center and Seton Hall University.
Montrose is close to all town amenities as well:
- Lively South Orange Village is an easy walk away for shopping, dining and entertainment. Neighbors love Montrose for its walkability.
- SOPAC showcases a variety of performing arts including theater, music and dance and is within easy walking distance.
- The South Orange Public Library is easily accessible for a quiet afternoon or story time with the kids.
- The South Orange Community Pool is within walking distance.
- Flood’s Hill Park is just a short distance away for year round outdoor activities. Floods Hill is THE place for sledding in winter.
- Cameron Field Playground is a fun place to bring your kids for an afternoon outside.
- The Baird Community Center, a multi-room recreational facility with adjacent tennis courts, is also within easy walking distance.
- Duck Pond, another recreational facility, offers winter skating, bocce and horseshoes.
- Elementary and Middle school kids can walk to school.
- The Montrose Park Historic District Association promotes, preserves and beautifies the Montrose Historic District.
Here are three recent sales in historic Montrose:
If you would like to talk about living in Montrose or any other neighborhood in South Orange, or if you know someone who would, we would love to hear from you!