by Krysta Huber
We’ve all heard of The Addams Family—the infamous television show known for its twisted take on the ideal American family. Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, Puglsey and Uncle Fester have entertained audiences on television, on the big screen and even on stage, as an eccentric family who delights in the macabre.
The family’s legendary creator, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday last week, holds a special place in Westfield’s heart. Like all of us, Charles Addams grew up here. He walked the halls of WHS, saw movies at Rialto Theatre, got into mischief around town and most of all, drew cartoons.
According to geocities.com, Addams was fascinated by horror as a child, and would spend many hours visiting the cemetery on Mountain Avenue. He also took a liking to Victorian houses, like 522 Elm St., where his family lived for nearly 30 years, as well as 229 East Dudley Ave.
It is believed that Addams broke into the Dudley house, leaving a historical mark on the carriage house. According to Ron MacCloskey, cartoonist and Addams expert, Addams’ own backyard and the backyard to the home on Dudley intersected, and Addams would often spend time there with his friends.
One night, Addams broke into the carriage house of the Dudley home and drew a skeleton on the wall using pencil and chalk. According to MacCloskey, both the Elm and Dudley houses served as inspiration for the Addams Family mansion seen in Addams’ cartoons and on The Addams Family.
In high school, Addams served as the art editor for The Weather Vane, according to geocities.com. It was during this period that Addams’ passion for drawing grew tremendously, leading him to pursue an artistic career. According tocharlesaddams.com, after graduating from WHS in 1929, Addams went on to study at Colgate University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Grand Central School of Art.
In 1933, The New Yorker published Addams’ first cartoon. Addams went on to become one of The New Yorker’s largest contributors, working there until his death in 1988.
As an artist, Addams’ work spans nearly 60 years, containing approximately several thousand original pieces. His drawings have been published in 15 books, appearing in many languages throughout the world, according tocharlesaddams.com. In 1964, The Addams Family television series premiered on ABC, and was later produced as a movie in 1991 and as a Broadway musical in 2010.
Despite his global recognition, Addams never forgot the suburban town that started it all. “Addams would still come to Westfield long after his success. He would love to drive around town and visit friends and family who still lived [here],” said MacCloskey.