Couple’s 1880 Queen Anne home now on Montclair’s historic registry
By Tina Pappas
for Montclair Local
Homeowners Frank Rubacky and Kim McLaren have self-nominated their Queen Anne-style home known as the George S. Porter house to get it placed on Montclair’s list of local historic landmarks.
The couple felt the importance of preserving the circa 1880 home, located at 398 Upper Mountain Ave., due to its architectural structure, which they felt fit the criteria for historic consideration.
The George S. Porter house is named after its original owner.
The Planning Board approved the nomination at the Jan. 8 meeting, after the council originally passed a resolution for the board’s review and recommendation in December. The Montclair Historic Preservation Commission also recommended that it be added to the list of historic landmarks back in November.
Rubacky, who has owned the house since 1995, filed a 27-page nomination report to begin the process. In the report, the structure is described as a late 19th-Century Vernacular two and a half story, clapboard house with Queen Anne characteristics. The house has a gable roof, an L-shaped porch and a large curved dormer. The house was the first of two similar adjacent homes built by a Brooklyn insurance firm.
“The house is one of the first and finest examples of the new, late 19th-century residential development in this northerly section of First Mountain’s upper slope,” he wrote.
Self-nominating one’s home doesn’t happen too often, but Rubacky felt the home’s unique style warranted it being placed on the list.
“It’s only the exterior that is visible to the public right of way that comes under review,” Rubacky said. “Montclair is really focused on what’s going to be there for a long time and likes to focus on a lot of interesting and historical homes in town.”
He feels residents do not self-nominate because the research involved may be intimidating, adding that he found the Planning/Building Department and the Historic Preservation Commission helpful in gathering the necessary research. In a joint effort, the Montclair History Center and the Montclair Public Library also offer seminars on gathering the history of area homes.
“It’s even for those residents who do not necessarily want to designate their home as historic,” Rubacky said. “They can just capture the history of their home.”
Going forward any major changes to home’s front facade will require a certificate of appropriateness. The goal is to preserve the look of home with the same materials originally used.
Historic designation as a zoning overlay to a specific parcel of land has a positive impact for property values, not just for the house being designated as historic, but also for the neighboring properties, he said.
“We’re all custodians of the properties and in the historic sense, we don’t want to tamper with the facade. Most local residents, if not all, love it when someone designates their property as historic. My wife and I feel it will affect their property values in a positive way,” he said.
Local resident Lisanne Renner, who gives walking tours and presentations for the Montclair Historic Center echoed Rubacky’s sentiment.
“It’s a house with an interesting history that has retained a lot of its architectural integrity,” she said. “The house is historic and it’s great that they are taking steps for this property to last for another hundred years. This is an example of people having an interest in their historic significance of their home, which has retained a lot of its elements. It paves the way for others who might also want to nominate their houses.”
The commission lists criteria under the town’s zoning designation for local landmarks to be considered as historical landmarks under its historic preservation master plan. The criteria is based on the National Register Criteria for Evaluation, which evaluates properties, according to Assistant Planner Graham Petto.
• A structure having an association with events that have made a significant contribution to the “broad patterns of our history.”
• Have an association with the lives of persons significant to Montclair’s past.
• A structure embodying distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction.
• A structure that “represents the work of a master; possesses high artistic values; or represents a significant and distinguishable entity.”
• A structure likely to yield information important to history.
• A structure that reflects or exemplifies “the broad, cultural, political, economic or social history of the nation, state, region or community.”
The application was passed by the council at its March 20 meeting. Petto said the Local Landmark designation of the property will be effective 20 days thereafter.
“We’re trying to get people to understand that historic preservation is definitely a good thing,” Rubacky said. “It’s living history and you feel that living in such a house, at every turn. When you research it, you get a much better understanding of what life was like years ago. It’s kind of cool.”