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Showing posts from 2009

The roof, the roof...

... Is finally patched up. Three cheers for Jason, the man who fixed it for us. Hopefully, it will hold until April, when the replacement work will start, and I can put away all the buckets and old towels hanging out in my bathroom. Maybe the smell will go away too... One can always hope...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Warmest thoughts and best wishes for this Christmas and the upcoming New Year from the Avdicevic family!

We hope to see you again in 2010.

The Star Ledger Article is OUT!

Read it here. It is a nice, feel good piece.

More importantly, it will hopefully draw attention to us and other owners of historic homes, who are restoring these wonderful old buildings at our own dime. This was really the point I wanted to make when giving the interview - yes, it is expensive, but somebody other than me should care about this beautiful House. To that end, people like us should get some sort of help or break, something!

Anyway, we are both (yes, both) very much encouraged by the comments from the readers, and we thank you for them.

I just hope I haven't come off too much as an idle and spiteful housewife.

Is it totally strange...

That we have wild turkeys in our backyard? Wow! I thought they were not very friendly.


The bids have started to come in. We are not happy, not happy at all. More on this over the weekend, once we collect all the numbers and feedback from the contractors.

I just have a feeling something is wrong... Otherwise, why would it take them this long?

Do you know this house?

One of the Fenn family members sent me this photo. They are trying to find out whose house this was and where it was located. The original photograph is mounted on a piece of cardboard, and there is no information on the back. They went as far as to restore and enlarge the photo, with no luck.

So, anybody out there that can help us?

Maybe I will, maybe I won't

That's sort of what is going on with Star Ledger story. Apparently, it was supposed to run today, but the editor wasn't happy with the photos. So, they are coming back on Monday to reshoot. And that means I have to do my hair and make up. Auch!

Will let you know the next publishing date. I casualy mentioned that it might be one of those feel-good-holidays-story, so that is probably what they are going with.

Happy first snow of the season!

A Surprise Visitor

A Fenn family member (by marriage) came to see us a few days ago. My husband announced her sarcastically as a "blog fan". This was after he walked out of the House to try and scare her from taking any photos. After, he asked me what is it exactly that I am doing that has people caring so much to call, email, and stop by.

You see, he is still not 100 percent sold on the idea of restoring the House, even if we do it in pieces. In his mind, the House is perfect as it is, and he simply doesn't want to do anything that doesn't need to be done. I agree with that - only the squeaky wheels should get replaced. But, they should be replaced with what was there originally, right?

So, "blog fans", keep coming over and persuading him that we are doing a great thing for this and all future generations.

And Kelly, it was very nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by.

Today, we lost a piece of the House

Not figuratively. It is an actual part of the House. A window sash, to be exact. I was walking up the stairs and noticed a very strong, cold breeze. At first, I thought the contractor who was here this morning forgot to close the door leading to the terrace. When I went there, everything was fine. The room was a little cold, but otherwise fine. When I closed the door and walked through the hallway, I realized the breeze was coming from an opposite direction - the guest bathroom. Sometimes, one of the sashes on the casement window swings open. Well, this time, it looks like it flew away. I can't seem to find it anywhere... It's not on the roof, not in the bushes, and not on the ground... It simply vanished...

It is as if his spirit is still around...

This is what my husband said after I showed him another article about the House I found at the New York Public Library, in which it talks about warm, filtered sunshine yellow walls in the Drawing Room and the Moorish lamps. The illustration also shows a large, very deep sofa draped in thick, gold damask. We chose a warm yellow for the Living Room when we painted it last year.... Just seemed to fit there. And we were toying with installing a large antique Moroccan chandelier...

Also, with this illustration, we now have an image of the second fireplace as well.

But, what really made us think was an image of a small shelf next to the vestibule door, or what is now a Powder Room door. See, the shelf is in a shape of an Oriental arch - the exact same shape of the mirror I hung there when we moved in. Makes you think, does it not?

Wordless Wednesday - Mr. Fenn in his later years

I obtained this image from the New York Public Library. They have a clippings file on Fenn, and quite a lot of his illustrations. More about that later in the week.

Project Backyard - DONE!!!

While this was probably one of the least painful projects that we'll undertake around the House, I am glad it is over. The staging area was right under my daughter's window, and napping was, well, almost nonexistent. Enough to send a mother over the edge, or simply crying in the corner of the kitchen.

The results are magnificent. I mean, we liked it when they cleared the weeds, that was enough for us, so this is a cause for celebration. Let us know what you think.

Top Soil is IN

They spent the WHOLE day removing little rocks, old leaves, dead roots, and finally grading. They were also digging the last of the irrigation. Don't ask. I mean, they stopped working last week and left early because they heard it might rain, only to have to come back on Saturday and put down pipes with the machines sinking into the dirt almost a foot. Not very smart. Well, it's done. Sod is in tomorrow and it will finally be over.

Halloween costume

We were going for the whole "haunted house" theme, but bathed in sunshine like this doesn't make the House very creepy. We did have one animated spider above the front door that scared all the trick-or-treaters. Very cool. And, we were giving away home made brownies, which made us very popular. There is also a "haunted" graveyard on the front lawn, but it's very hard to photograph because of the slope of the hill.

Muddy Waters

We were so close... Then we were awoken this morning by the sound of rain against the window sills. The crew planted the flowers yesterday and installed part of the irrigation system. It was just a matter of putting the topsoil and grass.

And now, we have mud slides. Well, nothing that dramatic, but close enough in my mind.

P.S. Notice the name of this machine. Interesting.

Something interesting happened over the weekend....

I was contacted by a Harry Fenn biographer. Her name is Sue Rainey, and she has published several books and articles on Harry Fenn and his works. She is currently working on his biography, which I am very pleased about. I hope we can help each other. Here is some information about her that I found on Internet:

"Sue Rainey is historian of American graphic arts, with particular interest in the artists who drew landscapes and cityscapes for periodical and book illustrations. A member of the American Historical Print Collectors Society, she holds degrees from Duke and Columbia Universities. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia."

She is sending me her works. This is really a fantastic discovery. I was wondering if there was anyone else out there that liked his work and was interested in him as much as we are now. Obviously, our motives are different, and one year ago we didn't know Harry Fenn from the hole in a wall. Why hasn't it ever occurred to us to search Amazon for …

Clearing and Grading and Drainage - done!

It was a very loud week. The baby had trouble sleeping with all the machinery working under her window, but overall, she's been making it up at night. And, they are almost done. Monday the top soil goes in, and digger and scraper are being shipped off. Thank God. Quiet is good.

With the rain coming over the weekend, everything is covered with tarp.

Step Two - Grading

The guys from Terra Graphics are really amazing. So professional and considerate. I can recommend them to anyone without any hesitation. And yes, that's all the dirt that they had to remove.

This is what the new backyard looked like at the end of the day. The ditch at the wall is for the new drainage that is going in tomorrow.

Step One - Clearing

And here are the boys supervising the work. Or, really, having fun looking at the machines.

Deer fence - done!

Stage 2 of the backyard project, deer fence, went up today. The guys were here for almost 6 hours. Here are some photos:

Still can't get over the fact how big the backyard actually is. There will be some quality sports played when everything is finished. I'm loving the sunlight.

These were taken from the roof. I was there with one of the contractors and a chimney guy to try and get the scope set for the chimney work. I know, what else, right?

Backyard - before photos

Here it is, after the tree guys went through. What a difference! We called the landscape designer and told her we don't need her any more.

Has to be said: the tree chipper - very loud. Glad we were not home for that.


The tree guys were here today, cutting down the little trees and bushes in the backyard, trimming the large linden tree, and trimming basically all around. The amount of light that is now penetrating the back of the House is fantastic. And it looks so spacious! Oh, we are liking this project...

The roof (and front porch, and windows) project, not so much. We heard an approximate number that should cover all of it, and it took my husband and me 3 beers and 2 hours to get the power of speech back. And we haven't slept all night. Clearly, we didn't plan to do everything this year anyway, but... Wow!

We told the architect to get the drawings for the roof portion done ASAP, so we can go to bid as early as next week. The dripping is really starting to annoy us.

Wordless Wednesday!

I like this concept of Wordless Wednesday. Very convenient if you don't have time or inclination to write. Here is a photo of Mr. Fenn in his relatively "younger" days. I just love the mustache.

Star Ledger and The Cedars

I will have you know that The Star Ledger, New Jersey's largest local newspaper, will publish an article about the House and what we are doing here. Aha!

The local journalist is coming tomorrow morning to talk to us. We've already had the photographs taken a few weeks back. Just the kids playing in the Hall. Figured it would make for a nice contrast - 125-year-old stairs and windows and two children, oldest of which just turned 2.

I will keep you updated on when the article will be published, and will certainly post the link as well.

P.S. Still reeling from speaking to Fenn's great-great-great-granddaughter yesterday. I had a really hard time falling asleep. Now I want to find the rest of his descendants. [smile] As if I need another project.

Fenn Family

This is so exciting, I can't type fast enough for everyone to read.

I have been contacted by the great-great-grandchild and great-great-great-grandchild of Harry Fenn (is that too many "greats"?). They are scattered along the East Coast, but they are out there. And they still have in their possession letters, photographs, paintings. WOW!!! And what is even more amazing, they are all now reading my blog.

So, welcome Fenn family! Looking forward to meeting you all.

I can't sit still! I want to get in a car and go visit them NOW!

Pricing of the work

The architect was here today with one of the prospective contractors for a walk-through and to give us his opinion on the budget. We took him through and around the House and showed him the entire "wish list" of future projects. We snooped around for about 2 hours. In the process, we ended up in the attic, and our toddler, as every other toddler, loves closing the doors, and he did so. I was absolutely shocked at the site - the doors that looked old, chipped, cracked, and downright awful from the hallway, looked, well, amazing. It was unbelievable. I could barely contain myself. I was jumping up and down from joy and kissing my son. He wasn't sure what happened, but he went around the House for the rest of the day closing the doors, hoping to get the same reaction.

Since I am at the loss for words on how to describe these amazing doors, here is a photograph.

They look practically brand new with only a coat of dust and soot to tell the age. And here is one from the hallway.

Drip, drop, drip, drop

My sister was using the guest bathroom this morning, and I heard the distinct dripping sound inside the wall. I was almost afraid to tell my husband, as he will probably throw his hands in the air and want to sell the House. [smile]

It has to be said, we do have the best plumber in the world. After explaining the situation, he said the noise could be from the hot water pipes expanding and if I didn't see any wet spots on the walls, it could be nothing. He also suggested to have a little experiment by running cold water for a few minutes and checking the main sewer pipe in the basement at the same time. If the pipe is wet, than he would know it's a drain leak, and that would be easier to fix. Phew. Sounds good, right? Except I don't know what the grades of "easy" and "easier" are in the plumbing world.

Second meeting with the Architect...

Also brought us a quote for the custom windows we need. This project is a sticker shock after sticker shock for us. That being said, I simply can't understand why is everything so expensive. We can't even put a nail into the wall without costing us at least a $1,000. This makes me so angry. And, unfortunately puts serious limits on how much work can be done at the House.


Our thanks go out to C. M. for sending us the beautiful card of Harry Fenn's "other" home, 284 Park Street. I drove by it today again, and I have to say, while the facade is in great condition, it looks really crowded on that small lot. There really should be a higher limit on how much you can subdivide your lot and how far away the neighbors should be. Beautiful house, though.

Door knobs and door hardware issues

I am about to faint from hunger, so I'll keep this one short and sweet. A few months ago I purchased a crate full of old, glass door knobs, since we couldn't imagine ourselves living one more day with the brass horror that was installed on our beautiful wooden doors. Somebody, somewhere, sometime has decided that having those brass "things" would be a good idea. Not.

And this is how a crate of old glass knobs looks like. I can't complain too much, since we got them dirt-cheap, but still, with little elbow grease the guy who sold them to use could have made a small fortune on certain auctioning website. Nonetheless.

The little man of the House decided that he would like to get in on the action, so he helped us scrub off several decades of paint, dirt, food, rubber bands, hair, and various other things that we still don't know how to categorize. And this is the final product:

How much would you pay for it? [joking]

Anyway, for about 4 months, these knobs have been…

Harry Fenn Studio

I already told you about the image of Fenn's studio on the third floor of the House. I've finally scanned it. The original was in a bad resolution, but it will give you an idea where we are going with this.

Here is the room today:

And here is what we are trying to get back to:

Not sure if you can see the top of the turret through the image of the old window. That is now the terrace on the top photo. So, the plan is to restore the windows in their original location. But, since the reconstruction of the turret would cost a small fortune, we will instead remove a part of the existing mansard (left corner of the top photo) and make it look like the original turret from the street level. And we'll keep the terrace. So, win-win as far as kids are concerned, since they love this terrace. Depending on the cost, we might also replace the little window on the illustration left to match the original and the new/old windows to the terrace.

First Drawings Are Done!

Yesterday afternoon we had a meeting with our architect, Mark Wright of Wright and Robinson, and he presented us with the first set of drawings. He was 10 minutes late and we were sitting at the edge of our sofa wondering where he was, that's how excited we were. And it paid off. He brought the drawings of how the House used to look, the existing condition, and the most creative ways to marry the two.

I have to admit that we were worried how everything is going to look, and if we are going to like the solutions he offered. It is a natural fear of someone who has never owned a home before and never worked with an architect. Well, I am happy to report that our fears were brushed aside almost immediately. Mark showed us his ideas, and they were almost identical to what we thought we might like. Also, he opened our eyes to the possibilities of very small, inexpensive changes and how they can transform the House.

Considering the expense (always the expense), we have to settle for the &qu…

Random search of The New York Public Library

At the suggestion of our architect, I did a search of the New York Public Library records and discovered 47 entries for various things. 7 were not related to Harry Fenn. Other 40, however, were his works and biographies. Which is 39 more than the entire Essex and Bergen County library systems combined. Apparently, he was very popular with poets. Among others, he illustrated Lord Alfred Tennyson's books. Another, even more important, fact is that Fenn's biography was included in a book called "Reconstruction era: biographies," by Roger Matuz. What is interesting is not that Fenn is included, but that he is included along, to name a few: Louisa May Alcott, Susan B. Anthony, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, etc. Now it's just a matter of finding time to go there and read through all of these.

I also did a search through a quarterly that was popular at that time, called The Century, as it was mentioned in The Montclair Times. Cornell University Library has all the vol…

Microfilm at the Montclair Public Library

Today, I decided it was time to start going through the microfiche files at the Montclair Public Library. This was one of those spur of the moment decisions, as I know it will probably take me days, if not weeks to find what I am looking for. By that measure, today was a relative success, since I managed to go through the entire 1885 (the year) and found three mentions of the Fenns, two of which had a reference to a "fine" and "picturesque" residence of Mr. Fenn. All of these were written after September 1885, so I will need to go back and look more closely at the earlier months of the year for the announcement that the House has been occupied.

Also, it does seem that at that time it was quite common to sell a house separately from a lot it is sitting on, and the house would be moved to a desired new location. Fascinating!

Wordless Wednesday!

Readers, meet Mr. Fenn. Mr. Fenn, the readers. This is a portrait in watercolor done by Lawrence C. Earle. For more details on the artist, click on the image. The painting is housed at the Montclair Art Museum.

The Contracts Are In!

The landscaping is scheduled for mid-October. Very excited. After this weekend's very traumatic experience, we decided to install deer fencing as well.

We were having breakfast and our 2-year-old excitedly pointed through the window at our backyard and said: "Deer." The boys went through a series of oh's and ah's, and then it got quiet. Suddenly, my husband started waving me over: "I think she is giving birth. You have to see this." Having been through two labors of my own, I wasn't particularly interested, but then I realized it was a wrong time of the year. Looking closer, I saw a set of very young antlers and what my husband thought was a fawn, were in fact this young buck's insides. The skin on his belly was torn and trailing between his hind legs, and his intestines were dripping blood.

My first reaction was to scream, but I didn't want to scare the poor animal or my children, because I wanted them to have a better and healthier relations…

Another Small Step

We just replaced the Hall light with this magnificent crystal piece. While we were looking at the sparkle and light breaking through the facets of the crystals, we were wondering why did we live with the "classically modern, faux art glass, hand painted cobblestone finish" monstrosity that was hanging from the ceiling for the last year. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad chandelier, but it was so inappropriate for this House, that it was such an eyesore for us. How much of an eyesore, we didn't know until now. Kids love looking at it, like anything shiny, I guess, and are still talking about the electrician bringing this magical thing into their lives.

A Really, Really Small Steps

I took a little vacation over the last week. Didn't go anywhere, fortunately, as traveling would probably annoy me more than the "vacation" would relax me. But, simply took a vacation from thinking and writing about the House.

In the mean time, the long awaited light fixtures have arrived and have been installed. Well, at least some of them. While not completely historically accurate, they are better than what was here to begin with, so we are happy with the progress.

Our thanks to Mike DeFuria from Halo Electrical Contractors for coming on such a short notice.

Happy Labor Day To All!

Very happy to report that the landscaping work has been booked and we should be starting with clearing of the backyard in a few weeks. Right now it looks like the Wild West and we are afraid to even go there, being that it has now become a habitat of: 1 groundhog family, 2 rabbit families which are fast becoming 10 families, at least 2-3 fawns and does, 1 million mosquitoes and countless other species of bugs we have never seen in our lives, 4 recognizable species of birds (species that we recognize), squirrels, field mice, etc. This is a photo from a week ago...

No Library visit today...

As I thought, having husband at home from work makes it a little hard to do anything but enjoy our family time. So, no updates today on that front. I did add a few titles to the Sources and Bibliography, and you can check those out. I also googled the three women I mentioned yesterday, but came up with nothing. Well, almost nothing. Two of them are listed a being buried in Pennsylvania. That's an interesting tidbit, since the former owner of this House was also from PA.

I have firmly established that the House was built in 1885, as 1884 Tax Records show no structures on the property valued at $400. I also found out that before moving to Upper Mountain, Fenn lived on Park Street and Montague Place, and he owned that house until 1890.

After he sold The Cedars in 1902, until 1906 new Park Street house he owned nothing in Town. So, the question is, was he here or did he travel? And why one earth did he sell?

I am also gathering a list of local cemeteries to try and see which congregation…

What now?

After the amazing discoveries of the last two days, today's visit to the Library was somewhat... deflating. I was absolutely certain yesterday that I was very close to discovering the year the House was moved to North Mountain and I simply wanted to confirm that by reviewing the Tax Field Books. Well, nothing, and I mean nothing, is as simple as it looks.

First, I checked the map, block and lot numbers and made sure they are correct. After that was done, I searched the books starting with 1902, the year Harry Fenn sold the House, to 1918. Interestingly, the three owners following the Fenn sale were all women: Laura A. Bausher, Addie R. Lambie, and Anne S. Hard.

Or that is what I thought. It should have simply been a matter of checking the old map, block and lot, and monitoring for the change in number of structures. If I used that as my guide, I would have found that between 1902 and 1906 on the 5 lots that Ms. Bausher purchased adjacent to the House, there was only one residence. A…

Almost forgot...

Here is the photograph of the House, Southern elevation, as it stood on Upper Mountain Avenue. Beautiful. We believe this might be Mr. Fenn on the bicycle, as I took a very high def photo of the original and was able to zoom in.

Local History Collection at Montclair Public Library

Now that I've had at least 24 hours and the excited nerves have somewhat subsided, I should be a little more clearheaded to write about the exciting events of the last two days. I know there are those out there in both the virtual and the real world who would consider "exciting" a bit of an overstatement for what happened, but I strongly disagree.

You see, Harry Fenn has been a very elusive figure for me. He announced himself in my life via a rotten wooden board in the back of the coat closet. And today, I was searching genealogy sites to make sure there is no family connection, for I was certain there must be one, considering how much I wanted it to be [smile]. There is none, I assure you.

My thanks go out to William T. Fischer of the Montclair Public Library who is heading the local history collection. He seems to know where every scrap of paper is and what is written on it. Very useful person to know when one is doing research. Every library should have one of William …


Well, a moderate one, but success nonetheless. I knew there had to be more information about Fenn and about the House somewhere, considering how important he was, as well as the Cedars (also spelled as Ceders in some of the Library records).

So, inspired by a movie which shall remain unnamed, I went to the Montclair Public Library to see what they have in their records. I was completely amazed. It is a treasure trove, combined with their online resources. This is what I found:

1. Photographs of Fenn.
2. Image of the portrait done by Lawrence C. Earle.
3. Illustrations and photos of the house from what is now the Southern elevation and the exact location of the work that needs to be done this Fall.
4. General information about Fenn by his contemporaries. It seems he was well liked by everyone.

Amazing. I've also found out that he got married on October 14, 1885, to a woman named Eliza Crawford Scotcher in Kingston, Surrey, England, which I believe was his hometown. That is actually very …

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings

I think I am all done with meetings. I am quite ready for the work to begin.

We had a meeting with a landscape designer and her partner-contractor. We really like both of them. Her name is Lisa Mierop and you can see some of her work here. Her partner is Frank Contey of Terra Graphics. We were quite impressed with their knowledge and inventiveness. And we seemed to have very good rapport, so they are the ones we chose to do our landscape work. Phase I is the backyard - clearing everything, except for a beautiful old linden tree, and leveling, so the kids have a safe place to play. The work includes new drainage, as the house is on the slope and there is a LOT of water coming down the hill when it rains. This work is slated for the spring.

The roof, ah, the roof... We had another meeting with our preferred architect, Mark Wright, about the scope of work. We told him what our total budget was and our concerns about the cost of the project. Apparently, we are so ignorant about the cost of …

House Tours Scheduled To Begin Tomorrow!

Very excited about this. We are seeing our first house tomorrow, then another 4-5 next week. We are also interviewing some other architects, as we are not sure how much an architect should cost and how their scopes are priced.

Also tackled the lighting issue today - we ordered some reproductions of the period light fixtures for the front porch and the Grand Hall. Still not finished, even though they were ordered at the beginning of July. Supposedly, one is ready, but the crystal piece for the Hall is not. They'll call us back.

Tomorrow, or more realistically next week, have to start researching door hardware. We ordered a sample from a place out West, about 2 months ago, AND paid for it. Still hasn't arrived. One of the GC's mentioned a place called Simon's in Manhattan. Supposedly, they specialize in building period-looking pieces. Funny it should be in Manhattan of all places.

Waiting for another GC

So, filling up the time with answering emails and writing blog posts :)

Tomorrow, hopefully, if the man of the House can take a day off, we'll be touring some of the houses done by the A-listers. They offered, and we are taking them up on it. Might as well. This is a big decision and they are all very expensive.

At some point we just have to bite the bullet and hope for the best... I am just full of these cliches today...

A, B, and C Lists

Having no luck with B's and C's, we have now started calling the A list contractors in town. I now strongly believe that the people we originally spoke to were afraid of the magnitude of work that needs to be done in, on, and around the house. The difference is also quite obvious when talking to them about stages of work and sources of income. So, hopefully, when the architectural drawings are done, we will be able to contract one of them as a GC (general contractor). We picked the roofer, and the GC I personally like the best works exclusively with him. That makes me feel good. That and the fact he comes highly recommended both from people he worked with and people who want to work with him. Fingers crossed.

Wood and Water

Apparently, even if you don't have water penetrating the house, the humidity will make the wood around the house swell up, as we have seen in the past several days. Yesterday we were not able to close some of the doors. Today, the floors in the Hall have lifted up, so much that the closet door is leaving the scuff marks. And we can't open the French door leading to the screened porch. What can I say? We wanted an old house, we wanted the natural materials, so here we are. No point in complaining, but still a pleasure doing so.

Still no estimates.

Houses like this...

Used to be run by a small army of servants (butler, housekeeper, cook, other staff, etc.). I got a cleaning lady that comes once every 2 weeks and a nanny that works 40 hours a week. I also have a husband and 2 children that need to eat, drink, clean clothes, comfortable environment, and a happy matriarch to provide all this for them. I spent a total of 4 hours shopping for food today in different supermarkets. And most of it will be gone by the weekend... Then there is that company that I'm trying to get off the ground, leaky roof, facade that needs to be restored, rosettes and plates for the new/old door knobs, landscaping, architectural drawings...

No sign of contractors.


OK, we had a total of 10 contractors take a look at our roof, with at least 2 more expected next week. The number of written estimates so far? 2. And one of them is at least a year old (when the leak was first noted). But, our architect was adamant not to use them, as they are quite sloppy with the flashing. So, one usable quote.

We might have gone overboard with the interview/estimate process, but can you blame us? I thought the economy was bad, and more than one of these contractors told us they usually have at least 4-6 months of work scheduled, and right now it's only 1-2. What is going on? Is it that they simply don't want this job and don't want to say it? They all seemed pretty competent to us and we know they've seen houses as old as ours and in worse condition... I don't get it...

Leaky Roof

Well, the roof restoration project is getting pushed forward, as the leak is rather visible and audible these days, with all this rain. So, the house is full of contractors going up and down the stairs, pricing the work... Will keep you posted.

The Quest

Due to the ever efficient airlines that fly us around these days, I had a chance to finish not one, but two books that I took on the mini-break with me. One of them is the Fenn illustrated "The Quest..." I mentioned in one of the previous posts. The parallels between us and the Shackelton's are fascinating, to say the least. In addition, it is a great educational tool for anyone involved with antiques in any capacity - descriptions of styles, how to spot a fake, how to restore furniture, etc. Really, really good. I highly recommend it.

Mini Holiday

Took a little break for the last few days, but I am back. How refreshed I am is rather questionable, as flying these days is like taking an obstacle course with the devil. Didn't have time to research Fenn's possible work in Paris, as French are as unhelpful as everyone is saying, especially about someone who is not French :)

I will try to find something online, but I doubt Paris and France in general holds any importance in Fenn's work, as he studied in Italy.


I receive this ominous-looking envelope from the government, and you know that bad feeling you get? People who have been audited know what I am talking about, right? Oh, never mind.

Anyway, the envelope, thankfully, is not from the IRS, but from the Department of Interior, and it is a copy of the filing with the National Register of Historic Places that the archivist promised me. What a great surprise! And get this, it contained a copy of the original article by Sheldon from The Magazine of Art in 1886 about the House, with the illustrations of both exterior AND interior. Check out the Hall as originally built and today. This keeps getting better and better...

Also, I have been searching for The Magazine of Art from 1885, as the reprint of the article was stating. Been looking into the wrong year.

Due to kindness of a complete stranger...

And a fellow history buff, I've received some articles about Fenn's that I haven't seen before. Thanks B.S.C. They were all published in NY Times and I would have found them eventually, since I am doing a systematic search of each individual source. But, it was nice to received this because it feels like I have an assistant :) There were also some documents from the Montclair Preservation or Historic Society, as it is known now.

So, the picture of Fenn's and their life in Montclair is coming along. Will keep you posted.

Speaking of details...

This is an illustration of the actual painting that was exhibited in 1888. The image is from the catalogue. I wasn't very careful when I was making copies, as I didn't think I would scan and publish them. That is the reason it's a bit crooked. The asterisks means that the artist did the illustration. Amazing, right?

History - Part II: Who Was Harry Fenn? Timeline

1866. - American Society of Painters in Water Colors is instituted. Fenn, Harry (Henry) was elected as a Member.

1867-8. - First exhibit of the Society (image to the right). Fenn exhibited the following works:
Toilers of the SeaSketch Near Genoa (owned by J.T. Fields)Church Porch, Levington, England (owned by J.T. Fields)Pietra Santa LuccaHe is listed as having residence in Montclair, N.J.

1868-9. - Second exhibit. Fenn is showing the following works:
A Tomb on the Apian Way, Roman CampagnaStudy of Boats, Port of Venice, Gulf of Shezzia (owned by Samuel Wilde)A Winter Study, Montclair, N.J.A Twilight Study, Near Portland, M.E.By the WellHe is listed as having residence in Montclair, N.J.

1871-2. - Fenn exhibits the following:
The Mouth of the St. Johns River, Fla.Study from the Sister Islands, NiagaraStill residing in Montclair.

1873. - Fenn exhibits:
The Ghetto, RomeEntrance to Watkin's Glen (owned by Dr. J. W. Pinkham)Cavern Cascade, Watkin's Glen (owned by Dr. J. W. Pinkham)Goat Is…


After writing and publishing the post from last night, I went to read the email. I got a lovely note from B.S.C. (I am using the initials because I didn't get permission to write their full name) writing about the house they bought recently and the house next door that "looms" over them. Apparently, one of them was designed by Alice Fenn, Fenn's daughter, and the other by Dudley Strickland Van Antwerp, married to Hilda Fenn, another one of Fenn's daughters.

It looks like Fenn's have left a much larger stamp on Montclair than I previously thought...

American Watercolor Society Visit

I had an to opportunity spend several hours at the AWS offices today. I reviewed the exhibit catalogues through 1888. So, only 23 years to go...

Joking aside, it is amazing how much one can discover from turning those pages. Here is a brief timeline of Fenn's whereabouts as seen through AWS eyes:

1867 - Member
1875 - Active Member
1878 - Non-resident Member
1883 - Resident Member
1903 - Active Member
1910 - Active Member
1911 - Active Member (last mention)

Since I feel very tired, I am starting to make some terrible spelling mistakes and my writing is completely uninspired. So, I am going to get some rest and give you the detailed timeline with names of the paintings for sale through 1888 when I wake up tomorrow. Have a good night.

Here is the photograph...

That started us on this journey... Isn't it magnificent?

Next Steps - sooner than expected...

Our thanks to Mark Wright from Wright & Robinson Architects of Glen Ridge for a visit. Mark is actually the person who got us interested in this restoration. In January of this year, he sent a reprint of an article about the House and the photograph of what the House used to look like when it was first built, in it's original location on Upper Mountain Avenue. When we saw this photograph, my husband and I, and all other family members, were stunned by the beauty of it. We all agreed that if there are any funds available in the future, we will use them to return the House to its original appearance.

So, this summer we decided to at least price the project, since chances are we won't have anything available after the backyard landscaping project. But, there is always next year...

It was amazing to walk the house with someone who actually knows architecture, different styles, materials, colors, etc. He agreed with me that it was very much possible Fenn was very involved in the …


For those reading this, if anyone, I apologize for the lack of updates in the last few dates. We have been a bit busy, and I was semi-infirm with health issues. I was hoping this health issue would leave me with some time to read the book, but alas, it was not to be (don't you just love it when your style of writing and speaking changes with the book you are reading :)). I am confirmed to go to AWS again this Friday to finish the review of the catalogues and to try and arrange a meeting with someone at Salmagundi Club for next week. Hopefully, with the holiday coming, I will have some time to read the book, as it is a great educational tool on the 1700's furniture shopping - styles, colors, materials, etc. Fenn's illustrations are very detailed as well, and I wonder if he used existing objects owned by Shackletons, himself, or are they just a product of his imagination. Interesting part is also his journey into photography, since I believe he also photographed all the item…

Montclair Library, part 2

I got an email earlier today that the book "The Quest of the Colonial" by Robert and Elizabeth Shackelton is available for pick up at the Montclair Library. The book is illustrated with decorations by Harry Fenn. I will go thought it tonight and tomorrow and report on what I find there. This particular copy is from 1927. The original was published in 1906.

Bravo for the InterLibrary Loan program.

National Register

Just heard back from National Register. I sent them an email yesterday - very impressive. The archivist wrote that they will send me the copy of the documents they have in 2-3 weeks. Looking forward.

Register of Historic Places

With kids otherwise occupied, I had a moment to look at a magazine - This Old House. In it, I found the names of two websites: and They are listing sites for historical properties currently for sale. But, they also had excellent lists of resources, including links to New Jersey Historic Preservation Office and National Register of Historic Places. It turns out, the House is listed on both, so there will be no work required on that part. I've contacted both offices for the printout of the complete filing, since they are not online (haven't been scanned yet). Also been reading the laws relating to historic preservation. It turns out, if the house is in private hands, you can do with it whatever you want. This explains a lot... And it leaves the decision of the type of work in the hands of the owners/builders. Not all of them care about history, which explains some of the "interesting" choices in the previous renovations…

American Watercolor Society Visit

My thanks to AWS and Nancy Barch for the hospitality. It was a great pleasure spending a few hours there chatting and researching. AWS is located near Union Square Park, in the Salmagundi Club building on Fifth Avenue. A bit of trivia - it is the ONLY townhouse on Fifth Avenue that still has it's front stoops. Salmagundi Club was formed as the Salmagundi Sketch Club in 1871. The name was derived from something Washington Irving published called "The Salmagundi Papers". Salmagundi was thought to mean a salad or a stew. Ms. Barch said that Fenn was probably a member there as well, and I should go through their records, as they also kept works by their members and they might have something by Fenn. Well, more research... Don't you just love the smell of old books?

As I mentioned, it was a very pleasant visit. Ms. Barch gave me the original exhibit catalogues to review and that's pretty much the only documentation that they have from that era of the Society. A brief …

One more tidbit...

Doing preschool research for my kids, just found out Watchung Coop used to be part of and housed in Watchung Congregational Church. After the church was destroyed, they moved to current location and became non-sectarian.

Almost a day off :)

Today was almost a day off. Well, at least from the House and Fenn... Kids are a little demanding, so I gave them all the attention I could, considering the limited number of arms, legs and brain cell I have :)

But, I wasn't completely idle. I tried to find the church of Fenn's burial service, and it turns out it burnt down in 1975, the year I was born... Hm, maybe a good thing I'm not a Christian :)

Anyway, will try to contact some town historians to find out more about the church and the cemeteries where they buried their parishioners. And you thought only Jim Morrison and Edgar Allan Poe fans roam the graveyards...

Fenn Obituary

Not sure if you are able to read this small print, but here is the Harry Fenn obituary published in NY Times April 23, 1911. It says that he died at his home 354 Park Street. He might have moved there when Bellevue Avenue became more popular. One more thing to research...

Exciting news!

Just found Fenn's obituary that was printed in the NY Times. It states that he died at his home on Park Street... hm... I will have to look into that. He was a widower and was survived by four children.

Also, just heard from American Watercolor Society. I am scheduled to go there on Friday to speak to their historian. Very exciting!

History - Part I: Who was Harry Fenn?

The Cedars, or Henry (Harry) Fenn residence, was built in 1885. Harry Fenn was a watercolor artist and an illustrator. He was born in Richmond, Surrey, England in 1845. He first trained as a wood engraver before embarking on a career as a painter and print maker.

In 1860's, Fenn settled in the United States after coming to see the Niagara Falls. After spending six years in the U.S., he left to pursue further art studies in Italy. He returned to illustrate his first book, “Snow Bound,” written by John Greenleaf Whittier. The success of this first illustration project lead to more work and Fenn’s second book, “Ballads of New England.” These two books were the first illustrated gift books of their kind in the United States. They were important milestones in the history of American book making and created great renown for the artist.

In the 1870's Fenn traveled extensively around the country for numerous illustration projects. One such trip brought him to western North Carolina for …


This blog was an impulse, to try and document the amazing structure that is our house, and our attempts to return it to it's glory. Stay tuned.