MONTCLAIR, NJ -- TAPintoTV recently visited the Montclair History Center and took a tour of the Crane House and Historic YWCA. The building dates from 1796, when Israel Crane built it as his family home, and in 1920, it was purchased by the local YWCA as a boarding house and cultural hub for African-American women.
Today, the Montclair History Center tells the stories of all the people who have lived in the Crane House over the years, starting with Crane, a prominent businessman, his enslaved and immigrant domestic workers, his descendents, and the African-American women of the YWCA. You can explore this history during tours of the Crane House, which are conducted year-round.
“It became a boarding house for women who were moving north as part of the Great Migration,” said Jane Eliasof, Executive Director of the Montclair History Center, “but it also became a safe haven.”
Montclair was considered a fairly progressive community in the first half of the 20th century, with integrated schools, but, “it also had its barriers,” said Eliasof. There was segregation in Montclair in places like lunch counters and even the Wellmont Theater. Redlining, the discriminatory practice of refusing and limiting loans in certain geographic areas, was prevalent.
“There were certain areas where, as an African-American family, you could get a mortgage, and certain areas where you couldn’t get a mortgage,” Eliasof said, “and that led to very distinct neighborhoods that you still have the vestiges of today.”
The Crane House was used by the YWCA until 1965 during the Civil Rights era, when “you could no longer have those segregated spaces,” said Eliasof. The YWCA donated the home to local preservationists, who physically moved the building from Glenridge Avenue to its current address on Orange Road, and restored it to tell the story of the Crane family.
In 2014, the Montclair History Center reinterpreted their exhibits to tell the story of all the people who lived, worked and played in the Crane House, most notably including the women of the YWCA, to whom two rooms in the house are permanently dedicated.
To learn more about Montclair history, the Crane House and Historic YWCA, tours and events, visit the Montclair History Center’s website at www.montclairhistory.org.