Uncovering the Proud Westfield, New Jersey Roots of The Addams Family

Before there was a classic television series, the films of the 90’s, a singing and dancing Broadway musical and this fall’s upcoming animated comedy, there was Charles Addams of Westfield, New Jersey. Addams first created the creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky, altogether ooky Addams Family as cartoons in the New Yorker in 1938.

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They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, their all together ookie but what if I told you the infamous Addams Family were New Jerseyans. That’s right, the house that’s a museum, the family that proclaims “you ought to see them” was created in the state that’s home of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, The Diner Capital of the World, The Sopranos and more.

Tucked away in a peaceful town of Westfield, NJ, rich with summer blossoms, bumbling bees and the sounds of laughter is the house that inspired Charles Addams to create one of his most famous Gothic masterpieces. Without former knowledge of its location, it’s easy to pass by the home that helped to create a franchise that would last for decades. To be honest it’s rather plain and sticks out as it stands next to modern-day homes filled with lush colors and rich adornment. But if you look closer, you can see it exudes personality and can see the beauty Charles Adams once did. The house itself, seems to be its own person. Its bland and ordinary shutters and practical windows are eyes to its soul that screams “go away,” making you understand just why Addams fell in love it with on his days of walking to and from school.

According to Ron MacCloskey, a Charles Addams expert who founded the Charles Addams Art Scholarship in 1991, “Charles Addams has said he has never drawn the Addams family the same twice. So every cartoon is a little bit different for what the family house looks like.” Staring at the house it’s clear to see why; there’s always something new for you to take in when looking at it from afar.

Born in 1912, Addams’ hilarious and satirical family filled with eccentricities, riches would spawn an array of 150 cartoons, a popular TV show, movies, an animated series, five video games (released between 1989 and 2001) a Tony Award-nominated musical, and on October 11th, the animated Addams’ will find themselves planting roots in “some place so horrible, some place you wouldn’t be caught dead in,” aka New Jersey.

Deemed a historic landmark in 1991, Addams’ New Jersey home (where he lived for 27 years) still stands tall on Elm Street (yes, really). Built in 1907, you would find Addams writing away about the cartoon that made its appearance in The New Yorker from 1938 to 1988 and featured places from his childhood experience such as the Rialto Theater and the Presbyterian Cemetery on Mountain Avenue, where he often “wondered what it would be like to be dead.”

To celebrate this amazing town and Addams’, the town is gearing up for the second annual AddamsFest, (the first one attracted over 12,000 attendees from 85 towns at nearly 20 events). Held between October 19th-27th, Westfield will be awash in Addams Family fans, creative cosplayers dressed as the family (including Thing and Itt), attend family themed events, movie screenings, art exhibits, a beer garden, masquerade ball and more.

According to Mayor Shelley Brindle, honoring Addams’ creation helps to instill community pride and awareness. “The community is so excited for the return of AddamsFest, and we’re thrilled to bring it back. Our inaugural year represented the very best of Westfield — from celebrating one of our own historic icons as a community, to the enthusiastic participation of over 300 volunteers, to the collaboration between the police, fire, DPW professionals and the unpaid volunteers. Ultimately, the connectedness that the festival created among our residents was one of our town’s key highlights of 2018.”

“When you think about all the possibilities and focusing on the themes of ‘The Addams Family‘ — inclusiveness, accepting for all — all of that is what we want to represent. To me, it is a perfect combination of everything we have here — the hospitality and sense of community. Addams is the draw and when they get here, they see Westfield is so much more — restaurants, shopping. Ideally, I want people to spend money here. I want them to buy houses here. The end game is really about anything that will perpetuate the economic vitality of our town while increasing a sense of pride.”

To help celebrate the upcoming movie and shed further light of this unique town, the press was invited to watch ten minutes of the upcoming movie and given a tour of the town’s beauty and culture.

Our first stop was the James Ward Mansion, an incredibly lush home filled with Jersey’s finest breakfast pastries, a kooky indoor fountain and an array of Addams Family memorabilia. Dubbed “The Best Kept Secret in Union County,” its 24 foot ceilings featuring golden architectural details, spiral staircases, fireplaces, and French inspirations that make the home regale yet inviting.

It was there we met Dudley, a life-sized drawing of a human skeleton drawn by young Charles Addams on a barn wall near his childhood home. Wonderfully preserved (for over a hundred years) and looking whimsical as ever, it showed how talented Addams was at such a young age.

Rich with talented New Jerseyan artists, we visited the Roig Collection, an art gallery featuring 35-year old Ricardo Roig. Hailing from Hoboken, NJ, the Roig Collection is where he creates his finest limited edition one of a kind hand-cut prints and Addams Family art collection. It was here, Roig showed off his free-hand as he drew our portrait in the style of Charles Addams. It was breathtaking watching this artist in his element.

Last in our tour of downtown Westfield was the Addams Tavern, a bustling restaurant filled with tasty beverages and hearty foods. Situated between the dining area and the private rooms, we were served New Jersey’s finest of cuisines, including cocktails, appetizers, entrée and deserts. I had the shrimp cocktails from a smoking spooky glass, the crispest fried chicken sandwich with a mouth-watering sauce and fries that will make you melt into your seat. Dessert was an ice-cream sundae that would make the blackest of soul smile with happiness. Described as a “New American-inspired cooking infused with subtle smoke from the restaurant’s wood-burning grills and mesquite charcoal ovens. The menu is complemented with fresh fish, grass-fed meat, and local seasonal produce.” In simple terms, its unforgettable.

Leaving Westfield, NJ made me appreciative of a town I never knew existed (sorry). It delights me to know the history of Charles Addams will never be forgotten, both on-screen with the upcoming Universal Pictures’ Addams Family movie but in the hearts of all who live there and visits this welcoming and heartfelt town.

Addams Family releasing in theaters on October 11th.

Check out the gallery below for more images of this wonderful event.

About The Author
Dana Abercrombie Entertainment Editor / Media Liaison
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