By Jennifer Vazquez
NORTH ARLINGTON –
The beauty and abundance of history is all around us, from the copper mine found in North Arlington, to the Little Red Schoolhouse in Lyndhurst, to Belleville’s Dutch Church and its adjacent cemetery– this according to Bill Coughlin -a photographer and historian who has taken it upon himself to document local historical sites.
Coughlin, a recently retired computer programmer, documents and catalogs his findings online in the Historical Markers Database –an online catalog of historical information “viewed through the filter of roadside and other permanent outdoor markers, monuments and plaques. It contains photographs, inscription transcriptions, marker locations, maps, (and) additional information,” according to the HMdb website.
Coughlin has taken it upon himself to extensively research and mark historical sites lost in time through the ever-changing years.
But is there a specific entity or occurrence that brought on this love of history for Coughlin? Not really.
“I always had an interest in history,” he said, matter of factly.
Through his cataloging efforts, Coughlin has posted more than 4,100 pages and 18,000 photographs of historical sites he has visited. Though he mostly focuses his efforts on the local (tristate) area, he has visited and subsequently posted historical markers in 16 different states.
Coughlin is one of the top contributors to the HMdb. As a matter of fact, the facility and frequency of his contributions have led Coughlin to become one of the contributing editors for this searchable online database.
While his adventures and visited sites are vast, there are still some that grasp his attention and could be considered his “favorites.”
“The Morristown area has many surviving structures,” Coughlin explained. “In Brooklyn there is a series of sites from the War at Long Island…(though) there are no structures left, except for one stone house, I like the idea of having a series of markers tell a story.”
Coughlin mentioned that due to his passion and commitment to cataloging historical sites, he has, for the most part, visited all such sites in the immediate area. However, his quest to discover more and to revisit certain locations is not going to fade anytime soon.
When speaking with Coughlin one can sense the deep respect he has for history –nonchalantly dropping facts and historical references and stories throughout his lively conversation with The Observer.
Coughlin makes an effort to visit sites –even when on vacation! “When I go on vacation I like to research the area close to where I’m going,” he said. “That way I can plan on visiting (historical) places nearby.” Coughlin dedicates his time doing all this work not just for his love and interest in history, but, most importantly, because he knows the importance of documenting such significant locations for us and the generations that are yet to come.
“It’s very important,” he said. “We have so much history here. Washington walked through our very streets and a lot of people don’t know this… We must know and learn from our past to better our future.”