banner search whats new site index home

Montrose Park Historic District

The Montrose Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.

The Montrose Park Historic District in the Township of South Orange Village, Essex County, New Jersey contains an excellent collection of Victorian and period revival architecture dating mostly from 1870 to 1930, with some earlier and some later exceptions. When Montrose Park's impressive architecture is combined with its wide, tree-lined thoroughfares, landscaped boulevards, wide setbacks, and Victorian gas lighting, the feeling of a late nineteenth to early twentieth century suburban residential enclave, isolated for, yet near the city, is readily conveyed.

The Montrose Park Historic District is significant in the area of Community Planning and Development. The district is a sample of Victorian and historical revival styles popularized at the end of, and the first three decades of the twentieth century. A number of buildings within the Montrose Park Historic District were designed by architects and published in architectural periodicals of the day. A wide range of late nineteenth and early twentieth century styles is represented in the district including the Colonial Revival, with Georgian, Adam and Dutch Colonial influences the most dominant, followed by the Shingle Style. There are also a good number of Tudor Revival, Queen Anne and Italian Renaissance-influenced buildings in the district. There are also a few examples of the Italianate, French Second Empire, Mission, and Romanesque Revival as well as French eclectic, medievalizing, and Gothic Revival. Most of the buildings are large upper-middle and upper class dwellings, conspicuous symbols of wealth, which are notable for their quality of construction and for their ornamental detailing.

Some smaller homes were included as well, most notably those built on the Seton Hall College dairy farm land, the triangle formed by South Orange Avenue, University Court and Turrell Avenue. This three block area represents the last tract of land to be developed in the Montrose area, c.1925. Although the lots are smaller than the rest of the district, nevertheless, the developers tried to build houses complementary to the rest of the area. The streets were laid out in a curving fashion, the houses were arranged according to uniform setbacks and the historical revival styles chosen emulate those in the rest of the Montrose Park Historic District.

Earliest Description of the Area

Gordon's Gazetteer, an early almanac of facts about New Jersey published in 1834, describes South Orange: "A village of the same township lies on the turnpike from Newark to Morristown, 5 miles west of the first; it contains about 30 dwellings, a tavern and store; a paper mill and Presbyterian church; the lands around it are rich and well farmed" (Gordon 1834: 201). At this time, settlement was concentrated around South Orange Avenue (the turnpike), Prospect Street and Irvington Avenue.

The area now defined as the Montrose Park Historic District was a sparsely populated, agricultural region until the mid-nineteenth century. An 1860 map indicates that local lands primarily belonged to Benjamin E. Baldwin, Ebenezer Deas and Samuel P. Smith, west of Centre Street. Aaron Bishop Baldwin, Thomas D. Kilburn and G.H. Wheeler were the major landowners east of Centre Street. West of Scotland Road, the major landholders were D.H. Condit, Ira T. Freeman, Dorothea Freeman, Caleb Smith, Job Tillou, H.M. Graham and Lydia Freeman. Ebenezer Deas, D.J. Sprague, William Carr, Jas. M. Quimby and H.M. Graham owned the most land between South Orange Avenue and Montrose Ave, west of Centre Street and east of Scotland Road. South Orange Avenue, Scotland Road, Montrose Avenue and Centre Street were the only existing roads. Local population was concentrated on South Orange Avenue and on the east side of Scotland Road. Other than the houses on South Orange Avenue, then known as the Newark Turnpike, there were only five homes in the area. These included the Old Stone House, the Baldwin house at 311 Centre Street, D.J. Sprague's house on Scotland Road, H.M. Graham's at the northeast corner of Scotland Road and Montrose Avenue, and Dorothea Freeman's house west of Scotland Road (Hughes 1860). At this time, the most densely settled area of the Village of South Orange was located southwest of Montrose. This settlement extended from the railroad to Prospect Street, and from South Orange Avenue to Fourth Street.

South Orange as a Resort

In the mid-nineteenth century, the "Oranges" enjoyed a reputation for the "healthfulness of the locality," and metropolitan physicians recommended invalids to seek the air of the Orange mountains for bronchial or pulmonary affections. The mountain air was considered to have "life-giving" currents and was far removed from the low, miasmic riverbanks of the cities (Shaw 1884: 717). The establishment of the Morris and Essex Railroad through South Orange in 1836 encouraged wealthy New York City and Newark businessmen to spend the summer months in the village and surrounding area.

One of the main Orange attractions was the Mountain House, a fashionable water-cure hotel and spa. Located on the west side of Ridgewood Road, (west of the Montrose area), the hotel was owned in 1850 by Mr. Lord of Lord and Taylor's (department store). Built around 1830, the hotel accommodated 150 guests and was supervised by two physicians. The large, wood-framed hotel burnt down on August 23,1890. Today the sole vestiges of the resort are Mountain Station, a National Register-listed train station, and Mountain House Road (the road leading to the hotel), both established to accommodate the hordes of summer visitors who once frequented the hotel.

Seton Hall College and Montrose: 1860-1922

The establishment of Seton Hall College also affected the development of the Montrose area. Founded as a seminary by Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley in 1856 in Madison, New Jersey, the college soon began looking for a campus closer to population centers. In April of 1860, Bayley bought approximately 60 acres in South Orange, on either side of South Orange Avenue, from the Elphinstone family. The property included a marble villa, farmhouse, and stables on the south side of South Orange Avenue and farmland on the north side. The college began building on the south side of the Avenue, leaving the north side as pastures, with some minor outbuildings, for the College's dairy operation. The first college building was ready to accept students in September of 1860. The original marble villa was occupied by both faculty and students as a residence (Seton Hall 1956: 15; News-Record 1969: n.p.). As the College grew, more buildings were built on the campus, and the administration began looking for more property for future expansion. The Kelly estate, east of the present campus, was purchased for the bishop's residence in 1901. Due to debt incurred as a result of the building program, and the economic depression of the post-World-War I years, the college was forced to sell the farmland on the north side of South Orange Avenue in 1922 (Seton Hall 1956: 36, 41). This land represented the last major tract of land in Montrose to be sold for development. The farmland, which once supplied the majority of farm and dairy products to the Seton Hall campus, was quickly subdivided. By 1928, the area was completely developed with single family homes, and intersected by streets such as University Court, Fielding Court, Elm Court, Warren Court and Marshall Court (Robinson 1928: Plate 11).

The Village of South Orange vs. Montrose

Until 1869, the Village of South Orange was part of South Orange Township. South Orange Township included the settlements of not only the Village of South Orange, but Maplewood, Hilton, Vailsburg and Montrose. The rapid development of the Village after the Civil War prompted the Village fathers to seek the status of a separate municipality. Application was made to the New Jersey Legislature in the session of 1869 to allow the citizens of South Orange Township, within a certain described district, to establish a new government. On March 25,1869, an "Act to Incorporate the Village of South Orange in the County Of Essex" was placed upon the state books. General boundaries included most of the present day Village, including Montrose, except for the land east of Centre Street (Pierson 1922: 515). (South Orange Township was formed in 1861 from Clinton Township and Orange Town. The area that formed Clinton Township was originally part of Elizabeth Town, when that municipality was in Essex County, and Newark Township in Essex County. In 1880, Orange Town replaced Orange Township, and in 1806, Orange Township was formed from Newark Township [Snyder 1969: 126-132; 238, 241].)

Although Montrose did not have any legal description or boundaries, the area was considered, at least locally, as a separate settlement, much as Vailsburg, Hilton, or Maplewood. T.P. Bayes' Orange Directory had separate listings for the City of Orange, South Orange, and Montrose (Bayes 1871-1878). It was not until 1878, when the separate listing of Montrose was dropped from Bayes' Directories, and included within the general listing of South Orange. The name "Montrose," continued to be used in the various subdivisions of the area. The name "Montrose" was also used as a separate heading for real estate listings in the South Orange Bulletin classified section. Properties outside of Montrose were listed under "South Orange" (South Orange Bulletin 1871-1878). A map of lands owned by John Vose, and drawn in 1873 by local surveyor, Lewis P. Taylor, is titled "Map of South Orange & Montrose, Essex County, NJ." The nineteenth century historian of the Oranges, Henry Whittemore, gave the name "Montrose Park," to the entire area of about 150 acres, bounded on the east by East Orange, on the north by the City of Orange, on the south by South Orange Avenue, and on the west by Scotland Street, and referred to it as "a new settlement in South Orange township" (Whittemore 1896: 357).

The 1890 atlas is the first map to use the designation of "Montrose" or "Montrose Park" on a tract of land, versus a road, on a map, or atlas of the Village of South Orange. This designation encompasses the area between Montrose Avenue and the City of Orange border, east of Mosswood Avenue. The title extends northerly across the municipal boundary with the City of Orange, almost to Tremont Avenue. The 1904 and 1911 atlases label a completely different area as "Montrose Park," the land on either side of Centre Street. The 1928 atlas identifies the same area the 1904 and 1911 atlases, as simply "Montrose." The name of Montrose Avenue appears on early maps of South Orange, including the Hughes map of 1860. Although it is likely that the neighborhood was named after the street, one of the earliest laid out in this area, it is not known where the original name of Montrose came from. One possibility is that the road was named after James Graham, the 5th Earl and 1st Marquis of Montrose (1612-1650), a Scottish soldier and lieutenant general of Scotland. A more likely possibility is that the street was named after the town of Montrose, on the east coast of Scotland, between Dundee and Aberdeen. However, it seems unlikely that John Vose would have been responsible for naming the street in South Orange, as it pre-dates his move to the area.

John Gorham Vose: Founder of Montrose (1829-1874)

The decade after the close of the Civil War saw great change in the physical development of the Montrose area. Around 1860, a young New York lawyer, John Gorham Vose, began spending his summers in Orange Valley, in a cottage on Scotland Street, north of Tremont Avenue in Orange (Hughes 1860). Impressed by the beauty of the surroundings and the transportation link to both Newark, by way of horse car on South Orange Avenue, and to New York, via the Morris and Essex Railroad, Vose began to buy tracts of land with an eye towards suburban development. Vose was most likely familiar with the work of Llewellyn S. Haskell, the developer of Llewellyn Park [see Llewellyn Park Historic District] in neighboring West Orange. By the time of Vose's involvement in South Orange, Haskell had already developed his initial plan, and individual residents were building grandiose homes within the Park in the decade of the 1860s (Whittemore 1896: 313).

Vose's first purchase was the H.M. Graham farm at the northeast corner of then Scotland Street and Montrose Avenue, containing approximately seventy acres (Whittemore 1896: 365). Together with Henry A. Page, Vose laid out a section of Montrose Avenue between Scotland Street and Valley Road (now Clark Street). He went on to purchase other farms, including the Ebenezer Deas property, site of the Old Stone House. Eventually, his property exceeded 175 acres extending from Centre Street on the east to Valley Road on the west; from beyond Montrose Avenue on the north to South Orange Avenue on the south. Vose was responsible for opening sections of Montrose Avenue, Warwick Avenue, Raymond Avenue and Ralston Avenue as well as Randolph Place and Grove Road. Since his property straddled the municipal boundary with the City of Orange, Vose was also involved in the opening of Haxtun Avenue (named after his wife's family) and Stirling Avenue immediately north of the municipal line. Along with building a palatial home for his family at the summit of Montrose Avenue (South Orange Bulletin 11/1870: 4; Whittemore 1896: 365), Vose built a number of speculative residences (Whittemore 1896: 365, South Orange Bulletin, 11/1870: 4).

In May of 1873, Lewis P. Taylor, a local surveyor and landowner, surveyed Montrose properties belonging to John Vose, as well as lands belonging to himself, in partnership with G.W. Comstock (Taylor 1873). The resulting map shows the limited development of the area, with houses concentrated on Scotland Street and South Orange Avenue. New streets include Raymond, Ralston, Charlton and Irving Avenues, as well as Grove Road. Claremont Street (now Vose Avenue), Strathern Avenue (now Park Place), Randolph Place (now Stewart Place), Comstock Place and Taylor Place (cutting through the lands of Comstock and Taylor, the former Daniel H. Condit farm) were also proposed. There is also a suggestion of a northerly-extended University Place that was never built. Vose lands are numbered 200 to 285, for a total of 85 lots. Later maps show other, larger areas of land owned by Vose but not included in this survey. These include large tracts between Raymond and Ralston Avenues, between Grove and Scotland Roads, and along Montrose Avenue, also between Scotland and Grove Roads (Taylor 1873; Robinson 1928: Plate 11: South Orange Bulletin 10/15/1872, 1:1).

John Vose's Home

The earliest available directory (1871) for Montrose listed John Vose's home as "Montrose Avenue, near Station." His father, Reuben Vose, shared the same address. Vose's brother-in-law, John Van Vechten was listed as house at "Scotland Street corner Montrose Avenue." The 1872 directory listed John Vose as a lawyer at 8 Pine Street, NY, home in Europe. In 1873, the directory listing also reflected the Pine Street address, but included a home address of "house corner Montrose Avenue and Scotland Street." The same address was given for Reuben Vose and John Van Vechten. The 1874 directory, the year Vose died, had a listing only for Reuben at the above-mentioned address. By 1877, John Van Vechten and Mrs. Reuben Vose were listed at the corner house. The 1878 and 1879 directories listed Mrs. Sarah Vose (widow) at the house. No other listing existed for Vose's mother (Bayes 1871-1880). The 1881 Pidgeon Atlas showed the northeast corner of Scotland Road and Montrose Avenue to be the home of Sarah E. Vose. The address would have been approximately 460 Scotland Road, where the Henderson Drive subdivision is now located (Pidgeon 1881: Plate 125). This location also coincides with both Whittemore's and the South Orange Bulletin's description of Vose's home as being on the summit of Montrose Avenue (South Orange Bulletin 11/1870: 4; Whittemore 1896: 365).

Newark, Montrose and South Orange Horse Car Railroad Company

Concerned about guaranteeing the success of his enterprise, Vose became involved with the Newark, Montrose and South Orange Horse Car Railroad Company, serving as president of the transportation company. The horse car company provided service along South Orange Avenue, connecting downtown Newark with the Oranges (Whittemore 1896: 366). Together with the Morris and Essex railroad connection with New York, the horse car company became an essential factor in the suburban migration to South Orange. Reaching from the center of Newark's business district to downtown South Orange, an easily traveled distance of about five miles, the horse train provided easy access to the suburbs. However, because of the relatively high fares in the early years, it was available primarily to the affluent. The South Orange Avenue line was one of seven horse car routes extending from the City of Newark by 1870. Each of these lines was closely paralleled by suburban development. Houses were commonly built within a five minute walk of the nearest track (Drummond 1979: 184-185).

"Vose Restrictions"

Vose insured that only the affluent could purchase homes in his new development by restricting the dimensions of building lots to large sizes. All public buildings except houses of worship were excluded, and a standard was created for each dwelling, below which none could be built (Pierson 1922: 517). These "Vose Restrictions," were later adapted by other developers, notably Thomas S. Kingman, to maintain the picturesque quality of Montrose (Princeton University 1943: 7). These restrictions were actually restrictive covenants in the individual deeds to control the manner in which the property could be developed. The "Vose Restrictions" allowed for one, single family dwelling house and outbuildings "appropriate for a gentleman's country residence" such as a private bowling alley, private billiard room, carriage house, summer cottage, gardener's cottage, porter's lodge, barn or stable. The restrictions also allowed for natural landscape elements such as reservoirs, water courses and ornamental lakes.

Vose as Village Trustee and Citizen of South Orange

Along with various business enterprises, John Vose served as Village Trustee, from December 1870 to June 1872, watching over the construction of the Village infrastructure. His role as Trustee insured his supervision over the paving of local roads. This included the paving of South Orange Avenue, pivotal to the success of the Newark, Montrose and South Orange Horse Car Railroad, of which he was President. His role as Trustee also allowed him to petition for new road openings, most of which would benefit the development of his real estate holdings. In February of 1871, Vose petitioned for the opening of Mosswood Avenue, and in April of 1871, for the opening of Grove Road as a public street. Together with William A. Brewer and D.G. Sprague, Vose petitioned to open Ralston Avenue in September of 1873 (South Orange Bulletin. 11/1870-9/1873).

Vose also participated in philanthropic ventures. He was the principal founder of the Memorial Hospital and Dispensary in the City of Orange, and was elected its first President on June 5,1873. Vose was also a member and financial supporter of the Orange Valley Congregational Church and a "counsellor," of the New England Society of Orange from 1872-1874 (Whittemore 1896: 238, 355, 366).

The Death of John G. Vose

Vose's business enterprises were cut short by his untimely death. At the age of 45, Vose committed suicide at Atlantic City on March 17, 1874, by drowning himself. According to the New York Times, the only major newspaper to have covered his demise, the deceased "had been suffering from an affection of the brain and was confined in a lunatic asylum in Philadelphia, from which he succeeded in escaping" (New York Times. 3/20/1874, 8:5). The South Orange Bulletin covered his death on page three of its March 20,1874 issue. Secondary sources dealing with the history of South Orange do not disclose his manner of death, although Whittemore mentions that the premature death of Vose's wife, Myra R. Haxtun, "was the means of hastening his own death" (Whittemore 1896: 366). Mrs. Vose died in the spring of 1872 while on a trip to Brighton, England. Her body was brought to America and interred in Rosedale Cemetery, City of Orange (South Orange Bulletin. 11/1/1872,1: 2). It is also possible that Vose's troubles were compounded by financial troubles due to the depression brought on by the Panic of 1873. John Graham Vose is also buried in Rosedale Cemetery (Plot 444).

Changing Residential Patterns Among the Metropolitan Area's Business Elite: 1870-1890

Vose's efforts at speculative land development in the Montrose area succeeded because residential patterns were already changing in the metropolitan area, especially in the City of Newark, from where many South Orange residents originated. Before the early 1870s, Newark's small central business district, established by the founders on the western bank of the Passaic River, included the city's most desirable residential property. Businessmen whose establishments were in the center of the city preferred to live near (and sometimes above) the workplace. The convenience of living close to the hub of economic, social and religious activities, the security offered by good police protection, and the inadequate facilities for intra-city travel, combined to keep residential real estate in the inner wards expensive and exclusive. The outer wards, still mostly farmland and hill country, were sparsely populated regions and remained unappealing to the city's elite who preferred the gracious, cultured life of the city. Demographics were also influenced by immigration. Newly arrived immigrant families first began to settle the city's southern and eastern fringe, while the northern and western sections remained virtually unpopulated until the 1870s (Popper 1952: 160-161).

In the 1870s, a dynamic shift began to occur in the population distribution of Newark (and of many industrialized cities throughout the United States). High income groups began moving to the outer wards, while lower income groups migrated to the city's center (Popper 1951: 166). The introduction of railroads into the city beginning in the 1850s contributed to this reversal. By the 1870s, much of Newark's economy was dependent on moving freight by one of the five railroad lines that entered the city from the east, west and south. Although the train lines improved the economy of the city by linking Newark with markets throughout the country, they simultaneously degraded the immediate surroundings with noise, dirt, and visual pollution. Terminals, depots, warehouses, and industrial plants were erected near the tracks, resulting in a continuous belt of concentrated industry along the rights-of-way throughout the city (Drummond 1979: 115,131). By the 1890s, many newly prosperous business executives and self-employed professionals began to flee to the outer fringes of the city, and to the suburbs. They preferred to endure the thirty minute trip by horse drawn or electrified street car from new middle class enclaves such as Roseville, Woodside, and Forest Hill, to living in the congestion and the pollution of the central city (Drummond 1979: 195). Moving further west to the Oranges was a natural extension of this movement (South Orange is only five miles west of Newark). As they left the city, their former homes were bought or rented by newly arriving Eastern and Southern European immigrants. Unable to afford the high prices, the immigrants were forced to tolerate multiple families, visiting relatives, and boarders in what had been originally designed as single family homes (Drummond 1979: 146). The unhealthy conditions resulting from this overcrowding contributed to, and hastened, the further movement of the affluent to the suburbs.

The Migration to Montrose

The First of the Victorian Merchants Move to Montrose

As stated earlier, John Gorham Vose began buying land in the Montrose area in the early 1860s, although he continued to live in the City of Orange and work in New York City as an attorney. Other New York businessmen followed his lead and also purchased land in Montrose. George B. Turrell, a hardware manufacturer, came to South Orange in 1864 and bought the D.J. Sprague property on Scotland Street, a narrow tract of approximately eleven acres, extending from Scotland Street to Grove Road. In 1891, Turrell opened a street through his property, named it Turrell Avenue, and subdivided his property into building lots (Whittemore 1896: 369). William Frederick Allen, editor of the Official Railway Guide, and inventor of Standard Time, bought a large lot on Scotland Street in 1886, and erected a villa for his family (Whittemore 1896:381). (The Allen house is now the site of Congregation Oheb Shalom.) William A. Brewer, Jr., president of the Washington Life Insurance Company, of New York, bought the Old Stone House in 1867, enlarging it and renaming it "Aldworth." In 1895, Jonathan A. Minnott, secretary and Treasurer of Goodyear Rubber Company, purchased a large tract of land for his homesite on Scotland Road (Whittemore 1896: 366). Other prominent residents included Robert Ward, an owner of New England woolen mills, and Henry Page, and W.F. Havemeyer, both real estate tycoons.

The convenience of mass transit provided by the Morris and Essex Railroad, with its Mountain Station at the head of Montrose Avenue, attracted prosperous businessmen to settle in the Montrose area. In 1868, the railroad was extended to Hoboken, thus making possible a direct connection to New York City (League of Women Voters 1960: 3-4). By 1869, the year the Village of South Orange was incorporated, fifteen trains were running daily each way to New York, serving a population of approximately 1,200 people (League 1960:5). By 1893, the Newark, South Orange and Montrose Horse Car Railroad Company was electrified, shortening the commutation time to downtown Newark. Although the population of the Village of South Orange increased to 2,178 in 1880, most residents lived outside of the Montrose area (League of Women Voters 1960: 6; Pidgeon 1881: Plate 125). The 1881 atlas shows only several dozen residences scattered along South Orange Avenue, Scotland Road, Montrose Avenue, Raymond Avenue and Ralston Avenue. By 1890, residential settlement increased only slightly along the same, above-mentioned roads (Robinson 1890: Plate 30), reaching a population of 4,608 residents. Although development was almost non-existent east of Charlton Avenue, the coming decade would feel the impact of the second most prolific developer of the Montrose area, Thomas S. Kingman.

Thomas S. Kingman (1840-1903) and the Extension of Montrose to the East

Thomas Sewall Kingman was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, April 5, 1840. After completing his education at Adams Academy, in Newton, Massachusetts, Kingman entered the large wholesale dry goods house of Jordan Marsh Co., Boston. He remained with the firm for thirteen years, rising from the lowest to the highest position in the house, that of buyer and manager of the dry goods department. Kingman came to New York City in 1870 and took a similar position with A.T. Stewart and Co., and continued in the employ of the firm for twelve years. In 1882, he started his own dry goods business under the firm name of Brown, Wood and Kingman, and he retained an active interest in the business until he retired in 1892 to pursue real estate interests.

Kingman's connection with South Orange began in 1876. Although he lived in several locations within the Village, Kingman did not settle down until, around 1886, he bought the Aaron Bishop Baldwin farm. This rather large tract of land was bordered on the west by Centre Street, on the south by South Orange Avenue and on the east by St. Mary's Orphanage (Holland Road), and consisted of approximately 40 acres. Kingman lived in the farmhouse built by the Baldwins on the east side of Centre Street. In 1891, Kingman formed a real estate syndicate for the development of this land. Together with minority partners Henry Finlay, William F. Havermeyer and other unnamed businessmen, Kingman named the tract, "Montrose Park," and proceeded to lay out new streets and building lots. Proposed streets were laid out running at right angles with Centre Street. Old roads and lanes connecting with the thoroughfare were utilized in developing one of the most picturesque sections of the Oranges. Among the new roads were Hartford Road, Stanley Road (named in honor of Henry M. Stanley, the noted African explorer), and Kingman Road, named after himself. Centre Street, as the main thoroughfare of the new development, was graded, curbed and flagged (Whittemore 1896: 371; Pierson 1922: 517). Kingman's acquisitions eventually extended to both sides of Centre Street, encompassing approximately 150 acres (Whittemore 1896: 357; Robinson 1928: Plate 10).

Following the lead established earlier by John G. Vose, Kingman placed restrictions on the development of his properties. The lots averaged 100 x 200 feet in dimensions, and standards were created for the construction of dwellings, below which none were allowed to be built. Kingman erected a number of speculative houses, as well as a grand house for his family, at 457 Centre Street (now the Seton Hall University, Division of University Affairs, "George M. Ring" building). About forty houses were built altogether, costing from $6,000 to $45,000 each. The syndicate also presented the lot on which St. Andrew's Episcopal Church once stood, at the corner of Stirling Avenue and Centre Street, to the parish in perpetuity (Whittemore 1896: 358; Pierson 1922: 517).

The new territory of Montrose Park, consisting of land east of Centre Street reaching to Holland Road, was annexed to the village by the legislative act, approved February 10,1891, entitled "An act to annex to the Village of South Orange, in the County of Essex, a part of the present township of South Orange." This area corresponds to the present day southeastern boundary of the Village of South Orange (Pierson 1922: 518).

Thomas Kingman died on October 10,1903, at his home on Centre Street. His wife Anna H. Kingman, and two sons and two daughters, survived him (New York Times. 10/11/1903,7:6). As the benefactor of her husband's estate, Anna Kingman's name appeared on various lots throughout Montrose on the 1904 Atlas. Only one lot contained a structure, 517 Centre Street. This was likely the last of Kingman's unsold speculative houses. By the time of his death, the area east of Centre Street was dotted with expensive residences (Mueller 1904: Plate 21).

George B. Turrell

George B. Turrell, a successful hardware manufacturer from Connecticut and New York City, moved to South Orange in 1864. He purchased the D.J. Sprague property on Scotland Street, between Raymond and Irving Avenues, consisting of approximately eleven acres. Turrell enlarged and renovated the house, and subdivided the property into building lots. On two of these lots, Turrell erected houses for his son and daughter (Whittemore 1896: 369).

Turrell was very active in civic affairs, serving as one of the original Village Trustees and as President of the village in 1871. He was a chief promoter of the plan to secure a charter for the Village of South Orange in 1869. During his term as President of the Village, Turrell fell ill, and was forced to resign due to his illness. While traveling in Europe to recover his health, Turrell studied different methods of road construction. Upon his return to South Orange, Turrell persuaded the Trustees to adapt the method of road repair he witnessed in Europe in South Orange. Re-elected Village president in 1873, Turrell instituted this new method, which became known as "Turrell pavement." Turrell himself called his system, "Construction by repairs." This method resulted in significant financial savings to the community as well as a system of convenient, paved roads (Whittemore 1896: 369; Pierson 1922: 516).

In 1881, Turrell was appointed by the Court of Common Pleas, as one of three Commissioners to study problems of drainage that were affecting public health within the Village. The East Branch of the Rahway River, located west of the Montrose area, was susceptible to flooding, often overflowing its banks and affecting lowland areas next to it. A system of draining the East Branch of the Rahway River in South Orange was begun by the Commissioners in 1882. The work was completed in two years time, greatly improving the health of the Village. It also allowed the Village to reclaim a large area of swamp land (Whittemore 1896: 369; Pierson 1921: 518). Turrell was an active promoter of the Meadow Land Society and a Trustee of the Presbyterian Church.

Montrose in the 1920s

Between 1880 and 1920, the population of the Village of South Orange doubled every twenty years. The population doubled again, between 1920 and 1930, a period of only ten years, from 7,274 residents to 13,630. Ten years later, the population figures were almost the same as in 1930, and only slightly up by 1950 (Princeton University 1943: 2-7; League of Women Voters 1960: 6). The decade between 1920 and 1930 was a period of immense growth for the small village and had a profound impact on the Montrose area. Any land that had previously not been developed was sub-divided into lots and was built. In 1922, Seton Hall College sold off their last farm tract of 15 acres at the northwest corner of South Orange Avenue and Centre Street, and by 1928, the Seton Hall College farm tract was completely developed. In the same year, the Marshall School was built on Grove Road to accommodate the burgeoning school population.

By the end of the 1920s, Montrose was fully developed. Open land was limited to Grove Park and the estate settings of the largest homes. The area continued to draw prosperous businessmen. A random survey of homeowners in 1928 showed the great majority of the heads of households were brokers, lawyers, bankers or manufacturers, who commuted to either Newark or New York City. Engineers and real estate executives were also well represented (Baldwin: 1928). Some of the most well-known people from Essex County were residents of Montrose in the 1920s. These included Louis Bamberger, founder of the Bamberger's Department Store and benefactor of the Newark Museum and Princeton University, as well as his business partner and brother-in-law, Felix Fuld. William E. Lehman, prolific Newark architect, and designer of such Newark landmarks as the Goerke Department Store, the United States Trust Company Building, and the Progress Club, built his home at 365 Warwick Avenue. Robert J. Wiss, president of the Wiss Cutlery Company in Newark, resided at 328 Grove Road. Wiss' neighbor, at 366 Grove Road, was Moses Roth, president of the Trust Company of Orange, and of the National Provision Company (Baldwin 1928).

Montrose After the Great Depression

Like other wealthy suburbs, Montrose was affected by the Great Depression. The well-to-do suffered losses during the Depression and were forced to give up their palatial homes which required an army of servants to maintain. Some of the largest estates were sold for new development while others were converted to new uses. A few of the largest residences on Scotland Road were converted to institutions such as synagogues and religious schools. Marylawn of the Oranges, a Catholic school for girls, was opened by the Sisters of Charity in 1935 on Scotland Road. Directly across the street, Temple Israel, now Sharey-Tefilo, converted the stately Katherine Kip house, (432 Scotland Road), into an ecclesiastical structure in 1948. The original Thomas S. Kingman home, at 457 Centre Street, was purchased by Congregation B'Nai Jeshurun, and later sold to Seton Hall University.

In some cases, driveways of old estates became streets into new developments. Hartford Court, east of Centre Street, was the original entrance to the first Thomas Kingman house, where Kingman lived before building his mansion at 457 Centre Street. By the end of World War II, Hartford Court was developed with smaller scale Colonial Revival homes emulating the larger scale and older homes west of Centre Street. Henderson Drive, Thacher Lane, and Halsey Place were all cut out of the John Watson estate, one of the largest estates in Montrose at the turn-of-the century. Connett Place was the original entrance to the more than six acre Connett estate on Scotland Road.

Montrose Today

Although the Montrose area has changed somewhat since John Vose and Thomas Kingman first envisioned their suburban developments, the area has retained much of its original appearance. The careful placement of deed restrictions by both developers has insured an enclave of expensive, attractive and aesthetic architecture set in formal landscapes. These guidelines have provided comfortable spacing, set backs and complementary landscaping that reflect the character of the community. The wide, curving streets are lined with bluestone sidewalks and curbs, Belgian block-lined gutters, mature trees, elaborate gardens and generous front yards. The general condition of the buildings within the Montrose Park Historic District ranges from good to excellent. Although some alteration has occurred within the district, usually in the form of vinyl or aluminum siding, and modern infill housing, 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. The Montrose Park Historic District is now experiencing a tremendous interest in the restoration of individual homes with a return to period appearances. Many of the historic houses are being stripped of their modern accretions and re-painted in their traditional colors. The Montrose Park Historic District Association, a neighborhood group of interested homeowners, has been formed to preserve the character of the area. Every spring, the neighborhood group sponsors a "Montrose in May" festival with a historic home and garden tour which is very well attended. The group engages in community beautification projects such as cleanup and planting around Mountain Station and the Connett Memorial Library.

† Ulana D. Zkalak, Historic Preservation Consultant, Zakalak Associates, Montrose Park Historic District, Essex County, NJ, nomination document, 1997, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Montrose Park Historic District Map

Street Names
Berkeley Avenue • Centre Street • Charlton Avenue • Connett Place • Elm Court • Fielding Court • Grove Road • Grove Terrace • Hall Court • Halsey Place • Hamilton Road • Harrison Court • Hartford Court • Hartford Road • Irving Avenue • Irving Terrace • Keasbey Road • Kingman Road • Montrose Avenue • Mosswood Avenue • Orange Avenue South • Park Place • Patricia Court • Ralston Avenue • Raymond Avenue • Raymond Court • Route 510 • Scotland Road • Self Place • Stanley Road • Stewart Place • Turrell Avenue • University Court • Vose Avenue • Warren Court • Warwick Avenue • Woodland Crescent • Woodland Place

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
Copyright © 1997-2016 • The Gombach Group • • 215-295-6555 • 385778 • Privacy