Montclair was first formed as a township on April 15, 1868, from portions of Bloomfield Township, so that a second railroad could be built to Montclair. After a referendum held on February 21, 1894, Montclair was reincorporated as a town, effective February 24, 1894. It derives its name from the Frenchmont clair, meaning "clear mountain" or "bright mountain."
In 1980, after multiple protests filed by Montclair officials regarding the inequities built into the federal revenue sharing system, Montclair passed a referendum changing its name to the "Township of Montclair," becoming the third of more than a dozen Essex County municipalities to reclassify themselves as townships to take advantage of federal revenue sharing policies that allocated townships a greater share of government aid to municipalities on a per capita basis.
A mural of the road map of Montclair from 1857, when it was known as West Bloomfield.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 6.315 square miles (16.357 km2), including 6.308 square miles (16.339 km2) of land and 0.007 square mile (0.018 km2) of water (0.11%).
Montclair is on the east side of the First Mountain of the Watchung Mountains. Some higher locations in the township provide excellent views of the surrounding area and of the New York City skyline about 12 miles (19 km) away.
Named localities in the township include Church Street, Frog Hollow, Montclair Heights, South End, Upper Montclair and Watchung Plaza.
Montclair citizens use two main ZIP codes. The central and southern parts of the township are designated 07042. Upper Montclair lies north of Watchung Avenue and has a separate ZIP code, 07043. Because the ZIP codes do not exactly match municipal boundaries, a few homes near the borders with neighboring towns fall into the ZIP codes for those communities. A few homes in some adjoining municipalities use one of the two ZIP codes assigned to Montclair, as does HackensackUMC Mountainside (07042, formerly known as Mountainside Hospital), whose campus straddles the border with Glen Ridge. Small areas in the southeast of the township fall into the Glen Ridge ZIP code 07028.
Several streams flow eastward through Montclair: Toney's Brook in the center, Nishuane Brook in the southeast, the Wigwam Brook in the southwest, Pearl Brook in the northwest, and Yantacaw Brook in the northeast – all in the Passaic River watershed. Yantacaw and Toney's brooks are dammed in parks to create ponds. Wigwam, Nishuane, and Toney's brooks flow into the Second River, and the others flow into the Third River. Montclair lies just north of the northernmost extent of the Rahway River watershed.
The southern border of Montclair is a straight line between Eagle Rock, on the ridge of the First Watchung Mountain, and the point where Orange Road begins at the foot of Ridgewood Avenue. The eastern border is roughly a straight line between that point and a point just southwest of where Broad Street crosses the Third River. The western border runs roughly along the ridge of the First Watchung Mountain between Eagle Rock and the Essex County/Passaic County border. The northern border is the border between those two counties.
Montclair has a temperate climate, with warm-to-hot, humid summers and cool to cold winters, as is characteristic of the Köppen climate classificationhumid continental climate. January tends to be the coldest month, with average high temperatures in the upper 30s Fahrenheit and lows averaging 21. July, the warmest month, features high temperatures in the mid-80s and lows in the 70s, with an average high of 86 degrees. From April to June and from September to early November, Montclair experiences temperatures from the lower 60s to the lower 70s.
Montclair gets approximately 50 inches (1,270 mm) of rain per year, above the United States average of 39 inches (990 mm) (weather.com, weatherdb.com). Snowfall is common from December to early March, and totals about 30 inches (760 mm) annually. The number of days each year in Montclair with any measurable precipitation is 90; the area has an average of 202 sunny days.
Montclair is one or two degrees warmer than the neighboring towns of Verona and Cedar Grove because of the mountain between them, which sometimes blocks winds and clouds, including warmer air from the ocean to the east.
The township has long celebrated its diversity, a feature that has attracted many to the community. The African American population has been stable at around 30% for decades, although it fell from 32% in 2000 to 27% in 2010 (U.S. Census).
Montclair has attracted many who work for major media organizations in New York City, including The New York Times and Newsweek. A March 11, 2007, posting in the blog Gawker.com listed some of those who work in the media and live in Montclair. Many residents are commuters to New York City and the Metro Area.
There were 15,089 households out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.1% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. 30.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.15.
In the township, the population was spread out with 25.5% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 30.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39.9 years. For every 100 females there were 87.2 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 82.2 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $95,696 (with a margin of error of +/- $5,396) and the median family income was $126,983 (+/- $8,950). Males had a median income of $83,589 (+/- $5,955) versus $66,063 (+/- $3,616) for females. The per capita income for the township was $53,572 (+/- $2,671). About 4.6% of families and 2.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.0% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.
Of the 15,020 households in Montclair, 34.3% included children under the age of 18, 47.2% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.5% were non-families. Individuals living alone accounted for 29.3% of all households, and in 8.6% of households, that individual was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.16.
Like most stable, mature communities, Montclair had many people in each age group, with 25.6% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 31.9% from 25 to 44, 24.1% from 45 to 64, and 12.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 86.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.7 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $74,894, and the median income for a family was $96,252. Males had a median income of $64,151 versus $43,520 for females. The per capita income for the township was $44,870. About 3.9% of families and 5.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.4% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.
Montclair has six distinct commercial zones:
Montclair Center, centered on the intersection of Bloomfield Avenue, South Fullerton Avenue, Glenridge Avenue and Church Street, is the township's main commercial zone. This intersection is also known as Six Corners. It is home to some of Montclair's largest stores and restaurants, and features many upscale restaurants and boutiques near the center of this commercial district. Near the eastern end of this district is Lackawanna Plaza, which once housed the Lackawanna railway station. There is a post office one block to the north of this area. In 2015, Montclair Center won the Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Watchung Plaza is located around the intersection of Watchung Avenue and Park Street, and is on the divide between two Montclair ZIP codes, 07042 and 07043. It is home to many "Mom and Pop Stores" and other small businesses. Watchung Plaza has its own post office. It is served by the Watchung Avenue station.
Walnut Street, built around the Walnut Street train station. In the spring, summer, and fall it is home to the Montclair Farmer's Market.
South End, in the south of town, at the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Orange Road.
Valley Road, between Chestnut Street and Claremont Avenue, is known locally as "Frog Hollow." This area has some strip-mall style shops on one side of Valley Road, and on the other side window shops with residential apartments on top of them.
Arts and culture
Montclair hosts many art institutions and theaters, and despite its relatively small size, has many art venues. It has its own art museum, the Montclair Art Museum, and several small galleries.
Montclair also hosts one cinema, the Clairidge Cinema on Bloomfield Avenue which shows different types of movies from documentaries to small scale indie films. The township hosted its first annual film festival in 2012 to provide a platform for filmmakers from New Jersey, the US and the world.
Live theaters include The Montclair Operetta Company, the Wellmont Theatre, Montclair State University's Kasser Theater, Montclair State University's theater in Life Hall, and the Studio Playhouse. On Bloomfield Avenue there is a public stage used for concerts and other events. Dotted around Montclair there are also many art galleries, though most are centered in the Bloomfield Avenue Downtown Area. Concerts are held at the Wellmont Theatre and at several churches and auditoriums sponsored by Outpost in the Burbs, a community-based organization. In 2017, The Montclair Orchestra was formed as a semi-professional orchestra, composed of both professionals and students from top colleges.
Montclair was the setting for some of the stories in the HBO television series The Sopranos, and many Montclair streets, locations and businesses were featured in the show, such as Bloomfield Avenue.
Floyd Hall Arena, an ice rink which is actually located in Little Falls on the grounds of Montclair State University and is host to its ice hockey club. The facility also hosts other hockey leagues and teams and other on-ice sports.
Montclair is home to many parks and nature reserves.
Parks in Montclair are both county and municipal. Additional open space includes the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, and many school owned sports fields, viz., Montclair State University's Sprague Field. In total Montclair has 153.9 acres (0.623 km2) of township park land spread over 18 parks and 123.8 acres (0.501 km2) of county park land consisting of five parks.
Municipal parks include Mountainside Park, the township's largest at 33.2 acres (13.4 ha), which offers extensive tennis and recreation facilities, and includes the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, a 6.5-acre (2.6 ha) living museum donated by the family of Frank Presby that is maintained by volunteers and dedicated to the iris. Covering nearly 20 acres (8.1 ha) of wetlands and uplands along the Third River, the Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve offers hiking trails and other passive recreation.Yantacaw Brook Park, covering 11.5 acres (4.7 ha), surrounds a pond that is fed by Yantacaw Brook and that in turn feeds into the Third River on its way towards the Passaic River.
The township has 18 public tennis courts, four skating rinks (two of which are indoor), and three public swimming pools: the Mountainside pool, the Nishuane pool, and the Essex pool.
In 2007, township residents advocated for construction of a public skatepark. Community members revitalized the effort in 2010 and lobbied the Parks and Recreation Committee for support. The township council passed a resolution expressing approval of the project, but allocated no funds for it.
Montclair Municipal Building, the town's government building
Since July 1, 1988, Montclair has been governed under the council-manager plan 13 form of municipal government under the Faulkner Act, whose originator, Bayard H. Faulkner, was a former mayor of Montclair. The government consists of a mayor and a six-member Township Council. The mayor and council are all elected to four-year terms in concurrent nonpartisan elections. The mayor and two council seats are elected at-large, with four council seats elected from each of four wards. A deputy mayor is selected by the six council members from their members, and this position is largely ceremonial.
Though the Mayor has no executive powers, the Mayor presides over council meetings and has both a voice and vote in its proceedings. The Mayor appoints members to many local governing groups, most notably the board of education.
As of 2017[update], the Mayor of Montclair is Robert D. Jackson. Members of the Montclair Township Council are William L. Hurlock (First Ward), Dr. Renée E. Baskerville (Fourth Ward), Deputy Mayor Rich McMahon (At-Large), Robert J. Russo (At-Large), Robin Schlager (Second Ward) and Sean Spiller (Third Ward), all of whom serve terms of office that end on June 30, 2020.
In elections held on May 8, 2012, Robert D. Jackson won election as mayor, defeating Karen Turner and Harvey Susswein. Almost all of Jackson's Montclair 2012 slate also won office, with Rich McMahon and former Mayor Robert Russo winning the two at-large seats, Robin Schlager winning the Second Ward and Sean Spiller taking the Third Ward. For Montclair's Bill Hurlock won the First Ward seat and incumbent councilwoman Dr. Renée Baskerville, who ran as an independent, won the Fourth Ward seat. The new council took office on July 1, 2012. Russo was chosen by the council to be deputy mayor, succeeding Kathryn Weller-Demming.
Montclair is split between the 10th and 11th Congressional Districts and is part of New Jersey's 34th state legislative district. Prior to the 2010 Census, Montclair had been part of the 8th Congressional District and the 10th Congressional District, a change made by the New Jersey Redistricting Commission that took effect in January 2013, based on the results of the November 2012 general elections. The split that took effect in 2013 drew the southern section of the township (26,730 residents) into the 10th District, while the northern portion (11,299 residents) moved to the 11th District.
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 27,289 registered voters in Montclair, of which 14,782 (54.2%) were registered as Democrats, 2,581 (9.5%) were registered as Republicans and 9,903 (36.3%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 23 voters registered to other parties.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 83.0% of the vote (15,811 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 15.9% (3,034 votes), and other candidates with 1.1% (201 votes), among the 19,576 ballots cast by the township's 29,463 registered voters (530 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 66.4%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 83.0% of the vote (17,396 cast), ahead of Republican John McCain with 15.7% (3,294 votes) and other candidates with 0.6% (132 votes), among the 20,951 ballots cast by the township's 27,476 registered voters, for a turnout of 76.3%. In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 78.8% of the vote (15,597 ballots cast), outpolling Republican George W. Bush with 20.2% (3,995 votes) and other candidates with 0.6% (157 votes), among the 19,804 ballots cast by the township's 25,762 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 76.9.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Democrat Barbara Buono received 70.5% of the vote (7,613 cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 28.3% (3,057 votes), and other candidates with 1.2% (131 votes), among the 10,941 ballots cast by the township's 29,768 registered voters (140 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 36.8%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 73.9% of the vote (10,139 ballots cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 18.7% (2,573 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 5.8% (801 votes) and other candidates with 0.8% (104 votes), among the 13,723 ballots cast by the township's 26,843 registered voters, yielding a 51.1% turnout.
CR 506 westbound in Montclair
Montclair is considered a commuter suburb of New York City. NJ Transit and DeCamp Bus Lines are the providers of public transportation. The average Montclair commute is 38 minutes each way. Twenty-four percent of commuters take mass transit, while 59% drive alone. Twelve times more Montclair commuters take mass transit than the national average.
Roads and highways
As of May 2010[update], the township had a total of 100.62 miles (161.93 km) of roadways, of which 86.68 miles (139.50 km) were maintained by the municipality and 13.94 miles (22.43 km) by Essex County Road Dept.
#28 follows the route of #29 on Bloomfield Avenue until halfway through Montclair, where it goes north along Park Street, Watchung Avenue, and Valley Road to Montclair State University, and to Willowbrook Mall on Weekends
#34 to Newark through East Orange and Orange on some trips, otherwise it goes to Bloomfield along Orange Road, Elm Street, and Bloomfield Avenue. It goes farther to the Montclair High School during that school's start and end times.
#97 goes from the Montclair Center south along Orange and Harrison Roads through the Oranges.
#705 goes from Passaic along Alexander Avenue, Grove Street (for one block), Mt. Hebron Road and through Montclair State University to Willowbrook Mall.
All of these routes except #97, #191, and #705 were trolley lines originally, operated by the Public Service Railway. A trolley garage existed on Bloomfield Avenue. In the 1930s and 1950s the trolleys were destroyed and replaced with buses.
In 1868, the Montclair Railway built another line through Montclair, which caused disputes leading to Montclair's separation from Bloomfield. Shortly afterward it was taken over by the New York and Greenwood Lake Railway, a subsidiary of the Erie Railroad. A third railroad to Morristown was planned in 1860 and construction began, but the Panic of 1873 ended the project. In 1912 the Lackawanna Railroad built a large terminal at the end of their line. The Erie and Lackawanna Railroads later merged, forming the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, which operated both lines for many decades. They were next operated by Conrail for approximately one year, after which NJ Transit took over passenger operations and Conrail continued freight operations. Meanwhile, the 1912 terminal was closed in 1981 and converted into shops. This station was replaced by the Bay Street station. In 2002, the two railway lines were connected with the construction of the Montclair Connection.
Montclair is noted for its historic architecture. It is home to six historic districts listed on the Register of Historic Places of both the state and country as a whole, 92 individually listed landmarks, and two locally designated commercial districts. Works by significant architects include designs by Van Vleck and Goldsmith, Charles Follen McKim, McKim, Mead, and White, Henry Hudson Holly, Charles A. Platt, Alexander Jackson Davis, Dudley Van Antwerp, Effingham R. North, Montrose Morris, and Frances Nelson, among others.
Bobbi Brown, founder and ex-CCO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, and her husband, realtor Steven Plofker opened The George in 2018, a 32-room boutique hotel on North Mountain Avenue.
Montclair has also housed many hotels, such as the defunct Hotel Montclair. In 2013, plans were announced to bring a new hotel to Montclair, featuring 100 rooms and a liquor license.
Board of Education Building
The Montclair Public Schools serve students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. As of the 2011–12 school year, the district's 11 schools had an enrollment of 6,625 students. Schools in the district (with 2011–12 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are seven elementary schools (K-5, except as noted, with enrollment and magnet program listed in parentheses) —
Bradford School (456 students, Magnet Theme: The University Magnet),
Charles H. Bullock School (432, Environmental Science),
Edgemont Montessori School (304, Montessori),
Hillside School (3–5; 626, Gifted and Talented),
Nishuane School (K-2; 430, Gifted and Talented),
Northeast School (457, Global Studies) and
Watchung School (456, Science and Technology) —
Glenfield Middle School (717, Visual and Performing Arts), Buzz Aldrin Middle School (548, Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) and
Renaissance at Rand (253, Liberal Arts) for grades 6–8, along with
Montclair High School (1,946) for grades 9–12.
Montclair is also home to a host of private and parochial schools, including Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair Community Pre-K, Virginia Harkness Sawtelle Learning, Maria Montessori Early Learning, Montclair Cooperative School, Trinity Academy and Deron School II.
^History of Montclair, Montclair Township. Accessed August 5, 2007. "When Bloomfield authorities declined to authorize a bond issue to underwrite another railroad, Montclair residents were successful in securing from the State legislature a charter for a separate township. Thus in 1868, the Township of Montclair was created."
^"Removing Tiering From The Revenue Sharing Formula Would Eliminate Payment Inequities To Local Governments", Government Accountability Office, April 15, 1982. Accessed September 24, 2015. "In 1978, South Orange Village was the first municipality to change its name to the 'township' of South Orange Village effective beginning in entitlement period 10 (October 1978 to September 1979). The Borough of Fairfield in 1978 changed its designation by a majority vote of the electorate and became the 'Township of Fairfield' effective beginning entitlement period 11 (October 1979 to September 1980).... However, the Revenue Sharing Act was not changed and the actions taken by South Orange and Fairfield prompted the Town of Montclair and West Orange to change their designation by referendum in the November 4, 1980, election. The municipalities of Belleville, Verona, Bloomfield, Nutley, Essex Fells, Caldwell, and West Caldwell have since changed their classification from municipality to a township."
^Narvaez, Alfonso A. "New Jersey Journal", The New York Times, December 27, 1981. Accessed September 24, 2015. "Under the Federal system, New Jersey's portion of the revenue sharing funds is disbursed among the 21 counties to create three 'money pools.' One is for county governments, one for 'places' and a third for townships. By making the change, a community can use the 'township advantage' to get away from the category containing areas with low per capita incomes."
^Roll, Erin. "Glen Ridge baby boom: More than 500 births so far in 2013", Glen Ridge Voice, August 1, 2013. Accessed October 3, 2013. "Mountainside is located on the Montclair-Glen Ridge border, and the hospital's mailing address is listed as Montclair. But because the hospital building itself is located in Glen Ridge, every child born at the hospital has Glen Ridge listed as their place of birth."
^Segedin, Andrew. "Montclair remembers 'Soprano' days", The Montclair Times, July 1, 2013. Accessed October 3, 2013. "Tierney's is far from the only Montclair establishment in which The Sopranos filmed. According to the Montclair Township Clerk's Office, the show also filmed at Montclair High School, Applegate Farms, the intersection of Bradford and Upper Mountain avenues, Valley Road and Madison Avenue."
^"NJ Pride Move to Rutgers", LAX.tv, January 19, 2006. Accessed December 20, 2016. "The New Jersey Pride, the Garden State's only professional lacrosse team, announced today that the team will play their 2006 home games at Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, the premier lacrosse facility in the state.... The move to Rutgers comes after the Pride spent the last two seasons at Sprague Field on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair. Prior to the 2004 season, the team spent two seasons at Commerce Bank Park in Bridgewater, a year after playing at MSU's Yogi Berra Stadium."
^History of the Gardens, Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Accessed January 21, 2018. "Frank Presby was an iris hybridizer and owned a fine iris collection. It was his expressed wish to give a collection of his favorite flower, the iris, to Montclair’s newly acquired Mountainside Park. Unfortunately, before he could carry out his plans, he passed away in 1924."
^Montclair’s Alonzo Bonsal Wildlife Preserve! , NJUrbanForest.com. Accessed January 21, 2018. "Welcome to the 20.68 acre Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve! The preserve is located and owned by the Township of Montclair, New Jersey and was purchased with NJ DEP Green Acres funds."
^About, Yantacaw Brook Park Conservancy. Accessed January 21, 2018. "Yantacaw Brook Park is the municipal park located in Montclair, New Jersey. The park consists of approximately 11.5 acres (47,000 m2) of land. The park contains a small pond and a stream that feeds into it. The pond is surrounded by trees and low hills. There are paths and benches throughout the park. The Yantacaw Brook feeds the pond and then continues into the Third River through Bloomfield, Nutley, and Belleville where it finally meets the Passaic River."
^Herbst, Diane. "New Montclair Township Council sworn in", The Montclair Times, July 1, 2012. Accessed July 8, 2012. "Shortly after they were sworn into office today, Sunday, July 1, members of the Montclair Township Council stand alongside one another at the council dais. From left are 1st Ward Councilman Bill Hurlock, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Robin Schlager, At-large Councilman Rich McMahon, Mayor Robert Jackson, Deputy Mayor and At-large Councilman Robert Russo, 3rd Ward Councilman Sean Spiller, and 4th Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville."
^ abGeneral Information, Essex County, New Jersey. Accessed June 10, 2018. "The County Executive, elected from the County at-large, for a four-year term, is the chief political and administrative officer of the County.... The Board of Chosen Freeholders consists of nine members, five of whom are elected from districts and four of whom are elected at-large. They are elected for three-year concurrent terms and may be re-elected to successive terms at the annual election in November."
^Galant, Debra. 'Jersey; Montclair's Connection Has Its Price", The New York Times, September 29, 2002. Accessed October 3, 2013. "On Sept. 20, New Jersey Transit officially terminated service at Mr. Wilson's beloved Benson Street stop, as well as at the Rowe Street stop in Bloomfield and the Arlington stop in Kearny. Those closings were part of the price of progress. Tomorrow, New Jersey Transit is to open the Montclair Connection – a plan first announced in 1929 to combine the Montclair and Boonton Branch lines."
^Herbst, Diane. "First new hotel in Montclair in a century in 2014?", The Montclair Times, March 7, 2013. Accessed October 3, 2013. "Next year, an upscale, eight-story hotel with 100-plus rooms and a rooftop bar with views of the Manhattan skyline is expected to break ground in Montclair, the township's first new full-service hotel since the long-defunct Montclair Hotel was built in 1908."
^Clark, Adam. "These 10 N.J. schools earn Blue Ribbon honors", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, September 28, 2016. Accessed November 13, 2016. "The U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday announced that 10 New Jersey schools have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools, a recognition celebrating excellence in academics."
^Yardley, Jonathan. "Gold by a Couple: 'Cheaper by the Dozen'", The Washington Post, August 25, 203. Accessed March 30, 2016. "They had a 14-room house in the New Jersey bedroom community of Montclair and rode around in a 'gray Pierce Arrow, equipped with two bulb horns and an electric Klaxon, which Dad would try to blow all at the same time when he wanted to pass anyone.'"