Montclair Springs
Summer Montclair By George Inness

The famous Montclair Springs were an amphitheater-like field, above South Mountain Avenue at the top of Hillside. Before the train lines that brought development circa 1856, West Bloomfield, soon to become Montclair, was a popular health resort with springs, brooks and pools of fresh mountain water flowing down the mountainside.

Downhill from the rocky ridge of the first mountain, the waters were tamed by stone swale culverts along the roadsides, while brooks and pathways intertwined through the wooded fields towards Eagle Rock, a famous destination for Hudson River Valley School Painters like George Inness and his son.

Montclair Springs
Montclair Springs on the 1856 West Bloomfield Map

This landscape of natural pathways under Montclair’s mountainside cliffs is captured brilliantly by Howard Van Vleck’s site design concept for the MKA Lloyd Road Campus. Van Vleck felt that a little village of colonial revival buildings would not embody the spirit of Montclair’s natural beauty.

Hillside Avenue was a place for the destination’s hotels, guest houses and weekend cottages. The Montclair Inn is a survivor of this moment in time.

montclair spings
Eagle Rock, a favorite tourist destination.


montclair springs
The Montclair Inn

Development speculations required more water. Mr. John Owen became the first township engineer. He formerly worked for the firm Olmsted and Vaux, that designed Central Park and Llewellyn Park, (including the Stonebridge section of Montclair). With the goal to preserve the natural beauty of the landscape, the township’s first chosen engineer had professional ties with the most illuminated planners of the day as well as George Inness, a favorite visionary artist of Fredrick Law Olmsted. John Nolen, Montclair’s first planner was of this same school. Together they worked to preserve Montclair’s natural beauty.

montclair springs
Dr. John Warren Pinkham

Dr. Pinkham, the first municipal health officia,l had the task of insuring of the pureness of the town’s water and a mountaintop reservoir was required for the growing town. As reported in the 1883 Montclair Times, Mr. Stephen R. Parkhurst had purchased the old Prospect Academy on the top of the mountain and constructed a new well that surprisingly had such an ample supply of water it could have served the whole town. On the opposite side of Bloomfield Avenue at Parkhurst Place, (the road leading up to Afterglow Way) a reservoir was planned which would hold sufficient water to supply from 10,000 to 30,000 people. Water could be carried to any part of the town by gravity because of the mountain slope. The town developed more and more and the Montclair Water Company came about in 1890. A larger plant was established and relocated to Watching Avenue at the cost of $1,700,000.



montclair springs
The hillside tourist spot transformed to residential and the springs became the site of a Second Empire Villa, now the site of the Gates Mansion.


Today, the surge of the underground waterways can still be heard quite clearly on a quiet summer night walk up Hillside Avenue, past the old Montclair Inn.


montclair springs
The top of Claremont Ave, site of the first community well.



4 replies on “Montclair History: The Montclair Springs”

  1. Nice history lesson, Frank! About Eagle Rock – did it get its name from a rock resembling an eagle or because it was a favorite hangout for eagles?

  2. The name Eagle Rock can be attributed to A J Davis, Montclair’s first architect. Eagle Rock and most of the land developed to create Llewellyn Park (WO) including Montclair’s Stonebridge section belonged to A J Davis’s Crane grandmother. At the time it was called Turk Rock… then Turk Eagle Rock because behind it was Llewelyn Haskel’s mud and tree branch “castle” called Eerie (meaning eagle’s nest) Eerie is the name prior to the name “Highlawn” (where the highlawn pavillion is today)

  3. The tower on top of Eagle Rock from the 1857 engraving is were the Highlawn Pavilion building is now located. Its Llewellyn Haskell’s “Rogerian Tower” that he had built to witness the moment of “rapture” that the Rogerians believed was forthcoming. Haskell and some of the other initial Llewellyn Park planners and residents were followers of the Swedenborgian Church. they believed that both nature and art were divine and this concept was the basis of them focusing on the preservation of Montclair’s natural beauty. Eagle Rock was called Turck Rock before the arrival of Davis and Llewellyn Haskell. The first name of the Llewellyn Park development project was Eagle Ridge. Mr. Haskell’s mud and tree bark “castle” was demolished in 1926 when the Olmsted park project was being implemented and the pavilion to be built.

  4. There is a glacial “erratic” rock placed at the edge of the cliff, halfway between Highlawn and Snake Road that looks to have been carved into an eagle’s head. I think its an artifact left behind from Haskell’s estate Eerie (Eagle’s Nest) He was the wealthiest chemicals merchant in NYC and his business transformed into pharmaceuticals and he is the founder of the Merck industry.

Comments are closed.