A House Goes Up on Walnut Street in Montclair

Any thoughts on this new home being erected on Walnut Street in Montclair? I’ll keep mine to myself except to say that I don’t think its style fits much with the rest of the street, or the town. Just look at its next door neighbor, pictured below.

I don’t recall what was on that strip of land before, but looking at this house reminded me of a story I came across on Scouting New York earlier this summer about a beautiful old Victorian that was turned into a house like this. Read the story here, and try not to cry.

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  1. Thank you to the owner as well for not trimming the weeds taking over the sidewalk for over a year. Even my kids told me they thing the house is awful.

  2. Well, you can scold me if this is not P.C., but that looks a little like the multi-family junk they build in Newark. The website Homes.com has a birds-eye view of it pre-rehab, and it definitely fit the nabe better before, had more of a farmhouse style facade. The old girl was built around 1897! At one time I’m sure it was a very nice, spacious 2-family. Probably had some hardwood moldings and built-ins. But, since it was a foreclosure, it’s quite possible that the place had been trashed prior to the most recent sale so they commenced with complete renovation.

    My hope is that the new owner is planning to live there, meaning, at least I hope they built it that way because they actually *like* it! But If they did it because “hey, let’s flip this house, this style worked in Union City” then I will indeed be very sad….but to each his own I guess.

  3. Dane,
    Then you will love the recent home improvement on Upper Mountain (downside) btwn Watchung & Berkeley. It now has a paver patio the full lot width from the street to the retaining wall…and a couple of oversize planters like the security barricades in NYC. I guess that is to distinguish from the roadway.

  4. This house perfectly matches the re development projects of Montclair Center…the Siena…South Park Street and the New Gateway. This is whats happening and we’ll see a lot more of it.

  5. Bayonne Box is the common term. Just like Newark. Designed as three rental units. Another absentee landlord building.

  6. This is emblematic…. this new (whateveritis) next to the beautiful, old, valuable characteristic house, that the homeowner has lovingly invested much time, money and care in. There are no laws in place to protect the vintage homeowner’s investment and the township and local government seem that they really know any better to understand whats wrong with this picture. What is even worse, is that what will most likely happen, is that when homeowners will realize that they have no protection for their investment, the’ll just become demotivated and give up on caring for the fine old homes that are characteristic to Montclair and our landscape with just give way to these whateveritises.

  7. So nice to see so many would-be aesthetes chiming in disparagingly on this oe. And yet…and yet…this dwelling will soon constitute someone else’s “castle.” And that pretty much remains evwery American’s right. Even in a God-favored place like Montclair.

  8. So now Cathar takes his customary harpy opportunity to sweep in and carp and screech on why all the PC posters of Baristanet are imposing their priveledged esthetic on what may very well be Everyman’s Castle.

    Earth to Cathar: that house just devalued its neighbor’s property values by a measurable percentage by virtue of its use of cheap building materials, and —yes–here it comes — no-maintenance vulgar esthetics, designed to pack a short-term return into a small project. Come see it in 4 years. It will be a crumbling, dirty partial wreck. Come see it in 10 years. It will be a crumbling, dirty total wreck.

    Two facts: preservation costs more. And preservation preserves property values.

  9. OK, vulgar and ugly–absolutely. But better than nothing (weed-strewn lot) or falling-down disaster. Let’s see a “before” picture before we judge too harshly or make assumptions as to what the neighbors would prefer.

  10. I disagree that this garish monstrosity is “better than nothing”. A weed-strewn lot can always be mowed, and a falling-down disaster can always be demolished or renovated in a manner aesthetically compatible with the neighborhood.

    Either of these two seemingly less desirable alternatives would have held the potential for improvement and the promise of something new and beautiful.

    Now that it is built, this butt-ugly Bayonne box will defile the neighborhood pretty much forever.

  11. It is butt-ugly. Sadly there are a decent amount of large multi-family homes in the area that have not been taken care of over the years and also subtract from their neighborhoods in a number of ways. Nobody mentions them. Slowly more of these will also be bought out, torn down and have large multi-unit dwelling property erected. Hopefully, it will be in a style that doesn’t bring to mind the word vulgar.

  12. It’s time to Occupy Montclair. Are there no zoning ordinances? The Montclair Preservation Committee better get off it’s ass! Oh, wait, I don’t think they have one! Time to escape Montclair….All that money in town but no taste.

  13. I guess we’ve come to the point where a certain population wants to start legislating taste. Everything must conform with the taste of a certain few. Why can’t people realize that various people have various tastes – some of which may be to your liking, and others not – that is why we live in the United States and not China or Cuba, where a governing body will tell us what to like and what to dislike. GET OVER YOURSELVES – ALL OF YOU HATERS. Should we start getting approvals for paint color now??? Maybe yellow is objectionable to some? Porch furniture?? Plantings?? Where does it end? Big F’ING deal, someone built a house not to everyone’s taste – someone will live there and hopefully be happy!!

  14. Rightwingdem, despite your protestations to the contrary, taste legislation is hardly part of the left wing agenda. Cuba, really? China? One look at what they’re building over there should quickly disorient your strong convictions.
    Be bold today, rightwingdem, and research a few carefully planned American communities in areas that vote solidly right wing, and that also have scrupulous requirements for form, proportion and color.
    You’ll find many more of those tasteful places in South Carolina than you will in Shanghai.

  15. The problem is that practically nobody can maintain the upkeep of a Victorian home. Cape May is slowly deteriorating and losing its charm for this very reason. “They just don’t make em’ like that anymore”

  16. My dear Spiro T., while “taste legislation” may not necessarily be part of the left wing agenda (though I personally suspect it is in terms of movies at the very least), thought legislation does indeed seem to be.

    In South Carolina, there are actual planned communities. To buy into one assumes an understanding of pre-existing rules. Fine. But Montclair is not a planned community. Thus, as long as a building is built to code, it seems that one can in fact adorn his or her “castle” as one sees fit. And yet, up above we have “progressive” Miss Grundys such as dear, dear Kit Schackner and many other Baristanet regulars explaining why their own highly evolved aesthetic senses are affronted by the new house on Walnut Street. To a point which smacks of taste control. And I will pay you the compliment of assuming that you personally do not agree with such politically liberal rabble. (Who if they had their way would in fact control even thought in their personal vision of Montclair, I often believe.)

  17. I agree with you Porkroll. In urbanism and real estate values “better than nothing” does not apply when the new building lessens the value of the surrounding neighborhood. They were using this strategy by calling the old disused Hahnes building an eyesore. But they’ve replaced the Hahnes Building and surrounding streets cape with a worse eyesore, in my opinion. Doing nothing would have been better. Repairing the dilapidated original house would have been much better for the adjacent home owners.

  18. cmon….the Hahnes building fit into the landscape because it didn’t totally block the view of our mountain (behind it) and it did not totally block the MAGNIFICENT Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass window of the adjacent church. The materials were of quality (the bluestone came from a quarry near the Mills Reservation) and the design was by a notable architect. The Hahnes Building was designed to serve what was then the second wealthiest communities pro capita in the USA – Montclair.

    The Sienna is of poor quality and bad design….e basta!

  19. I see we got a lot of taste haters out there. Mostly it is just plain ignorance and lack of knowledge or maybe it’s this laissez-faire “Do what you want but don’t screw with me!” attitude. Get on your dirt bikes and ride!

  20. The Walnut Street house is a dog, no doubt about it. Kit is right about the property values of adjacent homes dropping as a result. The whole block will suffer. On the other hand, dilapidation is not an urban growth strategy, or even a property value stabilization strategy. Quite the opposite.

    It may well be time for property owners in our handsome residential areas, many of which are on the state and national historic registers, to organize themselves and petition for protection under local historic designation by the town’s historic preservation commission.

  21. Don’t like. And yes, the first thing I thought of when I saw it was the “new” Ironbound section of Newark. Unfortunately, Frank GG is right. We WILL see more of these monstrosities unless we have a planning board that refuses to allow it. I am really sad to see homes like this creeping into Montclair.

  22. “You’ll find many more of those tasteful places in South Carolina than you will in Shanghai” – Spiro – Whose taste are we talking about?? This is not political – rightwing vs. leftwing – it’s about American property rights. If you build an actually disgusting building – nobody will buy it – it will be torn down and the market works perfectly. What everybody objects to here, is that this building is not to THEIR taste. Personally, I don’t like the looks of it either – so, I will not buy it, or I will not drive by it, but I will not take away law-abiding citizens rights to build what they want – as long as it conforms to existing laws.
    “I am really sad to see homes like this creeping into Montclair.” – sorry Mrs. Martta – this comment sounds very much like the words of the 1950’s and 60’s discrimination against minorities moving into certain neighborhoods.
    Spiro – “research a few carefully planned American communities” – Is that really what the American public wants all over the county “carefully planned communities” – I would hope not – you will put most architects out of business – creative design – not necessary – only “carefull” design allowed. Who will make these decisions?? Oh, that’s right – you.

  23. “this comment sounds very much like the words of the 1950′s and 60′s discrimination against minorities moving into certain neighborhoods.”

    Rightwingdem: Please direct your knee-jerk race-baiting comments elsewhere. I meant nothing of the sort and you know it. This is not a race issue, it’s an aesthetic issue.

    People move to Montclair for a lot of reasons. The architecture is one of them. If they wanted to live in a cookie-cutter Levittown community, they would move there. The turn-of-the-century architecture is part of what gives Montclair its charm.

  24. Mrs. Martta by no means I am referring to you as a rascist of any sort – I was making the comparison of the concept that one must be carefull about what is “creeping” into neighborhoods and what is the right of American property owners.
    In regards to Paz – maybe “disbared” is too mild, maybe drawn and quartered would be better? maybe stoned to death? Get over yourself.

  25. rightwingdem, of course it was you brought up communist countries and property rights, to prove your point. Now you’re backpedaling.
    But dig that roof thirty feet over the front door. Great for those days when it’s raining and the owner can’t find his front door keys.
    No doubt, this was a carefully planned design feature.
    Or, maybe he got the columns on sale and needed something for them to hold up. We’ll never know.

  26. Someone’s put a lot of money into this building and have made an extra effort to add the details on the front. No doubt they like and are proud of their finished product. Congratulations to them.

    There is nothing stopping those here who favor changing township rules governing construction styles, to take the necessary steps toward institution of a more tightly edited palette of options for property owners. In the meantime, property owners are free to make whatever choices the existing building code and other relevant rules allow.

  27. As I once similarly asked when Christopher Court was going up, will any of the, uh, would-be Ada Louise Huxtables posting above go and ring the doorbell of whoever lives in this new house to welcome its inhabitants to both the neighborhood and Montclair? You know, just act neighborly, the way folks traditionally do in less progressive climes like Indiana and Iowa?

    Or will they just stay home and hold their noses on aesthetic grounds? Frankgg, will you be bringing a casserole? Jerseygurl, which kind of pie will you be baking?

  28. Most likely, cathar, should the owner move in and host great parties, the invited neighbors will indulge in the owner’s food and wine, and eventually overlook the host’s weakness for foam facades.
    But looking more carefully at the configuration, with three identical french doors and balconies all stacked up, the building looks more like a rental property. Good chance the owner lives elsewhere and this is a cash cow for his nest egg.

  29. I agree with townie’s correct sizing up of the reality of the situation but changing existing building codes and other relevant rules can only be done if you do a total clean sweep of the elected officials and commissioners because the ones in place don’t know any better and can only grasp what the final product is after the constructions go up. They then act shocked and stupefied along with the angry crowds but don’t do ANYTHING and just let the same old same developers and plans move forward. I also agree with Cathar that it is bad to make any new neighbors feel unwelcome but this McMansion de Ville seems to have three separate rental units so I’ll have to bring three casseroles. The probable absentee landlord down in Boca Raton wouldn’t want my poor little casserole because its not fancy enough.

  30. Instead of the intricate blown foam architectural details, you could probably achieve the same results with tattoo decals on the synthetic stucco.

  31. When Montclair was created, i believe that the strongest common denominator among the founders was civil rights. Montclair was a destination that ran as a big communal “safe house” for people seeking freedom and wanting to own properties and businesses where there were mostly laws elsewhere that would prevent them from doing so. (however it all sounds so noble but I also think this was a profitable freedom business.) Nevertheless, many fine architects (some staunch abolitionists) operated here at that time and laid the aesthetic foundations of our houses and landscape. The second strongest characteristic of the town is its remarkable houses and Montclair became known as the “the finest suburban town in the United States.” The following quote is the beautiful introduction statement from a 1922 Montclair Times publication of local house photos. About this time, Montclair was the second richest community pro capita in the US. The finest architects, A. J. Davis, McKimm Mead & White, Delano & Aldridge, Frank Lloyd Wright, Starrett & VanVleck, Dudley Van Antwerp, Effingham North, Helen Biddle Shipwell, Calvert Vaux and others designed some of our homes and gardens. They are extremely valuable to American architecture and irreplaceable…

    “In this supplement, the Montclair Times has sought to present the representative homes of Montclair, together with such places of interest and importance as would serve to convey an idea of the physical attractions of what has fittingly been called “the finest suburban town in the United States.” That superlative tribute will not be gainsaid in view of supporting evidence herewith submitted. These homes are Montclair’s jewels. They stand forth in a perfect setting of nature’s own creation—the splendid mountainside which has inspired the architect and the landscape artist to noble effort and glorious achievement. They reflect the spirit and pride of Montclair.” – The Montclair Times 1922

    (BTW) Victorian houses on this street, like the other victorian Houses on Christopher Street, Claremont Avenue, Wallnut and Chestnut, were probably built by the developer Mr. Hinck as weekend getaway houses for people who lived in NYC..Newark….Hoboken etc. Montclair was considered a Climatic Station and health resort. There were many many excellent private schools that attracted families from elsewhere to establish themselves here.

  32. A note about restoration and property value. My wife and I own and restored a Victorian which is also a multi family. True we live in it and wanted a certain look and curb appeal for ourselves but also for the look of the neighborhood. And as tenants move out, the new ones move in really quickly. The units don’s sit empty for more than a couple weeks. Feedback tells me the look and history of the house has a lot to do with it. So what I’m saying is maintaing a certain look can have monetary advantages as well. Curb appeal pays back. If my units went empty for months it would be pretty hard going and I’ve seen “for rent” signs last on some properties. I like to think of the fast turnarounds as money back for the restoration. And really, aren’t we all just really renting these properties? Yes we “own” them, but for what 20-40 years? Some of these house have multiple 40 year “owners”. Really we are suppose to preserve these buildings for the next “owners”. If we all just turned them around for a fast buck, or let them fall apart to save on upkeep until we were done “owning” them what would be left. Isn’t great when you see a well maintained home from the 1870’s? Doesn’t it look great? It is great. And it doesn’t cost that much more money to build a new house with some respect to that look. It’s just a design issue. Some people just don’t get the sense of community responsibility for taking care of their properties in a why that’s good for the town. I think we need to help guide them or we run the risk of losing such wonderful historic homes. It can’t be just “it’s mine and I’ll do what I want”. Where will that get you? A lot of torn down amazing homes. Some sort of planning board that allows freedom with guidelines is the only way to protect look and history of a town from morphing into something people will shake their heads at 50 years from now. I’ve seen it happen in parts of Queens. You look at old pictures and say “what happened? It looked so nice back then. Why did they tear those houses down?” Now it’s street after street of not very nice looking homes and the look and feel of the town is dead because everyone was so free to do what they wanted. “Free to do what you want” doesn’t always have the best outcome. Look at strip mining projects in the rain forest. They’re doing what they want with the land they own and destroying something beautiful. Make sense? We need freedom but with some guidelines. We need a planning board.

  33. Agreed, Nickavisa. References were made to parts of Newark and Richmond Hill, Queens, above but let’s also include the Jersey Shore (I don’t even recognize some towns anymore!), and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where I have relatives. For the record, some renovations are done with good taste and are designed to fit in with the neighborhood, but most are not. Many dwarf the properties around them, ruining the scale–and sometimes views–in certain neighborhoods. Yes, people should be allowed to do what they want to their own property but within reason. We already have laws in place regarding variances. If you live on a 50 x 100 plot of land and want to tear down and rebuild, the structure has to conform so as not to impinge on your neighbor’s property. The same thing goes for any structures (pools, sheds, etc.) that you wish to build on your property.

    That being said, I don’t like the EXTREME versions of these types of laws, such as those what dictate whether or not you can have a garden, a basketball hoop, an American flag, etc., or those that dictate what color to paint your home.

    There IS a happy medium.

  34. Mrs. M…..I guess you won’t be downsizing to a condo complex when you retire? You’ll have to hide Gnomeo in your closet.

  35. This is like breaking news….to me at least! I just saw on the GSMLS website that 24 Upper Mountain Avenue, a gorgeous historic house, was just sold as a single family house and at a good solid price too! What an EXCELLENT job they did on fixing it up for the sale and I wish the new owners a world of happiness and health in their new home. (I tried to purchase this beautiful place few years ago, but there was a clause in the sales contract that there was a pending appeal from a developer to demolish the house and subdivide the property….and it was indeed blocked for several years) I am so happy for this house and for the new owner. BEST WISHES!!!!!
    I have also see that the beautiful historic white stucco house on Willard Avenue in Bloomfield is being fixed up at present! BEST WISHES there too!

  36. Is 24 Upper Mountain that house on the corner of Claremont?

    If so, then I am also happy to hear this news. I often passed that house over the past few years, and I would always feel sad at the forlorn condition of what was (and now is again) a classically elegant home.

    It is a good day for Baristaville that this grand house will remain part of our architectural fabric!

  37. The owner who rehabilitated 24 Upper Mountain is to be applauded. I have watched with great admiration and appreciation his considerable work and painstaking efforts over many years to return this house to its former glory.
    The Remsen town council designated this a historic property back in 2007 based on the efforts of the Planning Department and the Historic Preservation Commission. While the designation gave the house a certain level of redevelopment protection and provided technical assistance by the HPC Chairperson Ira Smith, it was this owner that deserves the credit for the end result that certainly surpassed all expectations. Thank you to all involved.

  38. The house is a bit too zip for Montclair. It reminds me of Bensonhurst, the south shore of SI and some parts of Lodi. I’d imagine there’s quite a bit of mirrors inside.

  39. We go to a doctor in the building across the street from that house. My wife and I were pulling out of the parking lot when we spotted that thing and at the same time we both say the exact same thing – “oof”.

  40. Just passed this house the other day and commented on how incredibly tacky and ugly it is. My sympathies to the neighbors.

  41. I applaud property owners like the 24 Uppermtn and nickavisa for their hard work and understanding of the irreplaceable quality craftsmanship and neighborhood harmony that they are caring for and preserving. When we teardown one of our old houses, its not likely that A. J. Davis, McKimm Mead & White, Delano & Aldridge, Frank Lloyd Wright, Starrett & VanVleck, Dudley Van Antwerp, Effingham North, Helen Biddle Shipwell or Calvert Vaux are going to come around to design another one that will fit in. Or the old time Montclair construction companies, who even built houses on speculation….but back then it was done by hand and with valuable materials and natural finishes. The new constructions put up around here….this house on Chestnut, The Christopher Court houses, 8 South Mountain, the house on the corner of Uppermtn & Watchung, the Siena are all the same to me and an ugly disappointment when compared to the old buildings next door. Laws must be created and strictly enforced if we don’t want Montclair to morph into a Yonkers or Passaic decline and if potential buyers don’t like these regulations, they should just go elsewhere and not allowed to negotiate deals to get all of their variances that result in ruining our valuable built landscape.

  42. I just moved back to Montclair after living in Los Angeles for the last 5 years. One of the reasons is because my wife and I have always appreciated the heritage and architectural charm of this wonderful old town. That being said, when my wife and I saw the home (which is only a few blocks from our home, we both cringed. It clearly doesn’t fit.
    I am currently a student of planning, and a guide that we use may be helpful in this forum. For ease of use, it can be viewed on wikipedia. It is titled “Principles of Intelligent Urbanism”.
    In the case of this house, Principle 2 would be most important. That principle focuses on developing with a balance with tradition and a respect for cultural heritage. Adhering to a precedent set forth by past communities.
    Unfortunately the owner did not value this principle. But hopefully moving forward, Montclair and individual owners and developers will consider the “Principles of Intelligent Urbanism”
    This property isn’t the only one in town, but it’s the newest example of not adhering to these principles. The Siena, and likely the new Centro Verde, go against these principles. Also building high density (but pretty) buildings in single family home areas also misses the point.
    And subdividing beautiful old original estate properties like the one on 14 Madison is also missing the point of the founders intentions.
    But alas I digress…and encourage you to check out this link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principles_of_Intelligent_Urbanism

  43. We happened to drive by it again today. It looks more like a catering hall than a 3-flat. Okay, let’s be fair, maybe it comes with an open bar, a guy doing Neil Diamond impersonations, and a choice of beef, chicken or fish, with string beans and potatoes on the side.

  44. I pass this house twice a day back and forth to the train (okay, when the train is actually running) — I’ve lived here for 16 years and this house is everything that’s wrong with what Montclair has become.

  45. I believe this house was constructed by Gikas, the painting contractor, who favors lights of colors on the houses he paints. A Victorian look not exactly reflected in this new construction.

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