Supporters turned out in force on Monday night urging the South Orange Board of Trustees to consider establishing a historic preservation commission. Ordinance 2012-09 passed 6-0 on first reading.
Supporters of the ordinance, many of them members of the Montrose Park Historic District Association (MPHDA), weighed in during the public comment periods of the meeting.
The ordinance to establish the historic preservation commission was in the news earlier this week because Marylawn School of the Oranges authorities have filed an application for a permit to demolish the historic home the school owns on Scotland Road. The commission will have to give approval to any plans to demolish historic buildings in the village or to subdivide a property.
Members of MPHDA, of which the house is a part, is fighting the permit, as are some neighbors. The demolition permit is heading to the planning board for review.
The passing of the ordinance was greeted with hearty applause from the audience.
MPHDA President Naoma Welk addressed the trustees on behalf of the group, noting that she and others who live in historic, older homes are merely "stewards" of the houses, preserving its history for the future.
Welk's full remarks follow:
I wanted to speak briefly with you about Montrose Park and the importance of preserving our homes and the character of our historic district.
We who live in Montrose think we are homeowners.
But that’s not exactly true.
Basically, we are simply interim caretakers -- or stewards -- of our historic homes and we are responsible preserving them for future families who chose to live in Montrose Park.
Many of us live in houses that have been homes to just one or two families.
As many of you may know, Montrose Park was developed in the mid-1800s and was annexed to the Village of South Orange on February 10, 1891. The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad train line and Mountain Station made it possible for businessmen to commute to Newark and New York while their families enjoyed the “salubrious climate” of Montrose Park.
Thomas Kingman, William F. Havemeyer and other capitalists formed a syndicate to improve and developing Montrose Park. Their goal was to provide beautiful homes for wealthy men who had neither the time nor inclination to attend to the details of building a home.
On October 4, 1880, thirty young men formed Orange Lawn Tennis Club on ten acres at the intersection of Montrose and Berkeley Avenues. There, they built eight grass courts and two earth courts. Orange Lawn was located in Montrose Park for 36 years, until they outgrew that location and moved to the Ridgewood Road location.
Notable Montrose Park residents included:
William Fredrick Allen, editor of The Official Railway Guide who is credited with perfecting and securing the adoption of the system of Standard Time. He lived on Scotland Road. Home no longer exists (Oheb Shalom is on that site)
Jonathan Monnot, Secretary/Treasurer of Goodyear Rubber Company – Scotland Road. The home no longer exists.
Arthur B Leach, investment banker lived at 321 Scotland Road in a noted Prairie School home designed by George W. Maher. The home no longer exists
Edward H. Graves – Banker at 425 Scotland Road. It has been said that this home had the largest ballroom of any private home in the state.
William and Anna Baird lived at 212 Scotland Road (now 112 Raymond Avenue) from 1889 until 1941. The Baird family is known for contributing land and funding for the Meadowland Society.
Walter Steifel lived on Scotland Road at the corner of Ralston in the early 20th-century. He was a chemical manufacturer known for contributing to the military effort by making munitions.
Clarence Riker, explorer, drug manufacturer and benefactor lived at 432 Scotland Road at the corner of Montrose Avenue. The Kips-Riker mansion is now the location of Temple Sharey Tefilo.
Paul Starrett lived on Berkeley Avenue. He and his 5 brothers were partners in Thompson – Starrett, one of the largest construction companies in the early 1900s. One of their projects was the Empire State Building.
Louis Bamberger (Bamberger Department Stores) lived at 602 Centre Street (at Finlay Place). His home was one of the major landmarks in the early 1900s. Mrs. Bamberger is responsible for planting more cherry trees in Branch Brook Park than there are in Washington DC.
Robert Ward lived on Raymond Avenue in 1879 in the family home named “Rosemont.” Ward is credited with manufacturing and introducing Eiderdown cloth, the first knitted flannel piece of goods ever sold in this country – and possibly the world.
Max Weinberg grew up on Montrose Avenue. Before he joined Bruce Springstein he learned to play drums in the family garage.
Herman C. Hildebrand lived at 413 Centre Street. He owned the Martha Washington Candy company. Before the great depression was a 29-store chain that appealed to sweet-toothed connoisseurs.
Spencer Miller lived on Turrell and perfected a cable carrier system that made it possible to deliver heavy loads over long distances. One of his cableways was used in the construction of Hoover Dam. He later became Assistant Secretary of Labor under President Eisenhower.
And those are just PAST residents – I haven’t included any notable current residents, of which there are many.
The beauty of our neighborhood was appealing in the early years and today it remains an attractive neighborhood that entices people who are interested in living in historic homes to settle down in Montrose Park.
More than fifteen years ago, Montrose Park neighbors rallied together to create an organization to preserve and protect our homes, our gas lamps and our bluestone sidewalks.
We were successful in becoming a registered historic district on the state and national level and it is more important than ever that we recognize Montrose Park as an historic district at the local level.
By establishing an Historic Preservation Commission, we will be able to preserve – for future generations -- our homes, our community and the quality of life we enjoy in Montrose Park.