Montville Township Master Plan: Historic Preservation


MONTVILLE, NJ - At a regular meeting on Nov. 12, the Montville Township planning staff presented three new sections of the Master Plan, called “elements,” to the Planning Board. The elements included the Circulation Plan, the Community Facilities Plan and the Historic Preservation Plan.

The Land Use Department, which is composed of Director & Township Engineer Mark Mantyla, Principal Planner/ Zoning Officer Meghan Hunscher and their staff, is involved in “almost all aspects of land use and development,” according to the Township website. “The Department coordinates all Township departments and boards and other review agencies involved in the development review process. The department is involved with the processing and coordination of all development applications before the Planning and Zoning Boards.”
While the Land Use Element of the Master Plan was revised in 2010 (see new developments that resulted HERE), the three elements presented to the public on Nov. 12 had not been re-evaluated since the early 1990s. Part I of three articles will highlight the Historic Preservation Element.

The Historic Preservation Element of the Township’s Master Plan, released on Nov. 12, included a brief history of Montville Township, a description of the Historic Preservation Review Commission (read more about this Commission HERE) and the Historical Society, and a description of the criteria for preservation.  The document, “three years in the making,” according to Planning Board Chairman Gary Lewis, listed Montville’s historic properties – 68 of them – and described Montville’s four historic districts.

Planning Board consultant Joseph Burgis, who presented the element to the Planning Board, stated that the element can be used to make decisions and plan budgets in future years. He stated the most recent historic preservation element dates back to the 1980s, and the current document contains more detail, including the significance of each site.

Site List

Included among the listed sites are the stone houses which residents of Montville are probably familiar with. What is not common knowledge, however, is that “the Township of Montville has the largest number of preserved Dutch Stone Houses of any municipality in the state of New Jersey,” states Historic Preservation Review Commission Chairman Michael O’Brien. “In addition to these and the Doremus House [where Washington stayed during the Revolutionary War], we have dozens of other sites. The bulk of these are listed in ordinance 2012-17. This list contains well over 100 sites and is currently being reviewed for accuracy.”

Some factors which determine significance include the age of a structure, its architectural style, its association with a famous person, or its association with an historical event, according to O’Brien.

The historic sites listed in the report include more than simply houses. The sites listed include the Doremus House Windmill, located in Towaco, which dates back to about 1911 and along with being deemed “unique,” the report states it “displays characteristics of the Shingle style.”

The report deemed the “Pennsylvania-New Jersey Interconnection Bushkill to Roseland Transmission Line,” the power lines next to the police station, historic because the connection “formed the largest pool of high voltage power in the nation.”

The Van Duyne Cider Mill, which dates back to approximately 1897, is listed in the element due to it being “one of the oldest continually operating cider mills in New Jersey.”

The “True Dutch Reform Cemetery” on Changebridge Road is listed in the report because it contains the graves of the Vreeland, Doremus, Van Duyne, Jacobus, and Zabriski families, and dates back to 1818.

Historic Districts

The element also describes four historic districts in Montville Township: the Jacobus Rural historic district, the Jersey City Water Works historic district, the Capstick historic district and the Morris Canal historic district.

The Jacobus Rural historic district is located in the Waughaw Road area of Towaco and includes nine sites. They are “representative of a cohesive quarter-millennium rural development” that are tied together by the Jacobus lineage, which “extends back to the original European settlement of territory” in the area – and three houses in the district are still owned by Jacobus descendants!

The Jersey City Water Works historic district consists of “reservoirs, pipelines and other intact original elements” of the mid-1800s Jersey City sewer system, and is significant for its “historical context, its associations with the early twentieth century ‘urban reform movement’ and its engineering significance.”

The Capstick historic district is located on Taylortown Road and “consists of a cluster of properties that formed the Capstick & sons Print Works complex, a cotton print works established in 1883.” According to the report, the district was central to the development of the Montville Village in the 1880s.

The Morris Canal historic district “follows the length of the former Morris Canal,” which was abandoned in 1924. Montville contains “a four-mile stretch of the former canal and is the location of the largest vertical climb in the shortest horizontal distance along the entire length of the canal.”

Pre-historic sites in Montville

Eight sites included in the report are archaeological sites, and are “kept confidential to prevent looting.”

“There are mines in the northern section of the Township, and Native American, fossil-containing areas, and prehistoric sites all over the Township,” stated Montville Township Historical Society President Kathy Fisher. These sites are registered with New Jersey’s State Historic Preservation Office. The report lists sites in Montville that date to the Archaic Period (8000 to 4000 B.C.) and the middle and late Woodland Period (A.D. 1000 to 1600).


Recommended uses for the element include amending some of the boundaries of historic sites, the creation of buffer zones around historic sites and districts, creating a series of trails connecting Montville’s Open Space land with historic sites and examining whether other sites should be included on the list.  Suggested sites, which the state’s Historic Preservation Office has identified include the Davenport Family Cemetery on River Road, the Van Ness Coal Yard on Whitehall Road and the Francisco Gristmill-Sawmill Industrial site near the Morris Canal plane. 

The element also recommends that Montville develop educational activities which highlight the sites, including brochures or a workshop that teaches energy conservation techniques, window repair, selecting historic paint colors and researching the history of historic buildings; the creation of a podcast driving tour of the sites; more signage to designate the sites; website development with maps; and the creation of training materials for realtors.

Lewis called the report fascinating, and stated, “this is a living document, and should be amended at the pleasure of the [Planning] Board.”

Burgis stated that the document shows the reader “the flavor of how Montville developed over many years and the significance of many of the sites.”

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