In addition to a spectacular view of the New York City skyline, the town of Montclair, New Jersey can make another impressive geographic boast: it arose from the ashes of a volcanic ridge, known today as the Watchung Mountains.
Perhaps it is that dormant firepower that makes Montclair such an attractive draw for co-op and condo owners seeking life in a suburban town with charm, convenience and affordable living that's still within a stone's throw of the big city. It's an alchemy that has made Montclair a consistently attractive destination for homeowners in recent years.
Where it All Began
The township of Montclair was originally settled in 1694 by Azariah Crane and his family, following on the heels of the founding of Newark, New Jersey by the English in 1666, according to the Montclair township website. Known as Cranetown, the settlement eventually evolved into what is now known as southern Montclair. In 1679, Dutch settlers acquired land from the Lenape Indians and in the early 1700s, Dutchman John Speer built a home that was soon followed by other Dutch settlements. Together, they formed Speertown, which would become the northern half of modern-day Montclair.
Because of its mountain ridge location, Montclair proved valuable to American troops during the Revolutionary War. Legend has it that both George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette visited the town briefly in 1780 and a boulder on the corner of Claremont Avenue and Valley Road marks the site of Washington's headquarters.
While Speertown's development was more gradual, Cranetown had grown into a small commercial center by the early 1800s. The creation of the Newark Pompton Turnpike, which came through Montclair as Bloomfield Avenue, helped increase commerce and gave the town its new name of West Bloomfield. The addition of a wool mill and the creation of the Morris Canal in 1831 also did wonders for the area's growing economy. With the inauguration of the Newark and Bloomfield Railroad Company's commuter service to West Bloomfield, the area became a destination for city dwellers seeking country excursions and others who decided to make the town their permanent home. In 1860, the town's residents lobbied for a new name, transforming West Bloomfield into Montclair.