Montclair is a township in Essex County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 37,669, reflecting a decline of 1,308 (−3.4%) from the 38,977 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 1,248 (+3.3%) from the 37,729 counted in the 1990 Census. As of 2010, it was the 60th-most-populous municipality in New Jersey.
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 French mont 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.
Montclair, which opened the state's first dispensary in December 2012, joins Bellmawr, Cranbury, Egg Harbor Township and Woodbridge Township as one of the five municipalities (of 565 in the state) that have authorized dispensaries for the sale of medical marijuana.
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Arts and Entertainment
Top places to go to for arts and entertainment in Montclair.
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.
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.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark supervises the operation of Immaculate Conception High School (coed) and Lacordaire Academy (for girls)at the high school level and Lacordaire Academy-Lower Division and St. Cassian School for grades PreK-8. In 2016, St. Cassian School was one of ten schools in New Jersey, and one of four private schools in the state, recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education, a recognition celebrating excellence in academics.
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.
Park and Recreation
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 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, a shopping center with about ten stores built inside the former Lackawana 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.
- Upper Montclair, in the north of the town, is the second largest commercial zone. The center is the intersection of Valley Road and Bellevue Avenue, and incorporates the surrounding areas. The Upper Montclair Business District is home to several restaurants and shops. This commercial zone is home to several chain stores such as Starbucks, Talbots, Williams-Sonoma, Gap, Cold Stone Creamery, Supercuts and CVS. Despite the recession, the area in 2009–2010 saw the opening of several new national and local merchants. Upper Montclair also has both a park, Anderson Park, and a railway station, Upper Montclair, nearby. There is a post office here.
- 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.
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, 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.
There is a taxi stand off of Bloomfield Avenue in eastern Montclair, in front of Lackawanna Plaza, formerly the Montclair train station.
- #11 from Downtown Newark through Verona, Cedar Grove, and Little Falls to Willowbrook Mall in Wayne. The only Montclair street it goes along is Bloomfield Avenue.
- #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
- #29 between West Caldwell and Newark, passing through Caldwell, Verona, Montclair, Glen Ridge, and Bloomfield on Bloomfield Avenue. It goes to Parsippany at rush hour. The only Montclair street it goes along is Bloomfield Avenue.
- #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.
- #191 goes from Willowbrook Mall through Little Falls to Montclair State University, then to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.
- #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.
- #33 goes along Bloomfield Avenue, with some buses going onto Grove Street
- #66 goes along Orange Road, Park Street, Valley Road, and Mt. Hebron Road
Montclair State University has shuttle buses going around its campus.
Running through Montclair is the Montclair-Boonton Line, serving New York Penn Station via Hoboken Terminal to the east, and Hackettstown to the west. Seven NJ Transit Rail stations serve Montclair: Bay Street, Walnut Street, Watchung Avenue, Upper Montclair, Mountain Avenue, and Montclair Heights in Montclair, and Montclair State University Station in the Great Notch area of Little Falls, New Jersey. Of these seven stations, only Bay Street station has weekend train service.
Montclair has a long history of railroads. The first railroad to Montclair was built in 1856 by the Newark and Bloomfield Railroad. It terminated at a station in Downtown Montclair. First the Morris and Essex Railroad, then the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad leased the line.
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.