From Montclair to Montechiaro: Discovering Italy in the Local Architecture

Event Details
Date: Sunday, June 9
Time: 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Location: The Van Vleck House and Gardens
21 Van Vleck Street
Montclair, NJ
Cost: $100 (please register by June 7)

Event Schedule

  • Introductory lecture by Kathleen Bennett (decorative arts historian and chairperson of the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission), and Frank Gerard Godlewski (architect and architectural historian), moderated by Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies). (Bios can be found below)

  • Guided coach tour of Montclair

  • Aperitivo al fresco (light refreshments) with vocal performance by Sandro Naglia.

Montclair’s transformation, from a bucolic country retreat known for its clean air and apple orchards into one of the first and finest commuter suburbs of Manhattan, is due to the arrival of the railroad in the 19th century. This allowed local captains of industry, who worked in New York City, the opportunity to live and unwind in the shadow of “First Mountain,” all within an hour’s commute of the city. Locally and nationally known architects constructed houses, commercial buildings, and churches using Italian inspired architectural elements.

Join our expert tour guides, as they reveal the multiple layers of Italian connections in the architectural treasures of Montclair, re-baptized Montechiaro for this special occasion.Casa Strahan Portico

Beginning with the concept of the American suburban “villa” introduced by A. J. Davis and based on Italian architectural concepts, to the buildings inspired by the theories of Vitruvius and Palladio, the tour contextualizes the development of the township of Montclair. In this context, interestingly, the evolving town offered opportunities to Italian immigrants, who settled in the Fourth Ward, to utilize their skills, learned in Italy, to benefit Montclair with their expertise in the building arts.

The tour encompasses the diverse and beautiful Montclair landscape which includes grand houses as well as the working class Italian neighborhood of the Pine Street historic district.

If you plan on attending, please register online by June 7*. You may also register by contacting Jenna Villani, Office of Alumni Engagement, at 973-655-7872 or

*Registration includes one complimentary guest. You will only be able to enter your name on the registration form. Please contact Jenna Villani at with the name of your guest.

If you have questions about the program, please contact Teresa Fiore, Associate Professor and Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, at

This event is sponsored by the Montclair State University Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies in partnership with The Office of Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement.

Kathleen Bennett '75 is an international scholar, lecturer and cultural advisor. She completed a graduate degree at the Cooper-Hewitt/Parsons/ New School in NYC with a thesis entitled The Rococo in Sicily. Extensive travel in England and Italy, including participation in the Attingham and Victorian Society summer school programs, fueled her interest in architecture and the decorative arts. She has spoken on diverse subjects ranging from English gardening, Sicilian architecture, and eighteenth-century Design Sources to a number of New York and New Jersey based groups.

Recently, she was the Art Education Director at TWLC, a tutoring program based in Far Hill, NJ, where she presented talks and created architectural study programs, based on her training as an Art Educator with a degree from Montclair State University. Currently, Bennett is the Chairperson of the Montclair Preservation Commission, which is a municipal advocate for historic buildings and structures in the township of Montclair. She has authored Montclair historic building and site reports for eligibility into the local historic register, relying on research journals, book and photos available in local depositories. Her research work on Sicilian subjects includes a catalog raisonne of Luigi Mayer, eighteenth-century vedutista, also known for his works on Sicily, and a project on the art of Robert Hawthorne Kitson, English painter who settled in Taormina at the end of the 19th century. While Bennett is not trolling through local and international libraries and archives, she explores the cuisines and culture of Sicily.

Frank Gerard Godlewski is an architectural designer, historian, and land use expert. The creative director of Fellsbridge Studio LLC for building renovations, he presently serves as Commissioner for the Borough of Caldwell Historical Preservation Commission and the Borough Historian Chair for Essex Fells, NJ. Born in Montclair, he attended Montclair Academy and MKA. He is a graduate of the Cooper Union School of Architecture and worked on a Dottorato di Ricerca in Architecture in Venice, Italy.

Fluent in Italian and French, Frank lived in Italy for 24 years where he worked in the Milan Studio of Master Italian Architect, Aldo Rossi, and participated with his own two projects in the 1985 Venice Bienniale of Architecture. Godlewski also worked for Vogue Italia, Elle Décor and Panorama. He has been involved in the business of restoration and planning for historical properties and curated cultural programs on numerous Italian national landmarks. He has lectured on culture, history and design at numerous venues (Montclair Public Library, Montclair Art Museum, the AIANY Architecture Center) as well as curated and presented exhibitions and cultural events for the New York Armory Arts Week and at the Princeton School of Architecture. Godlewski was granted the Township of Montclair Preservation Award in 2015 and 2018.

Teresa Fiore is the Inserra Endowed Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies at Montclair State University. The recipient of several fellowships (Fulbright, De Bosis, Rockefeller) and holder of visiting positions at Harvard, NYU, and Rutgers, she is the author of Pre-Occupied Spaces: Remapping Italy’s Transnational Migrations and Colonial Legacies (2017, recipient of 2018 AAIS Prize and 2019 MLA Marraro Honorable Mention) and the co-editor of the section “Italy and the Euro-Mediterranean ‘Migrant Crisis’” in the Journal of Modern Italian Studies (2018).

Her numerous articles on migration to/from Italy linked to 20th- and 21st-century Italian literature and cinema have appeared in Italian, English and Spanish in both journals (Annali d’Italianistica; El hilo de la fabula; Diaspora; Journal of Italian Media and Cinema Studies) and edited volumes (Postcolonial Italy; The Routledge History of Italian Americans; and New Italian Migrations to the United States, Vol. 2). On campus, she coordinates programs on Italy’s transnational culture (, including various events about Art and Architecture and activities about Italian, Business and Industry.