If you asked a student at H.B. Whitehorne Middle School which “house” they are in, they would tell you Carnegie or Olmsted. The school was re-organized into two smaller learning groups six years ago that were named after the philanthropist who funded the building of Verona’s public library and the famed landscape architect whose sons created Verona Park.
But once upon a time there was a real Dr. Henry B. Whitehorne and, after serving in the Civil War, he built a real house on Grove Avenue. Paul Wheaton knows about that house because he lived in it just before in burned down in the 1960s.
Wheaton’s father was a doctor associated with the three hospitals that once served Montclair and, around the time of Whitehorne’s death in 1932, he bought Whitehorne’s house and medical practice, which operated from the home. “My father used that model as well,” Wheaton says.
The home was large enough to accommodate a doctor’s office and an extended Wheaton family. Whitehorne, who had moved to Verona around 1874 to become an assistant to Verona’s then doctor and pharmacist, Dr. Stephen Personett, built a three-story Victorian on land adjacent to Personett’s home in 1894. The deep property also had a barn on it and Dr. Wheaton kept horses there. “My father was of the automobile age, but he just loved horses,” says Paul Wheaton, who is the son of his father’s third marriage.
(Dr. Personett’s 1850 house at 30 Grove Avenue still stands, although it might not be recognizable as one of Verona’s oldest houses. The doctor, whose family name was sometimes spelled Personette, lost a son in the Civil War.)
Dr. Wheaton, who was board-certified in six medical specialties, also served as the doctor to the Verona High School football team. But he wasn’t just a medical professional, his son says. He served on Verona’s Town Council from 1925 to 1931, and then again from 1936 to 1938. “The house numbering system you have on Verona streets was because of him,” Paul Wheaton says.
“He worked six days a week and made house calls,” Wheaton adds. “If you couldn’t pay, you could make him dinner. ”
Though Wheaton’s family moved from Verona in 1963, a new generation of Wheatons is now moving in: Paul Wheaton’s nephew has bought a house here.
You can learn more about the Whitehorne-Wheaton house from the sign marking the entrance to Grove Park, just opposite Reid Place. A walking trail winds through the park and you can see the stones that once framed a pond that Whitehorne created to take advantage of a stream that crossed his property.