The Friends of the Howe House organization will be holding a benefit at the Montclair Brewery on Thursday, Nov. 17, from 6 to 9 p.m. to raise money for the purchase of the James Howe House. Last month, a rally was held after it was announced that the owner of the home was looking to sell it. 

Built by town founder and merchant Israel Crane around 1780, the residence is known as the James Howe House because Howe was the first African American man to own property in Montclair. Howe was enslaved and freed in 1831 by Nathaniel Crane, who also bequeathed the house to Howe. 

Through the Crane papers that can be found in the archives of the Montclair History Center, the Friends of the Howe House learned that Howe was the storyteller for the Crane family. He kept records and retold stories surrounding the family. “It is a cruel irony that now the storyteller risks the total erasure of his own history,” said the Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael, one of the organizers of the group. 

The house, owned by Bob Van Dyk and occupied by renters, is listed for $379,000. The Friends of the Howe House hope to raise enough money to make a down payment on the home. Through other efforts, the organization has raised nearly $20,000. It hopes to raise at least $20,000 more. Ideally, the group would like to raise a total of $70,000, which would not only cover the down payment but also the costs of maintaining the site. 

“The Friends of the Howe House are committed to building relationships throughout the whole community,” Sammler-Michael said. 
“Anyone who is passionate about this work, anyone who has been involved in the past, anyone who would like to engage in a way that they haven't yet engaged is welcome. We encourage them to reach out both by making donations and by providing any other assistance that they can.” 

Aminah Toler, a community organizer and member of the Friends of the Howe House, is excited that the story of Howe and his contributions to Montclair is finally starting to take center stage. “Teaching history shouldn’t be a predication on anyone’s comfort,” Toler said. “We have families in Montclair that go back to four and five generations, many of those families have dedicated a lot to the Montclair community, and a lot of their history has been erased.” 

The benefit will not only raise funds for the preservation of the Howe House but serve as an opportunity to educate people about the “rich culture and African American history in Montclair,” Toler said. 

Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis encourages the community to support the efforts of the Friends of the Howe House. “The fight to save this heritage is not new, and the erasure of African American history is rampant,” Yacobellis said. 

“Montclair is no different. Home to many African Americans who have paved the way for generations, his home signified the importance of home ownership to the African American community in 1831, and now it's up for sale.” 

Tickets for the benefit are available online at


The James Howe House, located on Claremont Avenue.

The James Howe House, located on Claremont Avenue.