Estates and Historic Homes
Whether New Jersey's historic homes and grand estates sits on a Revolutionary War battlefield, in a village of an era long gone or were once occcupied by a president, poet or industrial legend, they are architectural and decorative masterpieces. Spanning the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, these beautiful destinations are waiting for you to learn about their place in New Jersey's history.
Cape May Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts operates the Emlen Physick Estate, the town's only Victorian house museum. This historic estate is a prime example of the late 1800s trend toward personalized architecture, a staple of the Victorian and Arts and Crafts periods.
While visiting Camden, venture to the humble dwelling of the "The Good Gray Poet," the Walt Whitman House. This modest, two-story, wooden-framed structure designed in Greek Revival style was the only home owned by the "Leaves of Grass" author. A state historic site and National Historic Landmark, the restored Walt Whitman House today welcomes visitors from around the world looking to experience the last worldly surroundings of America's "Great Poet of Democracy." The renowned poet's house is furnished with a number of pieces owned and used by Whitman himself from the time he bought the house in 1884 until his death in 1892.
When in the Ivy League town of Princeton, explore Drumthwacket, the official residence of the governor of New Jersey. In fact, Drumthwacket is one of the most fabled and elegant of America's executive residences. Its history contains the stories of three families that made immense contributions to New Jersey and American history. Charles Smith Olden began the construction of Drumthwacket in 1835. Typical of the Greek Revival style, the house features a large portico with six Ionic columns. Drumthwacket is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been the official governor's residence since 1981. Nearby is historic Morven, the former New Jersey Governor's Mansion and 18th-century home of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The National Historic Landmark, situated on five acres of manicured grounds and gardens, is now a museum showcasing New Jersey history and culture.
View the Ballantine House at The Newark Museum, a 27-room, late Victorian-style mansion built in 1885 for Jeannette and John Holme Ballantine of the celebrated Newark beer-brewing family. The original house had eight bedrooms and three bathrooms and has been a part of the museum since 1937. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985. Today, two floors of the Ballantine House are interpreted as a suite of galleries called "House Home," which includes eight period rooms, two hallways and six thematic galleries - all filled with things that might have been found in people's homes from the 1650s to the present.
Situated on Garret Mountain in Paterson is Lambert Castle, which was built in 1892 for Catholina Lambert, an English immigrant who made his fortune in the Silk City. Fashioned after an English castle, interior rooms reflect the eclectic styles of America's Gilded Age. Naming the house Belle Vista, Lambert displayed his valuable paintings by Rembrandt, Renoir, Monet and others in a three-story, sky-lit atrium. In the late 1990s, the entire castle was transformed into a museum, which is managed by the Passaic County Historical Society. Visitors to the first floor will find restored period rooms, while the second and third floors showcase alternating exhibitions and the basement level is a historical research library.
Liberty Hall Museum in Union is positioned on 23 gorgeous acres and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Built in 1772 for William Livingston, New Jersey's first governor, Liberty Hall was home to seven generations of the Livingston/Kean family until 1995. Predating the American Revolution, Liberty Hall was a great Colonial plantation during the 18th century and evolved into an Italianate-style Victorian country home in the 19th century. As a result of this continual occupancy by the same family for more than 200 years, the 50 lavish period rooms are furnished with American furniture, art, ceramics, textiles, toys, books, portraits and memorabilia.
Skylands Manor in Ringwood is the 117-acre former estate of Clarence Lewis, a civil engineer and stepson of William Salomon, founder of the New York banking house. Built in 1924, the magnificent, Tudor-style stone mansion was designed by John Russell Pope, one of America's foremost architects during the country's turn-of-the-century gilded age.
Part of the National Historic Landmark District, Ringwood Manor in Ringwood is a beautiful country house that was home to a succession of well-known ironmasters for nearly 200 years. The Federal-style manor house was constructed in 1807 by the Ryerson family and the subsequent owners, the Abram S. Hewitt family - America's foremost ironmaster - added Italianate and Gothic Revival styles to the estate. The resulting eclectic mix of 51 rooms was the largest house in America until the late 1800s.
The alluring, rural areas of the Garden State that attracted wealthy industrialists and financiers of the past continue to attract thousands of visitors today to explore these grand, architectural works of art.