The Newsroom At 55 Park Place – Chapter 12 – Vanderbilt-Twombly And Alwick Hall Estates

 

 The Newsroom At 55 Park Place

                                                               By Don Storch

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                                                       Books By Don Storch

                                              The Newsroom At 55 Park Place
                                                       Snakes in the Swamp
      If a Passive-Progressive Leads from behind he is a Double Oxymoron

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    Dedication

            This book is dedicated to my Mom and Dad, mentors of an only child, with daily memories of loving gratefulness, Viola Pauline (Helmstatt) Storch (1910 – 1969) and George John Storch (1903-1969)

                                                                       And To:

                                                       Norman B. Tomlinson Jr
                                                                   (1927-2017)

Chapter 12

Vanderbilt-Twombly And Alwick Hall Estates

Just a mile up the street from the 1,000-acre Dodge estate there was the Vanderbilt-Twombly estate called Florham, probably more opulent than any other estate on Millionaire row where at least five grand parties were held each year among the swells of Manhattan and Morristown.

They arrived for the weekend by train from Manhattan and got off at a whistle stop right on the estate.

Guests were housed, fed and entertained in the 110 room Mansion. The estate in its heyday was divided into three sections, the entry from Madison Avenue consisting of 150 acresof lawns and formal gardens and fountains and terraces.

The estate spanned over two cities, the lower portion was in Florham Park while the upper portion was in Madison.

Florham farms was on the lower portion and was a show place for 160 herd of Guernsey prize winning cattle. 

Remaining topside near the Mansion was the coach house, stables, orangery, kennels and green houses.

And of course, there was the play area which incorporated tennis courts and an indoor swimming pool.

This period was beginning to wind down for the Gilded age and the Twombly’s.

  She died in 1952 at the age of 98, Ruth Twombly died in 1954 and the estate went on the auction block in 1955.

In 1957, when I came on the scene, Esso Research and Engineering bought 650 acres of the former Twombly farmland and Fairleigh Dickinson University bought the Mansion and 180 acres for $1.5 million of Florham which eventually became their premier campus of four globaly.

Fairleigh welcomed its first 200 students on the Florham campus in 1958, I came along in 1957 to the Daily Record and being an alumnus of FDU the school got more than its share of features, being that it was a treasure trove of news features.

From a news perspective happenings’ in the area continued to focus on the jetport; M. Hartley Dodge’s involvement, and the concerns over the impact a third international airport would bring to Morris County.

Sometime during this year Ed Sayre made himself known to me.  He was an administrator to Geraldine Dodge who wanted a feature on her latest doggie endeavor – a dog pound to be called St. Hubert’s Giralda, to be located on the back section of Giralda Farms.

They told me that St. Hubert’s was the patron saint of dogs.  It was a good cause, a good feature and serviced all of Morris County.

Around the holidays Ed, walked into the newsroom one day with a brown paper bag and said, ‘Don here’s a little something from the Dodge’s wine cellar.’

Many years later when I sold my soul to public relations, I told this story to some dinner guest, one of which was a serious global drinker, to see if he could shed any light on one of the bottles, which was a cognac.

One bottle was easily identifiable, it was a triangle bottle of Grants scotch. The other my friend assured me was a very expensive bottle of cognac, the name of which escapes me, nevertheless we finished it off, which i think was his objective from the outset.

Hartley Dodge died a few years later and his wife shortly thereafter.

Giralda Farms became a Corporate Headquarters Park with subtle signs of what once was, but none so well preserved as the Florham campus of FDU, thanks to the Friends of Florham who have published a picture book of history during this period of time demonstrating how their objective is to preserve the history of the estate and the Gilded Age.

Another estate that is still on Madison Ave is Alwick Hall now known as The Abbey, which residents are still trying to preserve and find a place for it in modern times.

It is a castle-like mansion once the home of General Edward P. Meany, an organizer of American Bell Telephone.

The castle was built of yellow brick stone and steel. It featured a two-story 24 by 60-foot entrance hall with 12-foot high Gothic oak wains coating walls hung with silk, damask and brocaded tapestries specially woven in Europe.

There were two drawing rooms, seven large master bedrooms, a large dining room, library, kitchen and pantries.

There were also four large brick guest homes, with individual carriage houses.

The estate also featured six automobile garages. 

Meany figured prominently in national politics. 

The Meany’s loved entertaining friends, often inviting between 150 and 200 guests to attend musicales, arranging special trains, much as the Twombly’s did, to bring them from Manhattan to Convent Station.

To Be Continued . . .  

 

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