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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 - computers be damned.

First he showed me the originals of the photographs I found yesterday. They are locked up in a special room, and reproduction is only allowed via digital or other camera. No copies and no scanners. After that, he said I should check the following records: City Directory (since I have a name), then Tax Records (to confirm addresses and location of the House), and finally The Montclair Times archives (where I could probably find articles written about the building and moving of the House).

So, first we looked at the Tax Records for the Town. I cannot even describe to you the feeling of touching a paper record that has been written over 100 years ago. Almost magical. And the penmanship, amazing. Every letter is the same size and style, as if the hand who write those names never got tired. Truly fascinating.

What we found was that Harry Fenn sold the house in either late 1901 or early 1902, since he paid his tax dues of $144.00 for 1901, and there was nothing listed as due in 1902. In 1903, there is no record of him whatsoever, and the next time we find him is 1906, on Park Street, in the house built by his son-in-law, Dudley Van Antwerp, a preeminent Arts and Crafts architect.

Tomorrow, I am photographing the originals for the high resolution files, and checking the Tax Field Books, which have the structures listed by the street number, so I might be able to find when the House was moved to North Mountain. Can't wait!


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