Sure, you know Yogi and Buzz are Montclairians, and maybe you’ve heard that painter George Inness and actress Olympia Dukakis are also locals. But what about tennis superstar Althea Gibson, and former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker…did you know they also spent many years residing in Montclair?
Those are just a few of the personalities profiled in the comprehensive new book, Legendary Locals of Montclair, written by Elizabeth Shepard and Mike Farrelly and distributed by Arcadia Publishing. Shepard is the former historical librarian for the Montclair Public Library, and Farrelly has been Montclair’s official historian for a decade.
Farrelly recently chatted with Baristanet about a few of his favorite personalities from the publication, which contains photos and profiles of nearly 100 Montclairians.
While many of the names in the book are unfamiliar to us today, Farrelly says they were all famous in their time. He mentions wealthy, Carnegie Steel man William Dixon, founder of the Montclair Art Museum, as a personal favorite. Farrelly also gives a shout out to Lilian Gilbreth, wife to business efficiency pioneer Frank Gilbreth of “Cheaper By the Dozen” book and movie fame. “She was the quiet powerhouse,” says Farrelly. “She wrote tons of books on time and motion studies and continued the business after Frank died.”
When asked why Montclair consistently attracts a disproportionate number of notable folks, Farrelly had this to say:
“In the 1870’s, railroads transformed Montclair into a haven for the wealthy. New York was a filthy, crowded, noisy city. They didn’t even have sewers. If you could afford it, you moved to the country. And the country back then was Montclair. Wealthy people attracted other influential people. It became a magnet.”
And why do people continue to be attracted to Montclair today? Farrelly responds:
“The catchword is diversity. In Montclair, you won’t just find yourself standing next to someone of a different race or culture. No matter what your race–you’ll often find yourself standing next to someone of a different race or culture who has more money, better education, and more influence than you. That is what’s unique about Montclair.”
Farrelly will share more about his new book at the Montclair Public Library on next Wednesday, August 21st, at 7pm.