The effort to save the James Howe House, the first property in town to be owned by a freed slave, has paid off. 

On Thursday morning, Dec. 22, it was announced that the sale of the property to Friends of the Howe House had been finalized after an offer of $400,000 was accepted by the owner.

It was only earlier this month that the Friends group feared it would lose out on obtaining the home after an offer made by an unknown party was put into attorney review, a normal step in real estate deals.

With the help of donations and fundraising from events such as the benefit at Montclair Brewery last month, the group hopes to anchor the newly purchased house as a tangible piece of Montclair history. 

“I have been on a quest to find places that you can see, feel and touch the legacy of African Americans in Montclair,” said Betty Holloway, a member of the Montclair African- American Heritage Foundation. “My involvement with the James Howe House provides a direct, physical connection to our past in this community. And that's exciting."

Alongside Friends of the Howe House and the Heritage Foundation, local groups that were instrumental in raising awareness of the home include the Montclair chapter of the NAACP, Montclair Mutual Aid and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair.

The house was built by town founder and merchant Israel Crane around 1780, according to the Crane papers in the archives of the Montclair History Center. Howe was the storyteller for the Crane family, and now the Friends group sees the property as a way to tell his story. 

The  group hopes to turn the house into a site to teach the history of slavery in America and recognize and celebrate the impact of the African American community throughout Montclair. 

"In a matter of months, friends, neighbors and community organizations joined hands to secure a piece of history,” said Kimberly Latortue, a member of Friends of the Howe House. “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.” 

Now that the house has been purchased, the group will continue to hold fundraising events to help with costs. An event on Jan. 27 will be co-hosted by the One River School of Art + Design at 6 Seymour St. from 6 to 9 p.m. 

Latortue encourages community members to come out and show their support for the home and its history. 

“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," Latortue said.