Living in Montclair: A Lifestyle and Real Estate Guide to Montclair, New Jersey

Subtitle: Montclair—”The Park Slope of New Jersey”

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Where is Montclair?

Montclair is in Essex County, New Jersey, 12 miles west of Manhattan (just over 30 minutes by car or train, via NJ Transit). The closest towns are East Orange to the south and Paterson to the north. Newark Liberty Airport is a half-hour drive to the south.

About Montclair

The name Montclair is derived from the French words for “clear mountain.” The township was formed in 1868 to extend the Northern New Jersey railroad from Jersey City. For a population of around 38,000, it has an unusually high number or railway stations—there are no less than seven—which form part of the Montclair-Boonton line connecting to either Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan or Hoboken to connect to the PATH train to Lower Manhattan.

The town is divided into six main districts: Montclair Center, Walnut Street, Watchung Plaza, Upper Montclair, South End, and Valley Road. All are listed on the national and state register of historic places, with approximately 100 individually listed landmark buildings. Among them are the Federal-style Nathaniel Crane House built circa 1818; the Charles Shultz House, an 1896 Tudor-style mansion; and the Clark House And Library, an elegant Queen Ann residence built in 1894.

The most desirable properties are in the foothills of the Watchung Mountains, which offer breathtaking views along the Hudson River to the New York City skyline beyond. Here, the luxury buyer can choose from rambling colonials and Tudor, Queen Anne, and Italianate Victorian Revivals that once served as summer retreats at the turn of the 20th century.

Who Lives in Montclair?

Montclair is one of New Jersey’s most coveted towns, and it’s easy to see why: an abundance of green spaces, including protected nature reserves; outdoor recreation, such as golf courses, equestrian centers, and hiking trails; a downtown restaurant, shopping, and art scene; and elegant homes with scenic views—all just 30 minutes from Manhattan. The town has been compared to Park Slope in Brooklyn because of its urban village-like ambience, boutique shops, trendy bars and bistros, and affluent denizens. Famous past and current residents include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, writers David Carr and Ian Frazier; actresses Olympia Dukakis and Christina Ricci; dancer Savion Glover; cosmetics guru Bobbi Brown, and TV personality Stephen Colbert.

What to Do and See in Montclair?

Montclair is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts, with 20 public parks and two nature reserves within the town borders. Located on the eastern edge of the Watchung Mountains, Montclair’s topography includes woodland, streams, and ponds. The township has 18 public tennis courts, four skating rinks (two of which are indoor), and three public swimming pools. Further recreation options are provided by Essex County Equestrian Center, situated in scenic Eagle Rock Reservation, and two golf courses: Montclair Golf Club and Glen Ridge Country Club. Montclair is also the base of golf course design firm Rees Jones, Inc. Montclair’s main commercial zone is Montclair Center at Bloomfield Avenue and Church Street. It is home to some of Montclair's largest high-end stores, upscale restaurants, antique shops, and independent boutiques.

Montclair has a thriving arts scene, and, despite its relatively small size, several art institutions, including the Montclair Art Museum, and popular art spaces and small galleries in the Bloomfield Avenue Downtown Area. Venues for the performing arts 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. The Montclair Orchestra, which performs at the Wellmont Theatre, was formed as a semi-professional orchestra, composed of both professionals and students from the nation’s finest music academies. Montclair also has a variety of indie and art-house movie theaters as well as film festivals.

Montclair has been featured in many popular films and television shows. HBO’s The Sopranos was filmed in several storefronts along Bloomfield Avenue, while the NBC series Ed and the Hollywood films Analyze This and The Devil’s Own were also shot on location at Montclair High School.

Where to Buy in Montclair?

Montclair is just three miles long by two miles wide. The town is noted for its elegant 18th and 19th-century architecture, which it meticulously preserves. There are six historic districts, each is listed on the state and national Register of Historic Places, with 92 individually listed landmarks. Along the foothills of the Watchung Mountains, the luxury buyer will find stately colonial, Tudor Revival, and Italianate mansions that functioned as summer cottages and weekend retreats for New York City’s elite during the Gilded Age. Current listings include a sprawling 13,200-square-foot stucco and wood single family home at Highland Avenue with a heated outdoor pool, and entertaining deck with New York City views. A circa-1900 Tudor Revival home is on the market on Lloyd Road; designed by the renowned architect Charles Lewis Bowman, it’s one of the finest historic homes in Montclair. The seven-bedroom property features a wood-panelled library, a tennis court, pool, koi pond, and sweeping views of New York City.

Getting to Montclair

Montclair is a commuter suburb of New York City. Served by seven NJ Transit rail stations, as well as NJ Transit bus routes, it offers Midtown Direct train services to Penn Station in Manhattan. Most residents commute from Montclair by car, via Interstate 280 or New Jersey Route 3.

Schools in Montclair

Montclair is home to Montclair State University, founded in 1908, it’s the second-largest university in the state, after Rutgers. The town is renowned for its highly-rated, specialized magnet school system and boasts 11 public elementary and middle, and high schools. There are also several top-ranked parochial and independent schools, from pre-K to 12th grades: Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair Community Pre-K, Virginia Harkness Sawtelle Learning, Maria Montessori Early Learning, Montclair Cooperative School, Trinity Academy, and Deron School II. St. Cassian parochial school was one of 10 overall schools and four private schools in New Jersey to be recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education.

As of the 2010 census, 37,669 people live in Montclair, New Jersey.

33 percent of residents hold a Master of Arts degree or higher.

37 percent of residents hold a four-year college degree.

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