Montclair, NJ – It’s a last-minute save for Friends of the Howe House, who announced Thursday that they have bought the town’s first property owned by a freed slave, James Howe.
The sale has been finalized after a bid was accepted on the $400,000 property at 369 Claremont Avenue, which dates back to 1780, after the community received help from donors to buy the house.
The major task of securing the house’s future now begins, with fundraising events planned to ensure loans can be paid back and the James Howe House can be kept in the community to preserve its history. The first such event takes place on January 27th when One River Art School will co-host a fundraiser for Friends of the Howe House (https://montclair.oneriverschool.com/howe-house-party/).
A dramatic last-minute bid to buy the house followed months of support from across Montclair’s diverse community, with rallies, fundraising and publicity organized by locals who came together as the Friends of James Howe House. Local groups involved include the Montclair African-American Heritage Foundation, Montclair Chapter of the NAACP, Montclair Mutual Aid and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair.
The group plans to preserve the house and gardens to develop it as a site to teach the history of slavery in North America and celebrate the impact of African Americans in New Jersey and the local community.
Kimberly Latortue of Friends of the Howe House said efforts to save the house showed how important African American history is to Montclair:
“In a matter of months, friends, neighbors, and community organizations joined hands to secure a piece of history. It’s inspiring to see those who moved to Montclair for its diversity also become a part of learning and preserving its history. And we aren’t done yet. As our fundraising efforts continue, we encourage people to rally around the Howe House mission to secure, restore and return it to the community as a tribute to the African American journey in America.”
Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael said the Montclair community events would begin within weeks to secure financial and volunteer support.
“We have experienced the blessing of coalition and teamwork. We welcome anyone in Montclair, New Jersey or across the nation who wants to make the future better by honoring the past to become involved. We need large financial backers, small donations, and volunteers to share their vision and offer their expertise. This is a community story,” she said.
Betty Holloway of the Montclair African American Heritage Foundation said:
“I have been on a quest to find places that you can see, feel, and touch the legacy of African Americans in Montclair. My involvement with the James Howe House provides a direct, physical connection to our past in this community. And that’s exciting.”
James Howe worked as an enslaved man for Major Nathanial Crane in the early 1800s. After almost two decades in slavery, Crane ended Howe’s enslavement and on his death in 1831, 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.
The James Howe House” is one of the oldest homes standing in Montclair since 1780 and is one of Montclair’s most important pieces of history.
James Howe was the first African American to own property in Montclair. The home, located at 369 Claremont Avenue, has operated as a rental property for years. It has local landmark status, but Friends of the Howe House wanted to see its future protected.
At an October rally, supporters included representation from the Montclair NAACP, Montclair African American Heritage Foundation, Montclair Mutual Aid, longtime 4th Ward councilor Dr. Renee Baskerville and Montclair History Center.
To learn more about the James Howe House and support its future, visit https://www.friendsofthehowehouse.org