The land that became Anderson Park changed from a rural Dutch settlement called Speertown, to the edge of a sparsely populated village, to a suburban Olmsted-designed park in a commuter town. These maps illustrate that transformation.


Charles W. Anderson moved to Montclair three years before this map was surveyed. The Upper Montclair train station opened in 1872, when only a few homes dotted the landscape. Cliffside Avenue was later renamed North Mountain Avenue. (“Map of Essex County, N.J.,” Matthew Hughes, Orange, N.J., via Library of Congress)


In 1883, Anderson began buying tracts that would become the park, but he did not own most of the property until 1901. Here a small fire station, Cliffside Hose No. 4, is at the northeast section of the site, where Bellevue Avenue and the train tracks intersect. (“Robinson’s Atlas of Essex County, N.J.,” E. Robinson, via Montclair Public Library)


The fire station was moved to become a golf course clubhouse around this time, but three houses remained on the park site and had to be hauled away before construction. Two were relocated a half-block south along North Mountain Avenue, where they still stand as Nos. 293 and 295. The fate of the third is unknown. (D.L. Miller & Co., via Montclair History Center)


The landscape architect Downing Vaux, a childhood friend of John Charles Olmsted, prepared this 62-house subdivision plan for Charles W. Anderson. It may have been a bluff intended to pressure Essex County into accepting Anderson’s donation of the land to its park system. (Downing Vaux, via Essex County Park System Archives)


A revised preliminary plan for the park shows it extending farther south than it ultimately did. Landowners of vacant property in the southeastern area would not sell their land for park use. (Olmsted Brothers, via Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)


Two areas on this grading plan are labeled “swampy ground.” The Essex County Park Commission was intent on improving low and swampy mosquito breeding grounds. “The Board has always held that one of the chief duties of park makers is to reclaim this sort of property, and change its character from a menace to the public health to a benefit to the surrounding land,” according to the Board of Commissioners’ 1903 annual report. (Essex County Park Commission Archives)


The 1904 Olmsted Planting Plan lists the genus and species of each plant and its common name, along with the number of each species planted. Plants are keyed to locations on the map. For example, pin oaks (Quercus palustris) were placed at each point of certain triangular planting beds. (Olmsted Brothers, via Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)


Essex County created the nation’s first county park system, allowing planners to think beyond municipal boundaries. Anderson Park (then called Montclair Park) was among the smaller existing or proposed parks. The county intended to connect parks with parkways for a pleasant Sunday excursion. (“The First County Park System” by Frederick W. Kelsey, J.S. Ogilvie Publishing Co., via Essex County Park System Archives)


After the park opened in 1905, developers had designs on the empty land immediately to the south. The plots on this map were never realized. In October 1906, Aaron W. Godfrey bought about 18 acres south of the park and began building Oakcroft, an 80-home subdivision that he marketed as “a residential park.” (“Atlas of Essex County, N.J.,” A.H. Mueller & Co., via Essex County Park System Archives)


In the park’s earliest days, Montclair Township flooded the loop in the southeast section for ice skating. Pathways linked directly to streets in the new Oakcroft subdivision to the south. Curvilinear paths, naturalistic plantings and a central greensward are characteristic Olmsted design elements. (Olmsted Brothers, via Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site)


The nation’s first county park system, founded in 1895, has grown to include 32 parks, reservations, gardens and trails. (Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs)

The Big Picture

There are practical limitations to the size of image files we routinely display on the web site, and in many cases the best files we have access to are within those size guidelines. In the cases below, we have access to significantly larger files and want to make them available to you so you can see them in greater detail. For best results, right-click on the thumbnail and choose Save link as… to save the image to your computer.

1901 map (7MB)

The 1904 Olmsted Planting Plan (24MB)