A grand hotel once overlooked Montclair (History and Heritage)
The Hotel Montclair opened its doors on May 1, 1907, high above Montclair on Crestmont Road, offering panoramic views with 400 feet of frontage on the cliff overlooking the town.
The gracious hotel, built in the California mission style, offered “every comfort and convenience to be had,” according to a newspaper article from 1918.Upon opening, the hotel boasted over 100 hotel rooms, 50 bathrooms, a ballroom, a grill room, a solarium, wide lawns, a putting green and golf privileges at the nearby Montclair Golf Club on Mount Prospect Avenue in Verona.
The initial cost to establish the hotel was estimated to be $170,000.
Newspaper ads from the time of its opening describe the hotel as being located in “The Berkshires” of New Jersey with “magnificent views from the mountains to the sea.” The hotel served as a focal point for the town’s social gatherings and was the venue of choice for countless weddings, dinner dances and balls.
It also hosted municipal functions, conventions and conferences. The dining hall had a capacity of 300, making it the perfect local setting for larger gatherings. The grand open fireplaces on the main floor were always kept burning during cold weather, and the sun parlors on the east and south sides of the building offered views of the outside and a comfortable climate during warmer months.
The hotel catered primarily to long-term summer guests, including John Franklin Fort, the 33rd governor of New Jersey. Popular with people considering a move to Montclair, a 1918 article states, “More than 75 families have taken up permanent residences in Montclair after a sojourn of from a week to a year at the hotel, in order to first survey the social, religious and educational character of the community before deciding to locate permanently.”
The Hotel Montclair served guests for over 30 years, closing its doors in 1938. A January 1939 advertisement promotes a three-day auction sale of the inventory of the hotel.
Items being auctioned included furniture (200 post beds, 200 dressers, 250 club, scoop and occasional chairs), Steinway grand and upright pianos, 50 fire extinguishers, kitchen equipment and “hundreds of other items too numerous to mention.”
By 1940 the hotel was razed and replaced by the Rockcliffe Apartments, which still stand on the site. An article about the hotel’s closing states that it “has been the scene of tragic and happy events, and many dramas both great and small have been enacted within its walls.”
The local history room at the Montclair Public Library has a small collection of material related to the Hotel Montclair, acquired through the Hall family. Frederick C. Hall took over the operation of the hotel in 1913, and his management company ran it for a number of years. The collection includes photographs of the interior and exterior of the hotel, brochures, hotel stationery, a ledger book, ephemera and some Hall family items.
To see more historic photographs of Montclair and to explore other historic resources related to the township, visit Montclair History Online at digifind-it.com/montclair/home.php. In partnership with the Montclair History Center, the library offers over 13,000 digitized photographs, maps, city directories, deed books and more for research.
To use other archival resources available for research, contact the library to make an appointment to use the local history room, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 973-744-0500, ext. 2235.
Marisa Shaari is the local history librarian at the Montclair Public Library.