Mount Tabor: A Victorian Haven in Northern New Jersey

by Lisa Kintish
Triple cottages in Mount Tabor

A small community in northern New Jersey packed with Victorian-style cottages featuring gingerbread embellishments, vibrant colors, and cozy front porches could be mistaken for Ocean Grove, except for the setting. The ocean is about an hour south and the houses are set upon a steep hill. This is Mount Tabor, located in the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills in Morris County. It has much in common with the seaside town but is also a different place altogether. 

Both towns were founded in 1869 by the Methodist Church and designed to be permanent Camp Meetings. Apparently, as the church was celebrating 100 years in America back in 1866, the leaders worried about the pull of the cities and their many evil temptations waiting to lure away the faithful. The New Jersey delegation at the National Centenary conference in Washington, D.C., decided to keep everyone on the right path by organizing a tent revival in a pastoral setting as had been done at Wesley Park on Martha’s Vineyard.

Parsippany Mount Tabor

Triple Cottage, 1888 | Photo provided by Michelle LaConto Munn, President of Mount Tabor Historical Society

Initially, a temporary camp was set up in Morristown before a permanent campground was established on a parcel of land near Denville, given the name Mount Tabor, and managed by a Board of Trustees elected by the Camp Meeting Association of the Newark Conference of the Methodist Church.

Mount Tabor was planned as the wooded retreat and Ocean Grove as the seaside resort. The two share common layouts with community buildings centered on a green with a Tabernacle as the focus. The street names, too, are similar, honoring significant Methodist leaders.

That is where the similarities end. Unlike Ocean Grove, Mount Tabor no longer maintains a connection to the church and has become a secular residential community.

It didn’t take long for people to consider the place to be more than a gathering of tents. In its first year, over 300 tent sites were subscribed at prices varying upwards from $20. Immediately, residents pursued improving their individual sites and the first permanent wooden home was built in 1870. By 1890, over 200 cottages had been built.

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Trinity Park, 1888 | Photo provided by Michelle LaConto Munn, President of Mount Tabor Historical Society

Listed as a historic district on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, Mount Tabor is certainly worth a visit. According to Michelle LaConto Munn, President of the Mount Tabor Historical Society, first-time visitors should park across from the post office on Simpson Avenue and walk up the hill past the Tabernacle, which is now used as a venue for community events, theater shows, and concerts. This brings visitors to Trinity Park, the “heart of the community and has several noteworthy houses in a particularly scenic setting.”

The park, complete with fountain and urn gardens, looks like it could be the set of a period piece movie. From this location, it’s easy to see what the designers intended, a circular plan around not one, but three tabernacles. There is the main one, the Tabernacle, and two smaller versions, the Bethel, which hosts local clubs and speakers, and the Ebenezer, better known today as the Mount Tabor branch of the Parsippany Library. All three buildings are octagonal in shape.

Despite the hilly terrain, the community is considered very walkable with numerous narrow paths and the “Golden Stairs,” that lead from Trinity Park up to St. James Park. Soon, it will be even easier to take in the sights and history of Mount Tabor. LaConto Munn noted that as his Eagle Scout Project, a local Boy Scout is launching a digitally enhanced walking tour featuring 20 locations within the historic district. Visitors will scan a QR code to bring up a description and historic photos of that location.

Mount Tabor NJ

Trinity Park | Photo provided by Michelle LaConto Munn, President of Mount Tabor Historical Society

Visitors can also take public transportation. The Mount Tabor train station, on NJ Transit’s Morris-Essex line, is across Route 53 from the Mount Tabor archway that leads into a park. From there, it’s an uphill walk to the public buildings and Trinity Park.

Residents rave about life in Mount Tabor.  LaConto Munn explained, “Mount Tabor is a unique place to live. It feels like living in a small town, but within a large metropolis. With large and small houses, it attracts a wide range of people including families, empty nesters, retired, single, married, young and older folks, which creates a wonderful variety of neighbors in all stages of life.”

She added, “A lot of creative people are drawn to Mount Tabor, but also teachers, librarians, nurses, and all sorts of other professions. It is a great place to raise children and some families have several generations who choose to stay and make Mount Tabor their home.”


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There are some, shall we say, quirky aspects of the community, too. The Camp Meeting Association, CMA, still exists, but operates like a homeowner’s association. Residents own their houses, but purchase leaseholds for the land, which are 99-year perpetually renewable. The CMA owns the property and maintains the historic public buildings and several of the parks. Perhaps more unusual is the absence of home mail delivery, even though Mount Tabor has had its own post office since 1882. It is in the lower level of the Tabernacle and residents go there to pick up their mail.

 LaConto Munn offered, “as a result, it is often a place to visit and catch up with neighbors.”

The community’s past is on display at the Richardson History House, located at 32 Trinity Place. It occupies one-third of a triple cottage built in 1873, allowing a look at the interior of a tent-turned-permanent structure. At present, it is undergoing a restoration on its exterior. Visitors need to call to schedule a private tour, 973-975-0001.

A great opportunity to check out the houses, porches, and gardens of Mount Tabor is during the annual house tour. This year, it will be held on September 30th. For more information, visit their website

“Mount Tabor reflects its unique founding in the tight-knit community that thrives today,” said LaConto Munn. “The neighborhood benefits from the foresight of those who planned the community with several parks, a central green with community buildings (a community hall and a large auditorium), a public library, local post office, fire department, walkable access to the train and shopping center, and the Mount Tabor Country Club. The narrow roads and close nature of our houses, combined with accessible porches, encourage a walkable community that allows neighbors to know one another. A strong sense of community is fostered by the very nature of the physical aspects we inherited from the founders.

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