The George–Renovated By Willow Street Partners and Architect, Paul Sionas of Sionas Architecture, Wins Prestigious “Bricks and Mortar Award,” Presented by the Township of Montclair’s HPC
The 1902 home, designed by architect Joseph Van Vleck Jr. to serve as the private home for Charles Van Vleck*, has been completely restored and converted into the sleek, modern, and cozy, George inn, while the carriage house, which originally resided behind the inn at the rear corner of the property, now resides on Claremont Avenue. Both the inn, as well as the carriage house, were given landmark status. Soon after the granting of this status, Steven Plofker, founder of the firm, Willow Street Partners, bought the inn.
It was soon announced that Steven Plofker, along with his wife and renowned makeup artist and business founder, Bobbi Brown, would reimagine the home, and turn it into a modern boutique hotel built to the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship available right here in the heart of Montclair. They have created a national treasure now known as The George.
All those who took part in the hotel’s renovation brought to the project a creative element to reimagine The George into the jewel it is today. Each room has their own unique look and modern flare. The originality exemplifies the passion that went into this project, turning one of Montclair’s, and the nation’s, most historic homes into a one of a kind 32 room hotel. Only the finest marble, wood, steel, glass, leather, floor coverings, furniture, fixtures, and hardware went into the renovations. Clearly, this building was not simply renovated for profit, the goal must have been to build a structure that would last clear into the twenty-second century. Each door is nearly two and a half inches thick, full tile bathrooms with marble vanities are throughout the structure. All of the internal solid brass fixtures were painstakingly preserved and hand polished to their original luster. Six units have their own gas fireplaces and all of the 32 units can control their own heating and air conditioning. The century-old stained glass picture window that defines the two-story grand staircase was protected, cleaned and preserved and now shines like the day it was originally installed by the Van Vleck family in 1902.
The owners, architect, and the development team worked closely with the Historic Preservation Commission, HPC, to ensure the redevelopment would be true to the original structure. Even though The George now includes every modern convenience including a full height elevator, cooking facilities, fire detection systems and multiple internal stairwells from the outside the visitors would never know. There are no visible mechanical systems or hardware visible on any side of the exterior of the structure. A true testament to the vision of the owners, the ability of the architect to plan that vision, the project managers, and the skilled trades that hammered that vision into what now stands as a national treasure, The George.
The Montclair Dispatch spoke with Kevin Costello, Development Director for Willow Street Partners, about being presented with the Bricks and Mortar Preservation award and the origin of this project.
“We purchased the property in September of 2012, and the newly renovated hotel reopened to the public in April of 2018. We feel truly honored to have all of that hard work recognized by the HPC.”
Kevin Costello went on to praise Brown and Plofker for their vision on the renovated inn, “Much of the credit for this project has to go to Bobbi and Steven who really had the vision that this hotel could be one of Montclair’s iconic buildings. When we took over in 2012 it was thirteen rooms being used mostly for extended stay clients. It was built in the early 1900’s and probably hadn’t had any major improvements since the 70’s. The challenge was to find a way to upgrade all the electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and completely reconfigure the layout without losing any of the historic fabric that made the place special, to begin with.”
Sionas Architecture, one of the nations most prominent architectural firms with local, regional and international experience was established more than 40 years ago. They have been recognized with awards and respect from clients, peers, and the occupants of their projects alike. Working on some of the nations most prominent projects and a clientele to match. Paul Sionas, Founder, and principal architect worked with Willow Street Partners in order to revitalize the historically and architecturally significant home without losing its character. The Montclair Dispatch spoke with Sionas about the distinctiveness of this project. “Many towns would be lucky to have one building like this or even one project like this, but Montclair is unique in the diversity and quality of its architecture. We have been fortunate to have our offices here and to have clients such as Willow Street Partners willing to take on a project such as this. The honor recognizes all of the thought and time that goes into a quality project.”
Part of what made this project so successful was the seamless partnership between Sionas Architecture and Willow Street Partners, as was explained by Sionas. “We have successfully worked on interesting projects with Willow Street Partners (WSP) for at least 22 years. The Georgian Inn property had been in a slow decline until WSP purchased it about 6 years ago. When we were retained for this project, we were excited to not only work on another project with WSP, but this project in particular allowed for so many facets of architectural design, including but not limited to Preservation and Adaptive Reuse, Barrier-free design in a historic building, and Site Design that is also historically complimentary.”
The Montclair Dispatch also spoke with Scott Kennedy, a local business owner of Studio042, about the recent addition to our town.
“Steven Plofker and Bobbi Brown, Paul Sionas, and everyone at Willow Street Partners have given Montclair yet another crown jewel with the renovation of The George. They have a true dedication to quality. Further, their decision to rescue from demolition and relocate the 100-year-old carriage house structure, at great expense (see the big move here) and return it to a fully functioning, modern facility prominently placed on Claremont Avenue is a testament to the depth of their commitment to Montclair and a standard of excellence that is second to none.”
As Montclair celebrates its 150th birthday, it is fitting to remember the town’s unique history. On May 24th, the Montclair Township Historic Preservation Commission held its 2018 Historical Preservation Awards Program, honoring businesses, people, and organizations which helped to preserve and restore the legacy of Montclair’s impactful history. Among the recipients were Willow Street Partners and Sionas Architecture. The two firms were presented with the Bricks and Mortar Preservation Award. Both Willow Street Partners and Sionas Architecture were recognized for their work in restoring the property, and in turn creating The George, located at 37 North Mountain Ave.
If you are coming to the New York-Metro area for business or pleasure, and you are interested in staying in one of the nation’s finest and newest hotels, click here.
*The information regarding the architect of the home has been edited and updated
The author of the article is a Montclair native class of 2017, currently a student at McGill University, studying history and communications within the Faculty of Arts.
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