The Crane House table is set for the holidays. (COURTESY MONTCLAIR HISTORY CENTER)

By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

After a year’s hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Essex County Historic Holiday House Tour, which draws hundreds of visitors in early December to historic sites decorated for the holidays, is back. Most of the homes are free to tour.

The tour will be available on Saturday, Dec. 4, and Sunday, Dec. 5. Each site will offer something unique, including musical entertainment, refreshments or educational programs. 

This year, a castle, a beer baron’s mansion, two farmsteads, Grover Cleveland’s birthplace and Bloomfield’s oldest funeral parlor are on the tour. 

“The Holiday House Tour is a great example of organizations throughout the county pooling their resources to create a wonderful event for families to enjoy and to provide insight into how past holidays were celebrated,” Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said. “Take a break from the hustle and bustle this December and visit local homes and landmarks that will have decked the halls in holiday extravagance for one spectacular weekend.”

Kipp Castle is decorated for the holidays. (COURTESY ESSEX COUNTY)
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Kip’s Castle at 22 Crestmont Road in Verona was owned by a Paterson silk baron and illustrates the opulence of the Victorian period. Tours are free noon to 4 p.m. both days.

The Canfield-Morgan House at 903 Pompton Ave. in Cedar Grove and the Zenas Crane Homestead at 289 Westville Ave. in West Caldwell reflect life on a farmstead in New Jersey’s early years. Admission to both is free; donations are accepted. The Canfield-Morgan House is open both days from 1 to 4 p.m., and the Crane Homestead is open both days from noon to 4 p.m. 

Grover Cleveland’s birthplace at 207 Bloomfield Ave. in Caldwell showcases New Jersey’s position in American history by showcasing Cleveland’s life before he became the 22nd and 24th U.S. president. There is a limit of six visitors every 20 to 30 minutes. Admission is free. Noon to 3 p.m. both days.

Kingsland Manor at 3 Kingsland St. in Nutley was built by Joseph Kingsland and his wife, Mary Outwater, in the 1700s and later was owned by “Diamond Dan,” a boxing trainer and promoter who trained his boxers on the Manor grounds. It is open 1 to 4 p.m. both days; free.

Last year, thee Montclair History Center’s holiday decoration of the Crane House and Historic YWCA was honored as the top choice in the Northeast and fourth place nationwide in the USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Each year, the Garden Club of Montclair decks the halls of the Crane House and the YWCA.

The home was built in 1796 by a founding family who lived there for 100 years. The YWCA took over the home in 1920 as a home for African American women looking to relocate to the area.

The decorations created by club members reflect both of those periods of ownership. Some rooms feature what would have been used in the late 1700s – fresh fruits such as cranberries, apples, pineapples and lemons (exotic back in 1700s) and greens such as boxwood and evergreens.

Other rooms reflect the early 1900s, when young African American women celebrated the holidays away from their families. Trees are decorated with bubble lights and modern plastic ornaments. Admission is free, with both homes open both days from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Walther House at 474 Upper Mountain Ave. in Upper Montclair was once the home of Barbara Walther, who was instrumental in establishing the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. The home will be open Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. with free admission.

Also open for tours are the Van Tassel Funeral Home in Bloomfield, at 337 Belleville Ave., and The Ballantine House at the Newark Museum, 49 Washington St. The funeral home, the oldest in Bloomfield, was established in 1883 and is free to tour Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. 

The Ballantine House, built in 1885 for Jeannette and John Holme Ballantine of the Newark beer-brewing family, is an opulent Victorian mansion. It is open both days from noon to 5 p.m. $15 adults; $8 children, seniors and students with ID.

For more information: 973-268-3500 or essexcountynj.org.

The list of homes

Essex County Kip’s Castle Park
22 Crestmont Road, Verona
Admission is free. Open Saturday and Sunday from 12-4 p.m.

 Walther House at the Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens
474 Upper Mountain Ave., Upper Montclair
Admission is free. Open Saturday from 12-3 p.m. 

Ballantine House at Newark Museum
49 Washington St., Newark
Admission is $15 adults; $8 for children, seniors and students with valid I.D. Open Saturday and Sunday from 12-5 p.m. 

Canfield-Morgan House and Museum
903 Pompton Ave., Cedar Grove
973-239-5414; www.cedargrovehistoricalsociety.org
Admission is free, donations are accepted. Open Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 p.m.

Crane Homestead
289 Westville Ave., West Caldwell
Admission is free. Open Saturday and Sunday from 12-4 p.m.

Grover Cleveland Birthplace
207 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell
There is a limit of six visitors every 20 to 30 minutes. Admission is free. Open Saturday and Sunday from 12-3 p.m.

Kingsland Manor
3 Kingsland St., Nutley
Admission is free. Open Saturday and Sunday from 1- 4 p.m.

Montclair Historical Society Properties: Crane House and Historic YWCA
110 Orange Road, Montclair
Admission is free. Open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.

Van Tassel Funeral Home
337 Belleville Ave., Bloomfield
Admission is free. Open Saturday from 1-5 p.m.