Historic Preservation Award Winners Announced

Historic Preservation Award Winners Announced
Posted on 04/30/2023
Historic Preservation Award Winners Announced

The Montclair Township Historic Preservation Commission is pleased to announce the 2023 Recipients of the Historic Preservation Awards Program.

Awardees will be recognized at the Commission’s upcoming meeting to be held on Thursday May 11, 2023. The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers on the first floor of the Municipal Building (205 Claremont Avenue).

The Commission is pleased to announce the following award recipients:

Bricks & Mortar Preservation Award

Commercial: 17 Watchung Plaza
Owner: Bravitas Group, Inc.
Architect: Paul Sionas Architecture, P.C.
Contractor: Jack Finn & Co
Designer: RHG Architecture & Design
Tenant: Montclair Speech Therapy – Lori Caplan-Colon and Ben Colon

Nominator Kathleen M Bennett:

The Bravitas Group and Sionas Architects have successfully restored and adapted the Montclair National Bank, located at 17 Watchung Plaza. Designed in 1924 by John J. Jackson of Passaic, it was designed in the Colonial Revival style. The Bravitas/Sionas team converted the former bank into a single tenant building now occupied by Montclair Speech Therapy and MST Skills. This is an outstanding example of adaptive reuse as the design team preserved the original facade and successfully replicated original details.

The existing 1st and 2nd floor windows and infill were removed and replaced with aluminum windows similar in design to the original window configuration. The replacement aluminum and glass entry doors were replaced with new aluminum and glass doors in a style similar to the 1924 original. The original sign bank, which had been obscured has been replaced by letters proudly proclaiming "The National". Additional improvements in the interior, the parking and accessibility aspects have been addressed and designed to comply to current requirements. The building is an asset to the Watchung Plaza Historic District.

Commercial: 56 Park StreetA grand Queen Anne Victorian house

Owner: Bill Connolly & family
Contractor: David Greene Construction, LLC
Painting: Machado Painting LLC and Sergio Machado of Bogota
Nominator Kathleen M Bennett:

This grand Queen Anne Victorian sits at the corner of Claremont Avenue and Park Street. Designed in 1890 by Paul G. Boticher, a prominent 19th century Newark architect, for the Philadelphia business-man Frederick J. Drescher and family, it was published in Scientific American Building Edition in the March 1897 edition. It now serves as the headquarters for William H. Connolly & Co., a full-service insurance broker established in 1950 and a member of The Hilb Group since 2020.

The building is an excellent example of the Queen Anne style exhibiting classic details such as an asymmetrical façade with projecting dormers, dominant turrets containing rounded glass windows, a port-cochere, dentil moldings and a brownstone foundation and first floor elevation with clapboard on the second floor and decorative shingles in the gable ends. Over time, many of the exterior elements started to show their age.

Bill Connolly, who recently passed away, started the restoration program for the exterior which included repairing the Yankee gutters, restoring the rounded glass windows in both turrets, stabilizing the brownstone foundation and replacing the port-cochere columns and additional carpentry work.

David Greene Construction, LLC. of Maplewood was in charge of the restoration of the windows which included replacement of framing, sills and lintels. They also managed the stabilization of the brownstone foundation and the repair and replacement of the Yankee gutters.

Machado Painting, LLC and Sergio Machado of Bogota aided in additional carpentry work and has started to paint portions of the exterior. Additional painting will be concluded during the summer months. The former residence, now containing offices for a thriving company has reigned on this prominent corner for the past one-hundred and thirty-three years. We are fortunate that the Connolly family has undertaken the formidable task of restoring the exterior with such dedication and an eye to the original spirit of the building.

Commercial: 61 North Fullerton AvenueFront entrance of the Paper  Plane café

Owner: Nancy and Chris Sutherland
Contractor: Ed Lamson Restoration Contractor
Business Owner: Jonathan Echeverry
Nominator Carmel Loughman:

From an interview with the property owner, Nancy Sutherland, we learned that this prominent building was originally owned by the Celentano Brothers, a leader in the frozen food industry. In 1961 the corner space, where Paper Plane is now, became one of the original five Shop Rites in the area. At the time, Ms. Sutherland’s family operated “Jacks”, a convenience store, in three of the contiguous storefronts. When the Celentano Company was ready to sell the building, Jack bought it. This family business has operated continuously to this day with Nancy Sutherland, the owner of this project, as the current proprietor. A visit to Ms. Sutherland’s store should not be missed as it displays much ephemera from the years her family has owned the building and Ms. Sutherland has terrific stories to tell as well.

The work done included

1. Painting the original interior tin ceilings.

2. Removing the paint from the transom windows to restore them to their original clear panes.

3. Repairing the lead around the windows.

4. Opening up the closed up storefront and installing folding windows that can open up to the sidewalk.

5. Removing the concrete below the windows and replacing it with slate.

6. Adding attractive copper trim to the doors and windows.

7. Adding brackets underneath the eaves.

8. Repairing worn/damaged concrete siding.

This work is a wonderful example of craftsmanship, loving restoration, creative additions that enhance the functionality of the building, and artistic touches, like glass etchings that highlight the beautiful features of the windows. This thoughtful restoration enhances this highly trafficked site. The owner, Ms. Sutherland, the operator, Mr. Echeverry and the skilled contractor, Mr. Lamson, should all be congratulated for the excellent restoration of this beautiful building.

Mixed-Use: 369-373 Bloomfield Avenue

Owner: Steven Plofker building brick front facade
Architect: John Reimnitz
Nominator Linda Cranston:

The renovation of the facade of the Diva Lounge front enhanced our main street simply with a variety of patterns of raised worn brick to provide both interest and texture which compliments other Bloomfield Ave historic buildings. The attached cement block building facing N. Willow is restored for reuse with the use of metalwork windows and balconies and industrial lighting to provide a modern industrial design look.


Betty Holloway

Nominator Montclair History Center:
With fondness and respect, the Montclair History Center nominates Betty Holloway for the 2023 Preservationist of the Year Award. Betty has researched, documented, and shared numerous facets of Montclair’s African American history over many years.

This year, her work has focused on the history and legacy of former enslaved person James Howe and the James Howe House at 369 Claremont Avenue. Betty is a member of the Board of the Friends of the Howe House. With passion and diligence, this group overcame daunting challenges to purchase the Howe House and property and begin their mission to convert it into a monument to and archive of local and national African American history.

Working individually and as part of the Friends of the Howe House Research Committee, Betty has extensively researched the history of the James Howe House to understand the changes of ownership and development of the property. She has also conducted research into the James Howe family, delving into census, genealogy, and property records for James, his wife Susan, and their children James Henry Howe and Mary Oliver. Betty continues to uncover resources and documentation to better understand the Howe family and their relationship to the property at 369 Claremont Avenue.

In addition to her work on the research committee of the Friends of the Howe House, she has:

  • Researched her own family genealogy and worked with the Montclair African American Genealogy Group as well as the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church Archives Project.
  • Extensively researched Alice Hooe Foster, the groundbreaking founder of Montclair’s YWCA, and her family. Through exacting research, Betty uncovered the story of this entrepreneurial family which moved to Montclair from Virginia in 1874 during the Great Migration and owned several successful businesses, including a news dealer business on Bloomfield Avenue.
  • In 2017, Betty Holloway and Barbara Sanders-Harris published a historical document called the “St. Mark’s UMC, Church History and Art.”
  • In 2019, with the Montclair African American Heritage Foundation, Betty conducted a Historical Trolley Tour of the African American Community in Montclair.

This body of work is notable for shedding light onto the accomplishments and impact of the Black community in Montclair. We consider Betty’s work—including her persistence to uncover difficult to find information, commitment to evidence-based research, excellent writing, and engaging and informative communication of her findings—worthy of individual spotlight and recognition as Preservationist of the Year.

Preservation Service Award

Friends of the Howe House
Nominator: Montclair History Center

The importance of the James Howe House has been brought into focus more than ever this past year through the grassroots efforts of the Friends of the Howe House organization. With passion and diligence, this group overcame daunting challenges to purchase the home and property. Now they are on their way to creating a monument to, and archive of, local and national African American history and a place to further the contemporary needs of racial justice.

It is the Montclair History Center’s pleasure to nominate the Friends of the Howe House organization for a 2023 Service Award.

While those on the Montclair Township Historic Preservation Commission may be aware of the history of the small clapboard home at 369 Claremont Avenue built circa 1780, as well as its significance as the home of James Howe, the first freed enslaved person in Montclair, many in our community are unaware of this important site.

Given the swiftness with which the Friends of the Howe House has mustered to purchase the home when it became available in 2022, as well as the awareness they have already raised about the home, its importance, and their plans and vision for it, we believe that this important site will not only be known locally, but far wider, as their plans evolve.

As summarized from the Friends of the Howe House website, the home is significant in part because:

“One of the oldest structures in Montclair, dating to the Revolutionary era, this house helps tell the story of freedom and slavery, the development of a black community, and also the founding of Montclair as a town.

James Howe worked as an enslaved man for Major Nathanial Crane in the early 1800s. After over a decade of servitude, Crane manumitted Howe, ending his enslavement. In his 1831 Testament and Last Will, Crane left Howe the house, $400, and approximately six acres of land. Howe used the home and the property to support his family and there is evidence to suggest that a small black community developed around the James Howe House.”

We believe the Friends of the Howe House is very deserving of the 2023 HPC Service Award, and we thank you for considering it.

The Montclair Historic Preservation Commission (MHPC), established by ordinance in 1994, is responsible for protecting Montclair's architectural heritage and increasing public awareness of the unique historical and cultural dimensions of the Township's buildings, streetscapes, and landscapes. For more information, please visit the MHPC website HERE.