The Van Vleck House & Gardens originated as a 12-acre private estate more than 140 years ago when Joseph Van Vleck Sr and his family moved to Montclair from Brooklyn in 1868. Like many successful businessmen of the era, Joseph Van Vleck Sr came to the suburbs seeking a refuge from industrial living and brought to Montclair a grand vision of a country estate surrounded by acres of landscaped grounds.
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A Brief History
Van Vleck House & Gardens originated as a private home more than 140 years ago. Three generations of the Van Vleck family lived on the 5.8 acre property and developed the grounds throughout the past century. The gardens evolution over the decades produced a strong representation of ericaceous plants, with rhododendrons and azaleas being particular favorites. Today, the Van Vleck property provides an excellent example of the large homes built in this New York City suburb during the late 1800s.
The main house that now graces the Van Vleck grounds was designed and built in 1916 by Joseph Van Vleck, Jr. It recalls the classic architectural style of a Mediterranean villa. Joseph built it for his brother Charles who lived there until his death in 1923.
In 1939 Howard, Joseph Jr.s son, took up residence in the home with his wife Harriet (Betty) Tomlinson. They raised their four children, Anne, Carolyn, Howard, and Roy here.
Howard Van VleckHoward Van Vleck followed in his fathers footsteps and pursued a degree in architecture and a passion in the arts and horticulture. He graduated from the School of Architecture at Columbia University but left the professional field in 1930 to pursue his interest in painting and gardening full time. A lasting piece of his legacy are the hybridized rhododendrons he creating as he strode to create a clear, yellow-flowering variety.
A number of his hybrids survive as special elements in the garden and several have been registered and named in memory of Van Vleck family members.
In 1993, the heirs of Howard Van Vleck placed the property in the hands of The Montclair Foundation. This community foundation transformed the house into a center for non-profits. The offices of several New Jersey foundations reside on the second floor and use of the ground floor is restricted to non-profit organizations for meetings, seminars, receptions, and fundraisers. Restoration and stabilization of the gardens is under the direction of a full-time Director. Interpretive and educational programs, volunteer opportunities, and student activities reflect an on-going commitment to horticultural study and outreach to the community.
Take a walk around their gardens! They are open to the public from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year, and are always free-of-charge. Come experience this most precious gift!
Van Vleck House and Gardnes Wisteria
There have been several houses on the grounds over the years; however only the U-shaped Italianate villa, home to Howard Van Vleck and his family, remains. These private gardens are open to the public, from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. The house is a center for non-profit groups and is available to them for meetings, retreats, and fundraisers. Visitors are welcome to enjoy all the garden spaces and are encouraged to join us for classes, concerts, and special events.
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