Shultz house bought by Montclair family
By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
A Montclair family has purchased the historic “Evergreens” Shultz house from the Montclair History Center with plans to restore it.
Two years ago, History Center officials announced plans to sell the house at 30 North Mountain Ave., saying they could no longer financially keep up with the three-story, 21-room home the center has owned and run as a museum since 1997.
The last surviving Shultz heir, Molly Shultz, bequeathed the home, and its contents, to what was then the Montclair Historical Society. Molly Shultz was an active member of the society and lived in the home until her death.
The Queen Anne-style home was completed in 1896 for Charles S. Shultz, president of the Hoboken Bank for Savings. The home, surrounded by evergreen trees and with views of New York City, still contains its original side-by-side gas and electric light fixtures, a turn-of-the-century library complete with microscopes and first-edition books, a carpentry and electrical shop that looks something out of Victorian sci-fi movie, and a kitchen that has never been modernized with the exception of the “new” stove the Shultz women purchased in the 1920s.
The Shultz home and its carriage house on two acres of property were listed last March for $1.45 million, later lowered to $1.25 million. History Center Executive Director Jane Eliasof would not reveal the names of the purchasers or the selling price, only that the contract had been signed on Monday, May 24.
“The new owners are excited about the opportunity to become stewards of the Shultz [house] and are as dedicated to the history, architecture and preservation of the house as we are,” Eliasof said.
In addition to protecting the home’s exterior by its listing on local, state and federal historic registers, the History Center, the buyers and the New Jersey Historic Trust have agreed to easements that will provide the house and some interior features an extra layer of protection in perpetuity. These will include protecting the house from demolition, safeguarding the viewscape of the house with no construction in its front, and maintaining the woodwork and fireplace surrounds on the first floor.
“The buyers are receptive to the easements,” Eliasof said.
While many of the Shultz family’s personal items will remain as part of the History Center’s collection, LaSalle Estate Solutions will hold an estate sale for many of the house’s items this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 27-29, at the home. Others will be sold through Nye Auctions, beginning with a live online auction on June 2 and 3.
The home had been occupied by three generations of the Shultz family, and remained a time capsule of sorts, after it was bequeathed to the center by Molly Shultz. Throughout the years, staff did not disturb most of the families’ belongings — books, furniture, journals, notes — and left them where the family had. A note in the breadbox reads that the person who borrowed coffee filters should replace them; in the library, a microscope with a slide waits to be viewed; a saw sits next to a piece of wood in the woodworking shop; slivers of soap and half-empty Vaseline jars were found in the medicine cabinet; and family photos and letters are piled on Molly Schultz’s night stand.
Molly Schultz placed no restrictions or conditions on the Montclair History Center’s use or disposition of the house or the contents. Any funds raised on sale of the house contents would be dedicated to maintaining the museum’s collections.
Eliasof said the escalating maintenance costs made continued ownership financially unsustainable, and threatened the future of the entire non-profit organization.
The house’s annual operating costs average $26,000. Since 2015, the center has spent $175,000 on maintenance and emergency repair costs for water and oil tanks, gas lines, and furnace and sidewalk replacements, with those repairs costing anywhere from 25% to 40% of the Montclair History Center’s total annual operating budget of approximately $200,000, Eliasof said.
The Shultz house also requires at least $1.5 million in emergency funding for roof repair or replacement, porch stabilization, and upgraded electric and plumbing, she said. The plumbing has remained turned off since 2014 due to leaks, Eliasof said. Although the house has four bathrooms, the only working one is in the carriage house, which has been rented out as a home for years.
All items deaccessioned will be done so in accordance with the Montclair History Center’s collections policy and bylaws, she said. Proceeds from the sale of any items will be dedicated to preservation of the collections and the building at the Orange Road campus.
“We have explored programming and fundraising ideas, and we have talked with local, county, state and national governmental entities, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, universities, other non-profits and museums to explore options from partnerships to purchase,” Eliasof said. “We had extended discussion with more than a dozen interested parties – several private individuals as well as well-respected design/development teams who shared preliminary concepts for adaptive re-use of the house and property.”
But in the end, the buyers came through, wanting to bring it back to being a home, while respecting its history.
“The buyers are very interested to incorporate the Shultz family history into their home, and they will also be retaining some items and furniture in the house,” Eliasof said.
The home will need updates to the plumbing and electrical and roof repairs before the new owners can move in, Eliasof said, adding that the buyers are interested in making the house accessible to the History Center for select events or programs.
“I think Molly found the people she was looking for,” Montclair History Center Board President Elizabeth Hynes said.