House History

1930s aerialGROUNDSVan 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 garden’s 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.

21 vvst 1916 constThe 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 father’s 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 created 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.

Mothers Garden 1942

Visitors are invited to enjoy the beauty of the gardens throughout the entire year, not only in Spring, Summer, and Fall. In Winter stop by to enjoy the architecture of the trees and the many textures in the garden. You will be surprised at what you will find.
Van Vleck House and Gardens is supported through its Members program, fundraisers and donations. Please become a Member today, or consider a larger gift to help grow our endowment. Either way, you will help support this important community resource to Montclair and the surrounding communities.