Growing up in Westfield, I've always heard about Charles Addams and how he lived during his childhood here. I grew up watching The Addams Family on T.V. so it was very exciting to learn that the creator was raised right here in Westfield, New Jersey -- right around the corner from the street where I live. Westfield is an amazing place to in which to grow up and now I'm raising my family here. There is some incredible history in this town and Charles Addams is one person who has left his mark.
Charles was born in January 1912 and was the only child of Grace and Charles Addams. He grew up at 522 Elm Street and every day walked to Westfield High School, which was then located where the Board of Education building now resides. It's been said that during those walks, he started to come up with ideas for The Addams Family, which later became a hit TV series, a successful movie and now a Broadway sensation!
There is some speculation that 511 Elm Street, a house he passed every day on the way to school, was the idea behind the home he created on the show. According to the book, A Cartoonists Life, by Linda Davis, "The shutters at 522 Elm Street had nothing to hide. I know it would be more interesting perhaps if I had a ghastly childhood -- chained to an iron bed and thrown a can of Alpo everyday" said Addams, "but I'm one of those strange people who actually had a happy childhood."
Addams has been quoted as saying "My mother didn't consider me strange, but she didn't know how often I went to the cemetery. There is something cozy about the cemetery." The cemetery that Addams talked about is the old cemetery located across the street from The Presbyterian Church.
There is a life sized skeleton drawn by Addams, in an old carriage house on Dudley Avenue, that still exists. According to historian, Ron MacCloskey, "The chalk and pencil sketch is proof that Addams wanted his hometown to remember him."
After graduating from high school in 1929, Addams went on to college at Colgate, University of Pennsylvania and the now defunct Grand Central School of Art. He became one of our country's most famous cartoonists and his work is exhibited in museums throughout the United States. He started working for the New Yorker Magazine in 1935 and stayed there for over 30 years. He created 1300 drawings during his lifetime, and approximately 70 of them were about the strange family, The Addams Family, who lived in a big mansion.
Addams was married for the third time in a pet cemetery under gloomy skies and his bride wore black velvet. Famous guests included Lauren Bacall, Irwin Shaw and Cheryl Tiegs. Charles Addams died at the age of 76 in 1988.
Ron MacCloskey, performer, writer and producer, grew up in Westfield and was always fascinated with the life of Charles Addams. He is considered Westfield's unofficial Addams historian and pushed the Historical Society to declare the house Addams grew up in as an historical landmark. A Charles Addams Scholarship Fund was created in 1992 for graduating seniors that are majoring in art.
I was very excited to hear that the house Charles Addams grew up in was currently on the market. The open house was this Sunday and off I went to catch a glimpse of history.
I was greeted not only by the realtor, Jayne Bernstein, but also by Morticia Addams -- Jayne's assistant (and real name Christina Scott) who got right into the spirit by dressing up! The house is beautiful and was built in the 1900's -- The Addams family being the first owners.
The house has been preserved with original moldings, doors, floors and windows. It is said that the home used to contain a dumbwaiter and Charles loved to hide in it and scare his grandmother!
The gardens are to die for.... The current owner is a master gardener and the front gardens and backyard gardens look like something out of a movie.
The house is tastefully decorated and very warm and inviting. The realtor, Bernstein, also grew up in Westfield and many of her former classmates were there to tour the home -- MacCloskey being one of them! He showed up with an amazing scrapbook that he created of Charles Addams and it was fun to see all the newspaper clippings about Charles Addams and The Addams Family.
"I just hope whoever buys this home, is aware of its significance and treats it as a special house like the current owners always did," says MacCloskey.
To own a piece of this exciting history, you can contact Jayne Bernstein at her office 908-233-5555 x203, direct, 908-301-2006 or cell 908-403-9330. Email is email@example.com
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