Tuesday, June 30, 2009


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 items in the book.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Quest of the Colonial

So, it turns out, this is book about (drum roll, please)..... antiques!!! Isn't that amazing?!?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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.

Monday, June 22, 2009

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: historicproperties.com and preservationdirectory.com. 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 of the House...

All of this opens up some new posibilities - federal, state and local funding to help us get the project of the ground. It would be nice to get some help. Architect drawing the plans alone is going to cost a small fortune.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

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 history of AWS: apparently, the Madison Avenue galleries at the time didn't think much of watercolors, so they refused to carry and sell them. They were thought too "dainty". In order to show and sell their work, the watercolor artists organized into AWS, and AWS became a de facto art dealer until 1930's and 1940's, when they became the non-for-profit they are today.

The catalogues were in the amazingly good condition for their age. Ms. Barch says that's because hardly anyone ever looks at them. I find that surprising, since there are many popular artists that were listed as showing their work. Louis C. Tiffany, for example. Fenn was listed as an Active Member from the first exhibit. Something interesting, though. AWS website states that they had a non-resident member designation for those that didn't live in New York City. But, Fenn was listed from the first exhibit as residing in Montclair, NJ. So, he was either hugely popular, and they ignored the rules or the non-resident designation was really used in situations when artists left the country for a few years. This might actually be the more accurate interpretation, as Fenn is listed as non-resident in 1878, the year he was living in Egypt.

I am scheduled to go back, since I wasn't able to go through all the catalogues during this visit. I am hoping to look at the catalogues around the years that the House was built, to see any possible inspirations.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Montclair Library Online Catalogue...

Does not have ANYTHING listed under the name Henry or Harry Fenn. I did find a copy of one of his books in the Milburn Library. I will go there anyway and speak to the librarians. These online library catalogues are not always complete.

Perfect day for library research, however...

Hubby took the car. So, more internet research. Montclair Library has a great internet portal. Will certainly try using that. I have confirmed my visit to American Watercolor Society tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

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...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

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...

Monday, June 15, 2009

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 his landmark book “Picturesque America,” by William Cullen Bryant, published in 1872. On this trip Fenn created some of his best loved art in a region of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC. Some of his other noted works are "Picturesque Europe" and "Picturesque Palestine."

Later in his career, Harry Fenn concentrated more on his watercolor painting. He was a member of the New York Watercolor Club, the Society of Illustrators, the Salmagundi Club and founding member of the American Watercolor Society. This is the email response I received from American Watercolor Society upon my inquiry about Fenn: "Our historical information states that Harry (Henry) Fenn was elected at a founder's meeting on January 2, 1867. He remained a member until 1911 [note: year of his death]. If you wish to come to our office to investigate our archival files, please feel free to contact us. We only have catalogs containing information regarding our exhibitions. Some are incomplete."

Fenn was associated with the Hudson River School of painting. One of his strengths was his ability to capture highly detailed topographical scenes, as much of his work was intended for reproduction.

Print above: The Lover's Leap - Approach by Night, 1873

Sunday, June 14, 2009


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.