Rally set in effort to save ‘Freed Slave House’
A community coalition called Friends of the Howe House has scheduled a rally at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, in front of the house, which is also known as the "Freed Slave House," at 369 Claremont Ave.
The owner has listed the house for sale. The listing, which can be viewed on Zillow.com, says: "Attention Investors, already tenant-occupied, fully renovated 1 bed, 1 bath, historical colonial available in prestigious Montclair, NJ. This beauty offers gleaming hardwood floors, a great living room, a dining area, a tastefully updated kitchen with new appliances with a great pantry, including the updated bathroom, and, on the second floor, a spacious bedroom. In the basement are the utilities as well as the washer and dryer. The backyard is fenced in and has off street parking option. It is close to parks, grocery stores, shops, restaurants, schools, Montclair State University, transportation, and major highways."
The Friends of the Howe House coalition says that the house, one of the oldest in the township, has historic significance and should be preserved, in part because it was once owned by the first freed slave in Montclair, James Howe.
"Since the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, our whole country is supposed to be woke, but the town of Montclair is asleep," a news release from the coalition said. "One of the oldest homes in the township owned by a freed enslaved man should undoubtedly be preserved but instead, it is now on the market."
The coalition said it had been communicating with the property's owner about its intention to raise money and buy the house, which was built around 1780 by William Crane.
Montclair Township Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis said Saturday that he supports the effort to preserve the house.
"This is a local historic landmark and I intend to help these advocates pursue state and federal status, too," Yacobellis said in a statement.
He said that potential buyers should be aware that any demolition plans must first be approved by the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission.
"I will do everything I can to protect this home as it's part of the fabric of Montclair and our origin story and reminds us of one of our nation's greatest sins," Yacobellis said. "I worry about Montclair's African American heritage, and our character in general, slipping away little by little with issues like this. So, thank you to everyone who put this on my radar in the last 24 hours."